Work experience, part-time jobs and voluntary work all offer fantastic opportunities for developing commercial awareness. It’s a good idea to look for law firm work experience or a placement at a bank. You could also take up a part-time job in a supermarket or restaurant.
During your placement, start thinking about the business you’re working in.
A key way of demonstrating that you can understand how a business operates is by thinking about a time you did something to identify a business opportunity. This can be as simple as suggesting a change to the menu at a restaurant or a new sales technique. This way, you can show that you think about a business’ needs and how you can best meet them.
One of the keys to demonstrating commercial awareness is keeping up to date with what’s happening in the news, especially business and financial news.
If you’re really stuck on how to improve commercial awareness, try reading the business sections of any UK broadsheet newspaper like The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Financial Times and The Guardian.
As your interests evolve and become increasingly focused, you may want to read more specialised industry publications.
For example, if you’re particularly interested in property law and you have an interview coming up with a law firm or chambers specialising in this legal area, a relevant industry publication like Property Week would be an extremely helpful resource.
Demonstrating commercial awareness is not about regurgitating statistics from the news.
If you were applying to a large international law firm with a large energy sector, for example, you could keep up with the latest developments on falling oil prices, global warming concerns and their implications on law firms with a significant energy practice.
You can also subscribe to a daily law 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.
Talking to experienced business people wherever possible will help you with demonstrating commercial awareness at interviews. Be inquisitive and engage in discussion and debate.
This will not only give you experience of discussing commercial issues but will also help broaden your knowledge.
In the lead up to interviews, find news stories featuring cases and deals your chosen law firm or chambers has recently worked on.
A good place to start would be individual law firm news pages. Look into its legal expertise, clients, office locations, competitors, past and current cases and plans for expansion.
This research will help you 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 legal departments.
Educating yourself this way will indicate that you have a firm grasp of the law firm or in-house legal departments’ client base and the type of work and industries its clients work with.
The SWOT analysis framework is a great way to assess internal and external factors that would impact a business. By considering a business’ strengths and weaknesses and assessing its opportunities and threats, you can get a good picture of a company’s position.
This is a method that BPP recommends you use to boost your commercial awareness skills. In a recent webinar, they outlined how you can use the PESTLE framework to dive deeper and consider more elements for the SWOT analysis.
With a PESTLE analysis you need to consider the following factors:
Our commercial awareness newsletter goes out every month and focuses on a specific area that you should know about, so you can get the latest updates in your inbox. Take a look at our commercial awareness blogs to see an archive of all our CA content.
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