Why Real-property Law?
The use of paralegals in an active real-property legal practice is almost essential. Even the simplest real-property transactions require attention to detail. A paralegal can be involved in every stage of a real-property transaction, from the preparation of the purchase agreement to recording title documents after the closing. A real-property transaction demands accuracy — from the legal description of the property to the allocation of property tax payments, and from the examination to protect against defects in the chain of title to the payment of escrowed funds held by a third party to ensure the performance of some contractual obligation.
The necessary attention to detail also requires a broad knowledge of applicable statutes and regulatory provisions. A single real-property transaction can require consideration of financing issues, pollution control and cleanup laws, zoning issues, and antidiscrimination laws. The impact of these laws can be significant. For example, many pollution cleanup laws require the current owner to bear the brunt of the cost of cleanup. A client who purchases a building that formerly housed a gas station may face thousands of dollars in cleanup costs if the risk of pollution from an underground storage tank is not adequately addressed in the transaction documents.
Each of these aspects of a real-property practice calls out for the use of paralegals. A properly trained paralegal can verify the property description and compare that description against previously recorded instruments when verifying title to the property. A paralegal who understands real-property concepts can review a real estate transaction closing statement and compare the charges reflected on the closing statement with the requirements of the contract to purchase the real estate. Paralegals often perform legal research to identify applicable statutes and regulations that might interfere with the client's use of the property. Real-property paralegals offer the lawyer the advantages of expertise, flexibility, and cost-savings.