Areas of Law: How to Become a Commercial Lawyer
If you’re looking for more information on commercial law – including how to become a commercial lawyer – you’ve come to the right place. Take a look at our free guide below for more information on this popular area of law.
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How to Become a Commercial Lawyer
What is Commercial Law?
Commercial law involves legal problems that can occur in the running of businesses and commercial transactions. Its predominant concerns are contract and tort law. Clients that come to commercial law firms include large businesses, governments, banks, insurance companies and more. Legal advice can be given to any part of the running of business, from offset (starting a business) all the way to dissolving a company.
Why is Commercial Law So Important?
It is the area of law that is always thriving since it has a strong association with the economy, thus affecting society as a whole. Therefore, commercial law is incredibly important as it affects how businesses are run and how they in turn work to help and grow society. Furthermore, it provides the rules for businesses and organisations so as to ensure legal conduct avoiding fraudulent activity.
What does the World of Commercial Law Look Like?
The term ‘The Magic Circle’ is often associated with commercial law; this is the name that describes the top five law firms in England. These include: Allen & Overy, Linklaters, Slaughter and May, Freshfields and Clifford Chance. These are the most prestigious firms, and are all commercial law firms. It is without a doubt a competitive area of law which many undergraduates hope to be a part of in their futures. The bonus aspect that it can be a very well-paid job makes it highly attractive to many people.
What do Commercial Lawyers Actually Do?
The clients of commercial lawyers are normally businesses. So, a typical day would involve, for example, reading contracts and amending them for the clients, drafting legal papers for businesses and reviewing business mergers. It may also require high levels of negotiating on behalf of the client for the terms of a contract, a licensing agreement. Hence, the work is rather varied depending in what area of practice you specialise.
However, there are many commercial lawyers who are known as in-house lawyers; this means that they essentially have one client, and are normally looking after the legal issues of the organisation they are working for. Being an in-house lawyer means that you are allowed to get more engaged with the commercial activities, rather than working for private practices (such as the ‘Magic Circle firms’ mentioned before) which are generally much more high-pressured jobs.
What Do Commercial Barristers Do?
Commercial barristers are faced largely with business disputes in the typical form of contract/tort claims. The role of commercial barristers is to guide solicitors to help their clients through litigation and help prepare them for what might appear from the opposition. Documentation is of high quantity in commercial cases due to the cases which are generally heavy in terms of the facts. A barrister would work with solicitors to make sure the documentation is managed properly. Under the commercial bar, there are numerous areas of specialisation as well including banking and finance, contract disputes, tax and a lot more.
What is the Difference Between Corporate Law and Commercial Law?
Commercial law is a broader practice that encompasses areas such as intellectual property, franchising and litigation whilst corporate law is specifically focused on companies.
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What Sort of Person Would Suit a Career in Commercial Law?
If you’re wondering how to become a commercial lawyer, you have to bear in mind that employers generally have very high expectations when finding employees due to the fact that this specialism is so popular. Employers particularly look for:
- Commercial awareness (i.e. staying updated on what is happening in the world of business and how the law is being applied to the commercial world);
- Someone who understands the law but also has a wide knowledge of business and the market.
Commercial awareness is incredibly important because being business-aware will help you stand out from the other high-achieving law students applying for the same role. However, commercial awareness should not be interpreted as merely reading the news, keeping up-to-date on developments in the commercial world and then repeating what you have read. When demonstrating commercial awareness, you need to have understood what you have read and form an opinion; it will then become a way of thinking rather than a regurgitation of facts.
As in all areas of the legal world, employers are also looking for:
- Ambitious and intelligent individuals who are looking to work in fast-paced environment;
- Candidates that are willing to work extremely hard and put long hours into their job;
- Intense research skills;
- An ability to maintain client relationships in order to gain business for the firm. Thus, someone who is willing to talk to a variety of different people would inevitably be significant.
What Are Some Typical Routes into Commercial Law?
The most common route into commercial law is through a training contract. Many of the large firms specialise in commercial law, and therefore, it would help getting a training contract in order to make it to these top firms. Training contracts are normally obtained if you have also done a vacation scheme; since it is such a competitive area, firms look for as much work experience as possible. Through training contracts, you can network with other firms and top solicitors, whilst understanding the culture of big firms. Training contracts will in turn, fund your LPC (Legal Practice Course) so that you can fully practice law. Careers pages and firms’ websites are the best ways to find such opportunities.
What Work Experience Looks Good for a Career in Commercial Law?
For a career in commercial law, work experience is essential for anyone looking at this area due its popularity and competitiveness. Candidates who have done vacation schemes tend to stand out as it provides a key insight into the dynamic of law firms and how they operate. It is also a great way to network and meet potential future employers – it is normally provided that it is easier to secure a training contract (as an entry point into the world of work) if you have completed a vacation scheme. Opportunities such as this will allow you to shadow lawyers and help you to understand more about what skills are necessary. Although vacation schemes would be useful to have, they are generally more difficult to secure because of their high demand.
On the other hand, any work experience is useful; even non-law work experience can be valued by employers. As long as a candidate is able to prove that they learnt a lot of skills that can be transferred, this can sometimes be enough to show employers that you have initiative and a drive to work hard.
Written by Priya Luharia.
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