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What does a real estate lawyer do?

Real estate lawyers help clients in all aspects of buying, selling, developing or otherwise putting real property to productive use. (Real property includes office buildings, retail or commercial spaces, housing, manufacturing facilities and open space.) Real estate lawyers negotiate and draft documents such as construction contracts, leases, purchase and sale agreements, and financing documents. They also conduct due diligence investigations into a property’s liabilities and ensure compliance with land-use, zoning, environmental and other regulatory requirements, which can involve representing clients before regulatory agencies and working with community groups to obtain governmental approvals. Real estate lawyers structure transactions to meet the basic needs of multiple parties with diverse interests but a common goal.

Real estate lawyers commonly represent or otherwise work with real estate developers; financing institutions such as banks, government entities and investors; architects and construction contractors; nonprofit organizations, including those involved in affordable housing; commercial or retail leaseholders; landlords; tenants; and homeowners, condominium and homeowners’ associations, land-use and environmental law agencies, and municipal officials.


  • What skills do I need to be a real estate lawyer?

    As a real estate lawyer, you’ll need the ability to advocate for your client’s interests while working collaboratively with your clients’ business partners. Attention to detail is also important in this line of work, along with drafting and negotiating skills and excellent organizational abilities. You should be interested in legal problem-solving and in relating your legal work to tangible, physical outcomes. Familiarity with, or willingness to learn about, basic real estate finance and accounting concepts may also be helpful for some areas of practice.
  • What kinds of jobs are available for real estate lawyers?

    Real estate lawyers work in law firms of all sizes, including solo practices. They also work in-house for real estate companies, in corporate law departments, at state and federal government agencies and for financial institutions such as banks. In the affordable housing field, some real estate lawyers work for nonprofit organizations.

  • What courses should I take?

    First, take as many real estate and business law courses as possible. Here are a few to consider:

    Land Use • Real Estate Finance • Administrative Law • Maryland Administrative Law • Advanced Real Estate Taxation • Bankruptcy and Creditor Remedies • Business Bankruptcy • Business Organizations • Construction Law • Environmental Law • Federal Income Taxation • Coastal Law Seminar • Commercial Real Estate Workshop • Residential Real Estate Workshop • Environmental and Toxic Torts Seminar • Local Economic Development Seminar • Attorney Practice Externship involving real estate law (approved by the director of the Attorney Practice externship) • Community Development Clinic I • Community Development Clinic II

    You may also want to look into cross-registering for relevant business school offerings and consider the Real Estate Concentration.

  • What co-curricular and volunteer activities should I consider?

    Talk to UB’s Law Career Development Office (LCDO) about how to gain transactional experience during law school. If possible, participate in the Community Development Clinic. Working at a real estate law firm as an extern or a law clerk is the best route to a job in this field after graduation. Join UB’s Real Estate Law Association and look for UB groups outside the law school, such as the American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association. Join the Maryland State Bar Association’s Real Property Section and attend its events. Use www.martindale.com to find UB alumni with real estate practices that interest you and set up informational interviews.

  • Who should I talk to for more information?