Laws regarding construction, including defects and contracts, are covered in J.D. degree programs. These programs take three years to complete. Students in J.D. programs learn about legal ramifications relating to construction defects, contract structures and meeting estimated construction schedules. An undergraduate degree and LSAT scores are necessary for admission, according to the Law School Admission Council.
LL.M. in Real Estate programs, which require that the student hold a law degree (but not members of a state bar), also include instruction in aspects of law that deal with construction. Students learn about commercial and residential real estate transactions, construction contracts, fair housing and business organization. A master's degree in law requires 18-24 months of full-time study, but many students attend part-time. Most law schools offer course credit for externships; students can lobby for placement at a firm that specializes in construction law.
Some schools offer joint J.D. and Master of Laws programs; these programs may allow students to begin an LL.M. in the third year of a J.D. program.
A J.D. program is a professional degree program that prepares one to become a lawyer. Juris Doctor programs include courses related to construction disputes from all sides, including the perspectives of the engineer, owner and subcontractors. Litigation may involve taxation issues and claims of on-the-job injury. Programs offer such courses as:
- Administrative law
- Business planning
Master of Laws in Real Estate
In these types of programs, students learn to prepare multiple types of cases for litigation, such as construction defect, foreclosures and bankruptcy, as well as encroachment and trespassing cases. Common topics of study include:
- Business planning
- Corporate finance
- Property transactions
- Real estate development
- Securities regulation
Popular Career Options
According to the National Association for Law Placement, the employment rate for recent law school graduates had fallen to about 85% for 2013 graduates (www.nalp.org), marking the sixth consecutive year of declining employment. Jobs within the field of real estate law are found at private law firms, not-for-profit organizations and governmental agencies, such as the New York State Affordable Housing Corporation. Job titles available to master's degree program graduates include:
- Corporation counsel
- Judicial clerk
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were about 609,930 lawyers employed in the U.S. as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov). Employment for lawyers was expected to grow 6% from 2014-2024. In May 2015, the BLS data showed that lawyers earned a mean annual wage of $136,260.
Continuing Education and Licensure Information
Most states require prospective lawyers to have completed law school prior to taking the bar exam. According to the LSAC, Juris Doctor programs accredited by the American Bar Association satisfy the bar exam educational requirements for each U.S. state. The National Conference of Bar Examiners offers a multi-state bar exam to the state bar examining boards, but not all states use this exam.
Legal internships are available for lawyers just out of law school and interested in gaining on-the-job experience. Experience is helpful in gaining employment as a lawyer; organizations often require lawyers to have some experience before hiring them for permanent positions.
Students in Juris Doctor (J.D.) and Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Real Estate programs can gain knowledge of construction law concepts. J.D. programs focus on contract negotiations and structure, while LL.M. real estate programs concentrate on regulations involving property and leasing.