June 26, 2023
Building your commercial awareness may seem like a straight-forward thing. However, there is a difference between being aware of hot legal updates and current affairs and actually having commercial awareness. That difference is critical thinking and analysis. Here are some tips on how to develop this skill.

Commercial Awareness Basics

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:

News outlets

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.

Social Media

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).

Blogs & Legal Databases

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.

Law Firm Pages

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.


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How to Develop Your Critical Thinking Skills

Analyse Your Sources Using The PESTLE(M) Method

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.

Practical example:

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:

  • P: In the UK, there have been growing concerns about the usage and storage of personal data by TikTok. It was only recently that the UK government banned the uploading of TikTok on government devices. With the expected increase in access to TikTok users’ financial data, will the government create regulations or restrictions to protect the nation’s interests and personal safety?
  • E: TikTok’s shopping model and seller base threatens to affect the competitive edge of similar companies with the same model like Shein, Amazon, Temu, etc. Could we expect to see a cut in profit forecasts for these competitors? Could they increase technology/marketing expenditure to remain competitive?
  • S: By integrating TikTok Shop into TikTok, alongside other features, users can have ‘everything at their fingertips’ without having to leave the app or get off the sofa. This will undoubtedly make the world of its users even smaller and encourage them to be more consumed with the online space.
  • T: TikTok has a great influence on consumer behaviour especially with the rise of TikToks which appear to be honest reviews, but are actually paid sponsorships. The integration of TikTok Shop on Tik Tok means that there are even greater ways for consumer behaviour to be controlled, or at least heavily swayed, by the platform.
  • L: What consumer rights and laws are sellers, merchants and consumers protected under? How effective are these laws?
  • E: There doesn’t seem to be any specific environmental link to this case, but, in general, e-commerce helps the environment in different ways. For example, it reduces the need for real estate and emits less greenhouse gas emissions than in-person shopping.
  • M: In March, the US Congress addressed some serious issues as TikTok CEO, Shou Zi, testified before them. As with any other social media platform, TikTok uses behavioural science to create algorithms that keep the platform addictive. Whilst Shou Zi has created some measures to help limit screen time for young people, he ultimately leaves the responsibility to the parents. Is it fair for TikTok to take that stance as it creates more opportunities to keep young people on the platform for even longer, with something as enticing as TikTok shop?

Spot Themes & Relationships

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:

  • Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, export sanctions have been placed on Russia. This has caused an increase in oil prices, as Russia is one of the world’s largest global oil exporters and demand for other sources of oil has subsequently increased. This has caused adverse effects on an already ‘fragile energy market’.
  • Rising oil prices have led to an increase in energy prices, making the cost of home heating unaffordable for many.
  • Rising oil prices feed through into higher inflation, which results in a slowdown of consumer demand/buying behaviour.
  • Rising oil costs make shipping, transporting, manufacturing, etc, more expensive for retailers. Retailers can, as a result, increase the prices of their goods to try to sustain revenue or maintain prices to keep attracting customers, and subsequently suffer financial losses.
  • A cost of living crisis arises as a result of the cost of everyday essentials, like energy and food, increasing faster than average household incomes.

Externalise Your Thoughts & Analysis

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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