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4 Legal Trends For Real Estate Attorneys in 2021

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a sea change in the way that people live and work in the United States, and real estate attorneys were included in that sea change. We are still awaiting some fallout from the lockdowns that caused a lot of people to radically rethink their businesses and their lifestyles. That does make it a bit easier to predict some of the legal trends that real estate attorneys should be thinking about. Here are five of those key trends:

1. Commercial Bankruptcies

You've probably seen it on the news: In some of the hardest-hit states during the pandemic, up to 30% of restaurants closed their doors for the last time. As service businesses that were not deemed "essential" close down, that means many will be selling off their assets in bankruptcy.

And that will translate into a huge number of commercial properties coming on the market. Realtors, bankruptcy lawyers and real estate attorneys are going to be kept extremely busy for the foreseeable future due to this new reality.

2. Commercial Real Estate Sales

A lot of companies had to get creative in 2020 and began creating more work-from-home situations for employees. This led to a massive realization that a lot of companies had a real estate footprint that was too big! As commercial office spaces emptied out and employees discovered that they enjoyed working from home, it was pretty clear that major changes were on the way.

Companies are now deciding what they should do with all that empty office space. This might lead to a surplus of flexible short-term leases, subletting or other creative responses from companies as they decide whether to hold onto office space or let it go. They'll need real estate attorneys to help them navigate these changes.

3. Residential Reshuffling

You've probably already seen the trend of people flooding out of urban areas in 2021, which started last summer. As people began working from home, it dawned on them that "home" could be somewhere else. There were a lot of different reasons for this change: Pandemic lockdowns, urban unrest, and so on.

But the flood of people leaving bigger cities and searching for quieter, less populated areas for homes is continuing this year. Housing prices are rising rapidly in rural areas, while prices will begin plunging in urban areas -- and real estate attorneys will be needed to help with all those deals.

4. Possible Gig Worker Reshuffling

Many smaller law firms rely on gig workers as they're growing, in order to cut back on costs. It's not uncommon for a small firm to employ freelance paralegals or personal assistants. But that could change in 2021. Congress and the Biden administration are considering federal legislation that would reclassify freelancers as employees. If you rely on freelance employees, you may have to restructure those relationships if the gig worker bill becomes law.

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