Commercial awareness. The two magic words that law firms, lecturers, your fellow students and even the lovely people at AllAboutLaw.co.uk bang on about all the time. We’re just trying to be helpful, believe it or not. So what do you know about commercial awareness already?
You know what commercial awareness is; keeping up with developments in the business and commercial world. Check.
You know that you should read a quality newspaper such as the Financial Times or Daily Telegraph in order to develop your commercial awareness. Check.
You know why commercial awareness is important? Erm…
Aha! Caught you out there. Commercial awareness is important for two primary reasons.
The role of the lawyer
The role of a solicitor is not only a technician of the law, but also a sound business adviser. This helps explain why firms are so keen for you budding lawyers to be commercially aware and not just a high achieving student. A lawyer must assist clients to achieve their business aims.
As commercial awareness also involves being up to speed with the political, economic and social frameworks, firms only offer positions to those who can demonstrate this. Firms want to know you will keep up with being commercially aware after your training, so if you start it now and make a habit of remaining business savvy, this will benefit your applications.
Law firms pay a lot of money (about £250,000) for each trainee to develop and understand their role as a commercial solicitor. They want to be sure their dough is being spent wisely and that once you qualify you can communicate effectively and relate to the issues of clients. You need to be able to talk to them, find out what they want, why they want it and be able to deliver a solution the way they want it.
It will be tough to do this effectively if you can’t place your legal advice in a context. If you can do this, the firm will have received a return on that massive investment they put in you. They also expect you to be the future partners and life-blood of the firm, which is why you need to be able to show you have loads of commercial awareness in your training contract applications.
You will be ‘tested’ on your commercial awareness at a training contract interview either through direct questions on issues in the news. Alternatively, the firm could ask you as a group to apply commercial considerations to a scenario or you may have to write a report on a particular subject.
Commercial awareness shouldn’t but about being able to regurgitate facts. Instead, it’s a way of thinking – you should be intrigued about the profession you want to develop a career in and the market it operates in.