Property lawyers deal with transactions related to residential and commercial property. It can sometimes be known as real estate law and within its scope it can cover specialist areas such as property finance, mortgage lending or social housing.
What does this type of lawyer do?
Property lawyers mainly deal with the buying and selling or rental of property so it is transactional based, but it can be litigation based and may spill into Landlord and Tenant issues. Other related areas include construction and planning law. It is loosely split into residential and commercial work and depending on which type you do can decide the type of clients you deal with.
If working in residential conveyancing it is more likely to be high street or regional based and your clients will be every day people. There is a good deal of client contact, especially over the phone and you will be dealing with the ups and downs of their buying experience. Depending on the number of files you are dealing with it can be quite time pressured as you will have to keep track of which stage you are at with multiple clients and take calls from solicitors, estate agents and other third parties.
If dealing with commercial property you may find yourself working for a larger firm, taking instructions from commercial clients. The range of work can be quite wide and can include negotiation of land contracts, drafting of commercial leases and due diligence. Matters can also range from large scale developments to small business premises for a sole trader.
What skills are required?
Multi-tasking is a great asset for any property lawyer. They often have to juggle lots of balls and deal with multiple parties when bring a transaction together. Negotiation and drafting also play a big part, especially in commercial property matters.
For both residential and commercial matters, the ability to build relationships is essential as the speed of getting a transaction completed can often depend on your ability to work with the other parties involved. Relationship building is particularly important in residential conveyancing as clients can often become quite emotional throughout the process and nerves can be frayed so a good manner with clients will be appreciated and may result in increased referrals.
For obvious reasons, property law is closely tied to the UK economy. When the crash hit, it hit firms hard – especially those which had grown on the back of a huge residential conveyancing market. Now the market is picking up in most areas, the future looks rosier than it has for many years. Not only is house building high on the political agenda, but the commercial sector has improved too with overseas investment in UK infrastructure projects.
What's it like in practice
Find out what some of our people who have practised property law say about it, and the advice that they would give those interested in a career in this area. Look at the following Case Studies:
- Deborah Henigan (Magic Circle)
- Catherine Morgan (regional firm)
- Jo Wylde (national firm)
- Anna Williams (Employability Consultant, University of Law)
The student guides to the legal profession have useful information on working in Property law. Look at:
Discover more about practice issues via the Law Society’s Property Section "the community for residential and commercial property practitioners".