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Lauren Varnado is a Principal in McKool Smith's Houston office. She represents private and public E&P and midstream companies operating in the shale plays, advising on matters concerning the acquisition and divestiture of oil and gas properties and midstream assets and general business operations and the application of laws and regulations related to oil and gas operations, including accounting to interest owners, landowner disputes, partner disputes, and rights and obligations under upstream, midstream and power contracts.

Lauren has prosecuted and defended a wide variety of cases involving complex contractual disputes in arbitration and federal and Texas state courts, including disputes related to:

  • Oil and gas lease agreements
  • Area of mutual interest agreements
  • Gas purchase and sale agreements
  • Crude oil trading agreements
  • Joint operating agreements
  • Gathering and transportation agreements
  • Joint development agreements
  • LNG sale and purchase agreements
  • Merger agreements
  • Production sharing contracts and similar international upstream licensing agreements
  • Energy management agreements
  • COPAS accounting practices
  • Measurement and metering of natural gas production
  • Decommissioning and onshore plugging and abandonment obligations
  • Water transfer agreements and other transactions relating to produced water
  • Class certification

Lauren’s energy practice has involved litigating disputes and advising clients in oil and gas operations in Texas, Ohio, North Dakota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and California.

Lauren’s litigation practice also includes advising clients on litigation avoidance strategies and litigation preparedness in connection with disputes that appear likely to result in litigation. In particular, Lauren regularly provides advice regarding oil and gas production practices, royalty payment practices and procedures under oil and gas leases.

In addition, Lauren represents small and large policyholders in insurance coverage litigation nationwide in actions for damages and declaratory relief and in counseling clients on insurance-related issues.

Lauren has also represented clients in enforcement matters and show cause proceedings before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in market manipulation cases involving claims related to trading in energy and commodity markets.

Lauren is admitted to practice in Texas and in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. She is also admitted to practice pro hac vice before the Northern District of California and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.


Representative Matters

  • Defending the largest natural gas producer in the United States in putative class action alleging failure to properly calculate and pay royalties on natural gas liquids.
  • Defending midstream company against claims of breach of contract and tortious interference claims relating to obligations under a pipeline easement agreement.
  • Representing a defendant operator in connection with claims for royalty underpayments; breach of contract; trespass; fraud; and alleged statutory violations relating to the timeliness of royalty payments.
  • Defending independent oil and gas producer in Texas state court in putative royalty class action alleging improper post-production deductions in the calculation of oil and gas royalties.
  • Representing one of the world’s largest mining companies in a confidential arbitration against insurers in connection with claims under a Buyer-Side Representation and Warranties Insurance Policy involving breaches of representations and warranties and fraud.
  • Representing a national construction company in connection with coverage under Contractor’s Perform Policies for claims brought by partners as well as subcontractors. 
  • Representing an energy services company in its insurance claim for property and business interruption losses following a mine collapse.

Prior to joining the firm:

  • Secondment to Shell Oil Company, Upstream Americas;  drafted agreements for transactions with various third parties to manage associated risks and realize commercial objectives; provided legal advice and support to the domestic unconventionals business, covering all aspects of exploration, appraisal, development, production and operation of Shell's onshore tight sand/shale oil and gas assets.
  • Tried to a jury verdict a case on behalf of an international oil and gas exploration and production company involving disputed payments for oil production under production sharing contracts in the Deir Ez Zor Area in Syria. 
  • Defended a national fuel tank manufacturer against contribution and indemnity claims arising from the alleged defective construction of a gas station.  Case dismissed in district court.
  • Represented an oilfield services company in connection with claims of breach of non-compete and confidentiality obligations by a former officer and owner of the company, resulting in an arbitration award in favor of the client following a seven-day evidentiary hearing.
  • Represented an oil and gas exploration and production company in a purported class action case involving allegations of property damages allegedly resulting from hydraulic fracturing operations.
  • Represented a defendant operator in connection with purported class action involving claims for royalty underpayments; breach of contract; breach of fiduciary duty; conversion; unjust enrichment; and breach of duty to market gas as a reasonably prudent operator.  Case dismissed on summary judgment in the district court.
  • Litigated and obtained a favorable settlement on behalf of an after-market auto parts company in breach of contract and warranty dispute.


Rankings & Honors

  • Recognized by Benchmark Litigation as a "Future Star" (2022)
  • Recognized in Best Lawyers in America as "Ones to Watch" for Commercial, Insurance, and Oil & Gas Law, 2021-2022
  • Texas Rising Stars, Thomson Reuters, 2018-2020
  • Recognized as a "Rising Star" by Super Lawyers, 2018-2021


Community & Professional Activities

  • Houston Bar Association
  • State Bar of Texas
  • Women's Energy Network

Media & Events


Speaking Engagements

  • William Wood and Lauren Varnado, "Trends in Energy Disputes: Impacts on Valuation," National 2014 Energy Valuation Conference, Houston, Texas



  • Co-author, "LNG Disputes Under Sale And Purchase Agreements: Part 4," Law360, Nov 10, 2015
  • Co-author, "LNG Disputes Under Sale And Purchase Agreements: Part 3," Law360, Nov 4, 2015
  • Co-author, "LNG Disputes Under Sale And Purchase Agreements: Part 2," Law360, Oct. 28, 2015
  • Co-Author, "LNG Disputes Under Sale And Purchase Agreements: Part 1," Law360, Oct. 21, 2015
  • Co-author, "Texas Post-Production Costs Still Constrained By 4 Corners," Law360, June 23, 2015 
  • Co-author, "Texas Supreme Court interprets key holding in heritage," Norton Rose Fulbright - Legal update, June 19, 2015


J.D., summa cum laude, South Texas College of Law, 2011
B.A., cum laude, History, minor in Philosophy, Texas A&M University, 2006

Court Admissions

  • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia

Bar Associations

  • Texas State Bar
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