Background

What is Real Estate Law?
Real estate law governs the rights and interests in real estate and real property, both commercial and residential, and provides protections for buyers, sellers, land owners, developers, contractors, and real estate agents. Legal issues include: sales, purchases, leasing and other transfers of real estate and real property; title to real property; settlement of claims against property rights; landlord-tenant issues; property development; zoning and land use; related agriculture issues and environmental compliance; financing, mortgages and foreclosures; securitized real estate investments; and various other relevant topics.

What Do Real Estate Lawyers Do?
A real estate lawyer is primarily involved in transactional work, most often drafting, negotiating and closing transactions facilitating the business of real estate, including: (i) selling, buying, and leasing land, buildings, housing, natural resources of the land (crops, minerals, water) or any other interests in real estate; (ii) development and use of property and managing the state and local approval processes; and (iii) financing large development projects and working with REITS (Real Estate Investment Trusts), companies that own or finance income-producing real estate. Real estate lawyers also spend much of their time counseling clients about these matters.

Due diligence investigations are also a large part of the work done by a real estate lawyer. These due diligence investigations can include: review of the physical details of the property and can include an environmental investigation (to ensure there is no contamination), review the leases of any tenants at the property, and review of the title to make sure the seller actually owns the property and there are no easements, mortgages or other liens on the property, including tax liens. 

When real estate disputes arise, real estate lawyers will represent their clients in court. Such litigation might concern breach of contract, zoning compliance, construction defect, foreclosure, homeowners associations, or boundary disputes, among other issues.

Related Practice Areas

  • Tax Law
  • Banking, Commercial Finance and Secured Transactions
  • Environmental Law
  • Administrative Law
  • Estate Planning
  • Family Law  

What to Do if You're Interested in Pursuing a Career in Real Estate Law

Georgetown Law Courses

  • Comparative Property Law: Focus on the US and Europe
  • Finance of Real and Personal Property
  • Introduction to the Capital Markets and Financing of Income-Producing Property
  • Land Use Law
  • Taxation of Property Transactions (LLM Course)

Georgetown Law Clinics

  • Affordable Housing Transactions Clinic (Harrison Institute)
  • Law Students in Court

Georgetown Law Seminars

  • Drafting and Negotiating Commercial Real Estate Documents: Contracts, Loan Documents, and Leases Seminar
  • Historic Preservation Seminar
  • Homelessness, Poverty, and Legal Advocacy Seminar
  • Housing Today: Lawyering Affordable Housing Seminar
  • Social Entrepreneurship &Economic Development Law Seminar
  • Tax Planning for Real Estate Transactions (LLM Seminar)
  • Urban Laboratory: Land Use Planning Law in Practice

Relevant Bar Associations

Helpful Real Estate Law Resources

Representative Employers/Opportunities