10 Things to Know About Being a Real Estate Attorney

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Summary: Due to the complexities and unique issues in each case, real estate law can be a very innovative as well as challenging practice area for the detail-oriented attorney.
10 Things to Know About Being a Real Estate Attorney
  • From small single-family dwellings to enormous developments such as stadiums, office buildings and other complexes, a real estate attorney can be a very important resource.
  • Attorneys in this practice area review titles and survey information regarding construction projects as well as attempt to grasp an overall legal understanding of the complex.
  • If you have an interest in property, construction as well as the purchase and selling of lots, the practice of real estate law may be perfect for you.
There’s something satisfying about helping people purchase a home. Or, if you are into larger complexes, being part of the process that constructs housing projects or office buildings – for real estate attorneys, from small homes to large complexes, real estate attorneys cover them all.

The question is, what exactly does a real estate attorney do, and as an attorney, would you be interested in the real estate practice area? Keep reading to find out.
1. The real estate attorney’s typical day.

Within the practice of real estate law, real estate attorneys, each day can vary depending on the type and stage of the transaction being worked on.

According to Above The Law, each real estate transaction presents its own set of issues, so handling those issues generally dictates how a workday will unfold.

Otherwise, real estate attorneys typically perform extensive due diligence by reviewing titles, surveys, third-party reports, and other items that can be pertinent toward obtaining a comprehensive legal understanding of the project(s) at hand.

During other days, real estate attorneys draft, review and negotiate documents that are necessary to the completion of a particular transaction, such as loan documents, purchase and sale agreements, leases and other ancillary documents.

As you can imagine, to close a real estate transaction requires extensive coordination with the client and opposing counsel.

Accordingly, lawyers may spend large chunks of time during the day discussing issues with their client or opposing counsel in order to properly document, negotiate and close a deal.
2. Who do entertainment attorneys work with?

In large law firms, a real estate transactions division is typically staffed with an attorney team with differing levels of experience.

Smaller transaction teams comprise one law firm partner, one associate and occasionally a paralegal. At the same time, larger transaction teams are made up of a law firm partner, multiple junior and senior associates.

This is because larger transaction teams usually work with multiple properties in which they have to meet their clients’ expectations in a timely manner.

A junior associate may be asked to sit in on conference calls that the partner conducts with the client or opposing counsel and in some instances, a junior associate may be asked to contact third parties directly to complete discrete tasks on a transaction.

Real estate attorneys must also remain open to the idea that their paths may cross with an internal lawyer from another field, such as tax, environmental or land use, or a lawyer in a different law firm altogether.

When this is the case, the specialized lawyer generally assists the real estate deal team with guidance on the particular issue.
3. What is the common career for a real estate attorney?

Lawyers in this practice area usually start out as an associate at a large or mid-size law firm to gain experience. This way, associate lawyers can learn how to manage and close a transaction as they assist partners or more senior lawyers.

Once the associates become more senior and their skill set grows, they may be able to pursue a partnership track within the law firm where they work.

At that point, however, a lawyer who seeks to make partner must be able to run transactions without oversight while they focus on developing their own book of business.

Other associates may forgo the partnership track and instead transition to a smaller law firm or an in-house position for a client or other real estate company.
4. How popular is this practice area?

Many puzzle pieces and complexities can be involved in closing a real estate transaction. Nonetheless, the unique issues that arrive with each project can make the practice field of real estate challenging in a positive way.

The variety and excitement in this practice area can lend itself to new encounters on what may seem like a daily basis.

Extensive coordination is involved in each transaction. That coordination can involve:
  • Reviewing title and surveys.
  • Drafting and negotiating purchase agreements and loan documents.
  • Potential interaction with opposing counsel and other parties.

In the case of potential interaction with opposing counsel and other parties, closing an acquisition for a large retail shopping center filled with numerous anchor tenants, a lawyer may need to deal with large national retailers that are tenants in the shopping center.

The interaction with multiple parties required to close a transaction can help keep a real estate-based practice stimulated as it accumulates billable hours and adds new clients to its book of business.

Of course, the intangibles of being a real estate attorney also play a role in the excitement of this practice field.

Think about it: There’s nothing better than after you’ve helped close a purchase, assisted with a sale or lent your knowledge to refinance of a real estate project, there’s no better reward than to drive past the project and see a new building being erected, or find a happy family moving into their new home.
5. What’s the practice’s pace like?

Due to escrows, inspections, deadlines with permits, etc., real estate can be a very high-paced practice area.

As figured, the demands from clients to close deals quickly can sometimes take a toll.

As is the case with most legal practice areas, there will be long hours and working weekends to contend with.

Understandably these long hours and weekends spent working are due to the detail that goes into completion of diligence, drafting and negotiating to close real estate transactions for clients.

6. Is there anyone who really hates entertainment law?

Most real estate lawyers, like many other lawyers, complain about the long hours of the job. However most real estate lawyers also know that long hours are what it takes to bring a client’s proposed transaction to a timely close.

Job pressure is another common complaint, with some attorneys noting that the pressure is unrelenting. Of course the pressure of being a real estate attorney also comes from the need to maintain high billable hours and high collections.
7. Is there anyone who really loves real estate law?

If you are a lawyer who likes succinctness and hardline completion of a project, real estate law will suit you well.

Most real estate transactions last weeks to months; they don’t linger as do other legal involvements.

Another perk to the practice field of real estate is each case is individual. No two real estate transactions are the same, in which each case can come with its own unique issues.

Sure, while navigating these issues with your clients can present its own challenges, the intellectual stimulation that goes with those challenges can be rewarding.
8. What are the common avenues out of this practice area?

Because real estate law is somewhat limiting practice area, it does not have the fluidity of other practice areas.

Some real estate lawyers do transition from practicing real estate law in a large law firm to in-house positions within a bank, insurance company, national retailer or other institutional real estate company.

Unfortunately, beyond the in-house track, there is no natural progression from real estate law into other common career paths.
9. What market trends can have influence over this practice area?

This practice area is heavily impacted by general business cycles and trends in the economy.

Interest rates and the ability to get loans leave their imprint on real estate law, though not entirely in a bad way.

During periods when the economy is growing and interest rates are low, the real estate market tends to prosper, and there are a multitude of real estate acquisitions as well as refinancing.

Commercial mortgage-backed securities financing for real estate projects also helps to fuel growth within the real estate market.

However, real estate attorneys should know that during recessionary periods, retailers are hesitant to open new stores or expand their footprint.

At the same time, lenders are cautious about making new real estate loans, which affects the pool of real estate transactions that occur.
10. What qualities should a budding attorney have to ensure success in this practice area?
  • Attention to detail
  • The ability to anticipate issues
  • The ability to provide guidance to clients to help navigate and close a transaction

Remain as the qualities necessary to ensure success in this practice area is achieved.

A real estate attorney must also have the ability to juggle competing demands is. This is true because many lawyers find themselves working on multiple projects at one time.

That makes the need to effectively prioritize their daily workload direr so they don’t miss critical deadlines.

While demanding, the real estate practice area has the ability to be exciting as well as rewarding despite its challenges.

For the very reason that no two real estate transactions are the same, innovation with a good tablespoon of hard work and timeliness can cook up a recipe that makes real estate law a satisfying practice area.

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