Ranch Lesson #6 – Take an Inch

Mike Baskerville was the second Receiver appointed by Judge Dan Mike Bird in the Waggoner Ranch lawsuit. After Mr. Baskerville was appointed, he decided to hire legal counsel. Mr. Baskerville turned to Underwood Law Firm shareholder, Kelly Utsinger. Because of the nature of the Waggoner Ranch assets, Kelly reached out to Lynn Tate and me to help him with the file.

Kelly, Lynn and I prepared a proposed fee agreement. It confirmed the proposed relationship with Mr. Baskerville. It confirmed steps we proposed as we considered the significant task of obtaining a commitment for title insurance. Not only did Waggoner lie in six counties, for the most part it had not changed hands in decades.

The response to Underwood’s proposed fee agreement included many allegations. The response and the hearing resulted in Underwood’s letter to Mr. Baskerville; with significant disappointment for me, Underwood declined any involvement. Mr. Baskerville acknowledged that no attorney-client relationship was created. 

Importantly, we’d gotten to know Mike. And, Underwood had first-hand knowledge of the “law of the case”, if you will.

As the purchaser was interviewing Underwood for possible representation, I disclosed Mr. Baskerville’s 2011 proposal to retain Underwood. The purchaser’s broker didn’t see our earlier conversations with Mike Baskerville as a problem, was pleased that Underwood had undertaken significant diligence when we considered working with Mr. Baskerville, and thought our knowledge of the personalities might be helpful.

It’s an understatement to say that the situation we faced was a Receivership that appeared never ending with long-time litigants and entrenched counsel.

Our client needed finality, meaning settlement of the lawsuit. A continuing lawsuit couldn’t be a cloud on the title. The published “Call for Offers” stated that the Waggoner heirs would be reserving an undivided interest in minerals, resulting in another material pre-closing transaction.

With so many legal aspects, our client’s commitment to close on a fast-track basis, and a toxic environment, we had to accept the agreement to any point, any aspect, as a victory. That’s the approach that our team took. I suppose we looked, at times, like turtles and not rabbits. 

Thankfully, it worked. Although we had a four-day closing, it worked for our client.

What’s the saying?  “By the inch, life’s a cinch.”  Yep, that’s right.

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