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About 61% of Americans own their homes, meaning more than half of Americans own real estate. Individuals who own property and do not have a thorough understanding of the property market may find themselves in legal scuffles. That’s where real estate lawyers come in.
If you’re interested in the real estate market and finance, you might consider a career in real estate law. Real estate attorneys enjoy steady job security and above-average salaries.
This guide offers practical information on how to become a lawyer who specializes in real estate.
What Is Real Estate Law?
Real estate law is a branch of civil law that governs the ownership and use of landed property. Real estate law determines who is entitled to occupy a piece of land or a structure, and for how long. This specialization of law is also called real property law.
Real estate law covers titles, deeds, zoning, estate planning and property taxes. It governs ownership rights and the limitations to those rights stipulated by the government or agreements (e.g., leases, purchase agreements).
Property and land use laws differ by state. For a real estate attorney to oversee a transaction in one state, they must be licensed to practice there.
What Do Real Estate Lawyers Do?
A real estate lawyer’s main focus is protecting their client’s interest under state laws. This goal entails a variety of other responsibilities, including the following.
- Offering legal advice on real estate management, property taxes, real estate restrictions and state laws
- Preparing and reviewing legal papers like purchase agreements, titles and mortgage and transfer documents
- Assessing legal risks in real estate documents and advising clients accordingly
- Ensuring compliance with state laws during real property transactions
- Supervising the closing and transfer of titles
- Negotiating settlements on behalf of clients during real estate disputes
- Representing clients in court in cases of real estate fraud
Real estate lawyers should be adept at negotiating and have an in-depth understanding of the real estate market.
A real estate lawyer earns over $87,000 a year on average. Compared to the average U.S. salary of $58,260, real estate attorneys are on a higher rung of the income ladder. However, their income may differ by location, experience level and clientele.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 10% employment growth rate for lawyers from 2021 to 2031. This indicates a steady demand for real estate lawyers in the coming years as more people invest in landed property.
Skills for Practicing Real Estate Law
Practicing real estate law requires a strategic mindset as these professionals must navigate the market, win over clients and settle disputes with opposing parties. Below are vital skills that every real estate attorney should develop to succeed.
A real estate lawyer needs a critical mind to analyze legal provisions, detect potential risks and advise clients accordingly.
Communication and Speaking Skills
When it comes to legal jargon, most real estate investors have a surface-level understanding at best. Therefore, real estate attorneys must know how to break down legal concepts and documents into understandable language for their clients and other parties involved in transactions. These lawyers also need to speak clearly when presenting their cases in court.
Real estate lawyers must gain their clients’ confidence and respect by demonstrating legal expertise and empathy for clients’ situations.
Objective assessment of agreements, legal limitations and provisions in a real estate transaction is vital to lawyers’ careers. These skills allow attorneys to negotiate settlements and build compelling cases in court.
Legal research involves locating and retrieving the right information to support a legal position. A real estate attorney must be able to find precedents that pertain to the situation at hand and advise their client accordingly.
A real estate attorney must be precise when drafting legal papers for a transaction, leaving no room for misinterpretation.
How To Become A Real Estate Lawyer
Law is one of the oldest professions. The traditional path to becoming an attorney is relatively standard across countries. However, real estate lawyers have to go the extra mile because they need to be grounded in both the law and the real estate market.
If you decide that this career is for you and are wondering how to become a real estate lawyer, below are the steps you must complete.
Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
The first step to becoming a lawyer is earning a bachelor’s degree. Many law schools prefer applicants from pre-law majors, but there are no strict restrictions on degree choices at the undergraduate level. Any four-year undergraduate degree from an accredited college qualifies you to apply for law school.
However, undergraduate students who want to specialize in real estate law should consider a major in business, economics or psychology.
Pass the LSAT
Once you have earned a bachelor’s degree, the next step is attending law school. To qualify for admission into a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA), candidates must pass the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT)®.
The LSAT is an integral part of the law school admission process used to determine how well applicants would perform in a law program. The exam tests learners’ comprehension, analytical and writing skills.
Many ABA-accredited law schools now accept the GRE in lieu of the LSAT.
Earn a Real Estate Lawyer Degree
It typically takes three years of full-time study in law school to earn a juris doctor degree. However, some schools offer part-time programs for students with other obligations. Part-time degree programs typically take longer to complete.
The first year of law school focuses on the fundamentals of law. In the last year or two, learners can take up real estate law as their specialty and gain experience through an internship.
But how much is law school? The ABA publishes tuition data reported by law schools. According to this data, law school tuition costs $40,791 per year on average for full-time, in-state students. This totals $122,373, excluding student fees and living expenses, after three years of law school.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. graduate degree programs as a whole cost less than $20,000 per year on average for tuition and fees, making law school particularly expensive. So is law school worth it? If you want to become a real estate lawyer, that’s the path we recommend.
Students who need help funding their degrees can seek scholarships and student loans from the government and private sources.
Pass the Bar
Upon completing your law school program, you must sit for the bar exam. This test determines whether you are qualified to practice in your state. Note that each state sets its own requirements for the bar exam.
Passing the bar qualifies you to obtain the attorney’s license needed to practice law in the United States. Check out our list of the best law school loans to get started.