The importance of commercial awareness: in conversation with Bond Dickinson

  • Last updated Jul 12, 2019 1:43:10 PM
  • by Jack J Collins, Editor of

When applying for training contracts and vacation schemes, you need to think about more than just academic results. 

We spoke to Joanne Smallwood, Graduate Recruitment Specialist at Bond Dickinson, about the importance of commercial awareness and got her tips on how to make sure you’re in the know.  

Bond Dickinson

What is commercial awareness and how important is it in the application process?

The definition of commercial awareness differs from firm to firm and from person to person. We are looking for people who show a general awareness of the world around them. 

Awareness of the legal industry will also help applicants when deciding which firms to apply for, and in which location they would like to train and begin their career.  All seven of our locations have their own challenges.

How important is it for aspiring solicitors to be aware of a law firm like Bond Dickinson’s internal business and recent developments?

It is very important to keep up to date with developments within your chosen firm and the legal market as a hole. 

There have been a lot of consolidations over recent years; you may be applying to one firm in 2017 but join a very different firm as a trainee in 24 months’ time.

All commercial firms are very open about their ambitions, keep in mind these ambitions and decide if you share them.

Keeping up to date with client wins and developments will hopefully reinforce the reasons why you are applying to that particular firm.

Compared to academics and experience, how important is commercial awareness in the application process?

Commercial awareness is something we look for in candidates, but it is no more important than academics and experience. 


How can I develop my commercial awareness?

You should show an interest in the world at large; topical events play an important part in the way we advise our clients. 

Understand that you are joining a business, and ask yourself:  do you share our ambitions and values? Who are our clients, and what are their goals?

Being proactive in your approach is important.  Look at the bigger picture: who works here? Who do we work with, are we achieving their ambitions?


Which publications can help an aspiring solicitor develop their commercial awareness?

There are a variety of publications readily available.  Local, national, international newspapers, and legal and business press are all useful. 

If you have a specific area of law you are interested in then consider using the Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners publications as a guide. 


How can I demonstrate my commercial awareness in the Bond Dickinson application process?

There are several ways to demonstrate commercial awareness.  When completing applications show an understanding of the skills required of a successful commercial lawyer. 

Outline your transferable skills, including any commercial experience you have (both law and non-law). 

During the assessment day you are given different tasks that can demonstrate your commercial sense, whether it be an exercise around understanding the firm as a brand, or a current commercial issue in the legal or business world.


Bond Dickinson’s training contract and vacation scheme applications will open in October 2017. 

For more information, visit the Bond Dickinson profile here.

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