If you have an affinity for law but aren’t interested in becoming a lawyer or attorney, you may consider a career as a paralegal. And in case you’re leaning toward property law, becoming a real estate paralegal can be an exciting career path. In this article, we will explore what it is that a paralegal does and what it takes to become one.
What Is a Real Estate Paralegal?
The term paralegal is derived from the Greek word para- meaning “next to” and the Latin word legalis denoting something that “pertains to the law.” A paralegal is someone who works alongside a lawyer, so a real estate paralegal assists a real estate lawyer.
Paralegals differ from legal assistants in that the latter doesn’t have as much training and experience as a paralegal and focuses on administrative duties. Therefore, a real estate legal assistant aids the real estate paralegal in a number of ways:
- Organizing documents
- Conducting research
- Typing up legal documents
- Proofreading documents
Meanwhile, a paralegal focuses on legal duties that assist lawyers. In the next section, we will delve deeper into the responsibilities of a real estate paralegal.
Real Estate Paralegal Responsibilities
The nature of the job of a real estate attorney doesn’t involve going to trial. Therefore, the duties of a real estate paralegal don’t involve preparations for trial as is the case with paralegals in other branches of law. The real estate paralegal's duties include:
- Answering clients’ questions
- Acquiring the necessary documentation, such as leases, mortgage notes, and property descriptions
- Looking through purchase contracts
- Asking for the certificate title and title insurance
- Assisting the lawyer in the communication with the real estate agent
A paralegal is not permitted to offer legal advice, determine fees, or decide what cases they want to take. Those are the responsibilities of the lawyer they work for.
Skills and Knowledge Needed to Work as a Real Estate Paralegal
To be able to perform the duties of a real estate paralegal, one needs to possess specific skills and knowledge. When it comes to skills, these include:
- The ability to conduct extensive research: This is a given since to work as a paralegal, one needs to do research on behalf of the lawyer.
- Critical thinking skills: Possessing the ability to reach conclusions and approach problems using logic and reasoning is a critical part of the job.
- Organization skills: Paralegals need to be able to juggle multiple tasks with strict deadlines and know what tasks to prioritize.
- Reading comprehension skills: Paralegals deal with vast amounts of legal documents. Thus, they require excellent reading comprehension skills.
- Active listening skills: Since a real estate paralegal needs to communicate with clients, lenders, and real estate agents, they need to have adequate listening skills to carry out their duties.
- Legal writing skills: Writing is another crucial skill for paralegals to be able to draft and edit documents.
In terms of the necessary knowledge, a real estate paralegal should possess:
- Profound knowledge of property law, legal codes, and government regulations
- Familiarity with office procedures and relevant terminology
- Knowledge of administrative procedures
- Familiarity with time management software
How to Become a Real Estate Paralegal
One of the main differences between paralegals and attorneys is their level of education. An attorney needs to acquire a Bachelor’s Degree in any subject, pass the LSAT, finish law school, and pass the bar exam. This usually takes at least seven years. In this section, we will take a look at what it takes to become a real estate attorney and what kind of interview questions a candidate can expect.
Real Estate Paralegal Requirements
A paralegal isn’t required to go through such an extensive process in terms of education. As opposed to lawyers and attorneys, they don’t need a license to be able to work. For that reason, there are no specific school requirements for someone to be eligible to work as a paralegal.
Nevertheless, potential employers are on the lookout for someone who has demonstrated the ability to work in this field. Therefore, an aspiring paralegal should have at least an associate degree in paralegal studies. It’s even better if they acquire a bachelor’s degree in a related field.
Acquiring an associate degree usually takes two years, while a bachelor’s degree can be completed within four years. While some employers accept applicants with an associate degree, others look for a higher level of education.
The steps to becoming a real estate paralegal are similar to those of paralegals in other branches of law. Master’s programs allow paralegals to specialize in a specific field, including litigation, labor law, and real estate. They usually take two years to complete. However, a master’s degree isn’t essential for one to become a real estate paralegal.
Real Estate Paralegal Interview Questions
After completing their education, aspiring real estate paralegals begin the job hunt by sending out resumes.
When you land an interview, it’s essential to be prepared to answer tough questions. Some of the interview questions a candidate for a real estate paralegal might be asked are:
- Describe how you organize and prioritize your work?
- How would you deal with a problematic individual?
- Give an example of a situation where you exhibited excellent active listening skills?
- How would you explain complex information in layman’s terms?
- What information would you include in the legal description of a property?
- List possible reasons for a delay in property purchases?
These are some examples, but certainly, no one can predict what exactly a specific hiring manager would ask. Ultimately, it all comes down to demonstrating knowledge of property law and the skills to handle any situation a real estate paralegal would typically encounter.
Challenges Real Estate Paralegals Face
As with any job, there are certain challenges real estate paralegals face throughout their careers. Here are a few common examples and how to deal with them.
1. Having to Juggle Multiple Tasks
A real estate paralegal doesn't only work with the attorney. They also deal with the client, lender, and realtor. They have to carry out a multitude of tasks, so multitasking skills are a must for someone to be able to work in this field.
2. Tight Deadlines
The real estate paralegal’s job is to make sure everything is taken care of on time so clients can move into their dream homes. The real estate agent may want to try to speed up the process, making it difficult for a paralegal specializing in real estate to keep up with all of the deadlines. The stakes are high given the amount of money that is involved, which can make this ordeal very stressful.
To be able to handle this challenge, one needs to be organized. Luckily, technology is making things easier. One way to speed things up is to have all of the documentation saved in Google Docs and share the links with the parties involved. That way, they can access the files quickly and see the progress in real-time.
3. Working overtime
Real estate paralegals often have to work longer than the typical eight hours a day. These long working hours are correlated with burnout. Therefore, it’s essential that those in this profession take care of their mental health and set boundaries so that they don’t become overworked.
Real Estate Paralegal Salary
The estimated total salary of real estate paralegals in the United States is $77,794 per year. This includes bonuses, tips, commission, and shared profit. The additional pay amounts to $15,786 on average.
Being a real estate paralegal takes dedication and hard work. If you’re considering becoming one, it’s crucial that you make sure this is something you can handle. Nonetheless, being a real estate paralegal can be a fulfilling career for someone who is an avid researcher with a keen interest in property law.