Developing commercial awareness at university
As an aspiring solicitor or barrister, you have most likely come across the term commercial awareness. However, you may not have realised exactly what commercial awareness entails or how it can apply to your own personal development as a legal professional.
Commercial awareness can be defined as the ability to contextualise specific legal matters in the wider realm of current affairs. When you choose to start your applications for vacation schemes and training contracts, recruiters will be expecting you to demonstrate a certain level of commercial awareness. So you definitely don’t want to wait until the last minute to start thinking about commercial awareness. Building commercial awareness won’t be a particularly difficult task, but it will require a consistent but small effort on your part. Starting to develop your commercial awareness at university will ensure you are well prepared by the time you submit applications to law firms.
Useful student publications
An excellent place to start developing your commercial awareness is to read any student publication. These could include your university’s law journal, the official university publication, or even more abstract journals related to culture or humour.
Generally, student publications will focus on information and news stories either explicitly or implicitly related to students and their general environment. This will enable you to start thinking about topical subjects related to student life in the context of legal issues.
In order to get the most out of this task, make sure to read journals you are initially interested in—as your commercial awareness capabilities expand, you can look to expand your reading material too.
Societies and clubs that can boost commercial awareness
Another useful place to develop commercial awareness in a university setting can be through your student union and its host of exciting societies.
Most obviously, joining the law society would be an excellent place to develop and harness your commercial awareness. The law society is geared towards helping students secure training contracts and pupillages, so commercial awareness will feature highly on its list of priorities. Law society events that can help to strengthen your commercial awareness include panel discussions with legal professionals, industry talks and presentations, mooting competitions or even their newsletter subscription.
Another helpful society that could develop your commercial awareness is the entrepreneurship society, which will provide you with an in-depth knowledge behind the launch and functioning of a business. You will learn about market research, financial projections and business plans. This will prove to be particularly useful if you wish to specialise in commercial law.
More generally, look to societies that complement a particular area of law that interests you. For instance, if you have a burning desire to specialise in human rights law at a later stage of your legal career, it may be useful to join the Amnesty International society or any other similar society offered through your student union.
Work experience or part-time jobs that help develop commercial awareness
Other areas of your student life you can look towards to develop your commercial awareness include work experience, part-time jobs or volunteer work.
In a legal context, you may wish to participate in pro-bono work. Make sure to ask your law department whether they can recommend any opportunities. More often than not, your law department will have partnered with organisations looking for law students to help offer legal advice to individuals who cannot afford otherwise. Such organisations offering pro bono work to students include the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, the local judiciary and various other charitable organisations.
You may even find your part-time job can help to develop your commercial awareness. Whether you work in a cafe or a local bank branch, your job will help you cultivate an understanding of how a business works and functions.
University is an excellent place to start developing your commercial awareness, so make sure to use the resources at your disposal and definitely do not wait until the last minute to do so.