Can Real Estate Lawyer Work In Different States

Can Real Estate Lawyers Work in Different States?

A real estate lawyer is responsible for knowing all of the zoning and real estate laws in their jurisdiction, are basically tasked with signing off on any major real estate changes and purchases to make sure all parties are in the clear.

  • However, can a real estate lawyer operate in more than one jurisdiction?
  • Does their licensure extend to other municipalities and states?
  • Outside of learning all of the new lies, can a real estate lawyer practice real estate law across state lines?
  • Why Do You Need a Real Estate Lawyer?
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Generally, a real estate lawyer is extremely useful for ensuring that a piece of property can be transferred legally and above-board without any extra difficulties. This involves clearing the state of taxes-to-be-paid, the state of the property’s title, contingencies on the property, judgements on the property or the seller, or just for navigating the complicated and tangled web of property that once belonged to a deceased person or persons.

Real estate laws, and the tax laws that surround them, can become quite labyrinthian. When contesting becomes involved – like property split between multiple parties – a real estate lawyer can become your best friend.

The States that Require a Real Estate Lawyer


While anyone can benefit from the services of a real estate lawyer, there are certain states that actually require them by law for the transfer of any real estate property. 


The following states that real estate deals be closed by a real estate attorney: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, West Virginia, and Mississippi. A few (like Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and North Carolina) also require that the lawyer take an active role in the entire transaction. Other states have more narrowly-defined roles for the real estate attorney, like Illinois and Hawaii, which allows anyone to make the sale, but requires that an attorney be the one to prepare the documents.


Most of the midwestern states like Kansas, Missouri, Montana, and Nebraska often involve a real estate attorney in most dealings, but it isn’t required by law. The western states, including California, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and a few others, generally don’t involve a real estate attorney. Instead, those states typically involve only the lender, an escrow agent, and the title holder.  A good rule of thumb for “which states need a real estate attorney” is that for the east coast it’s “always,” for the middle of the country it’s “sometimes,” and for the western states it’s “never.” If you’re a real estate lawyer yourself looking for a change in venue, it may be wise to remember that rule. Work may be harder to find the further west you go.

Passing the Bar: Does It Apply to Multiple States?


Before we answer the question “can I be a real estate lawyer in multiple states,” it’s important to acknowledge the more important question: “can I be a lawyer at all in multiple states?” Back in the old days, the answer probably would have been a hard “no.” Bar exams changed from state to state, and often greatly varied in difficulty. For a time, it was considered a “badge of honor” to pass the bar in one of the more difficult states. The answer to this question, like the answer to so many questions, is “it depends.”

It Used to Be More Difficult


Unfortunately, the problem is that this constant oneupsmanship isn’t exactly good for future lawyers or their ability to stay mobile in a rapidly changing job market. 

Admitted on Motion


Luckily, some states merely wave the need to pass the bar in their state and allow other practicing lawyers to enter and work no problem. This process is called being “admitted on motion.” DC, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin all allow 


Motion without any reciprocity rules.

Practicing in Other States Through Reciprocity


For other states, there is a system called “reciprocity” that does allow lawyers to practice in different states, depending on the circumstances and the states involved.  Basically, in this context, reciprocity refers to a deal made by two states that allows lawyers from one state to practice in another without passing the local bar, and vice versa. It’s basically two states agreeing to “be cool” about it. The states that <strong>require a reciprocity rule</strong> with the state where you originally passed the bar include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming. As you can see, this is a complicated sea of rules to navigate. Luckily, if you’re a lawyer, that should be right up your alley.

Is There Another Way?


Now let’s say you’d rather not have to worry about this and just pass an exam that will allow you to practice in multiple states. There’s an option for that, though as with all of these laws, it doesn’t apply to every state. If you don’t want to have to deal with the difficulty of reciprocity and being admitted on motion, consider instead just passing the bar in multiple states. That sounds extremely time-consuming, but there is another way. So, enter the UBE, or the “Uniform Bar Exam.”

The Uniform Bar Exam


This standard bar exam, adopted by many states, is an attempt to solve this problem, standardizing the bar test across multiple regions. However, the “UBE” is really just an umbrella term for the series of tests that ensure a lawyer is qualified in multiple states.

How to Get Licensed in Multiple States


The Multi-State Performance Test The first test is the Multi-State Performance Test, also called the MPT, which is administered in July. The MPT doesn’t focus on minutia – instead, the MPR is more about basic competence as a lawyer, and the fundamental skills required to become an attorney. It’s administered in all states except for California, Oklahoma, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Florida. The test itself takes 3 hours, which is split into two hour-and-a-half sessions. As part of the UBE, the MPT accounts for about 20% of your final “grade.” are plenty of study aids  available that can help you pass the test. 

The Multi-State Bar Exam


The next step in the Uniform Bar Exam is the Multistate Bar Exam. Unlike the MPT above, the MBE is administered in almost every state in the union. Only Louisiana and Puerto Rico don’t administer the test. The MBE focuses on processing facts, logic, and reasoning, especially in legal matters and principles. This exam is far more grueling than the MPT, and clocks in around six hours long. Like the MPT, it also takes place in July.  There are a number of practice tests for the MBE available online, though they do have fees associated with them.

The Multi-State Essay Examination


After that comes the Multistate Essay Examination, or the MEE.  This one clocks in around 3 hours, with half-an-hour given for each of the 6 essay questions you’ll have to contend with. This test is administered in fewer states, and is not administered at all in California, Nevada, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Puerto Rico, or Maryland. Most of the test involves hypothetical law situations and analysis. And since it’s an essay test, the safety net offered by a multiple-choice test is gone. You’re on your own, and it’s just you, the question, and the person who’ll be judging your answer.  The MEE is a pretty important component of the Uniform Bar Exam, accounting for about 30% of the grade for the entire UBE.

Advice for Real Estate Lawyers Looking to Move


So, as you can see, moving around and continuing to practice law is a complicated nest of vipers to untangle.  Basically, you’re going to want to avoid California and much of the west coast. While real estate lawyers are used in California, they aren’t required for closing real estate deals. The California bar exam is also notoriously difficult to pass. Plus, as you can see from above, doesn’t participate in the UBE, “admission by motion,” or any reciprocity programs. These means if you start lawyering in California, it’s probably best to just stay there. On the other hand, most of the East Coast requires real estate lawyers in a number of property transactions. They seem a little more receptive to reciprocity programs and admission by motion.  Basically, if you’re going to move around a lot, consider the entire eastern half of the country, which will not only have more work for real estate lawyers, but less harsh laws about practicing in other jurisdictions.

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