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John McCollam, oil and gas specialist, dies at age 80

January 17, 2014

John McCollam (L ’59)

John M. McCollam (L ’59), the preeminent oil and gas lawyer in Louisiana and a founder of the Gordon Arata McCollam Duplantis & Eagan firm, died Jan. 13, 2014. He was 80.

McCollam, who was editor-in-chief of the Tulane Law Review as a student, later taught oil and gas law from 1963 to 1987. And throughout his career, he instructed countless attorneys in the best practices of lawyering through his demeanor and professionalism, friends and colleagues said.

“I took his class as a student, and he was always a prince to me in practice as well, back when many of the guys didn't know what to do with girl lawyers,” said New Orleans attorney Lynn Luker (L ’81, LLM ’85, LLM ’92). “He was a class act.”

Lake Charles attorney Mike Veron (L ’74) called McCollam “a tough opponent, but fair and scrupulously honest and professional.”

Veron recalled taking his son John, then a Tulane freshman, to Clancy’s and running into McCollam. At one point, McCollam “walked over to my son and handed him his business card,” Veron said. “He said, ‘If you ever do something that you can’t tell your father about, call me at this number.’

Mike Veron told his son McCollam was “the best damned oil and gas lawyer in the state of Louisiana.” At that, Veron said, “My son looked at the card, tucked it in his shirt pocket, and said, ‘Well, I guess I’ll be keeping this card close by, then, won’t I?’ “ Veron called McCollam “a lawyer’s lawyer who made you feel good about being a lawyer. The entire legal profession is poorer without him.”

McCollam grew up near Houma, graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and served overseas in the U.S. Army before attending Tulane Law School. He spent more than a decade at the Milling law firm before helping found Gordon Arata, where in addition to litigating oil and gas disputes, he served as an arbitrator and mediator in cases.

Scott O’Connor, who worked closely with McCollam at Gordon Arata, called him “the smartest, hardest-working and most well-prepared, yet most humble lawyer I’ve ever known.” He also was “a disarmingly fierce competitor,” quick-witted, often soft-spoken and a consummate gentleman, O’Connor said.

“John never made an enemy even in the most adversarial of circumstances, so it was never surprising when John received letters from his opposing counsel complimenting his handling of cases.”

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