Four energy litigators who left K&L Gates in 2011 to join Winstead have returned to K&L Gates offices in Texas.

The team includes partners Jeff King and Jamie Bryan, now at K&L Gates in Fort Worth, Chris Brown, who joined K&L Gates in Dallas, and counsel Mitchell Murphy. who is now at K&L Gates in Houston. All joined K&L Gates on Monday.

Additionally, partner Elizabeth Tiblets joined K&L Gates’ Fort Worth office on Wednesday, also coming from Winstead.

King, Bryan, Tiblets and Brown are co-assigned to K&L Gates’ Houston office because of their statewide and national energy clients.

King, former chairman of the energy law practice group at Winstead, said they made the move back to K&L Gates to take advantage of the reach of the oil and gas practice at the global firm.  “We are oil and gas trial lawyers, focusing on the upstream and downstream business. We thought it was a good fit for our group,” he said.

King said that when they moved to Winstead in 2011, their practice was largely centered in Texas, but it has now grown outside the state and they are handling litigation in other states, including Oklahoma, Ohio and Colorado.

“It became apparent that while you can still do that at a regional firm, [moving] allows yourself to be better-suited at a place that has a broader reach,” King said.

King said the group has many clients working in the Marcellus and Utica shales in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and K&L Gates has a large oil and gas practice in its home office of Pittsburgh. King said he and the others in his group do a lot of royalty litigation and that work is growing in the Utica/Marcellus shale area.

King declined to identify clients but said the group represents major oil and gas companies and large independents. All five of the lawyers do litigation and Murphy also negotiates master services agreements.

“We handle just everything involving the oil and gas industry. Royalty litigation is what we are doing a lot of now, anything from reservoir cases to title issues to surface agreements to royalties. You name it, we do it,” King said.

At the time King and his group left K&L Gates for Winstead seven years ago, King said it made sense because Winstead’s growing energy and environmental practice group had lawyers in Houston, where many of their clients were located.

But the move was also prompted by a major client conflict that developed after one of the group’s biggest clients, which King declined to identify, was purchased by a company to which K&L Gates was adverse. King said that conflict no longer exists.

When making the move to Winstead, King also cited flexibility in billing rates at Winstead, a factor that has helped Winstead hire laterals for the last several years. However, King said he does not anticipate billing rates being an issue at K&L Gates. “We are able to keep our rate structure where it was at Winstead. Of course, rates between 2011 and now have gone up some. We have very flexible rates we charge depending on the circumstances,” he said.

Randel Young, a partner in Houston who is global leader of K&L Gates’ energy, infrastructure and resources practice, said in a statement that the five “high-caliber” energy lawyers significantly strengthen the firm’s growing Texas and U.S. oil, gas and energy disputes practice. “They have experience in virtually all the major oil and gas basins in the United States and add an exciting and impressive roster of clients to our national oil and gas practice,” Young said.

When asked to comment on the departures, David Dawson, chief executive officer of Winstead, said, “These are fine lawyers and we wish them all the best at K&L Gates.”