Law school to commercial real estate? Can a JD help you out?

Brand7777's picture
Rank: Chimp | 12

Hi everyone, I'm currently working as a research analyst, but I was just admitted to a few different law schools on the East Coast. My parents are adamant about me going to law school, but I'm trying to consider more alternative and potentially more lucrative careers that could be had with a law degree.

My question is, can a law degree specializing in real estate law prove to be helpful when trying to break into commercial real estate?

Whether that be for a bank involved in real estate (BofA, GS) or real estate companies like CBRE/JLL, or even a development firm?

What would the career path look like, what should I be doing while in law school, and how would the salary/long term career trajectory differ from life in biglaw or just as a lawyer in general?

Bear in mind, I'm still young, only 22 and just graduated from school.

Thanks all. Take care.

Comments (19)

May 4, 2018

Also any books, articles to help me out in becoming more familiar with the material is appreciated. Thanks all.

May 4, 2018

If you want to be a RE lawyer, it's the way to go. If you want to do anything else, then an MBA or MRED would serve you better. There are many entrepreneurial guys I've met that started as RE lawyers and then went off on their own. You get to see under the hood on a ton of deals as a lawyer, and hopefully will make good money so that you can capitalize (potentially with lawyer friends) the GP on small deals if/when you decide to go do your own thing. I would think a strong finance foundation would be key to success relative to law school, but that's my $0.02.

May 4, 2018

This is great advice. There are a million ways to skin the cat when in it comes to getting into the business, and law is obviously one of them, if a little roundabout. It's all personal choice, and personally I'd rather pay lawyers than be one.

May 4, 2018
cpgame:

If you want to be a RE lawyer, it's the way to go. If you want to do anything else, then an MBA or MRED would serve you better. There are many entrepreneurial guys I've met that started as RE lawyers and then went off on their own. You get to see under the hood on a ton of deals as a lawyer, and hopefully will make good money so that you can capitalize (potentially with lawyer friends) the GP on small deals if/when you decide to go do your own thing. I would think a strong finance foundation would be key to success relative to law school, but that's my $0.02.

Hey guys, I just wanted to say thanks for all of this, I really appreciate all the help and advice.

Anyway, what should my short term goals be and what should my long term goals be, as in what type of law firm should I try to work for coming out of law school (located in NYC)?

And when I get there, if I get there, what career paths could be available to me if I wanted to cross over? And my apologies, but which is the most lucrative?

Thanks!

May 4, 2018

Have you checked out top law school forum and ABA employment stats? Law school isn't really worth it unless you get into a t-5 school, unless you get a significant scholarship. I've thought about the law school route, too.

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May 4, 2018

I think it is incredibly helpful. By spending a few years working in transactional RE you will have a value proposition that is immediately and universally applicable to pretty much any developer. Outside of brokerage, it is also one of the fastest ways to build a rolodex of meaningful relationships with developer clients.

Just keep in mind that this kind of work can suck and be an absolute slog, especially at big law firms. Expect to work a lot of long hours and weekends to meet some ridiculous client-driven deadlines.

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May 4, 2018
Ricky Rosay:

I think it is incredibly helpful. By spending a few years working in transactional RE you will have a value proposition that is immediately and universally applicable to pretty much any developer. Outside of brokerage, it is also one of the fastest ways to build a rolodex of meaningful relationships with developer clients.

Just keep in mind that this kind of work can suck and be an absolute slog, especially at big law firms. Expect to work a lot of long hours and weekends to meet some ridiculous client-driven deadlines.

So what exit opportunities could I potentially be looking at from a law firm?

Better yet, can I enter directly into RE without ever working at a law firm?

May 4, 2018

You can but you'd probably be in a role that you wouldn't need law school for.

May 4, 2018

It's been said in this thread already, but if you're interested in being a lawyer in RE, do that. Don't go to law school as a way into real estate, it's not really logical. Go to law school if you want to become a lawyer and plan on staying a lawyer for a little while.

Best Response
May 4, 2018

Brokerage/leasing/tenant rep? As far as being client-facing and working with other people, those would certainly fit the bill. In addition, I think your law skills would be useful and your (potential, you know better than I do) lack of technical real estate skills would not be as big of a deal in those roles, especially tenant rep. You could probably get an analyst position with a large brokerage house and transition to broker in a year or two, or possibly a Jr Broker position right off the bat with maybe a smaller shop. I was at a smaller boutique brokerage for a while and we had a guy there who had come straight from a law background.

The two things I would do right now are try to read and research as much as possible and see if you can narrow down the sectors you might be interested in, and try to brush up on some basic real estate knowledge and math. The more I think about it the more I think tenant rep might be a great fit. I think you could spin your legal "representation" experience positively when interviewing and possibly later when wooing potential clients.

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May 4, 2018

Leasing on either side could be a good fit. This guy could probably make LOIs/ Leases that run circles around half the brokers in his town.

May 4, 2018

Thanks so much for the great advice. A couple follow ups: what exactly is the difference between brokerage and leasing (on a more day to day difference, I understand one is selling and the other is negotiating leases)? What are the best firms to be targeting for each of these specialties? Additionally, which one has the most growth/financial potential, and which provides the best ability to set and control your own schedule?

Finally, although I'm currently in the Northeast I'm looking to relocate south (specifically Atlanta, but also considering Miami/Dallas/Houston). Is there anything I should know about this particular market?

May 4, 2018

Brokerage and leasing are one and the same. Brokers lease, sell, and finance transactions. Depending on where you practice, in some areas you will do everything, in others you will specialize in one. The best firms to specialize are city specific as it is a local game for the most part. They all have potential for financial growth, it depends what you would prefer to sell. In addition, as a sales person you are an independent contractor. The firm cannot tell you when and how much to work. With that said, the brokers making the most money work a lot. Starting out, the hours of 730 AM - 9 AM will be getting work done, 9-5 will be about clients, and 5 until whenever you are done will be about getting work done. I can't help you with regards to your specific markets.

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May 4, 2018
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