Podcast Highlight:

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.


Associate Professor Kristen Juras, University of Montana School of Law
Associate Professor Thomas Mitchell, University of Wisconsin Law School

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  1. Review by for Rating: I wrote a reveiw of PLS before I hit law school, and since I now have a semester under my belt, I figured I’d update my thoughts on this particular tome.First off, I should mention that I just got my first semester grades back, and I am in the top 5% of my class. I’m not going to gush like a schoolgirl and say I owe it all to PLS after all, I worked hard, and I feel like I earned my grades. But more importantly, I worked SMART, and I think that is where PLS helped me the most. The case method can be a bit of a minefield, and I saw lots of 1L’s worrying more about knowing the facts of these cases than knowing the rules that the cases illustrate. By and large, these are the same 1L’s who are looking a little morose now that grades are out. I’ve heard a lot of 1L’s promising themselves that they won’t get as caught up in the details of the cases this semester; that they’ll buy some commercial outlines and worry more about the big picture this time around. That’s definitely a step in the right direction, but they’ll still have their first semester grades hanging around their necks like an albatross. I’m glad I read PLS, because for all its faults, it taught me the lessons that a lot of 1L’s only learned by getting reamed by their first semester exams. It taught me that knowing the cases backwards and forwards will not earn you good grades, and that sounding smart in class doesn’t count for a thing. It taught me that the person who studies ten hours per week can get better grades than the person who studies twenty hour per week, if he’s getting more out of every hour of study. For me, these lessons have made all the difference between working smart and just spinning my wheels on busy work.Again, PLS has its faults. It’s too long, because Falcon does a lot of ranting, and it becomes redundant after a while. It’s poorly edited and has a lot of typos. And some of the law school horror stories bear no relation to the law school I attend. But that doesn’t mean that all the info is bogus. You just have to use your brain a bit to separate the wheat from the chaff. Anyone who says that this is a bad book simply because some things are over-the-top or exaggerated is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. If you don’t like his suggestion that you shouldn’t buy the casebooks, well, buy the casebooks!! That’s what I do (I buy them used over the internet for 1/3 what I’d pay at the university bookstore, of course). Stripped down to its core, the PLS message is about questioning everything, from the concept of the case method to the professors’ pedagogical style to the bookstore’s policy of charging $100 for a casebook and then buying it back for $15. And to me, that means even questioning PLS itself.So if you simply want to be a sheep who obediently follows the rest of the herd, skip PLS and buy one of the 150-page feel-good books instead. You don’t necessarily need PLS to do well, although following the pack is a good way to wind up in the middle of the pack. But for those who want to question things to see if maybe there’s a better way to do it, for those who don’t want to blindly follow conventional wisdom, and for those who don’t want to take any chances with the all-important first year, give PLS a try. Adapt it to your own needs. Question anything in PLS that you don’t agree with. Those are the attitudes that will set you apart from the pack.

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