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An aspiring solicitor's guide to property law

An aspiring solicitor's guide to property law

The Rookie Lawyer


Reading time: three minutes

To the surprise of myself and everyone around me (including my professor!), I've really enjoyed my land law module so far this term. The structure and organisation of the module itself, coupled with the range of clients we get to work with in our problem questions – from residents with personal or familial issues, to businesses selling commercial properties – showcased just how varied this area of law can be. A conversation with my land law professor encouraged me to go away and do my own research into property law – resulting in this article!

What is property law?

Real estate or property law is a branch of law that deals with, you guessed it, property.

English law acknowledges two types of property: real property, which is usually commercial (and also where we get the term 'real estate' from), and personal property. The types of clients and issues you deal with will depend on your firm and their clients.

Unlike real estate agents, however, as a property lawyer you're not involved in the selling of the property itself, but in the legal framework of the transaction (and any disputes involved in the process). Property law is at its core concerned with ownership and occupation of land – or, in other words, who owns what and what rights they have over that land. 

So, what do property lawyers do?

As noted, the work of a property lawyer is primarily concerned with transactions – when a property is bought, sold or disputed. Property lawyers therefore draft leases, negotiate land contracts and perform due diligence.

As a property lawyer, it's likely that you'll handle multiple transactions at the same time. Given that the demand for land and property is often high, making it a rather stable and consistent practice area, the demand and workload is unlikely to slow. Though transactions often don't have rigid deadlines, proactivity is a part of the job as the faster something gets done, the better the deal for the client.

As a personal property lawyer, your clients are likely domestic or international individuals who want to buy or sell property in the UK. This scope of work is what you'll likely find at a regional or high-street firm. If you work for an international firm, you may also handle the buying or selling of property for your client abroad.

As a commercial property lawyer, you work with business properties or land that generates profit for its legal owner. This means that your work could encompass property used for business purposes, as well as a rental property. Like a personal property lawyer, your clients may be domestic or international and, depending on the reach of your firm, may purchase land in the UK or abroad. There's often an overlap between this type of law and other areas, such as planning, construction and even environmental law – particularly when you're working with clients that are agricultural landowners or property developers. This type of work is more likely to be found at larger firms, particularly international ones.

Daily tasks of a property lawyer include:

  • Reviewing clients' contracts and reporting issues to them;
  • Negotiating contracts;
  • Researching for clients;
  • Balancing deadlines of multiple transactions/deals;
  • Managing client relationships and maintaining positive client contact;
  • Due diligence; and
  • Drafting documentation.

Skills a good property lawyer will have:

  • Multitasking: as mentioned, you'll be balancing multiple clients, transactions, and parties.
  • Negotiation: most of what you do is negotiating land contracts – attention to detail is equally useful here!
  • Communication and writing: for drafting contracts and maintaining positive working relationships with clients. A good relationship will result in more referrals (and more clients for your firm).

While I'm sure being a property lawyer isn't all fancy client parties and success stories (which I may or may not have assumed from watching the real estate reality TV show Selling Sunset...), it definitely sounds appealing. The challenges of balancing transactions and negotiating contracts for a client seem stimulating, and the ultimate success of a deal gone through rewarding. Though I'm keeping my options open, I know for sure that I'd like to try a real estate seat – and hopefully, after reading this article, you will too!