The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way that people work, go to school, socialise, and even spend leisure in so many ways that some faintly remember why things were done the way they were before.
The practice of law has been one of those professions that traditionally resisted the ‘digital transformation’ of any of its sacred traditions and practices. But many industries, including real estate sales, have had to adjust to the social distancing protocols.
In Canada, real estate lawyers had to find ways to go on working from afar, as office buildings were abandoned left and right, and homes were left by owners who couldn’t pay the mortgage anymore. If you’re looking for real estate lawyers in Toronto, check GLGLLP lawyers or other lawyers near you.
Amid these changes, however, here are some of the suggested options of real estate lawyers on the paths they can take in this unfolding post-pandemic world.
From Partner Track To In-House Counsel
Most real estate lawyers start out like most other lawyers who end up specialising in their own respective practice areas. They start as first-year associates in a large or mid-sized law firm. During their interviews, they’re usually asked which areas they’d want to pursue in their career.
If the firm recruiters like what they hear, they’re usually taken in. Although most first-year lawyers do primarily legal research, they’re often immersed in the track they said they’d want to be part of.
For junior associates who want to specialise in real estate law, this means that they spend their early years being taught by their senior lawyers or supervising partners how to manage and close real estate transactions. Over time, the young real estate lawyers acquire more knowledge and learn more skills and actual practices in real estate transactions, including commercial real estate law.
Those who do an impressive job are set into partnership track by the firm leadership. Someone who aspires to become a partner should be able to show that they can manage transactions from start to completion, aside from showing that they can attract, sign up, and retain their own contribution to the firm’s clientele.
But with the diminishing corporate real estate business being retained by law firms, more real estate lawyers are rethinking the prospects of the partnership track. More are being lured into joining large real estate companies as in-house counsel. As in-house counsel, their work is more concerned with managing the legal aspects of the real estate transactions entered into by the companies they work for.
This often entails preparing and drafting legal documents, contracts, and agreements. They also have to review any legal, business, or commercial documents coming from the people with whom their company transacts. They’re often asked for their legal opinions about issues related to the real estate properties owned by the company, as well as any transactions it’s planning to go into.
Some in-house counsels aren’t asked to handle the litigation part of these real estate transactions, but there are some who do this part for their employers as well.
Due Diligence And Contracts Review Consultancy
Another emerging career path for real estate lawyers is to put up their own independent consultancy on due diligence and contracts review for real estate transactions. During their early years as real estate lawyers, most of them spent hundreds of hours each month doing real estate work.
Real estate practice is mostly focused on reading and reviewing documents, negotiating terms and conditions, preparing and writing draft agreements and contracts, and processing the transfer of titles to their clients’ names.
A large portion of the work they did for their clients when they were still law firm associates was to conduct due diligence and review contracts on real estate transactions. Due diligence refers to verifying the genuineness of documents such as titles, deeds, tax assessments, and tax payments.
Most parties in real estate transactions need real estate brokers or lawyers to do this for them. While some clients may have a fair level understanding of real estate and property laws, they’d still need to have the paperwork of the other parties in the transaction verified.
Aside from due diligence, all real estate clients also need reliable lawyers whom they can consult about their real estate transactions and the paperwork involved. Some of the things that clients have to consult with their real estate lawyers include legal issues concerning any existing mortgages over the title.
Additionally, clients also need to discuss any transfers that have been made prior or those which should be made before the title is transferred to them, which is often the case with inherited properties. If they’re planning to do something with the land, they’d also have to discuss zoning, land developments, and asset transfers with their real estate lawyers.
Online Real Estate Counseling
With more people doing, or at least initiating their transactions online, real estate lawyers can also get into this trend. They can practically set up a one-person law firm minus the ‘brick-and-mortar’ office by offering to hold legal counseling and consultations online.
This is already being done by some real estate law practitioners in some countries, where payments are sent in by credit card or even cryptocurrency wallet transfers. There are clients who almost have most of their paperwork for the real estate properties or transactions all done for them.
But they’re still a bit bothered or have some doubts regarding certain issues, such as whether there aren’t any dubious transfers in the title, the seller doesn’t have any unpaid taxes, or they wouldn’t be violating any zoning regulation in the area where the property is located and where they’re planning to launch their development projects.
Real estate lawyers who don’t want to handle the due diligence and documentation, as well as any litigation aspect of any real estate transaction, can opt to pursue this track. Aside from online consultations, they can also earn by monetizing blog articles and maybe even videos on real estate law.
They can break down the whole gamut of real estate law into specific topics, which are frequently encountered by real estate property owners, sellers, or buyers. For those who prefer to see them in motion, they can upload videos.
Staying Skilled And Flexible
There are many more technological changes that are bound to disrupt not just real estate law but the practice of law, in general. For instance, another emerging trend in real estate is the buying, investing in, and selling of real estate notes.
This trend will certainly have earthmoving effects in the years to come. But the key thing that real estate lawyers have to do is to stay skilled and flexible so they can find the path for themselves.