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Real estate lawyers may represent individuals as well as businesses with claims, transactions and government proceedings related to their real property interests (land and buildings). Whether the property is for residential or commercial use, real estate lawyers assist their clients with a range of activities, such as the purchase and sale of real property, leasing of property, mortgages, foreclosures, condemnation and construction projects. They may handle financing for both commercial and residential projects, including homes, condominiums and other residential properties.

Most attorneys working in private firms represent businesses with commercial interests: developers, investors, lenders and businesses, both here in the U.S. and abroad. They work with clients to form business partnerships and joint ventures for the development and financing of commercial projects: from multi-family housing, timeshare development, and apartment complexes to restaurants, office buildings, hotels, hospitals, shopping centers, [...]

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Real estate lawyers may represent individuals as well as businesses with claims, transactions and government proceedings related to their real property interests (land and buildings). Whether the property is for residential or commercial use, real estate lawyers assist their clients with a range of activities, such as the purchase and sale of real property, leasing of property, mortgages, foreclosures, condemnation and construction projects. They may handle financing for both commercial and residential projects, including homes, condominiums and other residential properties.

Most attorneys working in private firms represent businesses with commercial interests: developers, investors, lenders and businesses, both here in the U.S. and abroad. They work with clients to form business partnerships and joint ventures for the development and financing of commercial projects: from multi-family housing, timeshare development, and apartment complexes to restaurants, office buildings, hotels, hospitals, shopping centers, and even agricultural real estate. They assist clients with negotiation, drafting, interpretation and enforcement of leases and subleases. They advise both residential and commercial real estate developers on national, state and local zoning and permitting requirements, preparing master plans for planned unit developments, drafting and negotiating development agreements, and representing clients before local planning councils and state commissions.

Real estate litigators handle such matters as contentious mortgage foreclosure actions, complex construction litigation, lawsuits between purchasers and sellers of real estate, landlord/tenant controversies or actions among partners or members of partnerships, joint ventures or limited liability companies. They may represent the mortgagor or the mortgagee, the real estate lender or borrower, the landlord or the tenant.

Environmental issues are becoming more commonplace in the real estate practice area. Real estate lawyers advise investors, owners, lenders, landlords, and tenants regarding federal, state, and local environmental laws, regulations and contractual obligations, including the investigation, compliance, remediation and litigation of environmental problems.

As with many other business practices, most real estate lawyers work for private firms that range from small firms to large national firms and real estate boutiques. Many real estate lawyers operate in a solo practice, especially in smaller cities. Some real estate lawyers may work "in-house" for real estate developers or banks or with companies that have complicated real estate issues.

Attorneys who focus on zoning and land use issues are called “land use” attorneys. They are typically engaged by a client who owns, or is considering the purchase of, a piece of property that does not currently allow the use intended by the client, due to existing zoning or other land use entitlements. The job of the land use lawyer includes the following typical activities:

-evaluate the existing zoning and entitlements;

-determine how the zoning and entitlements need to be changed to permit the use contemplated by the client;

-assist and advise the client in making application for the proposed zoning and entitlements;

-coordinate and cooperate with the planning staff of the political jurisdiction with authority to authorize the necessary changes (generally, but not always, the city or the county) in an effort to gain staff support for the application;

-make presentations to the relevant planning authority and the city council or county board of supervisors (or advise the client and the client’s architectural, site design and other planning consultants in connection with such presentations);

-negotiate and draft the language of any agreements required to describe the newly-acquired entitlements.

If the project itself or the proposed zoning changes and entitlements require environmental review under the statutes of the state in which the subject property is located, the land use attorney works closely with both city and county staff (and their environmental consultant) to do the following: articulate the scope of the environmental review; evaluate and analyze the possible environmental impacts;evaluate and analyze the potential mitigation measures for such impacts (and their feasibility); represent the client’s interest in the public review and ultimately in the city/county vote on the environmental review documents. In California, this review is known as an “Environmental Impact Report” (or “EIR”).

In California, “global warming” (as identified by cities and counties if not yet by state statute or regulation) is increasingly included as an environmental impact from a proposed project. Appropriate mitigation measures therefore need to be identified as the environmental review of the proposed project proceeds. Most practitioners anticipate that all states will eventually include potential global warming impacts as “environmental impacts” under applicable statutes and will require that mitigation measures be proposed and adopted as conditions of project approval. Such mitigation measures are very likely to include “green building standards.” Standards for green building certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or “LEED” standards) are currently articulated by the U.S. Green Building Council in Washington, D.C.

A student interested in the land use area, but preferring to practice in the non-profit environment, should consider a position as a City Attorney or County Counsel. Within the departments of these municipal law counsel are “planning” or “land use” law specialists, who are knowledgeable about the same body of law as the private practitioners described above. Their responsibility is to advise on behalf of the citizens of their jurisdiction to ensure that the zoning ordinance and other land use ordinances and regulations, including the city’s or county’s general (comprehensive) plan, are lawfully and consistently enforced when the planning commission and city council / board of supervisors consider land use applications.

An area related to the practice of real estate law is Construction Law, which generally involves contracts and contract disputes in connection with real estate construction and development . Construction Law has evolved into a practice discipline in its own right, although there are strong links to REAL ESTATE, particularly with respect to the development side. It also has links to corporate law (BUSINESS, COMMERCIAL and FINANCE), project finance (BUSINESS, INTERNATIONAL) and energy law (ENVIRONMENTAL). The practice area covers a wide range of legal issues: contract law, services agreements, bonds and bonding, guarantees and sureties, liens and other security interests and construction claims. Typical construction law disputes arise in contract performance, liability, negligence and insurance coverage. Construction law affects many participants in the construction industry: financial institutions, planners, surveyors, architects, builders, engineers and construction workers. Construction lawyers must understand the regulatory framework for their clients’ construction projects, including environmental and building regulations, as well as the planning and zoning process. They may also work on projects with government entities, which requires expertise in government contract methods. Government contracting involves its own set of contract methodologies and selection procedures, including specific subcontractor requirements.

 
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