What is it & why does it matter?
Commercial awareness seems to be the quality that all employers want, yet seems difficult to understand, much less attain. This quote from Penny Cooper & Elizabeth Cruikshank (authors of All You Need to Know About Being a Trainee Solicitor) is a pretty clear definition.
All law firms would say that they want their trainees to be commercially aware both of the business that they are in (selling legal services) and of the businesses that they serve (those of their clients.)
One of the key messages conveyed in just about every guide to commercial awareness I’ve come across is that you can’t mug up on it overnight – understanding a commercial issue like Alternative Business Structures takes time. Tied to that is the expectation that what you choose to write about should be customised for each application, just as a cover letter or CV should be.
Application tip #3: Do your research – know the firm you are applying to and consider the market they are operating in #commercialawareness
— brownejtrainees (@brownejtrainees) March 5, 2015
When you’re doing background research for an application, don’t just look at the website, check if they have a blog. If they choose to write about an issue, it’s central to their business aims. For example Mischcon de Raya publish online briefings several times a week, Pinsent Masons run the legal information channel Out-Law and Freshfields Digital looks at everything from Bitcoin to Big Data.
Guides for undergraduates
There is a huge amount of information out there on Commercial Awareness, so here are a just a few resources to follow up if you want to find out more.
- Allaboutlaw has loads of Commercial Awareness articles
- Hull Law student Yasmin Ahmed‘s Guardian article: Law students – are you commercially aware?
- Keep Calm Talk Law: Commercial Awareness – defining the undefinable
- KCL Law graduate Rae Dosoo’s brief but useful guide
- The Lex100 A-Z Guide to Commercial Enlightenment
- The Student Lawyer four-part series
Part 1: What is it?
Part 2: How do Lawyers implement it?
Part 3: How can you improve yours?
Part 4: Why is it so important
Some ideas on how to stay up to date quickly, but effectively.
- Bright Network: Excellent weekly commercial awareness articles (use FB or Twitter to get alerts). Example update.
Bright Network on Facebook / Bright Network on Twitter
- Financial Times: Magic circle firms often urge applicants to read the FT, so use social media to keep up for free
FT on Facebook / FT on Twitter / FT headlines on Twitter
- Lawcareers.net: Their weekly email newsletter includes the ‘Burning Question’, highlighting a commercial awareness issue.
Burning Questions / LCN newsletter signup
- The Lawyer: The Lawyer2B section of the site features commercial awareness updates, or sign up for the email newsletters.
Lawyer2B Insight / The Lawyer newsletters signup
- The Times: They offer a free daily email newsletter called ‘The Brief’
Signup to the The Brief / The Brief archives
An excellent starting point is to sign up to ‘The Brief’ – a free newsletter emailed daily by The Times. [Kyle Squire, Hull alumnus 2012, now Pupil Barrister with 5 Pump Court Chambers]