There are over 1.3 million lawyers in the United States, and that number is on the rise. If your career aspirations have you in the courtroom, then you need to set yourself apart from the pack by specializing in an area of law. And while there are many fascinating and rewarding areas of law from which to choose, few are as interesting as real estate law.
When you think of real estate law, you may think of mortgages and real estate closings. That’s definitely part of what you would handle, but there’s so much more you can do in that area of law. Read on to learn everything you need to know!
You Have to Make It Through Law School
It may sound obvious, but the first step to becoming a real estate lawyer is to go to law school. If you’re lucky enough to know that real estate law is your future before you apply to schools, you can be strategic and look for law schools with housing clinics. You may even be able to find a school that allows you to take specific courses and graduate with a certificate in real estate law.
The summers after your first and second year in law school are meant to help you gain real-world experience either at a law firm or at a non-profit or government organization. Law school summers are critical for getting a leg up on the competition once you graduate.
If your law school has a housing clinic, make sure to participate. In many cases, you’ll be sworn in for limited practice and get to act as an attorney for real-life clients. This experience is invaluable and will go a long way toward you getting a job.
Your Work Will Mostly Be Transactional
When people picture an attorney, they see them in a courtroom before a judge and making compelling closing arguments to a jury. Not all attorneys spend their life in a courtroom, however, many actually do the majority of their work from their office.
Real estate law is one of those fields that is primarily transactional. They look over paperwork for real estate closings, draft and amend contracts for sale, and trace title. For people who loathe public speaking, but aspire to practice law, transactional aspects of law are a godsend.
But You Will See Some Court Time
While a lot of your work will be transactional, that doesn’t mean that you’ll never see a courtroom. You might represent clients in court who are party to a dispute over land boundaries or whether an easement is valid. If you love fighting for the little guy, you might get to represent a client in a dispute with their landlord.
You may also find yourself doing a lot of work in meeting rooms, too. Going through a lengthy trial is a grueling process, and many clients opt for mediation or for a settlement instead. In addition to this, you should expect to spend some time negotiating contracts, too.
You Must Be Detail Oriented
Real estate law is fascinating, but it also requires a practitioner with an eye for detail. Many disputes arise over things like defective title or whether the actual boundary of someone’s property is one foot over from where it’s presently thought to be.
These types of disputes require attorneys to comb through historical records and trace title to land back to the original owner — hundreds of years! Interested in learning more about how this works? Thomas Dickson of Dickson Frohlich Law Firm explains the importance of know where your property boundaries and lines truly lie.
Always Remember the Fair Housing Act
If you’re interested in working in landlord-tenant law or real estate sales, one thing you’ll always have to keep at the front of your mind is the Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act was created to protect against racially discriminatory practices like redlining and blockbusting.
Since its enactment, the Fair Housing Act has been expanded to cover other protected classes. As a result, landlords and real estate agents are prohibited from discriminating against potential renters and buyers on the basis of race, sex, religion, familial status, and more.
When it comes to landlords, discrimination is likely to happen in many ways. For example, a landlord may rent to a tenant but then refuse to keep the apartment in a habitable condition because they don’t want tenants of that race in their apartment.
Get Comfortable with Landlord-Tenant Law
Landlord-tenant law is a huge part of real estate law. There are over 43 million renters in the US, making for a huge potential pool of clients. You can either work as an attorney for landlords, or you can represent tenants in court and mediations.
If you work for a landlord or property management company, you’ll spend a lot of time fine-tuning lease contracts to make sure the property owner is protected. You’ll also represent the owner when they wish to evict a tenant or need to collect damages from a previous tenant.
If you work as an attorney for tenants, you might find yourself writing demand letters to landlords to repair things such as air conditioning, broken locks, or anything that, absent the repair, makes the apartment uninhabitable. If a tenant believes they have a Fair Housing claim, you would represent them in those cases as well. You’ll also handle things like wrongful evictions and failure to return security deposits.
Interested in a Career in Real Estate Law?
Whether you’re interested in fighting for low-income tenants’ rights against greedy landlords or you’re more at home tracking down titles and property boundaries, there’s an area of real estate law that fits nearly anyone. Remember to make the most of your time in law school and get a ton of real-world experience and you’ll be well on your way to a successful career in real estate law and know more about what does a real estate attorney do!
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