Home Blog Page 9

Law-Related Careers in Real Estate & Housing


Real estate has its ups and downs.  That means there are opportunities for aspiring lawyers seeking an alternative to traditional real estate law practice where they can nevertheless use their legal knowledge and experience productively.  Such opportunities have rebounded since the Great Recession and the possibilities are growing in number and diversity.

What the Jobs Are – Representative Job Titles
The following list is a selection of law-related real estate/housing job titles.
Acquisition Agent
Community Development Block Grant Coordinator
Development Specialist
Director of Real Estate
Fair Housing Community Educator
Fair Housing Test Coordinator
Housing Advocate
Housing Authority Director/Professional
Housing Programs Administrator
Housing Services Planner
Land Agent
Land Acquisition Manager
Land Law Examiner
Landman (Oil & Gas)
Land Manager
Land Preservation Director
Land Protection Director/Specialist
Lease Administrator
Lease Negotiator
Real Estate Auction Project Manager
Real Estate Representative
Real Estate Specialist – Acquisition Litigation
Real Estate Strategist
Realty Specialist/Officer
Register of Deeds
Right-of-Way Agent
Right-of-Way Manager
Tenant’s Broker
Title Examiner
Title/Closing Agent
Transmission Right-of-Way Specialist
Zoning Administrator

The Major Disciplines
Real Estate Development
Employers include: real estate developers, construction engineering companies, and real estate investment trusts (REITs).
Real Estate Finance
Banks, other financial services firms, and insurance companies are heavily involved in the real estate business.
Eminent Domain/Condemnation
This became a huge growth area, due to enactment of the Recovery Act in 2009 (i.e., the “stimulus” program).  It still occupies a large sector of law-related real estate work and is likely to continue to do so far out in the future, given the aging of U.S. infrastructure.  Employers include:
Law Firm Real Estate Consulting Subsidiaries
Other Consulting Firms
Specialized Easement, Right-Of-Way, and Eminent Domain Firms
The U.S. Federal Highway Administration
State and Local Government
Special Governmental Districts (e.g., Airport Authorities)
Energy Exploration and Development Companies
Land Trusts
The more than 1,700 U.S. land trusts are nonprofit corporations that seek to preserve land and/or endangered and threatened species living on land for the public good.
Base Closings
The two iterations of the Base Closure and Realignment Commission (the latest dates from 2005) created a great deal of long-term law-related real estate work.  Closing a large military base is an enormously complex process involving numerous public and private stakeholders (states, municipalities, corporations, nonprofits) and massive environmental remediation problems.  Each military service has its own, independent base closing agency.
Real Estate Distress
Other than bankruptcy, no practice is more countercyclical than real estate distress. Real estate distress booms when the economy turns down, and it continues long after economic recovery. Foreclosures, loan forgiveness and restructuring, workouts, and readjustments, etc., are still happening daily.  A related area is in mediating foreclosure disputes.  Like base closings, deleveraging from the housing crisis will take years.  Employers include:
Plaintiff Foreclosure Attorneys
Defense Foreclosure Lawyers
Banks and Other Financial Services Firms
Insurance Companies
Pension Funds
Public Utilities
Loan Servicers
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
The Federal Housing Finance Agency
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Freddie Mac
Fannie Mae
Farm Credit Banks
State Bank Regulatory Agencies
Title Companies
Bankruptcy Courts
Real Estate Management
Organizations with large land and real estate holdings generally have discrete real estate departments tasked with managing all aspects of their real estate operations.  Employers include:
Colleges and Universities
Hospitality and Recreation Companies
National Retail Chains
Pension Funds and Plans
The U.S. General Services Administration
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
The U.S. Postal Service

Note that there may be considerable overlap among these disciplines and that many organizations have multiple real estate-related responsibilities.

Crafting the Cover Letter/Transmittal Email

Step 4: Crafting the Cover Letter/Transmittal Email
Whether your resume is accompanied by a cover letter or transmittal email, the guidelines are the same for both delivery modes. For the purposes of this section, the term “cover letter” will be used to encompass both.

Candidate Perspective
The cover letter is your opportunity to: (1) tell a prospective employer more about you than what you have included in your resume; and (2) to emphasize your most compelling qualifications for the specific position for which you are applying.
You want your cover letter to:
•    present a great first impression;
•    stimulate interest in reading your resume; and
•    encourage the reader’s decision to keep you in the running.
A cover letter affords the opportunity to personalize your application. In it, you can demonstrate that you understand the employer’s needs and gain points for having researched the employer’s organization.

Employer Perspective
Typically, employers want to learn (1) why you are interested in them, and (2) why you think you fit into their organizations. If you are applying for a position that would require you to relocate to a new geographic area, the employer will also want to know what attracts you to the region.

If they read it at all (and some employers either do not or never see your cover letter in certain cases when a human resources department has first crack at applications and only forwards the resumes of eligible candidates), employers view cover letters as a writing sample.

Writing coherently and persuasively is a big part of an attorney’s job. You should assume that employers will scrutinize your cover letter carefully and critically in order to assess your writing skill and, to an extent, your reasoning ability.

Employers strongly prefer to see cover letters that do not exceed one page in length. However, that does not mean a license to shave margins or employ a small type font. Do not use any format which causes the text of your letter to appear cramped.
It’s best to keep your sentences short and to the point and to avoid long, rambling paragraphs.

Each position for which you apply merits a targeted cover letter. A standard, “one-size-fits-all-employers” cover letter is not recommended.

Appearance, Style and Format
Your cover letter should have the “look and feel” of a quality presentation. Think of it as the wrapping on a present. The wrapping should give the impression that there is something of value inside. If you are submitting an actual hard copy letter, use high-quality white or off-white letter-size paper (8.5″ x 11″), 25% or greater cotton bond. Avoid unusual fonts. Arial, Times Roman or Calibri are recommended. Use black ink. 12-point fonts are preferred. The paper quality and color of the envelope should match that used for the cover letter.

Spelling, Grammar, Syntax and Usage
It should go without saying that your cover letter must be error-free, with no mistakes whatsoever. Employers have zero tolerance for these glitches. Whenever I encountered one, that was the end of the exercise…I never bothered to glance at the resume.
It cannot be overemphasized that technical accuracy in preparing your cover letter is essential. Employers are inclined to make snap judgments, if only to reduce the pile of applications they have to read. Typos, spelling mistakes, and grammatical errors are an immediate turn off. Employers jump to the conclusion that you are careless and inattentive to detail.

Never rush this important piece of correspondence. Take the time to proofread your cover letter carefully. Better still, have someone whose language skills you trust review your letter to make sure it contains no errors.

What to Include
A rough rule of thumb applicable to almost all cover letters is to think of them in terms of four paragraphs, following a personal salutation (if you know or can determine who will be reading your cover letter…otherwise, “Dear Colleague” will do).
Paragraph 1: Your reason for writing, e.g., “I saw your ad for a tax evasion attorney at www.alcapone.com.” Alternatively, if you are submitting an unsolicited application, a reference to a mutual acquaintance might be a good entrée, e.g., “Mr. Benjamin Siegel of Las Vegas suggested that I contact you regarding your need for a tax evasion attorney.”
Paragraph 2: You indicate some knowledge of the employer’s concerns, e.g., “It appears that many of your colleagues in similarly situations have sought and are seeking efficient, economical representation before the IRS.”
Paragraph 3: You highlight information that shows that you are a good match for the job, e.g., “I successfully represented Frank Nitti in a similar case two years ago. Moreover, I often wine and dine Chicago judges and prosecutors (including Mr. Ness) at my home.”
Paragraph 4: You cite your enclosures and inquire about the next step in the hiring process, e.g., “I look forward to the opportunity to elaborate on my qualifications with you at your convenience. However, please note that Valentine’s Day is not a good time.”

This is not a rigid, rule-driven construct. It may need adjustment to your particular circumstances. For example, if you are making a major career change, you may want to mention this and provide some context while also highlighting your transferable knowledge and/or skills. Another reason for deviating from the suggested approach, above, might be if you have a gap in your work history and can mitigate or extenuate it in your cover letter.

If you are asked for your salary history or expectations, you will not be able to avoid responding. Ignoring such a request risks elimination from further consideration.    Employers typically seek this information in order to screen out candidates who are clearly outside the contemplated salary arena. Before responding, find out as much information as possible from industry or other sources about what the job pays.

Be “employer-centric.” Avoid giving the impression that you are more concerned with your interests and desires than with what the employer wants or needs. In fact, you want to convey just the opposite impression, i.e., that meeting the employer’s wants and needs is your first concern.

Don’t repeat your resume. Either say something different about yourself, or express the material in a different way.

Step 5: But What If I am Directed to Apply Using an Online Application Form?
Technology has made it increasingly difficult to get your qualifications—as you want them to appear—to the person you want to impress. Online application forms are popular with employers, especially if they have a human resources department, because they make it easy to both store applications (in the “ether”) and extract exactly what the job ad says is being sought.

Great danger for candidates accompanies both of these employer advantages. Virtual applications can be lost with the stroke of a key. Moreover, even if your application makes it to the employer’s database, it may not emerge if the search terms used to extract qualified candidates do not match terms you employed.

There is, however, a way to protect yourself while also distinguishing yourself from the competition. That is by submitting a digital resume and transmittal email (or hard-copy resume and cover letter, which is preferred for the reasons indicated below) to the individual for whom you will be working if hired, in addition to the requested online application. If not indicated in the job ad, you should try to determine that person’s identity and contact information.

Once able to pinpoint your prospective boss (or his or her deputy), you can send a resume and cover letter to him or her, indicating that you submitted your application as per the job ad’s instructions, but that you wanted the recipient to also be able to see and judge you on the basis of your own personal response. In any event, it is important to get across the fact that you followed instructions. This is not a substitute for the online application, but a supplement to it.

The reason why a hard-copy resume and cover letter is preferred is because of the “Wild West” nature of email communications, which is causing an increasing number of organizations who fear evils such as viruses and malware from opening email attachments from unknown sources. Combine that with the formatting problems you are likely to face if you include your resume in the body of your transmittal email and the advantages of a hard copy submission become obvious.

Cover Letters and Transmittal Emails

Cover letters and transmittal emails accompanying resumes and job applications are both an opportunity and a curse. These are usually the first contact between a candidate and an employer, and psychologists are unanimous that the first impression is the one that imprints the strongest on the employer. That makes it a key component of the job-hunting process, one that cannot be taken lightly. What follows is a recommended 5-step process for designing cover letters/transmittal emails that advance your cause.

Step One: Deconstructing the Job Ad
Don’t Take a Job Ad Literally
The most important point about job ads is this: they are almost always written with the “ideal” candidate in mind. Naturally, every employer seeks the “dream teamer.” However, only rarely does such a superstar come along. What employers actually seek is “next best.” Candidates often “mis-read” job ads this way. You may not “leap tall buildings at a single bound” or are able to “outrun speeding bullets.” That does not automatically mean that the advertised position is out of reach.

Don’t Refrain from Applying If You Lack Some of the Qualifications
When you see a legal job ad that seeks “2-3 years of experience,” do not reject it out-of-hand without a deeper analysis of the situation and context. You may feel encouraged to apply anyway.

One of my former attorney counseling clients needed to find a job in Birmingham, Alabama as a “trailing spouse,” her husband having just taken a new position there. Before law school, she had spent a year as a paralegal in Washington, DC with a trademark law firm drafting and filing several hundred trademarks with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and helping the firm’s attorneys prepare cases before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board challenging trademark refusals. She saw an ad in a Birmingham newspaper for a company seeking a Trademark Attorney that stated: “at least two years of experience required.” She applied anyway, reasoning that Birmingham was unlikely to have many attorneys that could possibly match her intense Washington, DC trademark experience, notwithstanding that she acquired it as a paralegal. She crafted a cover letter emphasizing her experience and was invited for an interview. She got the job.

The employer was willing to overlook her lack of the precise experience requirement because (1) there were few trademark attorneys in Birmingham, and (2) she had extensive trademark experience that equaled  or exceeded that of many lawyers.
Each job ad should be read in context. While the would-be trademark lawyer above might have had no chance at a comparable job in Washington, DC, where hundreds or even thousands of experienced trademark attorneys practice, Birmingham was a very different story. Geography plays a major role in attorney supply and demand.

Other factors than pure geography may also play a role in the decision whether or not to apply:
Assessing potential competition is important. An artificial environment like the Washington, DC area, where government and federal contracting dollars fuel a great deal of hiring, competition for any legal job is almost always intense. That is not the case in many other places. A resume that looks unprepossessing in one location may be very intriguing to employers elsewhere. In the latter locales, competition is likely to be less and employer are likely to be more flexible when it comes to rigid adherence to the qualifications and requirements specified in a job ad.

There will be some occasions, of course, when you cannot ignore the stated experience requirements. Public sector employers, for example, have far less wiggle room in this respect. Their flexibility is limited by existing official position descriptions that, for example, unambiguously state a years-of-experience requirement. Private sector employers, in contrast, are rarely so constrained.

Step 2: Assessing Your Background Against a Job Ad
Once you have deconstructing the job ad, you need to compare your background against the specific mandatory and desired qualifications stated in the ad. The easiest way to do this is to put together a two-column chart, with the job requirements in the left column and how you match up to them in the right column. Place the employer’s requirements in the sequence in which they appear in the job ad, from top to bottom. Keep the following rough rule of thumb in mind: requirements are usually listed in their order of importance to the employer. Having done this, you now have a “visual” of how you stack up to the employer’s mandatory and desirable requirements.

Step 3: Deciding Whether to Apply
This is an ad hoc judgment call, based on how you believe your background and transferable skills match up with the job ad. However, unless you are completely unqualified, based on my experience observing thousands of job-seeking attorneys, never say never. I have seen and been involved in numerous job campaigns where an individual who appeared at first glance to be outside the parameters of what an employer said s/he was seeking succeeded in eliciting interest.

Up Next: Steps 4 and 5, Crafting the Cover Letter/Transmittal Email

Trademark Law and Litigation is Booming


Trademark law, historically an afterthought of patent law practice, has come into its own and is flexing some very strong muscles. As corporate assets gravitate increasingly toward intellectual property and intangibles, companies are realizing that the protection and monetization of trademarks must be a core concern and are acting accordingly. This opens up opportunities for practicing in a dynamic, growth arena where the learning curve is not very steep.

The Evidence
All of the numbers point upward. Trademark applications to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) http://www.uspto.gov are climbing steadily, breaking new records every year. Active U.S. trademark registrations now exceed 2 million for the first time in history. Globally, trademark applications are also booming (this is important data because trademark protection has become increasingly international).

An estimated 3.66 million trademark applications were filed worldwide in 2010. An estimated 6 million trademark applications  were filed globally in 2015. Largely driven by China, applications increased by 15.3%, which represents the highest growth since 2000 ( World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) http://wipo.int). U.S. residents filed more than 500,000 of those applications.

An interconnected world means that business is going global. That, in turn, requires international trademark protection on an unprecedented scale. U.S. companies, both public and private, large and small now find it necessary to protect their IP beyond our borders. The means of doing that have expanded greatly in recent years, and the process for accomplishing that have followed suit (see, e.g., the Madrid Protocol http://wipo.int/madrid/en/).

A Stand-Alone Practice
As indicated in the lead-in, for most of its history trademark practice was viewed as an ancillary sideline of patent practice. If a client had a mark that needed to be filed, its patent firm would do it, but did not consider it anything more than a client courtesy. Not anymore. Today, trademark–only firms are proliferating and expanding throughout the U.S.

Geographic Liberalization
Trademark law was, for most of its history, one of the most Washington, DC-centric practices extant. While PTO is still headquartered in the Washington, DC area (Alexandria, Virginia), electronic filing and disposition of trademark applications means that trademark law can be practiced from any location. PTO’s Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) now accounts for almost all trademark application filings.

Trademark Practice
Simplified, trademark law encompasses three distinct practices:
Filing an application for trademark protection and the ensuing steps to securing that protection can be divided into two components:
Private sector attorneys and law firms that prepare, file and defend initial trademark applications; and
Trademark examinations and dispositions by attorneys at PTO. Principal duties include:
•    Examining domestic and foreign trademark applications for statutory, regulatory, and treaty compliance;
•    Conducting detailed searches to ensure applications, if approved, would not impinge on existing intellectual property rights of others or harm the public;
•    Creating original statements of goods and services, based on application information, capable of registration;
•    Gathering and evaluating evidence supporting substantive refusals of applications;
•    Advising and counseling applicants to resolve bars to registration and clarify prosecution issues.
•    Conducting legal research and drafting the Office’s position refusing registration, and evaluating applicants’ arguments and supporting evidence in favor of registration; and
•    They also represent the Office in the small number of their cases that are heard by the Trademark Trial and Appeals Board (TTAB).

PTO offers its lawyers an intense immersion in trademark law that provides a very solid platform for career advancement. Office alumni, some with only 18 months of experience, have gone on to work for major and boutique trademark law firms as well as major corporations such as Procter & Gamble and NASCAR.

Similar to the geographic liberalization wrought by electronic filing, PTO trademark lawyers are also now dispersed throughout the country. They no longer must reside in the Washington, DC area, but may “tele-work” from anywhere.

However, the surge in filings has put them under tremendous pressure to “produce,” so much so that they are now required to report their production status to PTO headquarters several times a day! A typical examining attorney produces 1,500 dispositions per year. Top producers can earn substantial bonuses.

Note: I worked with a number of PTO trademark lawyers who were attractive to legal recruiters based on their intense exposure to trademark law, and for whom corporate in-house counsel offices were willing to “lower the bar” with respect to their academic qualifications.

As the monetary value of trademarks increases, so do disputes over ownership and abuse of proprietary rights. Trademark attorneys have been very busy, filing more than 24,000 trademark cases in the courts since 2009. More than 4,000 new trademark cases were filed in 2014 alone. A typical case seeks an injunction and damages for infringement, violations of fair use, or cybersquatting. These cases have resulted in awards of more than $9 billion in cumulative damages, almost all of which come from default judgments. Most of the rest are the result of consent judgments.

The most active jurisdictions hearing trademark cases are the Central District of California (primarily music, film and fashion cases), the Southern District of Florida (primarily luxury brands), and the Southern District of New York and Northern District of Illinois (primarily major brands and fashion).

When British spirits company Diageo purchased a large portion of Seagram’s business, the transaction included the transfer of more than 30,000 Seagram trademarks that had been filed in 80 countries throughout the world. Diageo engaged a large number of trademark attorneys to determine the protected status of these marks and take the necessary steps to bring the ones determined to have licensing or other value up to full protection. This years-long effort then evolved into a business strategy to maximize their revenue potential.

This is just one small example of the trademark asset management function that is now a vital part of thousands of companies’ business models.

Detailed information on IP opportunities can be found in “Soft” Intellectual Property Law: IP Opportunities for Non-STEM Attorneys.

Jess Green’s Law Practice Success Maxims


The late Jess Green, Esq., was a legal phenomenon, a respected national practitioner who, counterintuitively, operated from a home base in little, remote Ada, Oklahoma. Prior to his passing, he shared the precepts and principles that had informed his phenomenally successful legal career. They are worth considering by any practitioner or law student.

“If a client runs out of money to pay you, keep plugging away on their matter. Never quit. It is your reputation at stake.”

“As you get older, you will get better at selecting clients.”

“Target the group[s] you want to represent, make sure they know who you are, then represent them with vigor.”

“Never allow yourself to be outworked.”

“Treat every case as if it were going to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

“Always be prepared.”

“You must ‘leach’ the accurate facts out of your clients.”

“Tell your clients what realistically is likely to happen.”

“You must discipline your clients in order to arrive at a settlement.”

“Show that you have a passion for the work. Life gets a lot better if you can find a place where you can exercise your passion.”

“I don’t consider what I do to be work.”

“Take ownership of both the problem and the solution.”

“Understand everyone else’s motivation—put yourself in the other side’s shoes.”

“When you encounter a judge who does not like you and holds against you . . . appeal. Judges hate their decisions being appealed. By about the third time you have appealed a particular judge, s/he will have changed his or her attitude, knuckle under and treat you fairly.”

“Keep cognizant of the public relations aspect of everything you are doing.”

“God bless people for making mistakes—that’s why we have jobs.”

“Have a good time.”

Jess Green had a great time practicing law. He focused the majority of his career and practice on representing Indian casinos and spin-off businesses while also advocating for opening the doors to the economic opportunities generated by them. It is not too much of a stretch to proclaim that Green was one of the fathers of the Indian gaming phenomenon.

You can read more about Jess and other small-town lawyers who made their mark in Practicing Law in Small-Town America, by the author, available from http://shopABA.org.

A “Special” Legal Career


One of the most interesting “hidden” legal job markets is the “special purpose district,” a quasi-governmental entity formed by two or more state or local jurisdictions to deal with matters or services that cross jurisdictional lines. Virtually all special districts have a legal staff encompassing an array of both traditional and some not so standard practices that make for a vibrant and interesting legal career.

The Numbers
Special purpose districts are very much under the radar when it comes to law students and attorneys who contemplate where they want to seek legal employment and perhaps build a rewarding career. Big mistake. In ignoring them or not even being aware of their existence and role as legal employers, you may be missing out on a huge opportunity. To indicate just how much under the legal employment radar they are, some students of the genre call them “ghost governments.”

The U.S. Census Bureau http://www.census.gov/govs/go/ reports that, as of mid-2012 (the last date for which statistics are available, next census of governments 2017), there were no fewer than 37,203 special purpose districts in the U.S. (the Pew Charitable Trusts http://www.pewtrusts.org/ put the number slightly higher, at 38,266.

This is far too large a legal market and segment of the national economy to ignore when seeking an attorney or law-related job. California alone has more than 3,400 such entities, and New York has more than 2,600.

Many of these special districts maintain their own in-house counsel offices, some of them quite large. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, for example, has a core legal staff of almost 100 attorneys. In addition, other lawyers work directly for the Port Authority’s Compliance, Labor Relations (70 percent of the organization’s workers are unionized), Public and Government Affairs, Inspector General, Business Diversity and Civil Rights, and Procurement offices. This kind of multiple-office needs for lawyers is not unusual in the larger special purpose districts.

The number of special districts grew significantly during the Great Recession, as cash-strapped state and local governments turned to this construct in order to provide essential, fee-based services. The Census Bureau says that the number of special districts nationally grew by 885 between 2007 and 2012.

It is impossible to determine the number of special district attorney and law-related positions beyond saying that they number in the tens of thousands.

What’s So Special?
Special purpose districts are one of the best examples of successful democracy at work. They provide specific, targeted services to local citizens that are too difficult or complex for a single local government to provide.

Special districts are organized local entities other than county, municipal, township or school district governments that are authorized by state law to provide only one or a limited number of designated functions. Fire districts, water districts, library districts, hospitals, and transit authorities are examples of special districts. However, the types of activities that special districts perform can range widely, including: Airports; Cemeteries; Corrections; Education; Electric power; Gas supply; Highways;
Housing and community development; Industrial development; Mortgage credit;
Natural resources; Parking facilities; Parks and recreation; Sea and inland port; facilities; Sewerage; Solid waste management.

Some of the largest and more prominent special districts include the East Bay Municipal Utility District (East Bay MUD) in the San Francisco Bay area, the Washington Metropolitan Area Airports Authority, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, that runs bridges, tunnels, airports and transit in New York City and Northern New Jersey.

Special districts often have considerable autonomy, especially with respect to fiscal and administrative independence. Many are able to determine their own budgets without review  or major modification by other local officials or governments; determine taxes to be levied for their support; fix and collect charges for their services; and/or issue debt without review by another local government.

The earliest special purpose districts were formed in the 18th century and were focused on parks. Toll road and canal districts arose early in the 19th century. The first law authorizing special districts originated in California in 1887 and were directed at irrigation. California is still, today, in the forefront of relying on special districts for a variety of local services.  Increasingly, other states are gravitating from tasking local governments with these matters to special purpose districts.

Legal Basis
Originally, special districts were created by specific laws in response to particular local needs. In recent years, a growing number of states have enacted general statutes reforming and consolidating special district laws that, inter alia, provide for definitions, creation, operation, financial reporting, taxation and assessments, elections, and dissolution of special districts. Most such laws grant broad authority to special districts. Several states authorize the creation of special districts by local ordinance or by rule of the Governor and Cabinet.

Regardless of how they come about, special districts have proven to be much more efficient ways to deliver services than local governments, especially when they cross jurisdictional lines.  Also regardless of how they emerge, they are accountable to the state or states in which they exist.

Other Employers
A handful of law firms—mainly boutiques—have specialized practices focusing on special purpose districts. Some larger law firms, especially in California, also have such practice groups.

Typical Practices
Special purpose districts are really a combination of municipal government and private corporations. Consequently, their legal practices encompass much of what local government lawyers and company in-house counsel do.

The Future
Look for the number of special districts to continue to grow. At the same time, look for them to come under closer government scrutiny due to a series of scandals and revelations of questionable practices prompted by the temptations of autonomy and independence. Sweetheart contracts, nepotism in hiring, unauthorized use of credit cards by special district boards and managers, and other shenanigans have come to light in recent years. The more scrutiny and transparency, the more the need for legal input.

More Information
Virtually every state has a special district association. Representative examples include:

California Special Districts Association http://www.csda.net
Florida Association of Special Districts http://www.fasd.com
Special District Association of Colorado http://www.sdaco.org
Special Districts Association of Oregon https://www.sdao.co
Utah Association of Special Districts www.uasd.org
In addition, states with a large number of special districts may have local chapters of their special district associations, e.g.:
Santa Barbara County Chapter of the California Special Districts Association http://www.sbccsda.org
Ventura County Special Districts Association http://www.vcsda.org
Other Organizations
International Municipal Lawyers Association http://www.imla.org/
Little Hoover Commission. Special Districts: Relics of the Past or Resources for the Future? http://www.lhc.ca.gov/studies/155/report155.html