Real estate lawyers serve two primary functions in the real estate world. They either act as litigators or handle the legal aspects of real estate transactions. Real estate lawyers deal in real property and mediate real estate transactions gone sour.
Some real estate lawyers are highly specialized, litigating fraud cases such as disclosure fraud and mortgage fraud or concentrating on land use, subdivision and zoning laws. Other areas of expertise can be in residential or commercial real estate.
A real estate lawyer must obtain a juris doctorate degree from a school accredited by the American Bar Association along with an attorney’s license through passing the bar exam. Some law schools may provide the option of specializing one’s studies around real estate law. While attending law school, applying for internships with various law firms will help a future real estate lawyer gain the work experience necessary to land one’s job of choice. After graduation, continuing education may be required yearly or every three years as it is so in forty-five states.
Not only are employers seeking real estate lawyers with higher education, but they often require several years of real estate transaction preparation and contract negotiation as well. The American Bar Association has a division known as the Real Property, Trust and Estate Law division. There are also state real estate lawyers associations. Memberships in these not only bring prestige but allow for networking with other lawyers. Through these memberships, new skills and employment opportunities can be gained.
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A real estate lawyer whose primary focus is real estate transactions applies himself to the preparation and review of documents, the negotiation of terms and conditions, and the transference of titles. They may be called upon by companies who are unsure of how real estate laws and regulations could affect their business when buying or selling real estate. When a breach of contract transpires or a real estate fraud occurs, real estate lawyers step in and go to court to represent their client in the case. The work hours can be long as they serve the various needs of their clients.
In addition to analytical and verbal/written communication skills, it is essential to develop a broad business law foundation and strong negotiating skills. The real estate market is a web of relationships. Therefore, a real estate lawyer should be a capable networker. Time management and organizational skills are of the essence because frequently, a real estate lawyer is handling multiple cases and documents at any given time.
The average salary for a real estate lawyer is $118,000. Salary depends on the hourly rate charged and job experience. Working in a large firm or becoming a partner increases a real estate lawyer’s pay.
In an economic recession with a decline in the housing market the industry’s need for real estate lawyers declines as well. To compensate, real estate companies may hire fewer lawyers and instead enlist the services of paralegals and accountants to perform similar functions. A willingness to relocate may open up more job opportunities. However, relocation does mean passing the bar exam in another state.
Those involved in commercial real estate often find employment in large firms along with environmental lawyers and full-time litigators. Some real estate lawyers work for the government, using their expertise in the building and zoning departments of municipalities and counties. Still others may be on staff in corporations, financial or lending institutions, real estate development companies or title companies. Typically, real estate lawyers with their own practice or in small firms focus on residential real estate transactions.
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