Paralegal Specializations: Real Estate Law
Real estate law (a.k.a. property law) applies to residential and commercial real estate transactions. Real estate paralegals assist lawyers and the public in taking care of many details involved in completing real estate transactions, including doing research, communicating with everyone involved in a deal, and organizing paperwork.
Real estate paralegals work in various settings, including private law firms, real estate agencies, banks, and corporations. Because of the large amount of real estate deals happening daily, paralegals with this specialization are in high demand.
Paralegals interested in specialization in real estate law require specific knowledge to succeed. Candidates also need to have great organizational skills, along with excellent written and verbal communication skills. If you have these skills and an eye for detail you can find well-paid, fulfilling work as a paralegal in real estate law.
Real Estate Law Paralegal Job Description
The duties and responsibilities of a real estate paralegal involve assisting lawyers with a variety of tasks. Many paralegals are responsible for monitoring transactions and deals from beginning to end, playing a crucial role in the process by making sure that everything runs smoothly.
Some (but not all) of the job duties and responsibilities of a real estate paralegal include:
- Ensuring clients get all forms and documents
- Making sure all paperwork is finished and signed (lease/rental agreements, closing documents, etc.)
- Facilitating communication between all parties
- Contract negotiation
- Reviewing title reports
- Monitoring financial transactions and foreclosures
- Preparing legal descriptions of land
- Preparing documents for legal proceedings
- Create closing checklists
- Conducting research
- Explaining real estate codes to clients
Keep in mind that these responsibilities can change slightly depending on the setting you choose to work in and what state you’re in. One big thing that paralegals cannot do is practice law, take on cases, or give legal advice. If this is the kind of thing you would like to do in your career, then becoming a paralegal might be a good place to start to see if you like it before choosing to study law further.
How to Become a Real Estate Law Paralegal
There are many paralegal programs out there, but it’s best to find an American Bar Association (ABA) accredited certificate or degree. Courses accredited by the ABA are reviewed for quality and give you a better chance of getting hired by proving to potential employers that you have the skills, knowledge, and experience needed to succeed as a paralegal.
The key to specializing in real estate law is to choose your electives carefully. Look for electives that can be applied to real estate, such as courses in real estate law, contract law, property law, legal document preparation, etc. The next step to successful specialization includes looking for an internship in real estate to get hands-on experience and great networking opportunities.
After getting your degree/certificate, you may want to get certified - either nationally or voluntarily in the state that you plan to practice in. This certification shows that you meet the standard quality of paralegals and have both the education and practical experience that many employers look for.
There are three paralegal associations in the United States that offer national certification exams for paralegals:
- The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
- The Association for Legal Professionals (NALS)
- The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)
Paralegals looking to stand out in property law can also take online advanced certification courses offered by National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) in Land Use and Real Estate Principles.
Real Estate Paralegal Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) May 2017 data on paralegals and legal assistants, the mean annual wage for this occupation is approximately $53,910, or $25.92/hour.
The states with the highest employment of paralegals and legal assistants are California, Florida, New York, Texas, and Illinois. States with the highest paid paralegals are District of Columbia, Alaska, New Jersey, Washington, and Connecticut.
In 2017, there were 290,410 paralegal jobs in the United States. The job outlook for this profession in promising too, with a projected 15% growth rate from 2016 to 2026 - more than twice the average for all occupations.
The BLS shares that in the coming years, candidates with the best prospects will be, “Formally trained paralegals with strong computer and database management skills.” Additional education and specialization in a field like real estate law is another way to set yourself apart from other paralegals, securing the best job opportunities and pay.
Real Estate Paralegal Insights from LinkedIn
LinkedIn has compiled some insights from members on real estate paralegals that can be really useful if you’re currently looking for or considering pursuing a career in this field.
This information states that the top industries for this occupation are legal services, law practice, real estate, financial services, and banking. Some of the top companies that employ real estate paralegals are Keller Williams Realty, Inc., Greenberg Traurig, LLP, Wells Fargo, and law firms Eversheds Sutherland and Addleshaw Goddard.
If you’re still in the earlier stages of your journey to becoming a real estate paralegal, some of the top universities in the United States (according to real estate paralegals on LinkedIn) include Roosevelt University, University of Phoenix, New York University, Miami Dade College, and Boston University.
Top skills for paralegals in real estate are legal research, real estate transactions, legal writing, legal assistance, legal document preparation, and document review.
There is no shortage of work for paralegals in the United States, especially for real estate paralegals. If you’re just planning to go to school to become a paralegal now you can rest assured that that demand will not disappear in the next few years. One way to compete with other paralegals, find a career that you truly love, and earn more is to specialize in a specific area of law, like real estate law.
Specializing to become a real estate paralegal is as simple as choosing your electives carefully when getting a degree or certificate to give you the specific skills you need to practice in real estate. Other important steps in the right direction include seeking out internships or first-hand experience working in real estate law and taking advanced paralegal courses related to real estate.