Distance Learning Option Made LL.M. in Real Property Development Possible for `18 Graduate


“I have several degrees,” says Joe Ivey, LL.M.`18. “However, from my undergrad to my Masters to my J.D., the RPD LL.M. is by far the most practical education I’ve ever had.”

Joe Ivey, LL.M. '18

After attending Georgia State Law School and practicing tax and corporate law for five years, Ivey left his law practice to help his grandfather grow his real estate company, GHI Ventures. Miami Law’s Robert Traurig-Greenberg Traurig LL.M. in Real Property Development was a perfect fit since it gave him the ability to enroll as a distance learner and take courses from his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, without having to give up his full-time job.

While pursuing his LL.M., Ivey has grown GHI Ventures from three to over 50 employees, and from a portfolio of nine to almost thirty properties. He attributes his ability to successfully expand the company to all he has learned in the RPD Program.

“Every semester – without fail – there has been something I’m working on in class where a situation comes up in our business that directly parallels what’s happening in class,” he says.

For example, Ivey used the information he learned in Professor Brian Adler’s Planning and Zoning class in real time. While enrolled in the course, his company decided they wanted to transform farmland property owned by the company into a wedding and events venue.

“Professor Adler’s class walks you through exactly how to work through the zoning process – the underlying law, the application process, when/where/whom to talk to, and what areas to focus on for the particular project.” He completed the course right before his meeting with the city council to argue for an amendment to a special use permit and received unanimous approval.

“The professors are not just academics; they are all accomplished practitioners – lawyers, developers, or consultants; everyone in the program giving you instruction is out there doing it every day,” he says.

The professors share examples from current projects with their students in their practice. For instance, Professor Betsy McCoy is general counsel and vice president of the Related Group, one of Florida’s largest residential developers, and one of the country’s largest real estate conglomerates. She brings examples to class of matters she is currently addressing, teaching the latest in legal and business issues.

Ivey felt he had an excellent feel for the Florida and national market because of McCoy's class and others. “You’re not behind on the curve; you’re on the leading edge of what’s going on in the real estate industry,” he says.

Even though some classes naturally focus on Florida law, the concepts and issues are the same everywhere. “The vast majority of the classes are taught by experienced practitioners from national and international firms who teach from the perspective of getting a national knowledge base, similar to law school in how issues and cases from all around the country are studied.”

Ivey chose the RPD Program after learning about the Distance Learning option and after hearing from several attorneys about the program’s excellent reputation.

“What I expected was to focus on the law, and it was a pleasant surprise to have an exposure to the business side of real estate and development,” he says. He learned how to finance a big development and get the money together to develop. It felt like an “MBA and LL.M rolled into one.

“It makes you a better lawyer to understand the business issues your client has,” Ivey says. “Learning about secured financing and mortgages – how to borrow and raise money to develop real estate is a real program strength.”

To future RPD enrollees, Ivey recommends taking advantage of as many out-of-classroom activities as possible – everything from happy hour mixers to conferences to meetings with developers. Though he was a distance learner, he visited Miami several times a semester to sit in on lectures and meet professors in person.  

“It is effortless to get to Miami from any city since Miami International Airport is one of the largest airline hubs in the United States and is only an $8 Uber away from UM’s campus,” he says. Although Ivey could take frequent trips, they are not necessary. While at home in Atlanta, the technology was easy to use and the professors and administration were available, he says. 

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