Real estate paralegals work with lawyers in residential and commercial real estate. They assist attorneys in research and carrying out various tasks, and preparing cases associated with real estate and land-use matters. Their duties may include preparing documents for hearings, trials closings or meetings. They may also have the responsibility of reviewing documents related to bankruptcies and real estate.
Paralegals are also called legal assistants. They are trained and educated to work under the direct supervision of a licensed attorney. Real estate paralegals have the specialized knowledge and expertise to excel in nearly every aspect of the law and legal procedures as they relate to real estate matters. However, real estate paralegals are strictly prohibited from conferring any legal advice. In addition, they are not allowed to quote attorney fees or present any part of a case in a court of law. They should make it known to those they come in contact with, during the course of performing their duties, that they are not lawyers.
Real estate paralegals work in a variety of job settings, including corporate law divisions, private law firms and the legal department of government agencies. Some may work for construction firms, real estate firms and title companies. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 7 out of 10 paralegals work in law firms. Their job responsibilities can vary depending on the organizations where they work. PayScale.com states that the average median salary for a real estate paralegal was $42,842 in September 2009.
Besides performing a multitude of general tasks, real estate paralegals have the knowledge and formal training to perform many of the duties that were typically associated with attorneys. These responsibilities may consist of: interviewing and maintaining contact with clients throughout the duration of cases; managing investigations; locating and interviewing potential witnesses; conducting legal research; and finding judicial decisions or other legal writings that can assist the attorney in adjudicating a case. Real estate paralegals may also help attorneys prepare legal arguments, draft pleadings, answers and motions, and file documents in the appropriate courts.
Although most states do not have a formal educational requirement for real estate paralegals, many employers are increasingly giving preferential treatment to individuals who are graduates of formal training and education programs. Basically, there are four paths people can pursue to become real estate paralegals: 1) associate's degree programs that are usually offered at community colleges; 2) bachelor's degree curriculum provided by many four-year institutions; 3) master's degree programs; or 4) certificate programs that are usually designed for individuals who already have a degree but would like to change careers.
Generally, real estate paralegals take many of the same courses as other paralegal students. The exception is that they concentrate on the law as it relates to real estate matters. Associate and bachelor degree coursework may include general education classes in fields such as English, the humanities, mathematics, history and social sciences. The topics directly related to real estate paralegal studies often include courses such as rules of civil procedure, business organizations, bankruptcy, wills, trusts, and estates and legal writing and research. There are also classes in real estate transactions and real estate law.