Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Today at my law school the student Real Estate Law Society hosted a panel of property lawyers from the Real Property Division of the Harris County Attorney's Office (that's the county that Houston is in). The two panelists were attorneys that I had previously invited as guest speakers to my Land Use class: Chuck Brack, an eminent domain litigator, and Jimmy Jones, a real estate transactional lawyer. Some observations:
- There is a lot of student interest in property law careers. Even though transactions may be down because of the economy, I think that students sense that people will always be buying, selling, and using land. So students who are interested in real estate or land use practice should pursue it.
- A student asked about one attorney's transition from criminal law practice to real estate. Perhaps counterintuitively to the students, he responded that it wasn't as hard as you might suspect-- once you know how to think about and practice law effectively, learning a new substantive area has some start-up costs but it is doable.
- One theme that seemed to come out to me was how much the transactional and litigation sides of property practice have to cooperate. When I was an associate at a big firm doing general commercial litigation, it seemed that there was a big divide between the litigation and transactional practice groups (we were friendly, we just didn't seem to work together that often!). But the practice that our panelists described seemed to have a lot more interaction. When the County needs land, for example, it tries to purchase it before it goes to eminent domain condemnation, so the attorneys work together. I wonder if land use and real estate law are more likely to involve interaction between different practice areas than other substantive areas of law.
- Interdiscipliarity. As a couple of my co-bloggers have mentioned, land use is a very interdisciplinary field of legal practice. The attorneys on the panel spoke about their regular interaction with appraisers, planners, engineers, politicians, and a host of other types of professionals who are involved in decisions about land and property.
- Matt Festa