Monday, December 17, 2007

Advice to budding real estate lawyers

I received an email this weekend from a 1L asking for advice about law and real estate. I hope that person does not mind my sharing excerpts from that message with you.

The work of the real estate lawyer can sometimes be tedious, but so is any area of law. This is not necessarily a glamorous business, and to the extent there is it belongs rightfully to the clients.

Learning the legal side is good, but doing your own deals is paramount. You can always hire people to do the work. Remember, two of the top real estate moguls in Chicago are both trained lawyers who quickly got out of the business. They know the legal basics but have teams of lawyers to work out the details.

You will not learn the business side of real estate in law school or necessarily in practicing law either. No matter how much education you have, the hardest thing to do is get out there and take a risk and do the deal. I know this from experience. Start young. Be it good or bad, one thing law does is teach you the adversity of risk, and that runs counter to most good investors. Mitigating risk -- not avoiding it altogether -- is the key. And in my older age I have become more risk-adverse, perhaps to my financial detriment.

There you have it. I'm not perfect. I'm also not poor (nor am I rich) but I wonder whether, if I'd started investing to any degree seven or eight years ago, whether I might be retired. (Answer: maybe. But the grass is always greener, and during those years I've not had to worry about the next meal or house payment either. Spilt milk and all that....)

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