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About 61% of Americans own their own home, which means more than half of Americans own real estate. People who own property and do not have a thorough understanding of the real estate market can find themselves in legal scuffles. This is where real estate lawyers come in.
If you are interested in the real estate market and finance, you might consider a career in real estate law. Real estate lawyers enjoy stable job security and above-average salaries.
This guide offers practical information on becoming a real estate lawyer.
What is real estate law?
Real estate law is a branch of civil law that governs the ownership and use of real estate. Real estate law determines who has the right to occupy a piece of land or a building, and for how long. This specialization of law is also called real estate law.
Real estate law covers titles, deeds, zoning, estate planning and property taxes. It governs ownership rights and limitations on those rights stipulated by government or agreements (eg, leases, purchase agreements).
Land ownership and use laws differ from state to state. For a real estate attorney to oversee a transaction in a state, they must be licensed to practice there.
What do real estate lawyers do?
The primary goal of a real estate attorney is to protect his client’s interests under state law. This objective involves a variety of other responsibilities, including the following.
- Provide legal advice on property management, property taxes, property restrictions and state laws
- Prepare and review legal documents such as purchase agreements, titles and mortgage and transfer documents
- Assess legal risks in real estate documents and advise clients accordingly
- Ensure compliance with state laws during real estate transactions
- Supervise the closing and transfer of titles
- Negotiation of settlements on behalf of clients in real estate disputes
- Representation of clients before the courts in real estate fraud cases
Real estate lawyers must be skilled in negotiation and have a thorough understanding of the real estate market.
The average real estate lawyer earns over $87,000 per year. Compared to the average US salary of $58,260, real estate attorneys are on the higher end of the income scale. However, their income may differ depending on location, level of experience, and customer base.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 10% job growth rate for lawyers from 2021 to 2031. This indicates continued demand for real estate lawyers in the coming years as more and more people invest in land ownership.
Skills to practice real estate law
Practicing real estate law requires a strategic mindset as these professionals must navigate the market, win clients, and settle disputes with opposing parties. Below are essential skills that every real estate lawyer must develop to be successful.
A lawyer specializing in real estate law needs a critical mind to analyze legal provisions, detect potential risks and advise clients accordingly.
Communication and speaking skills
When it comes to legalese, most real estate investors have a cursory understanding at best. Therefore, real estate attorneys must know how to break down legal concepts and documents into language understandable to their clients and other parties involved in transactions. These lawyers must also speak clearly when presenting their cases in court.
Real estate attorneys must earn the trust and respect of their clients by demonstrating legal expertise and empathy for client situations.
The objective evaluation of the agreements, legal limitations and provisions of a real estate transaction is essential to the career of lawyers. These skills allow lawyers to negotiate settlements and build compelling cases in court.
Legal research is about locating and retrieving the right information to support a legal position. A real estate lawyer must be able to find precedents that relate to the situation at hand and advise their client accordingly.
A real estate attorney must be precise when drafting the legal documents for a transaction, leaving no room for misinterpretation.
How to become a real estate lawyer
Law is one of the oldest professions. The traditional route to becoming a lawyer is relatively standard in all countries. However, real estate lawyers have to go the extra mile as they need to be grounded in both the law and the real estate market.
If you decide this career is for you and are wondering how to become a real estate lawyer, here are the steps to take.
Earn a bachelor’s degree
The first step to becoming a lawyer is to obtain 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 to law school.
However, undergraduates who want to major in real estate law should consider majoring in business, economics, or psychology.
Take the LSAT
Once you have earned a bachelor’s degree, the next step is to go to law school. To gain admission to a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA), applicants must pass the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT)®.
The LSAT is an integral part of the law school admissions process used to determine applicants’ performance in a law program. The exam tests learners’ comprehension, analytical and writing skills.
Many ABA-accredited law schools now accept the GRE instead of the LSAT.
Get a Lawyer’s Degree in Real Estate Law
It usually 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 study programs generally take longer to complete.
The first year of law school focuses on the fundamentals of law. In the final year or two, learners can specialize in real estate law and gain experience through an internship.
But how much does law school cost? The ABA publishes tuition data reported by law schools. According to this data, law school tuition costs an average of $40,791 per year for full-time students in the state. That totals $122,373, excluding tuition and living expenses, after three years of law school.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, graduate programs in the United States 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 lawyer specializing in real estate law, this is the path we recommend.
Students who need help financing their degrees can apply for student grants and loans from government and private sources.
pass the bar
At the end of your law degree program, you must pass the bar exam. This test determines if you are qualified to practice in your state. Note that each state sets its own requirements for the bar exam.
Passing the bar allows you to obtain the attorney’s license necessary to practice law in the United States. Check out our list of the best law school loans to get started.