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Real estate

Real estate

Megan Caulfield, a third-seat trainee at Ashurst LLP, reflects on her experiences in the department during the first seat of her training contract

What is real estate law?

Real estate law is a lot more fast-paced and exciting than most law students will remember from their time at university! At Ashurst the work is transactional, high-profile and often involves a political element which makes for an interesting area of work.

Generally the real estate department is split into four areas: real estate development, real estate investment, construction and planning. At Ashurst the work mainly involves commercial property.

In the real estate team, work is often split between property development and investment: development varying from renovation to re-leasing and investment focusing on the buying and selling of real estate as assets. Trainees will undoubtedly be referring back to their land law notes. Starting a seat in real estate with an understanding of the basic concepts such as leases, licences and easements, for example, would be a good start. As with most areas of law there are also a lot of contract law principles involved in a real estate transaction. Trainees will be expected to draft agreements and review leases. There is also a cross-over with tax law and trainees will be required to get to grips with the stamp duty land tax forms which are submitted to HMRC.

Work in the construction team is heavily contract based. Work will involve assistance with the drafting of contracts for employing contractors to carry out the construction of a new building or refurbishment of an existing one.

Planning is a niche and complex area of law which can have a crucial impact upon the deliverability of construction or development projects. Without the correct planning permission being granted, such projects or development cannot go ahead. The work has an administrative law focus and will involve local government law just as much as land law. Matters vary from assisting developers in seeking planning permission or disputes where planning permission has been refused to corporate support or due diligence.

What are the key skills needed to be a real estate trainee?

Real estate trainees will learn to be organised very quickly. While this applies to lawyers generally, in real estate you will often balance a number of matters as opposed to just one transaction. This will also require you to be disciplined in managing the deals you are working on and have good time management skills.

Trainees must always take the initiative and be proactive in assisting fee-earners. There is always something you can be assisting with. The more involved you get in a transaction, the more responsibility you will get and therefore, the more you will learn from it. Trainees are also likely to get a significant amount of client contact, especially as you become more confident and experienced as the seat progresses. This will allow you to develop your communication skills and your own style of working.

Benefits of working in real estate

Real estate is an incredibly interesting and diverse area to work in. The tangible nature of the work allows you to get to grips with some difficult concepts and also makes it very rewarding when you can see the work that you have been involved in shaping the London landscape. Real estate work is also becoming increasingly international, with foreign investors and developers being particularly interested in the City of London.

Real estate is a department in which you will assist other areas of the firm, from corporate to finance to projects. This allows you to get a good understanding of the work done across the entire firm. The varied and evolving area of law means that a real estate lawyer is quick to adapt and can manage tasks, no matter how daunting and challenging they first appear.

Ashurst LLP

With 25 offices in 15 countries and a number of referral relationships we offer the reach and insight of a global network, combined with the knowledge and understanding of local markets. Our 400 partners and further 1,200 lawyers work across ten different time zones, responding to our clients wherever and whenever they need us.

Our clients are at the heart of our thinking, our ambition is to be our clients’ most incisive partner. You will see we have a prestigious client base, with whom we build strong partnerships working closely together on large and complex multi-jurisdictional transactions to deliver incisive and insightful commercial solutions. Our global reach provides opportunities for our people to work in numerous jurisdictions with leading international organisations across the world.

You will enjoy an inclusive culture which genuinely values the breadth of individual perspectives and contributions that we gain from having a diverse workforce. As part of a truly collaborative team working in partnership together with openness and respect across offices, geographies and specialisms, we support each other to achieve great things for our clients. We take exactly the same approach with our people: we’re interested in understanding each other, finding new and better ways to bring out each individual’s talents, and simply enjoying the interaction with other high-calibre, down-to-earth people. It’s a strong, shared culture that will enable you to apply your intellect, develop yourself and thrive as an international lawyer.

For further information about the firm, see www.ashurst.com

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