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.
Community Development Block Grant Coordinator
Director of Real Estate
Fair Housing Community Educator
Fair Housing Test Coordinator
Housing Authority Director/Professional
Housing Programs Administrator
Housing Services Planner
Land Acquisition Manager
Land Law Examiner
Landman (Oil & Gas)
Land Preservation Director
Land Protection Director/Specialist
Real Estate Auction Project Manager
Real Estate Representative
Real Estate Specialist – Acquisition Litigation
Real Estate Strategist
Register of Deeds
Transmission Right-of-Way Specialist
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.
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
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.
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
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
The Federal Housing Finance Agency
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Farm Credit Banks
State Bank Regulatory Agencies
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.