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Law Careers – What Does A Land Use Attorney Do?

Few other law careers intersect with so many types of law as land use law. A land use attorney deals with real estate, environmental and administrative law as well as constitutional law, public policy and politics, in figuring out how land should be used.

Intrigued? Check out my interview with Ben Reznik, one of the top land use attorneys in L.A. He’ll tell you about the different types of law jobs and legal projects you can do with a law degree when working in land use law, from protecting the environment to securing building permits.

BONUS: To find the best law job for you, you need to know what your strengths and values. My FREE self-assessment tool, The Career Mirror, will help you figure out what you really want. Click here to get instant access.

  Join JD Careers Out There for access to this video plus more day-in-the-life career path interview videos & transcripts.

Today’s Guest

Land use attorney Ben Reznik of JMBM in Los AngelesLand Use Attorney Ben Reznik
Title: Department Chair, Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell
City: Los Angeles, CA
Law School: USC School of Law in Los Angeles, CA
College: UCLA in Los Angeles, CA
Previous Career: Ben went into private practice upon graduating from law school. Once he connected with the land use practice area, he built what became a prominent land use-environmental boutique with his wife, which they ultimately merged into the larger, full service JMBM.
Videos: Land Use Attorney & Ben’s Career Advice


This is a preview of the video transcript on being a land use lawyer.

Join JD Careers Out There for access to the full version of this transcript plus the career video library & transcripts.

Luber: Hey everyone, today on JD Careers Out There we’re exploring the path of being a land use lawyer. It’s gonna be good stuff – so stick around! [theme song]

Alright, as you may already know, at JDCOT we explore career paths both in and out of law to help you find a career that fits you and help you succeed using your law degree.

I’m your host Marc Luber, the founder of JDCOT. I’ve always used my law degree to work in alternative careers for lawyers – first in the music industry and then as a legal recruiter. I’ve been helping lawyers with their careers since 2003 and I’m excited for the opportunity to help you.

Today’s guest is Ben Reznik, one of the top, go-to Land Use partners in all of Los Angeles, where he’s the department chair at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell. Ben told us all about working in this practice area – and here’s a little look at how that went:

Ben Reznik: Well my practice has focused on the field of land use and environmental law now for the past 37 years.

And what that entails is focusing full-time on issues of real estate development – so we deal with zoning matters, and real estate development matters, environmental issues. We deal with municipalities, planning commissions, city councils, trying to get projects approved. We deal with communities and the public hearings, so it’s a very broad array of things we do in order to help a client get approvals for their projects.

We do this throughout the state of California. We have an office in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Irvine. And we have clients that are not just builders of housing or retail or office, but we apply our talents to situations where we represent the mining industry, for example. They have to go through entitlements and approvals for mines.

We’ve represented people at the ports where they need to get approvals for projects at the port. Energy projects: we’ve represented a major international company seeking to build a liquefied natural gas facility.

So our experience is pretty broad, but our bread and butter, I would say, is certainly representing builders and developers in urban and suburban areas.

Luber: OK.

Ben Reznik: And we have a staff of lawyers who are dedicated to that full-time. Most of them have had some training before they became lawyers in the field. They may have been working for a city, they may have worked for a city attorney, they may have worked in politics, they may have worked as an architect, and so, I like that combination of lawyers because they’re dedicated to the field, they’re committed to it, they understand it and it comes natural to them.

Luber: How many people are on your team?

Ben Reznik: Well, the department right now is at 15 people and 3, 4 years ago before the recession hit, we were almost twice that number. So we’ve adjusted, like everyone else, had to survive, but it still makes us one of the largest full-time land use groups, really, in the city and probably still in the state.

We compete for large projects and small projects. We do litigation in our field as well and so if things don’t go well in getting the entitlements or someone sues to stop the entitlement, we get involved in the litigation on behalf of the client.

So that’s both at the Trial Court and at the Appeals Courts. So we get to argue our own cases; I think that makes us better lawyers for also doing the administrative work, because I think when you have worked on the litigation end, you just become a better lawyer and you’re more effective or more articulate maybe when you’re before a planning commission or a city council or when you’re just in meetings with staff where they see you as you’re really a lawyer, you’re not just a lobbyist, you’re more than that.

Luber: Right.

Ben Reznik: So that’s our practice.

Luber: OK. And so, basically, it sounds like the practice area, for an attorney looking at this area, considering becoming an attorney in this space, there’s different aspects to it. There’s a litigation component, transactional component…

Ben Reznik: Correct.

Luber: …and then the advocacy, lobbying type of component?

Ben Reznik: Right.

Luber: All three of those are part of…OK.

Ben Reznik: It’s all part of it.

Luber: OK. And can you give us an example of an exciting fact pattern so that if someone’s exploring this area of law, what’s a typical common scenario that someone would be dealing with so we can get them jazzed up to say, “Wow, I want to do that. I want to deal with that kind of stuff”?

Ben Reznik: Sure.

Luber: Alright – you guys’ll learn lots more about being a land use lawyer from Ben in the full version of this video interview.

There Ben will tell us all about practicing land use law, what the work is like, who makes a good fit for this path and what it takes to succeed.

You’ll want to join the JDCOT membership for access to the full, in-depth career interviews & transcripts that will help you find and land a career that fits you. Check out what people are saying about JDCOT by clicking here.

Thanks again for watching everybody. I’m Marc Luber and I’ll see ya soon.

[theme song]

©2016 Careers Out There

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Thinking of leaving the law? The best first step you can take is a good look in the mirror. START HERE:

it's free!
You’ll also get periodic updates, reminders & access to career guidance programs sent to your inbox. We respect your privacy. You can unsubscribe via a click at any time.