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Real estate (or property) lawyers deal with much more than bricks and mortar. They are involved in a wide range of work, including buying and selling commercial properties, landlord and tenant matters and site developments. Clients range from corporate real estate investors and developers to government and public sector bodies.
Real estate (or property) lawyers deal with much more than bricks and mortar.
They are involved in a wide range of work, including buying and selling commercial properties, landlord and tenant matters and site developments. Clients range from corporate real estate investors and developers to government and public sector bodies.
The diversity of clients and transactions means life as a real estate lawyer is never dull. A day can involve drafting leases for shopping centre units, visiting a redevelopment site or working on the sale of an office block.
Whatever you do, the work will involve drafting and negotiating documentation for transactions. However, you will also have the opportunity to visit the buildings on which you are working, and have a lot of direct contact with clients.
Being a real estate lawyer is about more than knowing the law. Clients expect you to understand their business and the wider real estate industry, and to be able to provide practical and commercial advice.
The working culture
The broad range of transactions a real estate team will work on means that lawyers at all levels have their own files. Trainees may be responsible for some of their own matters, such as a short-term lease or licence for alterations, but they can also be part of larger teams working on more complicated transactions.
Working on your own files is a good way of getting client contact and learning to manage your workload. On a larger transaction, such as the sale of a shopping centre, trainees can help by collating all the leases and any other documents affecting the centre to send to the buyer for review. Trainees may also be asked to research technical points of law which could be crucial to a client’s redevelopment plans.
The workload tends to be more regular than in other legal disciplines. However, a real estate lawyer must be prepared to put in long hours where necessary, to complete a transaction with a tight timeframe.
What practice areas do real estate lawyers work most closely with?
Property lawyers often enlist the help of their colleagues in other areas to give specialist advice on transactions. Lawyers with real estate, planning, construction, and finance expertise often work in teams on more complex deals. Property lawyers also work closely with agents, surveyors and other professional advisers of clients.
What phrase is a real estate lawyer most likely to use and what does it mean?
Property lawyers are always referring to plans. To register a property at the Land Registry, the registration form needs to be accompanied by a plan that is Land Registry-compliant. It can be difficult for architects to draw up plans of new buildings or developments, especially when they have to refer back to plans that are hundreds of years old. We often find ourselves going backwards and forwards checking that plans meet all the stipulations and regulations of the Land Registry. Consequently, the phrase ‘Land Registry-compliant’ is commonly heard in our department.
Real estate lawyers need to be organised and have good time management skills. This is because, at any one time, you can be responsible for many files and clients, all with differing timescales and priorities. An analytical brain and common sense are also important in being able to draft and negotiate documents. The real estate industry is sociable and close-knit, so it is suited to an outgoing person with an interest in seeing a client’s business develop.
Sarah Austin is an associate at Berwin Leighton Paisner