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Munsch Hardt Adds Oil and Gas Partner in Houston

Jun 7, 2017

Law360, New York (June 7, 2017, 4:27 PM EDT) -- 

Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr PC bolstered its Houston office with the addition of a shareholder, a litigator in the oil and gas industry and onetime Anadarko Petroleum Corp. senior counsel whose experience includes defending numerous energy companies against an oil tycoon’s False Claims Act allegations.

Russell Miller joined Munsch Hardt on May 30, bringing clients from the private practice that he opened roughly one year earlier. Before launching that practice, Miller worked as senior counsel at Beatty & Wozniak PC for nearly four years, which followed his time as a senior counsel with Anadarko.

“I am extremely honored to be joining Munsch Hardt and look forward to working on high-impact cases for clients in Texas and throughout the country,” Miller said in a statement. “Absorbing my personally owned practice into Munsch Hardt is the best next step for my clients and my professional development.”

Miller said he had joined Beatty & Wozniak at the request of firm Chairman Michael L. Beatty. Miller forged a working relationship with Beatty when Miller was part of the in-house counsel office at the Coastal Corp. At Beatty & Wozniak, Miller helped defend energy companies from litigation brought by oil tycoon Jack Grynberg, who filed 73 complaints against more than 300 defendants that he claimed violated the False Claims Act by underreporting royalty payments to the U.S. federal government.

The cases were dismissed by a district court federal judge on the grounds that Grynberg did not constitute an original source of the information, and the Tenth Circuit affirmed that dismissal in March 2009.

“That litigation was going on for so long that when I initially went into the in-house counsel practice for the Coastal Corporation in 1998, I started working on it then, and then resumed working on the case when I joined Beatty Wozniak,” Miller told Law360 on Wednesday. He added that he was happy that Grynberg was able to be held accountable with attorneys’ fees since the lawsuits were ultimately deemed to be frivolous.

His private practice, Miller Legal Offices, also focused on serving clients in the energy, oil and gas industry. Running his own practice allowed him to be client-oriented and engage with all stages of litigation, he told Law360.

“When you’re in your own practice, you become extremely attuned to client service. It keeps you, obviously, involved in all phases of the transaction or dispute that you’re working on,” Miller said. “You’re running it completely from end to end, and you have to know the ins and outs from the most mundane to the most complex.”

Miller pointed to horizontal drilling as an issue that is still being worked out in the energy practice today. According to him, more producers are returning to areas that have generally been developed with vertical wells to attempt horizontal ones and that the complications of it, such as well placement, are still being resolved in court.

Although President Donald J. Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement has dominated headlines from the energy sector this past week, Miller said that he did not think it would have an effect on his clients, who he says have already been taking action on reducing carbon emissions.

“Most of my clients in the energy industry actually supported and were in favor of the Paris Agreement and understand already the need to reduce carbon emissions,” Miller said. “I don’t think that their positions on those issues are going to change based on the president’s decision.”

Miller received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1983 and his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 1987. After law school, he worked at Liddell Sapp Zivley Hill & LaBoon LLP, now Locke Lord LLP, for 11 years before becoming an attorney at Coastal.

By: Danielle Smith