James Leeton doesn't mince words when describing how crazy-busy West Texas lawyers are in the midst of the current oil and gas drilling boom.
"It's like out of the world. It's frantic," says Leeton, a shareholder in Bullock Scott in Midland, the West Texas city that's dealing with a shortage of housing, crowded schools and restaurants, and rush hour traffic due to the energy business madness.
Leeton isn't the only Midland lawyer gleefully talking about how busy firms are because of the boom in drilling in the Permian Basin in West Texas.
"We are very, very busy -- busier than I guess we have ever been," says Robert Bledsoe, a founding member in the 37-year-old Cotton Bledsoe Tighe & Dawson in Midland.
"If a lawyer lives in Midland and he's not busy, it's because he doesn't want to be," Bledsoe says.
The big boom in energy business is due to the relatively high price of oil, which improves the profitability of new-technology drilling methods such as fracking -- injecting fluid into cracks in a rock formation to allow more oil and gas to flow -- and horizontal drilling. The average price of a barrel of crude oil in 2002 was $29.12, compared to $94.87 in 2011.
Bledsoe says the current energy boom is nothing like booms of the past.
"We have wells being drilled in the city limits; we have wells being drilled all over the county, all over adjacent counties. The boom is because of new discoveries and new methods of producing what's being discovered. That's the basis of it," he says, adding that there's a lot more drilling success using the new technology.
"It's the busiest I've been since I've lived in Midland," says Robert Spears, a shareholder in Lynch Chappell & Alsup, who has done oil and gas work in Midland for the last 42 years. He says it's busier than the legendary boom that started in 1973 and ended around nine years later.
Economist Ray Perryman, president of The Perryman Group of Waco, Texas, says the price of oil is a major factor in the energy boom. He says the Permian Basin, located in West Texas, has a higher percentage of oil relative to natural gas, so the current high price of oil "works in favor of the region."