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Choosing the best real estate law schools usually is a matter of doing a bit of research into the field, reading up on each school’s real estate resources and interviewing both students and practitioners to get an idea of the strengths and weaknesses of each. Law schools usually are not divided into specific subject areas. As such, there are no true “real estate law schools,” at least insofar as there are no schools that teach only real estate law. Most institutions offer some courses in the real property discipline, although schools that have particularly strong real estate programs are often considered to be real estate law schools by some people.
The first thing that you must realize when looking for a law school is that, with few exceptions, you can practice any sort of law after you graduate and pass your jurisdiction’s licensing exam. This means that you can go into real estate law even if you did not go to a renowned real estate law school. Just the same, if you know that real estate is where you want to focus, it is a good idea to hone in on schools that have stronger programs.
Schools that have advanced degree programs in real estate are often the best suited to prepare students for careers as real estate attorneys, but not always. Law schools typically focus their resources on their doctorate in laws program, which leads to the juris doctor (J.D.) degree. More nuanced programs for post-J.D. students are common in specific legal fields, including real estate, at the master of laws level. These programs typically lead to the legum magister (LL.M.) degree.
Law schools that offer real estate LL.M programs are often seen as preeminent real estate law schools. This might be true for advance students, but these resources are not always available to people who are still working on their J.D. Before deciding to enroll in a law school solely on the basis of its LL.M resources, you should be certain that these resources will be available to you as well.
A good place to start is with real estate law experts in your area or in the area where you hope to work. Look into where they went to school, and ask them for advice on real estate law schools. Commercial law school prep books sometimes also list schools by areas of strength, though it usually is a good idea to verify this information with actual practitioners.
You also should do some research into the top real estate law firms in your target area. The programs from which these firms hire new recruits are usually good places to apply. Most of this information is readily available on law firms’ websites.
After you have identified a few promising real estate law schools, schedule informational meetings with their admissions representatives. Ask to sit in on a real estate law class to get a feel for how the material is presented, and ask about any of the school’s particular real estate strengths. This might include particularly distinguished professors, dedicated real estate law clinic programs or other resources.
Knowing how many graduates go on to become real estate lawyers can be helpful information as well, and it is often an indication of a program’s overall strength. Some schools might even put you in touch with recent graduates to answer more in-depth questions about how prepared they felt for the contours of their job. Be sure to find out whether the school offers real estate job placement or school-coordinated internship programs, which often help students and new graduates break into the field.