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Phillips Murrah celebrates International Women’s Day

Phillips Murrah Women Empowered

Today, March 8, 2019, is International Women’s Day. Phillips Murrah would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the achievements and importance of women leaders in the workplace. The theme of this year’s IWD is gender balance, and Phillips Murrah is doing our part to help realize this important societal goal.

We are proud to have sponsored the OKC International Women’s Day Celebration last night, hosted by Oklahoma Women’s Coalition, held at Ponyboy. This event was the second annual celebration of International Women’s Day in Oklahoma City.

“57 attendees joined to network and learn more from women’s organizations, such as Oklahoma Women’s Coalition, YWCA, ReMerge of Oklahoma County, Sally’s List, the Metisse Group and more,” said Caroline Cotton, co-creator of the International Women’s Day OKC celebration.

Group photo from International Women's Day celebration.

From left: Caroline Cotton, Lacey Lett, Dawn Rahme, Melissa Gardner, Sam Newton and James Linhardt.

“For me, the importance stems from remembering that the pursuit of equality is an infinite process,” said Phillips Murrah attorney Sam Newton, who initiated the sponsorship. “As time passes, we tend to generalize our own lack of prejudice and declare the issue resolved. Yet, the reality isn’t that simple. Acknowledging the fact that inequality exists moves us forward. IWD serves that goal but is also a day to pause and remember the impact women, both well-known and not, have had on the world today.”

Phillips Murrah is proud to be leaders in the area of promoting women into positions of leadership and equity within our Firm. Our comparatively high percentage of women shareholders and executive leaders is a manifestation of our corporate culture, which celebrates talent, skill, character and collegiality.

All attorneys at Phillips Murrah are expected to meet high standards of professional ability and interpersonal intelligence. Additionally, our workplace expectation is that each attorney is able to thrive in his or her practice, unencumbered by underlying considerations about individual characteristics unrelated to the practice of law.

Liz Charles, Executive Director of Oklahoma Women's Coalition

Liz Charles, Executive Director of Oklahoma Women’s Coalition

Phillips Murrah’s high percentage number of women partners and leaders isn’t motivated by societal pressure. Rather, it has occurred in an authentic way due to our inclusive corporate culture, and can be seen as an accomplishment for everyone at the Firm.

“We didn’t have a structured push to reach any kind of percentage, we just foster a culture that genuinely gives women the opportunity and support to succeed,” said Phillips Murrah Director Melissa Gardner. “I believe that’s the most sustainable kind of change and the coolest part of our equality.”

Phillips Murrah is also a proud Sustaining Partner of the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL). We are pleased to be able to support NAWL’s mission, which is to provide leadership, a collective voice and essential resources to advance women in the legal profession, and to advocate for the equality of women under the law.

We are proud of the many strengths and advantages that women leaders bring to our Firm and to society in general, and we are happy to help celebrate this each day – and especially on International Women’s Day!

Directors present at CLE seminar on title law

National Business Institute logoDirectors Robert N. Sheets and Melissa R. Gardner will give presentations June 12 and 13, respectively, at the National Business Institute’s seminar “Title Law: A to Z” for Continuing Legal Education professionals on issues relating to title law.

Sheets will present on endorsements and policy exclusions at 3:30 p.m. and 4 p.m., and Gardner will present on ethical considerations and quiet title actions at 2 p.m. and 3:15 p.m.

Those interested in registering can get more information at www.nbi-sems.com. Attendees receive CLE credit for participating.

Phillips Murrah rowing team competes 2017 Oklahoma Regatta Festival

Law & Oarder, Phillips Murrah’s rowing team, stands with the medals they won after competing in the 2017 Oklahoma Regatta Festival.

Phillips Murrah’s rowing team Law & Oarder completed the Fall 2017 season by placing third in the annual regatta competition.

The team competed on Oct. 6 at the 2017 Oklahoma Regatta Festival held at the OKC Boathouse District in the advanced league and achieved a 500-meter run of 2:16.688.

“It’s always a great way to make sure I get outside and enjoy my co-workers,” said Melissa R. Gardner, Director and Law & Oarder team leader. “We were so excited to place in an Intermediate category when almost half of our boat was novice!”

In all seven seasons the Firm’s rowing team has competed, team members consisted of both attorneys and staff members.

“The best part about rowing is seeing all the hard work come together on race day,” said Samuel R. Lincoln, Director of Information Technology. “It is the most exhilarating and exhausting 2 minutes of your life!”

The team will resume practice in the Spring for the Stars & Stripes Festival in June 2018.


Phillips Murrah has been recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in Oklahoma in 2017 and an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/WorkplaceDynamics two years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

NewsOK Q&A: Forced pooling in mineral land leasing has upsides, downsides

From NewsOK / by Paula Burkes
Published: August 31, 2017
Click to see full story – Forced pooling in mineral land leasing has upsides, downsides

Click to see Melissa Gardner’s attorney profile

Melissa Gardner is a Director who practices in the Energy & Natural Resources Practice Group.

Q: If you’re approached about leasing minerals, do you have options?

A: You do have options. However, none of those options include avoiding leasing your minerals. In Oklahoma, the development of minerals is a compelling state interest. Therefore, if you refuse to lease your minerals, you will be subject to forced pooling. Forced pooling of minerals is similar, in many ways, to acquiring property via eminent domain. However, in this context, it’s a private company acquiring the minerals for a period of time to develop a spacing unit. Because such acquisition is a “taking,” it’s in a much more limited form than leasing the same minerals.

Q: Why would the state allow companies to “take” individuals’ minerals?

A: If an individual in the middle of a spacing unit refused to negotiate or lease their minerals to an operator, their “holdout” would prevent the surrounding mineral owners from developing their assets. This, combined with the aforementioned state interest of developing oil and gas in our state, has led courts and the Legislature to determine it’s in everyone’s best interest to ensure production.

Q: What are the pros and cons of leasing versus being made subject to a forced pooling order?

A: If you choose to sign a lease, you will have the ability to negotiate more of the specifics of the usage of your minerals. You are in a position to get the oil and gas companies to agree to some conditions and special provisions. If you are subject to a forced pooling (as managed by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission), you’re not in a position to negotiate these details.

Second, you can negotiate bonus and royalty costs. If you are subject to a forced pooling order, you’re given three options, being a combination of the prevailing prices in the surrounding areas, with no option to negotiate those prices. In the alternative, if you allow yourself to be subject to the OCC forced pooling order, the applicant is given a shorter time within which it has to commence operations. The average lease is valid for three to five years, whereas the average pooling order is valid for six months to a year, both of which extend after production has been initiated. This keeps your minerals under contract for a shorter period of time.

Additionally, the minerals only are forced pooled as to certain, limited geological formations. If a well is drilled and producing from those zones, your minerals are still open and unleased as to other, non-pooled zones. In the alternative, most leases cover all depths or, at a minimum, from the surface to a certain depth below the surface. Finally, forced pooling orders expire at the end of production. If a producing well is drilled during the first year of a five-year lease and only produces for two years, the lease remains valid, and your minerals remain unmarketable for re-lease, for an additional three years.

Phillips Murrah rowing team competes in Summer 2017 season

Molly Tipton, G. Calvin Sharpe, Melissa Gardner, Jennifer Miller, Tyler Sullivan, Monica Ball, Deann Aderholt, Sam Lincoln, and Deena Baker stand with their bronze medals after racing at the Stars and Stripes River Festival on June 24.

Phillips Murrah’s rowing team Law & Oarder completed the Summer 2017 season by placing third in the annual regatta competition.

The team competed on June 24 at the Stars and Stripes River Festival held at the OKC Boathouse District in the advanced league and achieved a 500-meter run of 2:02.

“Rowing is a team effort much like the work we do at Phillips Murrah,” said G. Calvin Sharpe, Director and Law & Oarder team leader. “Our team improved over the season, and we all worked together to have a great season that culminated Saturday night.”

In all six seasons the Firm’s rowing team has competed, team members consisted of both attorneys and staff members.

“I decided to join the rowing team because I wanted to try something that was completely new to me” Attorney Molly E. Tipton said. “Not only was it something I had never done, but I also had the opportunity spend time with people at Phillips Murrah that I don’t often see, which ended up being my favorite part!

“I feel lucky to call these people my co-workers, my teammates and my friends!”

The team will continue their practices through the summer and into the fall, leading into the final regatta, which will be held in October.

“I absolutely love the opportunity Phillips Murrah has given us to get out there and work as a team outside of the office,” Legal Assistant Deena Baker said. “Even though we’ve been up against some pretty elite teams these last three seasons, it just gives us more to strive for in the end.

“Being on the corporate rowing team has personally given me something I never even dreamed of doing and plan to continue as long as I can!”


Phillips Murrah has been recognized as an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/WorkplaceDynamics two years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

What effect does bankruptcy have on oil and gas leases?

Gavel to Gavel appears in The Journal Record. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on Mar. 31, 2016.


Melissa R. Gardner is a Director who represents both privately-owned and public companies in a wide variety of oil and gas matters, with a strong emphasis on oil and gas title examination.

By Phillips Murrah Director Melissa R. Gardner

It is an understatement to say these are trying times in the oil and gas industry.

There are multiple reports in the news that predict we have not hit bottom and that our state will be uniquely affected. While oil and gas companies, contractors and service companies have industry insiders to rely on, many individual mineral owners might find themselves without resources or direction, wondering what effect these proceedings will have on the benefits they’ve come to expect under oil and gas leases.

Here’s some helpful information for those who have executed these leases, who are faced with persistent negative news about the companies holding the leases.

It is important to note that, if a company is considering bankruptcy, it could take various forms. Chapter 7 and Chapter 11 are the two most common types of business bankruptcy.

In the first, business typically ceases and a trustee takes control of all assets, including the business’s oil and gas leases, with any eye toward liquidation. However, in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, the company generally remains in control of its assets and develops a plan of reorganization, often with the goal of remaining in business after its debts are restructured. While Chapter 11 may be ultimately more favorable to the mineral owners, one can take comfort that current payments and leases are not necessarily in jeopardy in either case.

In a bankruptcy proceeding, the bankruptcy trustee or Chapter 11 debtor in possession is only ultimately entitled to property of the bankruptcy debtor, which generally would not include royalties payable to mineral owners. Likewise, in Oklahoma, oil and gas leases typically survive the bankruptcy. This means royalty payments frequently continue, virtually uninterrupted, after a bankruptcy case has been filed and the leases may continue to be developed for the benefit of all notwithstanding the bankruptcy.

Obviously, this downturn has been difficult for many in our state. Hopefully, these facts will provide a mineral owner with some comfort that, even in these times, the payments they have come to rely on under existing oil and gas leases will not automatically be affected adversely by a leaseholder’s bankruptcy. It’s certainly worth investigating more before you assume these benefits will disappear.

Phillips Murrah names four new Directors and Shareholders

Directors Melissa R. Gardner, Clayton D. Ketter, Patrick L. Hullum, and Bobby Dolatabadi.

Directors Melissa R. Gardner, Clayton D. Ketter, Patrick L. Hullum, and Bobby Dolatabadi.

Phillips Murrah is proud to announce that we have expanded our group of Directors from 31 to 35, promoting Attorneys Bobby Dolatabadi, Melissa R. Gardner, Patrick L. Hullum, and Clayton D. Ketter to Shareholders.

Dolatabadi an experienced real estate attorney who represents his clients in a multitude of real estate transactions including acquisitions, divestitures, leasing, development and land-use.

Gardner represents both privately-owned and public companies in a wide variety of oil and gas matters, with a strong emphasis on oil and gas title examination.

Hullum a litigation attorney who represents individuals and public and private companies in a wide range of complex litigation matters and specializes in business litigation.

Ketter is a litigator whose practice involves a wide range of business litigation in both federal and state court, including extensive experience in financial restructurings and bankruptcy matters.