One Way that Real Estate Agents are Like Lawyers

The New York Times notes this regarding law schools:

“The fundamental issue is that law schools are producing people who are not capable of being counselors,” says Jeffrey W. Carr, the general counsel of FMC Technologies, a Houston company that makes oil drilling equipment. They are lawyers in the sense that they have law degrees, but they aren’t ready to be a provider of services.

The same holds true in the real estate profession – except in Virginia, it takes a bit less than three years (try less than 100 hours of “education”) to get your real estate license. And the state-mandated real estate exam (and Broker’s exam, too) is so mind-numbingly easy and irrelevant as to be farcical.

Expertise comes with practice, time, production and learning from mistakes. More from the NYTimes:

And they have each spent three years and as much as $150,000 for a legal degree.

What they did not get, for all that time and money, was much practical training. Law schools have long emphasized the theoretical over the useful, with classes that are often overstuffed with antiquated distinctions, like the variety of property law in post-feudal England. Professors are rewarded for chin-stroking scholarship, like law review articles with titles like “A Future Foretold: Neo-Aristotelian Praise of Postmodern Legal Theory.”

So, for decades, clients have essentially underwritten the training of new lawyers, paying as much as $300 an hour for the time of associates learning on the job.

The answer is: apprenticeship. No classroom can effectively replicate practical experience. I’m still working on devising a practical apprenticeship for real estate … I’m sure it’s doable, but everything would have to change – compensation of agents, most of whom currently work on 100% commission, real estate office business models, education requirements, hiring salaried mentors? – suggestions welcomed.


As I said elsewhere recently:

I realized a few years into my career that the real estate “education” I had that prepared me to pass the test to get my real estate license was woefully inadequate to competently practice real estate, but more importantly, I was not prepared to represent my clients. Luckily, I was blessed to have a mentor, my mother, who helped and guided me through the first few years, and to whom I still turn for assistance from time to time.”

“The REALTOR® Code of Ethics is a good document, but mostly meaningless beyond the halls of the NAR. Most REALTORS® neither read nor understand it, and the methods for enforcement are inadequate. REALTOR® currently doesn’t mean much to the public or the bulk of the membership. As one of the founders of Nest Realty in Charlottesville, we wanted to set a higher standard for ourselves  demanding experience, professionalism and ethics. In doing so, we seek to raise the bar for ourselves and on behalf of our clients.

(thanks to the Richmond Fishburne blog for pointing this story out)

And – this is an interesting correlating story at the Volokh Conspiracy.

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