Career Path Introduction
Real estate law governs the sale and purchase of real property, while land use law regulates the development and use of real estate holdings.
Practice areas include commercial real estate transactions, real estate financing and investments, residential real estate, water rights, and sustainable development.
In addition to handling the legal aspects of real estate transactions, attorneys who focus on real estate law advise clients on investments, negotiate commercial leases and construction contracts, and represent banks and other lending institutions in foreclosures. A transactional real estate attorney may negotiate and draft key terms of real estate contracts, such as leasing provisions, prior liabilities, insurance and indemnification clauses, and financing. Land use attorneys counsel businesses on sustainable development in the early stages of construction projects and help clients resolve land use disputes with local, state and federal authorities.
Real estate and land use attorneys may represent corporations, hospitals, universities, real estate investment trusts, hotels, casinos, banks, power plants, manufacturers, ranchers, farmers, landlords, and private citizens.
Real estate and land use attorneys can be found in large and small law firms, solo practices, corporate legal departments, title companies, real estate development firms, environmental nonprofits, and government at all levels, including municipal law departments, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of the Interior.
In a typical day, real estate attorneys may perform due diligence on proposed real estate deals—scrutinizing zoning regulations, building inspections, land surveys and environmental impact reports—before their clients sign on the dotted line. They may advise corporate clients on real estate investments or handle real estate closings for private homebuyers. They may perform title searches on property for sale or file deeds with state and local authorities. They may help residents who have been defrauded by predatory lending companies keep their homes.
Land use attorneys may counsel developers on compliance with the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and other federal or state environmental statutes. They may represent clients before state pollution control boards or help secure water rights for new hydroelectric plants. They may hear appeals as administrative law judges for a state or federal environmental agency.
Real estate and land use attorneys benefit from excellent communication and negotiation skills, a rigorous understanding of transactional law, the ability to manage time efficiently, and strong attention to detail. Understanding business and accounting practices is also helpful, particularly for real estate attorneys.
During law school, students can extern in the real estate and land use practices at law firms, real estate development companies, the U.S. EPA, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and environmental nonprofits dedicated to protecting natural habitats and waterways.
Related Chicago-Kent offerings:
Chicago-Kent offers a variety of courses for students interested in real estate and land use law, including Construction Law, Real Estate Financing and Transfers, and Commercial Real Estate Transactions.
The Real Estate Law Student Association helps students learn about careers in real estate law and hosts events throughout the semester where students can network and seek out potential internship opportunities.