By Troy A. Rule, Associate Professor of Law

Almost every successful company needs physical space in which to operate.  Consequently, businesses of all kinds are routinely engaged in buying, selling, developing, or leasing real property.  Whether the space involved is a small warehouse or a towering office building, such transactions typically require the involvement of attorneys.   In the largest real estate transactions, literally dozens of attorneys may have a role to play in ensuring that the interests of each party to the deal are adequately represented.     

A typical commercial real estate purchase and sale transaction involves several different parties, each of which often has independent legal representation.  Attorneys for the buyer of the property help to negotiate the Purchase and Sale Agreement, which will generally govern the transaction itself.  Attorneys for the buyer also often help to negotiate documentation for the large loan that the buyer will use to fund its purchase of the property.  In some cases, the buyer’s legal counsel even conducts a detailed “due diligence” review of the property to verify that the property will sufficiently serve the buyer’s needs. 

Of course, the buyer is just one of many parties to the transaction.  Sellers of commercial real estate also rely on attorneys to help negotiate the terms of the Purchase and Sale Agreement and the many other documents that are required to close the sale.  Banks commonly use legal counsel to help negotiate and draft documents associated with the buyer’s purchase loan.  Title insurance and property insurance companies are often involved in real estate transactions as well, and they may use attorneys to represent their interests in some cases.  Even local governments often engage attorneys to assist in negotiations or in the project approval process for large private development projects. 

Transactional real estate law can be an extremely rewarding practice area, affording opportunities to play crucial roles in transactions that can create significant value for all of the parties involved.  Often, after the closing of a large real estate transaction, the parties on all sides of the deal hold a party or exchange congratulatory e-mails to celebrate the success of the deal.  In many instances, transactional real estate attorneys are able to practice for several years without ever having to set foot in a courtroom, take a single deposition, or draft a single complaint or brief.

Law students interested in pursuing careers in transactional real estate law should consider joining the law school’s Real Estate Law Society, where they can meet other students with similar interests and get information about law school events and employment opportunities in this area.  Although the basic Contracts and Property courses in the first year curriculum expose students to some of the issues that arise in the context of a real estate transaction, the law school offers numerous other courses that explore these topics in much more detail and can better prepare students for this area of practice.  In particular, upper-level courses such as Real Estate Transactions, Real Estate Finance, Land Use Controls, Natural Resources Law, Secured Transactions, and Commercial Real Estate Leasing cover topics relating to this substantive area. Students should also feel free to contact Professor Wilson Freyermuth or me anytime with questions about career opportunities in transactional real estate law.