Real Estate AttorneyJob Description, Salary, Career Path, and Trends

Real estate attorneys handle the legal aspects of real estate transactions, including disputes regarding transactions. A real estate attorney also mediates real estate transactions that have gone wrong. Many real estate attorneys specialize in specific aspects of real estate law. Tasks can include drafting sales contracts for commercial or residential real estate, litigating disclosure fraud or mortgage fraud, or dealing with land use and zoning issues.

A real estate attorney should know laws and regulations relating to real property and business law. Skills common to most attorney positions, such as written and verbal communication, research, and negotiation, are also crucial for a real estate attorney.

Sample job description

Real estate attorneys are lawyers who specialize in the legal aspects of real estate transactions. They prepare and review legal documents relating to real estate, negotiate the terms and conditions of real estate transactions, and facilitate the transfer of titles. Real estate attorneys should have excellent negotiation and analytical skills, exceptional decision-making abilities, and solid research skills. [Your Company Name] is hiring an experienced real estate attorney. As an ideal candidate, you have experience handling clients’ legal risks in real estate transactions, as well as ensuring compliance with real estate laws and regulations.     

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Advise and counsel clients on real estate matters, including sales transactions, disputes, zoning, subdivision, and frauds involving real estate disclosures or mortgages
  • Litigate real estate disputes in court if necessary
  • Draft sales and transfer of title contracts
  • Write and file claims, motions, and court briefs
  • Negotiate real estate agreements

Education and experience

This position requires a Juris Doctorate as well as a license to practice law in the state where the candidate will work.

Employers prefer candidates who have taken college coursework in business law, real estate law, and related topics, and completed internships with real estate law firms.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Expertise in written and verbal communication
  • Knowledge of state and federal laws regarding transfer and sale of real property
  • Research skills
  • Analytical thinking
  • Negotiation skills
  • Litigation experience

Preferred qualifications

  • Five years to ten years of commercial real estate experience
  • Experience working on commercial real estate transactions
  • Excellent organizational and drafting skills

Average salary and compensation

The average salary for a real estate attorney is $148,000 in the United States. Position salary will vary based on experience, education, company size, industry, and market.

LocationSalary LowSalary High
Phoenix, Arizona$147,200$199,150
Los Angeles, California$166,050$224,650
Denver, Colorado$138,400$187,200
Washington, DC$168,550$228,050
Miami, Florida$137,750$186,350
Orlando, Florida$127,080$171,900
Tampa, Florida$128,300$173,600
Atlanta, Georgia$134,600$182,100
Chicago, Illinois$154,750$209,350
Boston, Massachusetts$167,300$226,350
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota$133,350$180,400
New York City, New York$176,100$238,300
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania$143,400$194,050
Dallas, Texas$139,650$188,900
Houston, Texas$138,400$187,200
Seattle, Washington$161,000$217,850
National Average$125,800$170,200

Typical work environment

Real estate attorneys typically work in legal offices but also spend time in courtrooms and law libraries. They can meet clients in various locations. Some travel is involved. Many real estate attorneys work extended hours as needed.   

Typical hours

The typical work hours in an office setting for a real estate attorney are from 9 AM to 5 PM. Many attorneys work more than 40 hours a week or on weekends, especially when nearing deadlines.

Available certifications

Real estate attorneys represent a wide range of clients, and many institutions offer certification programs to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. Here are some of the best certifications for real estate attorneys: 

  • Board-Certified for Real Estate Law. A number of states offer a specialized certification in real estate law. The requirements are particular to each state. The minimum standards for certification include being a member in good standing in the state bar and a certain number of years practicing law in the US. The exams are generally written tests that demonstrate special knowledge, skills, and proficiency in real estate law. 
  • Master of Laws (LLM) in Real Estate. Most colleges of law offer Master of Laws (LLM) in Real Estate and certificates in real estate to practicing attorneys. The programs don’t require earning a master’s degree, but it is beneficial. And can lead to more career opportunities. The programs normally include courses in commercial real estate, real estate in federal tax law, and real estate finance. Electives such as affordable housing, construction law, historic preservation law, and real estate litigation are helpful.

Career path

Real estate attorneys are required to have a Juris Doctorate from an accredited law school and a license to practice law in the state where they work. College coursework in areas like in business law, real estate law and related topics is helpful and can make candidates attractive to employers, as are internships at law firms.

Most attorneys start in law firms as associates, then progress on either a partner or non-partner track, leading to positions as partners, senior attorneys, or of counsel.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 23-1011

2020 Employment804,200
Projected Employment in 2030875,700
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 9% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift71,500 increase

The nature of real estate development is changing as people’s needs change, and real estate attorneys need to stay on top of current trends to best serve their clients. According to the American Bar Association’s Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Journal, there has been a growth in the demand for “co-living” arrangements. In this, customers rent living space in a multi-unit dwelling for less than market value and share communal space with other renters.

This newer arrangement and the increasing demand for it are several trends in commercial real estate. It creates a unique set of challenges for real estate attorneys handling the development of this type of property, especially when it comes to issues of zoning and subdivision.

Sample interview questions

  • Why are you interested in this role?
  • What are the most important skills that a real estate attorney needs?
  • What have you done in the past year to expand your knowledge as a real estate attorney?
  • What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a real estate attorney?
  • How do you stay motivated?
  • How would you handle a difficult client?
  • Where do you want to be in your career in 5 years?
  • How do you handle confidential or sensitive information?
  • What are some mistakes you have made and what did you learn from them?
  • How do you stay current with local, state, and federal real estate laws and regulations?
  • What is your greatest strength as a real estate attorney?
  • What is the most successful case you have worked on?
  • How do you handle conflicts in the workplace?
  • What would be a typical work week for you?
  • What is the best way to evaluate findings and develop strategies and arguments when preparing to present a case?
  • How would you prioritize your work when working on multiple cases?
  • How well do you perform under pressure?
  • How do you handle giving difficult feedback to a client?
  • Can you describe an experience where you evaluated the information and chose the best solution for a client?
  • Can you describe a case where you defended a client in criminal or civil litigation?

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