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How to Become a Real Estate Lawyer

November 7, 2023
5 min read


Reviewed by:

Former Head of Pre-Law Office, Northeastern University, & Admissions Officer, Brown University

Reviewed: 11/07/23

There are several areas of law aspiring attorneys can pursue. One popular specialty is real estate law. Read on to learn more about how to become a real estate lawyer and what to expect in this career!

When people think about lawyers, they generally think of criminal cases—hotshot attorneys helping victims get justice and felons get persecuted. However, criminal law is only one specialty in the legal field, and it isn’t for everyone! 

Criminal law is often glamorized in the media. In reality, it can be difficult, exhausting, and emotionally draining. There are amazing wins but also devastating losses. If you’d like to advocate for people without these drastic highs and lows, you may want to consider a different type of law!

Real estate law is another common legal specialty that attorneys pursue and could be the perfect profession for you! This guide will go into more depth about real estate lawyers’ roles, the steps required to become a real estate lawyer, their salary, and more.

Steps to Becoming a Real Estate Lawyer

The first question we’ll answer in this guide is, “how long does it take to become a real estate lawyer?” 

The good news is real estate law will take as many years to pursue as any other legal specialty, so you won’t have to wait any longer to begin practicing. The bad news is it’ll still take several years of competitive training to become a real estate attorney!

lawyer sitting on couch reading papers

Here are the steps involved in the process:

Step One: Obtain an Undergraduate Degree

Before you can begin gaining an advanced education in law, you’ll have to complete an undergrad at an accredited university. Law schools do not have a preference over the major you pursue. While you may think it wise to pursue a Bachelor’s in Real Estate, you should reconsider!

While this degree can certainly prepare you for a career as a real estate agent, broker, or leasing manager, it will do little to prepare you for the legal side of real estate. 

Instead, choose an academically challenging major that you have a genuine interest in. Take diverse electives to expand your knowledge base and skillset and focus on maintaining a high GPA. Your GPA will influence the type of law school you get accepted into!

Step Two: Create a List of Your Top Law School Choices

While you’re still completing your undergrad, you should begin looking into your law school options. It’s generally advised that students go to high-ranking law schools to have the most opportunity and job prospects.

But, getting into these law schools is challenging and will require a strong application. To ensure you meet the requirements of your desired law schools, research their admission expectations beforehand, so you can begin preparing your application early.

You should consider applying to law schools that offer concentrations, courses, or experiential learning clinics in real estate law.

Step Three: Build Your Law School Application

Pursue valuable extracurriculars, volunteer, work, and research opportunities during your undergrad. Your law school will likely require a resume as part of their admissions process, and will question large gaps in it.

To avoid this, you should keep busy throughout your undergrad! This doesn’t mean you have to pick up a new job each year, but you should contribute to a few organizations or clubs consistently. 

Ensure you also maintain close connections with your professors to secure stellar letters of recommendation by the end of your undergrad.

Step Four: Write the LSAT or GRE

Depending on the law schools you apply to, you might have to write the LSAT or GRE. Choose the exam that will best reflect your abilities and give yourself adequate time to prepare for and retake your chosen exam.

Your standardized test score is one of the most crucial application materials the admissions committee will use to assess your candidacy for law school! You may have an outstanding application otherwise, but a low LSAT score can make the committee hesitate to accept you into their program.

A study period of four months is ideal for students to be able to study for the LSAT full-time. Part-timers should study for five to six months to achieve the same results. 

Step Five: Thrive in Law School

After taking the time to perfect your application, you should be rewarded by receiving multiple offer letters to your top law school choices! Choose the school that can provide you with the best resources to fulfill your personal and professional career goals.

You can expect your JD degree to be much harder than your undergrad, so you should be willing to put in the effort to succeed. Much like your undergrad GPA, your JD GPA is crucial in your legal journey. It will determine the types of internships and job prospects you have during and after your JD.

Be sure you participate in legal journals, moot courts, externships, and experiential learning opportunities, especially if they involve real estate law. Having this experience will make you a more qualified applicant post-graduation!

Step Six: Consider an LLM

Once you’ve completed your JD, you have the necessary training and skills to practice real estate law. While you do not have to pursue any higher education, some real estate lawyers pursue LLMs in Real Estate Law. 

This degree will take one year to complete and can provide you with more specialized training in the field. It can also lead to higher pay potential and more job opportunities! 

Step Seven: Pass the Bar Exam

After completing all the necessary degrees and certifications to become a real estate lawyer, the final step is to pass the bar exam!

This exam will confirm you meet the necessary standards to begin practicing as an independent attorney. Ensure you end off on a strong note and dedicate at least a few months to prepare for this exam. It will cover a wide range of material and will require diligent studying!

What Does a Real Estate Lawyer Do?

Now that you know how to become a real estate lawyer, it’s important you know what a career in this legal specialty will entail. Real estate lawyers typically perform the following tasks:

  • Negotiating settlements on behalf of their clients
  • Providing legal guidance and council to first-time homeowners or sellers, real estate managers, and other property owners
  • Preparing and reviewing legal documents, including purchase agreements, titles and mortgages, and transfers
  • Ensuring all contracts and transactions abide by local, state, and federal laws
  • Supervising the closing and transferring of titles
  • Reviewing legal documents and assessing any risks
  • Representing clients in cases of real estate fraud

A large part of real estate law is paper work, namely ensuring all contracts and agreements are fair and follow regulations. 

house with sold sign on lawn

Real Estate Lawyer Salary and Career Outlook

You’ll be investing a lot of time and money into pursuing a legal education, so it’s important to know if you’ll get a good return on this investment.

The average real estate lawyer salary is around $98,016 a year. However, this salary can increase based on your clientele, location, and experience. Here’s a breakdown of the average real estate lawyer salaries in each state:

  • Washington: $122,167
  • Nevada: $119,007
  • Rhode Island: $116,731
  • Massachusetts: $116,572
  • Connecticut: $116,079
  • New Hampshire: $166,115
  • Vermont: $115,087
  • Delaware: $114,156
  • Idaho: $113,844
  • Maryland: $113,362
  • District of Columbia: $113,229
  • Montana: $111,946
  • Maine: $11,675
  • West Virginia: $111,266
  • Ohio: $111,261
  • Alaska: $109,049
  • Kentucky: $107,722
  • Wisconsin: 106,579
  • Indiana: $105,942
  • South Dakota: $105,310
  • New York: $105,139
  • California: $104,750
  • Colorado: $104,108
  • South Carolina: $103,253
  • Louisiana: $101,975
  • Oregon: $98,510
  • Utah: $97,581
  • North Dakota: $94,979
  • Michigan: $93,413
  • Missouri: $91,598
  • Nebraska: $91,028
  • New Jersey: $90,259
  • New Mexico: $90,093
  • Mississippi: $90,020
  • Pennsylvania: $89,463
  • Virginia: $87,527
  • Tennessee: $87,379
  • Texas: $86,476
  • Arizona: $86,236
  • Arkansas: $86,103
  • Oklahoma: $86,007
  • Georgia: $85,556
  • Illinois: $85,521
  • Minnesota: $84,514
  • North Carolina: $84,081
  • Wyoming: $82,621
  • Iowa: $82,592
  • Kansas: $80,747
  • Alabama: $79,850
  • Hawaii: $68,122
  • Florida: $66,081

Real estate lawyers are generally always in demand, despite the fluctuations in the housing market. Considering about 61% of Americans are homeowners, these professionals are needed to ensure smooth property transactions. 

lawyers signing papers

Skills Needed to Become a Real Estate Lawyer

To become the best real estate lawyer you can, you should hone the following skills:

  • Communication: both your written and oral communication should be impeccable as you’ll be drafting and revising legal documents and advising clients on their rights
  • Problem-solving: you must be able to solve any issues in contracts or negotiations to avoid legal trouble
  • Attention to detail: to fine-tune contracts 
  • Critical thinking: to know all the rules and regulations that apply to real estate law

Lawyers must also be excellent teachers! You’ll be guiding your clients on laws and topics they likely have little experience or knowledge on. It’s your job to simplify complex legal jargon, so they understand the proceedings involved in buying or selling property.

female lawyer reading paper on desk

FAQs: Becoming a Real Estate Lawyer

For any remaining questions about how to become a real estate lawyer, read on to find your answers. 

1. How Long Does It Take to Become a Real Estate Lawyer?

It will take at least seven years to become a real estate lawyer: four years for an undergraduate degree, three years for a JD, and an optional additional year for an LLM.

2. How Much Do Top Real Estate Lawyers Make?

Real estate lawyers working in big law firms can make upwards of $160,000 a year. However, the top real estate lawyers make around $450,000 a year!

3. How Do I Become a Real Estate Lawyer in Colorado?

The steps listed in this guide should be followed to become a real estate lawyer in Colorado: 

  • Obtain an undergraduate degree
  • Gain experience to build your resume
  • Ace the LSAT
  • Participate in real estate law externships and clinics in law school
  • Pass the bar exam

You may also want to consider pursuing an LLM in Real Estate Law, although it is not required.

4. Do I Need a Real Estate License to Become a Real Estate Attorney?

No, you only need to complete a JD and pass the bar exam to become a licensed real estate attorney.

Final Thoughts

Buying a house is a huge milestone! Real estate lawyers ensure this milestone is memorable and positive by handling all the technical legal aspects, so their clients can avoid any complications. Follow the steps and tips in this guide to join this essential profession and have a prosperous legal career!

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