Vanessa Schwartz (’13 MSL) uses her Master of Studies in Law degree to research history behind real estate

To Vanessa Schwartz (’13 MSL), a dilapidated building isn’t an eyesore. It’s a fascinating piece of history.

Discovering the stories behind the buildings is part of Schwartz’s work as a research associate at CoStar Group, a commercial real estate firm in Washington, D.C. Her market is Northern New Jersey.

“I love the part of the job where I get to research and find out the history behind a property,” she said. “You find out so much about the area itself. I feel like there’s always a story behind every building.”

Schwartz works with a portfolio of properties in Northern New Jersey. A lot of her clients are small brokers or homeowners who have a couple of properties that they’re trying to sell or rent.

Vanessa Schwarz ('13 MSL)

Vanessa Schwarz (’13 MSL)

She uses her Wake Forest Master of Studies in Law degree to search public records for deeds, help clients understand regulations around their buildings and develop comparables – prices paid for recently sold buildings that are similar in size, style and location.

Her degree has helped her understand how recent legislation, such as the Grow New Jersey Assistance (Grow NJ) and Economic Redevelopment and Growth (ERG) programs impact commercial real estate.

“The goal of these revised programs is to create and keep jobs,” she said. “It is interesting to be able to correlate how this legislation translates into why certain tenants are paying below average rent for a large facility due to these tax incentives and grants being given by the state, in order to keep major research and development-based employees in state, rather than lose them to more urban office environments.”

Schwartz earned her bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in Spanish literature at Wake Forest University. She thought about getting a doctorate in English or Spanish literature, but took a pre-law course through Wake Forest Law one summer. She counts that experience among the best decisions she ever made.

The program not only showed her what law school was like, but it helped her to realize that a legal education that stopped short of law school could help her turn her interests into a career.

She enrolled in Wake Forest Law’s MSL program where she was able to tailor a program of study. Among her favorite classes were those in public law and comparative law. “I feel like my MSL shows I have a work ethic, but it also shows I have a base of knowledge to work with,” she said. “I can handle contracts or know where to go to find the answers.”

Chris Meazell, director  of the MSL program, said that he liked that Schwartz came in with an open mind and explored lots of possibilities.  “She ultimately found this great opportunity that suits her well,” he added.

An MSL degree can also help students stand out in a crowded job market, Schwartz said.

“Interviewers were excited and interested to learn more about the program,” she said. “You can market your degree as something that no one else has. A lot of the things I’ve learned have come in handy at work.”

Outside of the office, Schwartz enjoys running in the National Mall, listening to jazz outside the National Archives and browsing the quaint antique shops in Georgetown.

She would like to stay in real estate or go into urban planning. She is taking classes in real estate development and finance at Georgetown University to expand her knowledge.

“A master’s in law is a great option for people who want to use law, but not actually be a lawyer,” she said. “The degree can be helpful in any industry, from business to public policy. I know every day I use the knowledge I gained.”