How Do I Become a Real Estate Attorney?

1. What does a real estate attorney do?

Real estate law isn’t just for buying or selling homes. It involves the financing, building, zoning, and developing of commercial properties. Real estate attorney are responsible for handling all the paperwork in transactions and litigation. They know how to prepare leases and rental agreements, purchase contracts, and financing agreements. They also negotiate terms and conditions of deals with other attorneys, brokers, developers and others when asked by their clients. Clients may also ask their real estate attorney to perform the “due diligence” after they negotiate a deal by themselves, that means, attorneys need to not only review and give advice , but also check the legal title issues, environment issues, and other potential issues involved in the transaction. Real estate attorneys also represent their clients in real estate litigation. Some real estate attorneys specialize in mortgage or trust deed foreclosures. They represent lenders and/or borrowers and guide them in the foreclosure process.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of lawyers work in private and corporate legal offices. Some work for local, state, and federal governments. The majority work full time with many working overtime. The employment of lawyers is projected to grow 10 percent from 2012 to 2022, which is about as fast as the average of all occupations. Competition should be strong because more students graduate from law school each year than there are available jobs.

2. Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for lawyers was $113,530 in May 2012. Salaries may vary by geographic location of employment and the size of the firm. Generally, salaries are higher in big urban areas than rural areas and larger firms pay higher salaries.

3. What steps need to be taken to be a real estate attorney?

Step 1. Get A Bachelor’s Degree

A Bachelor’s degree is required if you want to apply for a law school.  Law school does not require a specific major to enroll.  Since much of real estate law practice is related to business transactions, majors related to business or economics can be helpful to becoming a real estate attorney in the future.  In addition, pre-law programs are now available in many colleges and universities that teach analytical, oral, and communication skills.

Step 2. Take The Law School Admission Test:

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a half-day, standardized test administered four times each year at designated testing centers throughout the world. It provides a standard measure of acquired reading and verbal reasoning skills.  It is used by law schools as one of several factors to assessing applicants. Score range is 120-180.

Step 3. Earning Your Juris Doctor (J.D.) Degree:

Law school commonly provides a three-year program. No specific majors are available in law school. Individuals who are interested in specific fields can choose corresponding elective courses. For example, if you have desires to become a real estate attorney after graduation, you may choose some courses that cover topics like real estate transfers, environmental laws, and land-use planning.

Step 4. Participate In Internships:

Law firms and other organizations that employ real estate lawyers often hire summer interns. Participation in summer internships help you learn how to be a real estate attorney and earn hands-on experience. In addition, internships offer you much needed work experience, making you much more competitive when looking to start your career. Some organizations may even hire you after graduation.  If time is available, you may talk with a mortgage broker or a realtor to gain firsthand knowledge. You may also visit builder’s sales offices or other real estate related offices to get as much knowledge as you can.

Step 5. Pass The Bar Exam:

This is one of the most challenging steps to become a lawyer. The Bar Exam is a rigorous test which in most U.S. states is at least two days long. Only a minority of law schools offer bar exam preparation courses. Most candidates in the U.S enroll in private bar review courses offered by third-party companies. Each state is entirely different and some states require a multi-state testing format.  An individual must pass the bar exam and meet the requirements of the bar association in his or her state to become a licensed attorney. Only a licensed attorney can legally practice law in their state.

Step 6. Choose Stepping Stone Jobs:

As mentioned before, participation in a summer internship may be the easiest way to work for a real estate attorney. Though slightly difficult, it is still possible for a new graduate with no prior experience get an entry position. A common method of moving in the direction of real estate is to work for a smaller firm that does all kinds of legal work and then volunteer to assist in all of the real estate cases.

4. Other Factors that Can Help

A. Choose A Major That You Are Good At During Your Bachelor’s Degree.

Law school requires good college grades of their prospective students. So choose a major that either you are interested in or good at.

B. Be A Member Of An Attorney Association.

Membership in the state’s bar association is usually required when you apply for an attorney position. Each local city and state may have their own association for real estate attorneys. Each association has its own membership benefits. Typical benefits include being listed in a directory for real estate attorneys, which will help you a lot in your career.

C. Become A Title Agent As Well.

While a real estate attorney is not required to be a title agent, some firms prefer to hire attorneys who are also title agents so that they don’t need to contract these services out to others. Being a title agent and simply makes you more competitive. Don’t forget, a title agent also needs to have state approval.

E. Further Education May Be Needed.

Since laws and regulations may be revised irregularly, after working as an attorney, further education may be necessary every year or every three years.

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