White & Case, which opened an office in Houston earlier this month with the hire of three oil and gas lateral partners from big Texas firms, has now poached oil and gas partner Steven Otillar from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

Otillar joins partner James “Jay” Cuclis, who came from Vinson & Elkins, and partners Christopher Richardson and Charlie Ofner, who formerly worked at Andrews Kurth Kenyon, in the new White & Case office. Saul Daniel, a White & Case partner from London, has also joined the Houston office.

Otillar started work in White & Case’s Houston office on Monday, joining the oil and gas industry group there.

Steve Otillar

Otillar said he could not pass up the “amazing opportunity” to join White & Case because of its “renowned” reputation in the oil and gas practice. He said he works in the energy transactions space, doing domestic and international oil and gas deals. He said he has done quite a bit of work in Mexico since the energy reforms there, and also has done work for a number of private equity-backed and public E&P companies. He declined to identify his clients.

“I’ve been extremely busy the past couple of years, even with the downturn and the price crash in 2014,” Otillar said.

Otillar is currently president of the Association of International Petroleum Negotiators and is on the executive committee for the Institute for Energy Law.

Jason Webber, a co-head of White & Case’s global oil and gas industry group, said Otillar immediately strengthens the firm’s domestic upstream practice and helps provide a critical mass in Houston. “A vibrant U.S. domestic upstream oil and gas practice is a key piece of our Houston strategy, with the United States poised to surpass Russia as the leading global producer of crude,” he said.

A spokesman at Akin Gump said the firm wishes Otillar “all the best in his future endeavors.”

Otillar joined Akin Gump in 2012, and before that had been a partner at Dewey & LeBoeuf in Houston, which ended up causing a legal issue for Otillar after Dewey filed Chapter 11 in 2012. Citibank filed a suit against Otillar in 2012 to collect what the bank claimed was his unpaid capital contribution loan at Dewey. Otillar filed a countersuit that alleged Citi and Dewey actively defrauded him and other lateral hires by failing to disclose the firm’s financial problems. In 2013, a judge in New York approved a settlement in which Otillar and the bank dropped their lawsuits without costs or expenses to either side.

Prior to joining Dewey, Otillar was a partner at Baker McKenzie.