How can I improve my commercial awareness?

You may have taken the initiative to start cultivating your commercial awareness at university. However, if you really want to stand out from the other candidates during vacation-scheme and training-contract applications, you will have to expand your commercial awareness so it includes wider current affairs.

  • Last updated Nov 12, 2019 12:34:34 PM
  • Tuula Petersen

Commercial awareness is something you should always look to expand and develop. Since current affairs are constantly evolving and changing, so too should your commercial awareness. For example, you may well be knowledgeable about Brexit and its legal implications, but in a few years time the subject may have taken a completely different route or may no longer be relevant. 

Work experience

Undertaking any form of work experience will enhance your commercial awareness. You may even benefit more from non-law-related work experience because you will encounter a different environment. In order to reap the full benefits of your work experience, aim to ask yourself questions such as:

- How does the company function?

- Does the company meet the needs of its clients? If so, how?

- How does the organisation market itself?

- What legislation exists that impacts the delivery of its goods and services?

However, that is not to say you should completely disregard law-related experience. If you are intending to work in the legal sector, it is important to gain as much of this as possible. This can include a vacation placement run by a large law firm or work experience at a high street firm. Experiencing first-hand how a law firm operates will offer an invaluable insight that can make you more commercially aware. 

 Extra-curricular activities

Rather than solely attending social events hosted by university societies, it is also a good idea to nominate yourself for its committee positions. Not only will this look impressive on your CV, but actively participating in the functioning of a society will help develop an awareness of commercial issues. Whether you choose to manage the society, publicise events, deal with budgets and cost considerations, or attract new members to the society, these tasks can be translated to a wider context. 

Make sure to approach these activities from a business perspective. If you take the time to question your actions and their corresponding motivations, you are more likely to familiarise yourself with key commercial concepts and become comfortable discussing their commercial implications. 

Additional sources of information

Make sure that you are complimenting your practical experience with trustworthy information. Reputable sources include broadsheet newspapers such as the Financial Times or The Telegraph. Initially, you may find the articles dreary and a little tedious to get your head around. However, through perseverance and habituation, you will be able to create connections between different articles and topics. It may even be worth setting up alerts, so that you are notified on a regular basis about headline stories or news pieces that are particularly relevant to your interests in law.

 Everyone has a preferred method of processing information, so you may find it easier to take in news in an audio-visual format, such as podcasts or online videos. Whichever medium you choose, the primary concerns are to develop an awareness of current affairs and to understand business transactions.

If you are applying to a particular firm or area of law, look at the websites and mission statements of the firm and their competitors. Before going to an interview you should research the company’s current activities, any publications they have recently released, relevant press articles and what their current deals are.

A really good way of gaining an insight into the company is to look at the company’s annual report, if it is publicly available. This will be introduced with a statement from a senior director within the company, who will talk about the past financial year and the company’s future ambitions. It will also include all the financial data you need to get a good understanding of how the company is doing.

Developing commercial awareness should not specifically be centred around current affairs. If you really wish to impress recruiters and stand out from other applicants, the ability to understand and analyse a law firm’s performance within the legal industry and the wider context of commercial developments is crucial to your application.

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