Commercial awareness is more than a buzzword or an abstract concept. It is a prerequisite attribute of commercial lawyers which allows them give useful and well-informed advice to clients.
Commercial solicitors will need to develop an authentic interest and an in-depth understanding of the interplay between business and the law.
This can be practically achieved by reading books such as All You Need To Know About The City by Christopher Stokes, newspapers such as City A.M., BBC Business and podcasts such as Business Deal.
The key is not to become overwhelmed by the breadth of resources available but to develop a routine where you regularly engage with legal and commercial issues.
By putting the work in, you’ll be well-placed to answer this question in a personal and authentic way.
Before obtaining and commencing a training contract, aspiring solicitors need to showcase a basic understanding of how businesses work in general.
You must appreciate that law firms are businesses themselves and persuade interviewers that you have a genuine interest in the sectors, markets or industries of the firm’s clients.
“During my training contract, I read City A.M. on the tube to work so that I was aware of recent developments before I entered the office.
For example, one morning I had read about US trade sanctions that had been imposed on a Chinese multinational. When I entered the office that I shared with my supervisor partner, I was able to engage in an informed conversation on the ramifications for the Chinese multinational who is a long-standing client of the firm.
On another occasion, I was able to spark a conversation with my supervisor about WeWork becoming the undertenant of the former headquarters of the European Medicines Agency in Canary Wharf. This was of relevance during my Real Estate seat.”
In the end, it comes down to being as knowledgeable as possible in the sectors that your chosen law firm operates in, and actually being interested in the subjects helps.
Find out how to improve your commercial awareness in our new guide!
The key to effectively discussing a recent commercial issue is to ensure that you give an in-depth response instead of a summary of a recent headline story.
“At my second-round interview at the law firm where I ultimately completed my training contract, I discussed the implementation of the Unified Patent Court (UPC) and the potential issues that could arise from the UK electorate voting to leave the EU.
I accepted a training contract offer in September 2015 but still ended up using Brexit as a commercial awareness example because of its nexus with London being selected to host one of the divisions of Central Division of the UPC.
I trained at a firm with a preeminent patent litigation practice, so I strategically chose a recent commercial issue that was of interest to me and relevant to the firm that I was applying to.”
Try to think beyond the headline news and talk about a more specific news issue that you tailor to the law firm you’re interviewing at.
Talking about the protests in Hong Kong, for example, would allow you to discuss geopolitical and economic factors and possible ramifications that the instability can have on the capital markets.
This news story could be of particular relevance if you are applying to a firm that has a strong presence in Asia and/or offers international training contract secondments in the region.
Law firms face several challenges whether political or economic. Technology is the new
frontier and technological developments such as artificial intelligence will need to be
This will enable firms to retain a competitive edge through the implementation of legal tech to drive efficiency, innovation and the retention of the best talent who want to work in a technologically advanced environment.
This question requires a multi-layered response, and it is the perfect opportunity for you to showcase your ability to formulate an analytical, considered and persuasive response to an open-ended question.
Ultimately, challenges present opportunities to evolve, adapt and strategise and it will be helpful to identify examples that indicate that the firm you’re applying to has positioned itself to overcome these challenges and prevail.
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