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Law Careers – What Does A Land Use Attorney Do?

A land use attorney deals with many different types of law, including real estate, environmental and administrative law, constitutional law, public policy and politics, and more.

There are many types of law jobs and legal projects a land use attorney can take on, including securing building permits, protecting the environment, and more.

If you’re interested in learning more about what a land use attorney does, read on.

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At JDCOT, we explore career paths both in and out of law to help you find a career that fits you and succeed using your law degree. By joining the JDCOT membership, you gain access to in-depth career interviews and transcripts that will help you find and land a career that fits you. To learn more about breaking into alternative legal careers as well as niche practice areas like land use law, join the JDCOT membership.


The Ins and Outs of What a Land Use Attorney Does

A land use attorney researches zoning laws, reviews legal issues related to construction, presents cases to court, and ensures that all construction meets safety regulations. They also advise on matters related to real estate development, including zoning laws, construction permits, building ordinances, and more.

A land use attorney deals with many types of land use issues related to real estate development, including:

  • Zoning matters
  • Environmental issues
  • Dealing with municipalities, planning commissions, and city councils
  • Getting approval for projects
  • Dealing with communities and public hearings

Navigating contracts for construction projects is challenging. A land use attorney helps clients navigate the entire process to get the proper permits and meet all regulations and requirements.

A land use attorney must understand real estate law and requirements for permits, environmental issues, construction laws, and governmental contracts. Most real estate agencies employ land use attorneys to avoid legal conflicts that can arise while selling a home.

Construction companies also hire land use attorneys to file permits and other paperwork for construction sites.

Who Can Benefit From Hiring a Land Use Attorney?

Property developers, homeowners, and business owners alike can benefit from hiring a land use attorney. They can assist clients in challenging zoning regulations, procuring permits, and gathering all the information needed for remodeling or constructing a home or business. They can also help determine or change zoning laws and attain specialized permits to access a property.

A land use attorney helps clients navigate through the court system to protect their best interests. They can review plans and ensure that everything related to the construction of a building complies with local zoning regulations.

What Types of Clients Does a Land Use Attorney Have?

A land use attorney deals with many types of clients, including:

  • Real estate agencies
  • Courts of law
  • Title companies
  • International companies
  • Housing or retail offices
  • Energy projects
  • Mining industry
  • Builders and developments in urban and suburban areas

Whether you’re exploring a career in land use – or even if you’re exploring the different types of lawyers because you want to practice law, you’ll want to watch the interview with Ben Reznik to understand the intricacies of what a land use attorney does.

There are many different components to a land use attorney’s job, including litigation, administrative law, transactional work, and more. “We apply our talents to all sorts of different situations,” says Ben. A land use attorney’s experience can be pretty broad, handling cases before the courts, planning commissions, city councils, and more.

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

Are you thinking about quitting your law practice and pursuing an alternative careers for lawyers? Ask yourself these important questions first before you quit.

Liked this article? Here are three more:
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Feeling Like a Failure
Does Leaving Law Mean Not Earning Enough Money?

This article was originally published in 2020 but updated in 2021.

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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:

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