How to Become a
Real Estate Lawyer

Businessman smiling holding a file next to a house

In this guide you can learn about the education and preparation needed to become a Real Estate Lawyer. You can learn about the expectations, job duties and licensing requirements if this is the career for you.

What Does a Real Estate Lawyer Do?

A Real Estate Lawyer’s primary focus involves preparing and reviewing documents, negotiating terms and conditions, and processing the transfer of titles. They may be called upon by individuals or companies who are unsure of real estate laws and regulations on buying or selling real estate. When a breach of contract or a real estate fraud occurs, Real Estate Lawyers can represent their clients in court. The work hours can be long as they serve the various needs of their clients.

Real Estate Lawyers spend most of their time representing buyers and sellers in property transactions and providing consultation services. These lawyers work long hours dealing with legal issues related to zoning, title transfers and mortgages. Real Estate Lawyers are responsible for the legal aspects of real estate matters such as land developments, purchases of property and asset transfers. They meet with clients and ensure that documentation aligns with current property laws and regulations.

Real Estate Lawyers draft legal documents such as deeds, contracts, agreements, as well as obtain required permits and titles. They are responsible for preparing necessary documentation with the relevant authorities. Real Estate Lawyers also need to ensure that their clients understand the legal ramifications of the documents they are signing, and that they understand all the terms of the agreements. They must at all times conform to the applicable standards and protocol set out in laws.  Some duties and responsibilities of Real Estate Lawyers include:

  • Legal Advice, They offer legal advice on property management, zoning violations, restrictions and agreements on real estate, property taxes, and value estimates.

  • Negotiation, They handle real estate disputes like encroachment, trespassing, injuries, and defining boundaries and work towards resolving disputes.

Real Estate Lawyer Skills

Real Estate Lawyers should be at ease with conflict resolution, knowledgeable about legal terminology and able to work long hours, especially at the beginning of their careers. Negotiation skills are needed for situations where clients are displeased. Furthermore a Real Estate Lawyer should be an analytical thinker who can work through legal issues and provide solutions. Excellent written and verbal communication skills are essential as one must effectively and accurately communicate ideas and propositions to clients, judges and other legal professionals. Since a lawyer is meant to defend and uphold the integrity of the legal system is it is of utmost importance that all lawyers act with good character, competence and sound judgements when dealing with client matters.

Other key Real Estate Lawyer skills include:

  • High Degree of Organization

  • Self-Motivation Skills

  • Networking Skills

  • Collaboration

 

How Do You Become a Real Estate Lawyer

Education and Training

Not only are employers seeking Real Estate Lawyers with a higher education, but they often want several years of real estate transaction experience as well. To become a Real Estate Lawyers one must complete a Bachelor's degree, pass the Law School Admission Test, complete a 3-year graduate program at a law school accredited by the American Bar Association and pass the bar examination in the state where they will practice. Although no pre-law majors are specified, courses in public speaking, analytics, economics and logic will prepare one well for law school. Law school graduates earn the Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree which covers legal writing, constitutional law, civil procedures and contracts. Real Estate Lawyers can also earn a Master of Laws (L.L.M.). After graduation, continuing education may be required. If one can complete courses in ethics and fraud it would be an advantage as it shows that you are interested in following the law and operating under high standards of practice.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that lawyers who gain legal work experience while in law school make themselves more appealing to potential employers. Therefore while attending law school, start applying for internships with various law firms to gain the relevant work experience necessary. One should also take advantage of networking with other attorneys and acquiring new skills and prestige by joining the American Bar Association's Real Property, Trust and Estate Law division. There are also state real estate lawyers associations that one could join. Membership in these organizations provide lawyers with resources to enhance their skills and new employment and advancement opportunities could be gained.

Real Estate Lawyers that are interested 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, in building and zoning departments of municipalities and counties. Others work for corporations, financial or lending institutions, real estate development companies or title companies. Real Estate Lawyers with their own practice focus on residential real estate transactions.

Finding a job

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted a 6 percent employment growth for all lawyers from 2014-2024. The availability of Real Estate Lawyer positions is also dependent on the real estate market. Therefore despite this projected growth, if the economy is in recession and fewer real estate transactions occur, the demand for these jobs will decrease. Relocating may open up more job opportunities but it does mean that one has to pass the bar exam of another state.

A successful Real Estate Lawyer job search begins with crafting a high-quality resume that highlights your skills and experience. For guidance on creating a resume, take a look at our library of Real Estate Lawyer resume samples.

Searching online for Real Estate Lawyer employment opportunities will precede a well-crafted resume. As you look for openings, be sure to leverage your professional network, including people you met through an internship or any of the law associations you may have joined.

A cover letter that expresses your interest in the position and highlights your qualifications and what you will bring to the role is vital when applying for a job. If you need some cover letter inspiration, check out our collection of cover letter samples.

Insights from a Real Estate Lawyer

We spoke to Brian J. Thompson, based in Chicago, who he is a Real Estate Lawyer and CPA, to get an inside look at how to become a Real Estate Lawyer. Here’s what he had to tell us.

What is the common career path for Real Estate Lawyer?  

Very frequently real estate lawyers study business as an undergrad - a background in finance or real estate finance might be helpful.  However, no particular undergrad major is required to become a real estate lawyer.

What should someone consider before becoming a Real Estate Lawyer?

Those considering becoming a real estate lawyer should consider whether they enjoy detail-oriented legal work and corresponding via email and phone with realtors, mortgage lenders, buyers, sellers, other attorneys, and title company employees.  You should also consider that this area of the law is quite cyclical and you will encounter times in your career that are very busy or quite slow.  

What type of person excels in this job?  

You are likely to excel as a real estate lawyer if you can understand the legal process and you are good at networking with realtors and mortgage lenders to develop a referral base for new clients.

What are some of the most important skills for Real Estate Lawyer to have?  

The hard skills needed for success as a real estate attorney vary somewhat depending upon who you represent, either (1) buyers or sellers of real estate or (2) developers.  An attorney who represents buyers and sellers needs to understand the real estate acquisition process from contract to closing including inspection reports, title insurance, the deed, bill of sale, affidavit of title, and the closing statement.  An attorney who represents developers needs to understand all of those same issues and a bit of corporate law as it relates to the formalities of Limited Liability Companies and corporations.  As for so-called soft skills, it is helpful to be a good written/verbal communicator and have an awareness of deadlines and details.

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being a Real Estate Lawyer?

Buying or selling real estate can be one of the most stressful life events next to divorce or the death of a spouse.  I enjoy making the process go as smoothly as possible for my client(s) and all parties involved in the transaction.

How Much Do Real Estate Lawyers Get Paid?

Even though job growth may not be strong as other sectors, compensation in this field is quite high. Real Estate Lawyers working in a large firms or becoming a partner increases one’s salary. Based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics the median hourly wage for Real Estate Lawyers in 2015 was $55.69. The lowest-paid Real Estate Lawyers make less than $26.86 per hour, while the highest-paid can earn equal to or more than $90.00 per hour. The bulleted list below will include Bureau of Labor Statistics data for the top 10 states for median wage from highest to lowest.

Top 10 States for Real Estate Lawyer Salary

Real Estate Lawyers in the following states make the highest median hourly wage in the U.S.

    District of Columbia

    $83.88

    California

    $78.37

    New York

    $74.55

    Massachusetts

    $73.55

    Delaware

    $73.24

    Connecticut

    $70.72

    New Jersey

    $70.18

    Texas

    $68.98

    Pennsylvania

    $63.02

    Minnesota

    $61.69

    Real Estate Lawyer Resources

    Do you want more information? We put together this list of additional resources to help you as you continue to explore a career as a Real Estate Lawyer:

    On the Web

    NY Real Estate Law Blog
    Includes cases and commentary on real estate and property law

    Real estate and Construction law Blog
    contains current information on real estate, construction, environmental and land use law

    Industry Groups

    Association of Real Estate License Law Officials (ARELLO)
    contains rules, laws, and a licensee registration verification database

    American Bar Association
    contain information to promote and uphold the legal profession

    Real Estate lawyer Books

    Real Estate Law
    covers real estate topics with examples and simple explanations

    Practical real Estate Law
    provides information on the intricacies of real estate law and transactions