Real estate law is a complex area of the legal profession. It covers everything from buying and selling of real estate to zoning and land use laws, property acquisition and development, and disputes over contracts and ownership. Real estate lawyers have a great deal of responsibility on their shoulders—they are often tasked with overseeing massive projects that generate millions, if not billions, of dollars in revenue.
Real estate attorneys commonly work on a variety of real-world projects. They may represent owners, developers, tenants, or vendors on a wide range of issues related to commercial or residential properties.
Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be a real estate attorney and what it takes to become one yourself.
Real Estate Attorney Job Duties
Real estate attorneys are responsible for a wide range of duties, including:
- Preparing and reviewing legal agreements to purchase or sell real estate properties, including creating purchase agreements, sales contracts, leases, and closing documents
- Drafting documents to establish title to real estate, such as deeds of trust and liens on property titles
- Preparing closing statements at the time of sale of real estate in accordance with state rules of procedure or statutory guidelines related to transfer of ownership interests in land
- Representing clients in real estate transactions, such as buying and selling homes, commercial properties, farms, and lots
- Counseling clients regarding legal issues related to real estate investments such as zoning laws, environmental concerns, or property management issues
- Representing clients in real estate litigation during court proceedings
- Negotiating settlements and coordinating with other legal professionals such as title companies, appraisers, and others involved in the transaction process
Real Estate Attorney Salary & Outlook
The median annual wage for real estate attorneys is $102,741. The highest earners make over $218,000 per year.
Demand for real estate attorneys is expected to grow at about the average rate over the next decade. As the economy grows, more individuals will rent or buy property and will need legal counsel when they do so.
Real Estate Attorney Job Requirements
The requirements for real estate attorneys are as follows:
Education: A real estate attorney must have a degree in law. This degree includes coursework in real estate law, business law, contract law and administrative law. In order to attend law school, candidates must have previously earned a bachelor’s degree.
Training: Most real estate attorneys receive on-the-job training in the form of an internship. During this internship, they gain experience in the field and work closely with experienced real estate attorneys. After they complete an internship, real estate attorneys are generally hired to work in the real estate division of a company.
Certifications & Licenses: All states require real estate attorneys to obtain a license to practice law. These licenses are generally obtained through a state bar association after passing a state bar exam.
Real Estate Attorney Skills
In addition to legal training and education, real estate attorneys need the following skills:
Interpersonal skills: Real estate attorneys must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills in order to work well with clients, colleagues, and other members of the legal community. Confidence is also beneficial in this profession.
Research skills: Real estate attorneys must be able to perform thorough research in order to help their clients make informed decisions about their property rights.
Writing skills: Legal writing is essential for a real estate attorney because he or she must write contracts, letters, notices, motions, briefs, complaints, agreements, deeds, leases, etc. on a regular basis.
Good judgment skills: An attorney must have good judgment when it comes to working with clients, vendors, and others.
Negotiation skills: Real estate attorneys need strong negotiation skills to effectively represent their clients or employers.
Administrative skills: An attorney should possess administrative skills that allow him or her to complete tasks without supervision. These may include maintaining databases and filing documents.
Real Estate Attorney Work Environment
Real estate attorneys work in offices, often part of large companies. Their jobs involve a lot of paperwork and legal research and writing. They spend much of their time sitting at desks or tables. These attorneys often work long hours, as they often handle complex cases. Real estate attorneys also travel regularly to visit clients and attend meetings regarding ongoing cases.
Real Estate Attorney Career Advancement
Real estate attorneys can grow their careers in many different ways within the same firm. Those with several years of experience and success may become senior associates and take on even more responsibility by conducting more independent research and acting as a mentor to junior attorneys.
After gaining even more experience in the industry, junior and senior associates may be considered for a position as a partner. Partners handle the firm’s most high-profile cases and earn a percentage of all revenue. If you become a partner at a successful firm, you may enjoy a lavish lifestyle and the freedom to work with clients you select.
Real Estate Attorney Trends
Here are three trends influencing how real estate attorneys work. Real estate attorneys will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.
Greater Emphasis on Cybersecurity
The demand for cybersecurity experts is likely to increase in the coming years as more businesses and individuals become aware of the importance of online security.
This trend is likely to have a significant impact on the real estate industry, as more transactions are conducted online or over mobile devices, which are vulnerable to cyberattacks.
For example, recent studies show that nearly 20% of all home buyers will begin their search for a new home online, with millennials leading the way in terms of adoption.
Rise of the Rent-to-Own Industry
Rent-to-own programs are on the rise, with many new companies looking to cater to this emerging market.
These types of programs are attractive to both renters and sellers because they allow people to buy homes that they otherwise might not be able to afford.
For example, someone who has difficulty getting a mortgage may be able to take advantage of a rent-to-own program instead, allowing them to purchase a home with no money down or interest rate for the first few years.
Understanding Legal Implications of Smart Contracts
As technology continues to advance, it is important for real estate attorneys to stay up-to-date on how blockchain technology can affect their practice.
Smart contracts, which are self-executing and do not require human intervention, have the potential to greatly change how real estate transactions take place in the future. For example, smart contracts could eliminate a significant amount of paperwork related to a purchase or sale of property, streamlining the process and reducing costs for both buyers and sellers.
How to Become a Real Estate Attorney
1. Planning Your Career Path
The career of a real estate attorney is highly specialized, so aspiring attorneys should research the industry before committing to this path.
The legal requirements for real estate transactions are numerous and nuanced, so it’s important to understand these regulations in order to succeed in this field. For example, every state has its own laws regarding property titles; if you don’t know the rules in your area, you could end up jeopardizing your client’s interests.
2. Writing a Resume
If you’re seeking a job as a real estate attorney, your resume should highlight your experience in real estate law and negotiation. In addition to discussing your knowledge of the law, it’s important to provide examples of how you have used it to help clients. When describing your past jobs, be sure to mention any awards or accolades that you received.
3. Applying for Jobs
Find a way to become a part of the real estate attorney community. You can do this by becoming a member of a local bar association, getting involved with other professional legal organizations, and working on non-profit boards. This will put you in touch with attorneys who can offer career advice, as well as provide access to other jobs in the industry. Ask your networking contacts to refer you to the hiring partners at the firms you want to work for and try to set up informational interviews with them. In addition, you can always contact recruiters who work for law firms.
4. Ace the Interview
When you are interviewing for an attorney position, the interviewer will want to learn about your background and any experience you have with this particular field of law. They will also be looking for your perspective on the current legislative climate of the real estate industry, which could help them determine whether they believe you would be able to stay up-to-date on new legislation.
Don’t forget to be prepared for a wide range of questions that are not necessarily related to your technical expertise. It is very likely that your interviewer will want to gauge your interpersonal skills, ability to communicate clearly, and the quality of your judgment and decision-making skills. If you want to stand out in a positive way, be sure to emphasize how you can improve your client’s efficiency and bottom line.