Real estate

Real estate

What is real estate law?

Megan, now a solicitor, reflects on her time as a first seat trainee in real estate. Real estate is a tangible, interesting and fast-paced area of the legal industry and real estate work at Ashurst is transactional, high-profile and one of the firm’s key practice areas.

At Ashurst, the real estate team is split into three groups: general real estate, planning and construction. General real estate is then split into two focus areas: development and investment.

Investment work involves high-value real estate acquisitions for investors. As well as advising on buying and selling property, a large part of the work focuses on asset management which involves leasing and actively managing portfolios for both landlords and tenants. Development work focuses on buying land or buildings with a view to development for sale or leasing. Ashurst advises on some of the most complex and large-scale development and regeneration projects in the market, ranging from office buildings, shopping centres, hotels and resorts, to residential schemes.

Trainees get exposure to both investment and development work and will be involved in negotiating licences, carrying out real estate searches and due diligence, preparing Land Registry applications, completing stamp duty land tax forms to be submitted to HMRC and undertaking research tasks.

The construction team works predominantly on large property developments. The team works for landowners who are employing contractors to carry out construction work, funders providing finance for such projects, as well as purchasers and tenants of the completed developments. The type of documents you’ll be working on is largely different to general real estate and the work is heavily contract-based. The team works on some of the most iconic and high-profile developments across the UK.

Planning law is about using land sustainably: reconciling private rights of development with public rights and interests. Planning lawyers work closely with local government and the work often has a political aspect to it. At Ashurst, we act for large development companies seeking to secure planning permission for large-scale developments as well as local councils and public bodies. The work can often be contentious in nature when planning decisions are contested and the client wants to appeal a decision or hold a public enquiry.

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

While being organised is an important skill for any trainee, it is particularly important in real estate. Unlike other departments where you will often be focused on one big deal or case, in real estate you will be handling a large number of matters simultaneously. Good time management and organisation skills are essential when you have various deadlines and completions going on at the same time.

On big transactions, trainees will form a fundamental part of a larger team, and interpersonal and communication skills are therefore a must. Trainees are encouraged to be proactive and it’s important to take the initiative on matters you are working on.

Benefits of working in real estate

Trainees will often be the main point of contact on smaller matters and you are likely to have a significant amount of client contact. The amount of client contact and level of responsibility trainees get in real estate are two of the department’s key benefits.

Real estate works closely with other areas of the firm including corporate, finance and tax. As a trainee this gives you a great insight into how different departments within the firm operate and allows you to see how large transactional work is done across the entire firm.

Real estate is an area of law which tracks key political developments, making it a constantly developing and evolving practice area. The work is tangible and interesting and is a great seat to have as part of your training contract.

Ashurst LLP

With 26 offices in 16 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.

We expect a lot of ourselves – and so, as you would expect, you will need to be comfortable with challenges and pressure. You should also be able to express yourself confidently on paper and out loud, whether that’s among your team or in a client’s boardroom.

You’ll need to become a shrewd negotiator, have an ability to read both balance sheets and behaviours, and become a commercial strategist with a deep understanding of specific industries.

For further information about the firm, see