Commercial awareness – currently the trendiest buzzword in the city – is one of the most prized qualities by graduate recruitment teams, but also often cited as one of the most lacking in applicants.
At its core, commercial awareness simply requires that the applicant understands the business underpinnings of the law firm, hence precipitating an understanding of the firm’s competitive advantage, clientele, product positioning, the market it operates in, and the industries that it services. To start you off, Legal Loop recommends the following five ways to brush up your commercial awareness skills:
- Follow industry news
If there is one thing that we know for sure, it is that commercial awareness cannot be developed overnight. Often, it is a way of thinking cultivated over time instead of rote learning of specific facts. Hence, consistent attention to industrial trends and developments is crucial, and applicants would do well to carefully follow the headlines of the day. A good way to start off is to follow the Facebook and Twitter pages of a few news outlets and law firms to get consistent and succinct updates throughout your day. Additionally, applicants can set up email alerts on the specific search terms that they are interested in, which can include activities of particular law firms and clients or more general market trends. For those with more time, publications like Financial Times, the Lawyer, Legal Week, The Economist, and CityAM are also excellent choices that offer in-depth analysis on current market shifts – as well as Legal Loop!
- Read the firm’s newsletters
Besides perusing the general news, a great way to know more about the firm’s concerns and activities is to regularly check the releases section of their website, where firms will often publish details of their latest deals and insights. This helps the applicant to understand the firm’s perspective on market trends and its work and key clientele in general.
- Keep an eye on the market
An easy way of tracking the financial performance and revenue streams of the major public-listed corporations is to check their stock and share prices. Hence, keeping a watchful eye on whether a firm’s shares are on a rising or falling trend can be a starting point for determining how well it is adapting to market trends and capitalising on current opportunities.
- Speak to people in the industry
It is useful to read up on background information on your own, but one of the most direct and fast ways of obtaining information is simply to speak to its people. If you have the chance to attend any firm events and network with their lawyers, do grab the opportunity to discuss their work and current developments with them, and you will often find that they will be more than happy to share their insights!
- Practice makes perfect
Ultimately, a key way employers assess commercial awareness is to dish out fictitious transactions for applicants to advise on. Practising in advance with hypothetical transactions or simply ones that you find in the news can then be helpful for extracting the key elements that need to be considered in a transaction.