Modrall Sperling Law Firm

Earl DeBrine concentrates his practice in oil and gas, railroad, product liability and commercial litigation. For over 35 years, he has represented major energy companies, railroads and manufacturers in lawsuits and negotiations ranging from preferential purchase rights and other disputes under joint operating agreements, environmental and title disputes to oilfield wrongful death claims. He also regularly advises oil and gas producers concerning development transactions and appears before the Oil Conservation Division and Commission in a variety of regulatory matters pertaining to oil and gas development. He serves as the firm’s Secretary-Treasurer, and is Chair of the Oil and Gas Practice Group and Co-Chair of the Railroad Practice Group. Earl joined Modrall Sperling in 1987 after receiving his law degree from Georgetown University Law Center.

Best Lawyers in America® has named Earl Oil and Gas Law “Lawyer of the Year” in Albuquerque four times – in 2016, 2018, 2020 and 2024, and as Railroad Law “Lawyer of the Year” in Albuquerque in 2014; only a single lawyer in each practice area in each community is selected Lawyer of the Year. Earl has achieved the highest rating possible from Martindale-Hubbell based on a peer review, and is among those listed in Southwest Super Lawyers®. He has also been recognized in the area of Natural Resources & Environment by Chambers USA.

Earl was raised in the middle Rio Grande valley north of Socorro, New Mexico. He maintains an interest in his family’s farm in Lemitar and with his wife Joanna, owns The Capitol Bar & Brewery, a historic saloon on the Socorro plaza built in 1896 listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Georgetown University Law Center, J.D., 1987, cum laude

University of New Mexico, B.B.A. in Finance and Accounting, 1984, with distinction

Bar Admissions

New Mexico

U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

United States Supreme Court

Professional Activities

  • National Association of Railroad Trial Counsel, 1995-present
  • New Mexico State Bar Civil Trial Specialization Committee, 2012-2017
  • New Mexico Oil and Gas Association Legal Committee, 2019-present

Civic Activities

  • University of New Mexico’s Robert O. Anderson School of Management Foundation Board of Trustees, 2019-2023
  • Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation Board of Trustees Audit Committee, 2011-2015
  • Chambers USA Directories of America’s Leading Lawyers for Business in Natural Resources & Environment, 2024
  • Best Lawyers® Oil and Gas Law “Lawyer of the Year” in Albuquerque, 2016, 2018, 2020, 2024
  • Best Lawyers® Railroad Law “Lawyer of the Year” in Albuquerque, 2014
  • Best Lawyers in America®, in Oil & Gas Law and Railroad Law, 2007-present
  • Martindale-Hubbell AV® Preeminent Peer Review Rated
  • Southwest Super Lawyers® (derived from a lawyer survey), 2007-2016