Feb. 07, 2023 — Real estate lawyer David Rusk ’14 was named partner at the multinational law firm Holland & Knight LLP effective this January. An alumnus of both the University of Houston Law Center and the University of Houston, Rusk gives guidance for preparing for the bar and how to pave a path to real estate law.
Rusk, who earned the 3rd highest score on the Texas Bar Exam in 2014, provides law students with a few of his test-taking strategies.
“Study the way that you did in law school and treat the bar like a 9-5 job because it is a long process,” Rusk said. “From graduation to the bar exam, you will be immersed in months of studying and learning new topics that you may not have learned in law school.”
Rusk advised students to map out a study schedule, working backward from the date of the exam and counting the number of weeks to study. Set reasonable goals that balance their workload and study hours, and organize a system that tracks their learning, participation and progress.
“I studied with a good friend from my section, and we got together almost every day,” Rusk said. “We hit the necessary topics, sometimes studying separately but side by side, but a lot of the time walking through topics together. That accountability, having someone to keep me on track, was so important for me.”
Take breaks to step away and recharge when studying to prevent becoming overwhelmed by the intensity of practice exams and coursebooks.
“Try to focus on the courses that you didn’t take in law school … because some are a little less intuitive, more rules-based,” Rusk stated. “You have to spend the time on those to memorize the rules, to really understand the subject matter.”
As part of the firm’s Real Estate Section, Rusk represents clients in negotiating ground and space leases, purchase and sale agreements and commercial financing transactions.
For students considering real estate law, Rusk recommends taking courses that are real estate oriented, if possible, to gain insight into different aspects of the legal issues it encompasses. Talk to people, firms or boutiques specializing in real estate law and get involved. Ask questions about their projects and shadow the field for hands-on opportunities such as internships for full exposure.
“When I first thought I might be interested in real estate law, I had no idea what real estate lawyers really did,” Rusk said. “Talking to people and trying to do the work really helps you figure out whether it’s something you would want to do in the long term.”
Among other things, law school prepares students for attention to detail. For a transactional lawyer, this is extremely important. Journaling, coursework and Bluebooking prepared Rusk for the nuances of his practice.
“There are a lot of moving parts in the legal field, and prioritization is a necessary skill,” Rusk said. “The practice of law is balancing different clients, partners, extracurricular activities and recruiting efforts, each with different deadlines.”
Rusk advised students to keep up with real estate news, reading journals such as the Houston Business Journal and Law 360 to watch what is going on in real estate around the country. Invaluable communication skills were learned from mock trial, moot court and student organizations.
Finally, grow, maintain and keep connections. Whether connecting with law firms, companies or practicing lawyers, it begins at UH Law Center and will continue throughout their legal career.
“I am interested to see what this year is going to look like,” Rusk said. “I’m excited to see how we can grow the practice in the Houston office.”
For more UH Law Center alumni news, click here.
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