What is commercial awareness? and why does it matter? Putting the law into context

Commercial awareness is a term you might have heard a lot about, but especially if you’re new to law, it might not be clear exactly what it means. So, what is commercial awareness, and why does it matter? The team at Hogan Lovells—a world-class firm of commercial and legal experts—is here to explain.

  • Last updated 04-Jan-2019 11:48:52
  • Article Provided by Hogan Lovells
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Image: Hogan Lovells

Law firms have a lot to think about when choosing their future lawyers. They’re looking for the perfect combination of a host of different factors. It’s about identifying if a candidate will find their career offering complementary to their own goals; it’s about different skills and perspectives that add value for the client; and of course, it’s about commercial awareness.

So, what exactly is commercial awareness?

We want to tackle this head on—it isn’t just a case of having picked up The Economist or the Financial Times on the day of your interview. Certainly, that’ll help, but there’s more to it than that. Commercial awareness starts with a curiosity about the business world and how it ticks. You don’t have to be an expert yet, of course, but when you look at the news of the day—whether it’s economic, political or social—do you find what you read interesting? Do you consider how those headlines will affect all of us and the impact on our lives? It’s likely to be through global businesses we use and interact with daily (developing new medicines, how we shop online, what goods we export that make our economy stronger). Perhaps you ask yourself questions about what one small change could mean to people’s futures in terms of job security, healthcare and a competitive economy. 

If you’ve got that analytical approach, then the right firm will train you to become an exceptional lawyer: someone who marries technical legal expertise with a practical understanding of the wider world. That’s the kind of lawyer truly valued by their clients—and it’s the kind of lawyer we train at Hogan Lovells, as current associate Amma Boakye discovered:

“Since joining the firm I’ve developed a much more commercial mind. I think about client's problems in the context of their businesses and industries, rather than as an academic issue. Clients expect us to be technically excellent— but they value lawyers who can provide commercially relevant solutions and help them to remain successful.”

But how do you develop that kind of skill? It’s one thing to have that initial inquisitive instinct towards the business world, but becoming a lawyer who can naturally connect their knowledge to provide commercially astute advice for clients—that’s something else. So how will we help you get there? Partly, it’s about being surrounded by experienced role models. Amma, who initially joined us as a trainee in 2014, tells us more: 

“I’m privileged to work with committed lawyers who rank among the most highly regarded in their respective fields. I try to use every opportunity to learn, seek advice and obtain feedback from those around me to help me develop.”

You won’t just learn from the people immediately around you either. To really get to grips with global business, it’s essential that you learn from colleagues around the world. We have a broad network ready to help:

“Working with international colleagues provides a great insight into how different cultures and jurisdictions operate, as well as reinforcing the truly global nature of our work.” 

To bring commercial acumen to life also takes practical experience. That’s why we also make sure you’re exposed to all kinds of clients and business sectors , whether it’s through seat rotations or through sending you to work in-house alongside our clients. Through that rounded experience, you’ll start to comprehend fully the shifts and the subtle interplay of the business world—and why it all has an impact for your clients, the economy and society as a whole. 

“I’ve been fortunate enough to go on secondment to two different clients during my time at Hogan Lovells. Having these experiences has allowed me to gain a greater appreciation about the pressures that clients face and how legal advice is often used to help resolve a bigger issue in the business world. Gaining deeper industry knowledge and having a better understanding of what’s important to clients has helped me to become a stronger, more agile lawyer—and to become the most valuable member of the team I can possibly be.”

To find out more about opportunities at Hogan Lovells, visit the firm’s profile.

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