If you haven’t already noticed, the term ‘commercial awareness’ has become THE buzzword used by employers in City Law firms. Nowadays, to be ‘commercially aware’ is often a prerequisite skill candidates must have to excel in commercial law and even a career in law in general. But what exactly is commercial awareness and how do you get it?
What is Commercial Awareness?
Commercial awareness can essentially be described as an amalgamation of business know-how and legal knowledge. However at this stage, more emphasis should be given to the term ‘awareness’. What this means is that you should be keeping regular tabs on current affairs, both nationally and internationally.
This involves being aware of any social, economic and political changes that may be occurring around the world. While this may sound daunting, you’ll be pleased to know that you’re not expected to be an expert. The key is to engage with the sectors that specifically interest you and will have an impact on the specific law firms that you may be applying to for vacation schemes or training contracts.
Being commercially aware is not about regurgitating statistics that may appear in the news. For example, if you were applying to a large international law firm with a large energy sector, you could keep up with the latest developments on falling oil prices, global warming concerns and its implications on law firms with a significant energy practice.
Commercial Awareness is a way of thinking
The next thing you need to understand is that commercial awareness is a way of thinking, as opposed to having just the understanding of how the industry you are interested in works. Once you have developed an in depth ‘awareness’ of the social, political and economic news, it is then necessary to put this thinking in action by tailoring this knowledge to the law firms you’re interested in.
To put it plainly, all this requires is common sense: you need to be aware of the law firm’s clients and competitors, link your understanding of current affairs and think about what the wider implications could be on these firms. For example, think about the implications of Britain leaving the European Union for firms with a large presence in the European Union. Clearly, it’s not good!
How can I improve my Commercial Awareness?
1. A good way to boost your commercial awareness is to focus on the business and political sections of a high quality newspaper. A good place to start can be the BBC News Business section – and then once you have grasped the basics of a particular issue, you can work your way up to a more technical and complicated publication such as the Financial Times.
2. Why not subscribe to a daily podcast from your favourite broadcasting service? Not only is this a convenient way to keep up with current affairs while on the go, but this method is also great for those who learn better by listening.
3. Keep up to date with the graduate recruitment section on the websites of law firms you are particularly interested in. This is a good way to keep up to date on any recent deals and developments with law firms and really impress in interviews.