I'm a commercial broker, consultant, and developer, and if I were you I would do at least two things:
1) Don't get a law degree; instead, get an MBA. I am a lawyer, and I used to work at a multinational NYC law firm. While a law background will help you personally (i.e., you'll have a leg up with respect to your knowledge of transactions), it will NOT help you get hired by developers, nor will they give you a percentage of a deal in exchange for legal services. Most people view legal services as a necessary evil, and not worth exchanging for a share of a deal. Besides, you'll incur at least $100K in law school expenses and you're going to have to service that debt somehow -- usually, by working in a law firm or as an in-house lawyer at a developer (which would be a very tough job to get right out of law school). You'll also probably have to practice real estate transactional law for at least 3 - 5 years, if not longer, before a developer would consider you experienced and/or savvy enough to be part of a development team.
2) You're on the right track with ULI. If I were you, I would strongly consider getting one of their certifications, which usually involves taking several 2 or 3 day courses, attending their events, and taking some elective courses. If you're still in college, you can probably get some of this education by majoring in real estate finance. You can also get similar experience by getting a master's of real estate, which is offered by most universities around the country (NYU, in NYC, has an excellent masters in real estate program). Another organization that is excellent to get involved with, and which also has an excellent course curriculum for real estate brokers, investors, and developers, is CCIM (http://www.ccim.com/about/ccim.html).
Good luck, and feel free to email me if you've got additional questions (email@example.com). I've taken the road you're trying to take, and it's one of the most difficult (and, at times, frustrating and poverty-causing) things I've ever done. However, it's a great profession and a great field, and if you stick with it and give it the proper focus, it's one of the most rewarding jobs on the planet, both financially and psychologically.
Oct 24, 2008