Good commercial awareness is a buzzword that shows up on any website about training contracts and is a quality that all firms look for in their future trainees. But what is good commercial awareness and how can you demonstrate to your interviewers that you have it?
In the legal context, commercial awareness can be summed up broadly as an active interest in business affairs and more specifically in the business interests of the legal industry and the law firm that you are applying to join. You need to be able to demonstrate that you are up-to-date on the latest business developments, their impact on the legal industry and the possible opportunities that they could create for a law firm.
There are a number of ways that you can develop and demonstrate good commercial awareness:
Good Commercial Awareness Tip 1: Research the Law Firm
Don’t just read the careers section of the firm’s website. Research their legal expertise, their clients, their office locations, their competitors, their past and current cases and future plans for expansion. In this way you can start to understand their business and its aims and ultimately demonstrate this knowledge to your interviewers.
In a broader sense, this research will also enable you to think about current business developments, the impact that they will have on the law firm and any opportunities that they might create for the firm’s different legal departments.
Good Commercial Awareness Tip 2: Read the Business Press
A student subscription to the Financial Times or the Economist is a really handy way of making sure that you keep up-to-date with the latest developments in the business world and their impact on the broader global economy.
Reading these publications in the months leading up to training contract interviews and assessment days will ensure that you have a pool of ideas that you can draw on when you are inevitably asked to talk about a business development and the opportunities that it has created for the law firm.
Good Commercial Awareness Tip 3: Relate Your Own Work Experience to Business
It is not enough to demonstrate that you understand the latest business news and its impact on the legal industry. Law firms want future trainees who are able to exploit business opportunities and help to maximise their profits where possible.
A key way of demonstrating that you can understand how a business operates and can be an asset is by relating your own past work experience to business. You don’t have to have worked in a large or prestigious company to demonstrate this. Think about the part-time jobs that you’ve done in the past. What were the things that your employer did and did not do well? What was its target market? Did you ever do anything to help exploit a business opportunity? This can be as simple as suggesting a change to the menu or a new sales technique. In this way you can show that you think about a business’ needs and how you can best meet them.