This week’s podcast takes a look at the practice of real estate law. We’ll hear from professors at two U.S. ABA-approved law schools: University of Montana School of Law Associate Professor Kristen Juras, and University of Wisconsin Law School Associate Professor Thomas Mitchell.
Professor Juras starts by presenting us with a broad definition of real estate law, describing it as the “legal rights and obligations of owners of real property.” However, she says that there is much more to real estate law than meets the eye, and talks about its relationship to land use planning, real estate development, finance, landlord/tenant relationships, and easements, as well as its intersections with many other legal practices: Contract Law, Family Law, Estate Law, and Bankruptcy Law, among others. Professor Juras makes a point to talk about the nature of real estate law as primarily a state-based practice (although there are some federal elements to it, mostly notably in environmental law)—this is why, she underscores, students interested in real estate law must give thought to where they want to practice, since that can affect the knowledge they will need. She recommends that students looking to learn more about or practice real estate law not only take “basic” real estate law courses, but also take property-related courses—such as transactional, finance, and tax law—and also try to get practice experience by going to hearings, County Recorders Offices, and reading real estate law blogs.
Professor Mitchell, like Professor Juras, tells students that there is much more to learning real estate law than the basic courses—in fact, he spends considerable time talking about the importance of budding real estate attorneys gaining considerable experience in transactional and business law, and encourages students to look at the practice holistically, rather than just as a single pigeonhole. He also advises students looking to go into Public Interest Law (who he says often don’t feel the need to know much about real estate law) to become familiar with the topic, since non-profits often assist in affordable housing, which directly involves real estate law. He also encourages students to get as much practical experience as possible, and talks about the benefits of clinical opportunities and finding related summer employment (even in a volunteer capacity) to beef up their knowledge and experience. He ends by emphasizing the importance of a strong business and financial knowledge base for anyone thinking of going into real estate law, and also encourages students to look into real estate law-specific programs at the JD and LLM levels.