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What is commercial awareness?

Read this page to find out more about one of the key skills needed to be a lawyer
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While a thorough knowledge of the law is incredibly important, it isn’t the only ingredient for a successful legal career.

Commercial awareness

Means possessing knowledge of current developments in local, national and world business, particularly issues that impact a law firm and its clients.

Ultimately, law firms are businesses, so lawyers must appreciate the commercial importance of meeting deadlines, keeping costs low and handling information confidentially.

Lawyers must appreciate the short, medium and long-term implications of their client’s business proposal, and think strategically about the organisation’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This enables the lawyer to provide pragmatic, business-minded legal advice to the best of their ability.

Improve your commercial awareness by:

  • becoming a committee member of a university club or society
  • browsing specialist websites such as RollOnFriday, LawCareers.Net, The Lawyer, Legal Cheek and Legal Futures
  • gaining work experience at a commercial organisation such as a bar, call centre, shop or, if possible, a law firm
  • going on a gap year, as this will develop your budgeting, scheduling and cost-cutting skills, and give you an international perspective on business issues
  • attending careers events that allow you to participate in seminars and network with business professionals
  • listening to business-related podcasts or radio shows, such as BBC Radio 4’s Today programme
  • reading business publications such as the Financial Times and The Economist, and the business pages of a daily newspaper such as The Times
  • watching business-related television programmes such as Newsnight and Panorama.

You’ll be expected to show commercial awareness during the application process by demonstrating a thorough knowledge of the firm you’re applying to. It’s also likely that you’ll be tested during an assessment day. You may be asked questions such as:

  • What business deal or story has most interested you recently?
  • In x business deal what role did the firm play?
  • How could the firm prepare for an economic downturn?
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