Real estate law refers to the area of law governing the exchange or use of real estate property. Zoning, taxes, deeds, titles, estate planning, and more fall under the umbrella of real estate law.
Real estate lawyers, then, are attorneys who have expert knowledge about the regulations, laws, and statutes that apply to the buying, selling, and use of real estate.
The legal term “real estate” applies to land, developed or undeveloped, as well as any permanent structures and resources on that land.
Practicing real estate law may entail settling disputes over ownership of a parking lot, representing clients who are facing eviction or foreclosure, evaluating whether or not a homeowner’s association has overstepped its authority to require a certain level of lawn maintenance from residents, and much more.
Real estate law can vary significantly between different states. Therefore, real estate attorneys must cautiously identify the applicable laws and be aware of any local specificities that may affect a given case.
The domain of real estate law can be divided into two broad categories: commercial and residential. Some attorneys in this field may choose to work exclusively with clients on one side or the other, or they may do both.
This area of law also addresses issues such as the preservation and maintenance of historical monuments, environmental protection for public lands, accessibility requirements for people with disabilities in public buildings, and tenants’ rights.
Becoming a successful real estate attorney requires meticulous attention to detail and the ability to reason with shrewd pragmatism, as well as strong people skills. Attending a law school that offers a robust real estate law program is the first step to developing and fine-tuning these skills.
Here are our picks for the best real estate law schools in the US.
University of Notre Dame Law School (Notre Dame, IN)
To prepare future real estate attorneys, University of Notre Dame offers the Program of Study in Real Estate Law.
To assist students in developing an interdisciplinary understanding of real estate law and its implications, the law school collaborates with the Fitzgerald Institute for Real Estate.
A newly established university facility, the Fitzgerald Institute hosts conferences, holds case competitions, and offers many other events for students interested in real estate law.
The Institute has 17 faculty professors who not only teach courses on real estate law, but also conduct rigorous interdisciplinary research, analyzed from a progressive theoretical and empirical perspective in service of pursuing a dynamic understanding of real estate.
In addition to the educational enrichment the Fitzgerald Institute offers, it also provides significant professional opportunities, having a network of over 1,100 industry partners. This network includes many committed alumni, employers, and corporate affiliates.
Notre Dame Law’s Real Estate Club also connects its members with professionals and employers in the real estate law field.
A student-led organization aiming to bolster understanding of real estate law and its significance to ND undergraduate students, the club offers tutorials on industry-related skills.
Fordham University School of Law (New York, NY)
Located in New York City, Fordham University School of Law offers its students advantageous proximity to some of the world’s foremost law firms and developers.
There are also several summer intensive programs, offered in the daytime on weekdays, available at Fordham. Enrollment is limited in order to ensure high quality of education through extensive one-on-one attention to each student.
Led by adjunct faculty from the Institute, these programs are intended for industry professionals seeking to deepen their understanding and expertise in the field and pre-graduate students looking to get ahead of their graduate studies.
Matriculated students who participate in the Institute’s summer intensives can earn credits toward their degrees.
In 2020, Fordham launched an LL.M. program in real estate law, making it the only law school in New York City to offer a master’s program in this field.
University of Miami School of Law (Coral Gables, FL)
The University of Miami School of Law’s location is hugely advantageous, as Miami is the biggest market for international real estate buyers in the country.
The university’s real estate law program, along with three others, has been ranked in the top ten on the LL.M. Guide’s 2021 list of schools with the best LL.M. Programs in the world.
The Robert Traurig-Greenberg Traurig LL.M. in Real Property Development offers a number of opportunities for interdisciplinary, hands-on learning, such as case studies and real estate projects in collaboration with the School of Architecture.
Miami Law real estate students are required to complete at least 60 hours of real-world real estate practice through an internship under the supervision of an established practicing attorney.
Students who satisfy the internship requirement by working at Greenberg Traurig, LLP, are given priority consideration for the Greenberg Traurig Fellowship Program, during which the fellow is a temporary full-time employee with special training requirements to enrich the educational aspect of their work.
Other opportunities for hands-on experience in the real estate field that Miami Law offers include the Affordable Housing Practicum and the Tenants’ Right Clinic, both of which allow students to represent real clients.
Georgetown University Law Center (Washington, DC)
Georgetown University Law Center offers a number of courses related to real estate law.
Georgetown’s Harrison Institute for Public Law offers the Affordable Housing Transactions Clinic, where students can provide pro bono representation to low-income clients who are involved in disputes with landlords, facing eviction, or suffering from discriminatory housing policies or practices.
The work Georgetown students participating in this clinic have done includes filing a federal lawsuit against real estate company Evolve, LLC, in partnership with the National Fair Housing Alliance.
The lawsuit alleged that the company was guilty of discriminating against prospective tenants who were entitled to Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers.
At Georgetown, real estate law students can also gain practical experience through the Housing Advocacy and Litigation Clinic, also referred to as Rising for Justice (RFJ).
The RFJ program is a coalition of students from five different law schools that provides free legal representation and counseling to low-income clients in the DC area.
Boston University School of Law (Boston, MA)
Boston University School of Law offers numerous courses and clinics relating to housing, land use, and real estate for aspiring real estate lawyers.
Some examples are the Civil Litigation and Justice Program, Construction Law, and Transaction Simulation: Acquisition of Urban Real Estate for Major Commercial Re-Development.
The university also has the BU Law Real Estate Association, the purpose of which is to provide students a way of forming network connections with real estate law firm professionals and employers in the Boston area.
The REA works in collaboration with students at the BU Questrom School of Business and other similarly oriented student associations in Boston to host events, including panel discussions and educational forums.
Through the Joseph E. Corcoran Center for Real Estate and Urban Action, BU students can gain practical experience by participating in internships, field projects, and workshop trainings.
The Center offers many opportunities for both on- and off-campus engagement, aiming to help students develop a rich, interdisciplinary understanding of real estate law by contributing to urban revitalization and community building projects.
University of Illinois Chicago School of Law (Chicago, IL)
University of Illinois Chicago School of Law, Chicago’s only public law school, has a variety of externships, site visit opportunities, student organizations, and other programs related to real estate law.
The Center for Real Estate Law works closely with the Real Estate Law Student Group to organize events where real estate lawyers and other professionals in the field hold discussions, establishing educational and professional connections.
To supplement the individual advising degree candidates get from the Center and the Law School’s Career Services Office, UIC Law offers a career program each semester, where students can learn about professional opportunities for those interested in pursuing employment in the area of sustainable development or real estate law.
UCLA School of Law (Los Angeles, CA)
According to US News, UCLA is ranked #14 on the list of the best law schools in the country.
Recently, UCLA real estate law students were acknowledged by the White House for their efforts to ameliorate the country’s housing and eviction crisis.
The students offered pro bono services for critical needs, like mediating conflicts between tenants and landlords and defending individuals who were facing the threat of eviction.
The school’s real estate law program involves a robust, extensive array of educational and professional opportunities, from its undergraduate courses to its multiple real estate-centered organizations.
The Real Estate Law Association, a student organization, offers its members professional networking opportunities, connecting them with industry mentors, potential future clients, and the greater LA community.
RELA works in collaboration with the university’s Association for Real Estate at Anderson, its nonlegal counterpart at UCLA’s School of Management.
AREA hosts a number of industry-related events, including job site visits, case competitions, educational events, mentorships, and more.
Both of these associations are sponsored by the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate, which generously supports real estate industry research and conceptual development.
Pepperdine University Caruso School of Law (Malibu, CA)
At Pepperdine University Caruso School of Law, all undergraduate students are automatically enrolled in the Preceptor Program, which pairs them with a practicing attorney or judge who serves as a mentor for the duration of their first semester.
For many students, participation in this program leads to internships, job offers, and lasting professional relationships that form the basis of strong networking connections.
The Preceptor Program is run by the Parris Institute for Professional Excellence, which aims to support students in professional development and develop personal goals and ethics that adhere to the university’s mission.
According to National Jurist, Pepperdine is ranked third in the country in terms of the best practical learning opportunities offered by law schools.
Pepperdine’s course offerings for its real estate law JD program include Federal Income Tax of Property Transactions, Real Estate Transactions, Real Estate Finance, Environmental Law, Administrative Law, and Property.