So, what is commercial awareness? And what is critical thinking? Firstly, commercial awareness, in plain words, is understanding how markets work and clients’ needs in any given commercial landscape. In even plainer words, it means to be ‘business savvy’. Commercial awareness is often interchangeably used with having commercial acumen. Secondly, consuming information in a critical way means learning how to research a particular subject and forming your own opinion on it.
But before we delve into developing your critical thinking skills, here are some sources you can use to become more commercially aware:
Outlets like the Financial Times provide great analytical and bitesize stories on a wide variety of current affairs. Depending on your university, you can get a membership for free. If not, they have discounted memberships and free articles.
Podcasts like Moral Maze, Wake Up to Money and The Bottom Line are great ways to get bitesize breakdowns of current affairs with a variety of perspectives from others, and analyses you may not have considered. This could be easier to digest for people who prefer audible learning. Spotify is a great platform that allows you to centralise all of these podcasts and create a folder for your favourite episodes or ones you want to save for future sessions.
Attending events, especially hosted by firms, is a good way to get first-hand expert insight and perspective into current commercial issues and forecasts. Look around on the internet, LinkedIn, social media, etc, for firm events or open days that involve talks about commercial affairs.
It is always advisable to be careful of the information you consume on social media. However, social media is a great place to get quick and digestible news at your fingertips. It is also a great way to get different perspectives and engage in meaningful discussions, so that you can externalise your thoughts.
Books, like ‘All You Need to Know About The City’ by Christopher Stoakes, are great for deepening your expertise on how the commercial market and law firms, as a business, operate. (The main disadvantage, however, is that the information – depending on the topic – may be outdated by the time you read it. So, make sure to look out for that).
Legal blog pages like Lexis Nexis, Reuters, The Lawyer Portal, etc, are great for providing a variety of blogs on current affairs. They also provide deeper-expertise pieces on more over-arching themes and components of the commercial/legal world.
These pages provide insight into the current conversations in the legal/commercial world, as well as examples of how to practise critical thinking from the perspective of a solicitor. It also helps you keep informed about the law firm’s impact in various markets.
PESTLE(M) stands for political, economic, social, technological, legal, environmental (and moral). It is a framework used in analysing the effects of something and identifying possible benefits and risks in a given scenario.
Let’s say you are reading an article about TikTok’s plan to increase their online shopping offering, via ‘Project S’. Using the PESTLE(M) method, these are some things you can consider to encourage critical analysis:
Many current news affairs do not happen in isolation and so it is important to think about their relationship(s) with other affairs. Once you’ve identified overlapping themes, it is good to build a ‘case study’ that allows you to create a bigger picture of current commercial issues.
For example, in the current cost of living crisis in the UK, markets and societies have been affected in varied but connected ways:
When you listen to/read a source, and keep it to yourself, it is easy to forget your thoughts and analysis you have made on the story. Externalising this process, either by making a note or talking to someone else is a great way to keep track of everything, and also refine your thoughts. Having a commercial awareness partner that you speak to about what you’ve looked at is a great way to bounce off ideas and gain greater perspective. It is also good practice for interview activities where you may have to discuss an aspect of commercial awareness or engage in a debate, for example.
In conclusion, it’s not enough to know about current affairs, you must have a critical understanding of the commercial landscape. This will mean in interviews, you are not simply regurgitating information but skilfully engaging in discussions/debates with your interviewer and providing impactful and refreshing perspectives to the table.
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