Develop commercial awareness
Whether you want to be a solicitor or barrister (yes, it is relevant to the Bar also!) ‘Commercial Awareness’ or “awareness of commerciality” (Anup Vithlani, Trowers & Hamlins, Graduate Recruitment Manager) is crucial to successful applications and interviews. The links on this page will take you to articles and publications which will help you understand what firms mean when they say they want you to have commercial awareness and how you can demonstrate it to them.
What is commercial awareness?
Here’s a great introduction from LawCareers.Net and another from the Lex: https://www.lex100.com/courses/the-university-of-law/gaining-commercial-awareness/
Essentially, you need to keep up with the PESTLE news –
- Society &
Commercial Awareness isn’t just about awareness of commerce – not all law firms and departments are commercial in nature. But they will all be affected by the what is happening in the world of PESTLE and you need to understand what impacts this will have on the business of the law firm/department and their clients i.e.how might recession change the volume of work in a particular practice area?
AWARENESS OF COMMERCE
Of course, at commercial firms they will need you to understand the world of commerce. i.e. What do you know about investment banks, finance, managing risk, Eurobonds, cryptocurrency, block-chain, FTSE index, the price of oil, the US-China trade war, Brexit and how all of this impacts on the global economy. What do you know about M&A transactions, debt and equity? What about the terminology and language of legal documents and processes?
Intercultural awareness is also very important in law and business. In particular, knowing how to act in a culturally professional manner with clients in/from other countries can be very important to sealing a deal. Whilst many of you will have intercultural experiences (a year abroad, living abroad, friends from other countries etc.) you need to reflect on how those experiences have contributed to your understanding of people, culture, language and communication.
Kwintessential provides a free resource to specific countries covering business and cultural etiquette at http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/resources/guides/
HOW TO BUILD UP YOUR COMMERCIAL AWARENESS
- Legal Careers Websites – the following websites have great commercial awareness resources including weekly e-newsletters:
- The Media – reading, watching & listening – there are many resources listed below.
- Network face to face – Don’t be afraid. Go to events where professionals will be i.e. on campus talks, organisations open days etc. Networking is just talking….it’s not hard. But you do need to have focus – ask people about how they got into their jobs, what tips do they have etc.
- Network electronically – use Linked In as your professional platform (have a good photo! Important – do have a photo!) ‘Follow’ the firms/organisations you are potentially interested in. Look for people in those firms who you may have a link with (an easy link is that they may be alumni of Kent!). When asking to ‘connect’ always send a personal message that gives an idea of what you are seeking and why you have selected this person to connect with.
- Join professional bodies and attend events – There are so many legal societies from the Law Society to Inns of Court to societies with a specific interest be it diversity or an area of law. Many societies will have networking or learning events and some offer support such as mentoring. `
There is a growing number of virtual internships (approx. 100 at time of writing – August 2021) on The Forage platform from a range of corporate firms including many law firms. Typically the internship will take about 5-8 hours and will consist of on-line tasks. I have been told that the firms don’t access your answers and do not use results as part of future applications so you don’t need score high marks (although why wouldn’t you try your best?) However, since Covid, more of the early recruitment has moved on-line (and is likely to stay on-line) it is possible that firms may look to see if you have engaged with their programme when you make a claims in your application form that you have “always wanted to work for them ” or you “really like them” etc.
You can add virtual internships to your CV but don’t add too many – read my blog post here
Read this blog about one student’s experience.
Gaining knowledge from law firms etc
Nearly all firms will have helpful articles on their websites/blogs which will help you to build an understanding of the legal industry and the sectors their clients work in. Take a look at some of these:
- Linklaters’ Thought Leadership Series: https://www.linklaters.com/en/insights/thought-leadership
- Clifford Chance’s SMART series https://careers.cliffordchance.com/london/our-people/podcasts.html
- Hogan Lovells’ HL Base Legal Learning Hub. The programme builds on our award-winning HL BaSE MBA style social enterprise training programme which our trainees undertake during their induction at the firm. Applications close on 31 October 2020. To find out more and apply, visit https://graduates.hoganlovells.com/page/hl-base-legal-learning-hub
- LCN’s commercial awareness webinar: https://youtu.be/U8GXUrlqWjU
- these resources are constantly being added too and it’s not possible for us to keep listing them here – if you are interested in a particular firm take a look at their website.
Gaining knowledge of commercial awareness by watching TV or listening to the radio/podcasts:
- BBC R4 and the World Service
- Today Programme – interviews with leading figures about the issues of the day in business, politics and society
- The World Tonight – Broad coverage of international news and business
- The Bottom Line – Evan Davis’ roundtable interviews get to the heart of business thinking
- Global Business – on-the-ground stories from around the world
- Today in Parliament – Discover whether or not our parliamentarians are out of touch or have their finger on the pulse.
- World Business Report – Daily stories from around the world
Credit to Law Careers.Net for the above list.
Podcasts and You Tube Channels:
The following are in no particular order
• LawCareers.Net YouTube channel for insights from recruiters, lawyers and the LCN team. https://www.youtube.com/user/LawCareersNet
• Law and Broader is also a great channel by Irwin Mitchell solicitor Chrissie Wolfe. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCA3R8Vz5RkOezmBXl59__Gg
• For podcasts, check out this list. https://www.lawcareers.net/Explore/LCNSays/The-10-podcasts-all-law-students-should-listen-to
• The Bar Council of England and Wales YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbCu4-kXxf6MyGLMyVuFdLg/videos
- Beyond Brexit, PwC UK ‘A podcast series from PwC in which we discuss key Brexit-related events and issues affecting business and the economy.’
- • BLD Lawyers YouTube ‘Archive of interviews.’ https://www.youtube.com/user/BLDLawyers/videos
• Cambridge University Law Society Speakers on iTunesU https://itunes.apple.com/gb/itunes-u/cambridge-university-law-society-speakers/id507438477?mt=10
• First 100 Years – iTunes – series of ten podcasts charts the history of women in the legal professions. Progressing decade-by-decade, the podcasts will be around 45-minute discussions between legal pioneers, historians, academics and legal practitioners based on key themes, including gender stereotypes, the work/life balance and diversity. https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-first-100-years-podcast/id1448724375
• The Hardwicke Legal Podcast, Apple Podcasts – an informal view of important legal issues impacting individuals as well as companies and other legal entities. https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-hardwicke-legal-podcast/id1477040607
• International Bar Association, Vimeo – educational videos and interviews of interest to international lawyers and businesspeople. https://vimeo.com/ibafilms
• Law in Action, BBC Radio 4 on iTunesU ‘Joshua Rozenberg presents Radio 4’s long-running legal magazine programme, featuring reports and discussion on matters relating to law.’
• The Pupillage Podcast, Middle Temple ‘From Middle Temple, this is The Pupillage Podcast, hosted by Georgina Wolfe and Beatrice Collier. In each episode Beatrice and Georgina chat to a range of guests – junior tenants, junior barristers, senior juniors, silks, judges and others – to obtain their advice on what applicants should be doing to pursue their goal and increase their chances of obtaining pupillage. Each guest brings the benefit of his or her own experience of sitting on scholarship committees, marshalling with students, judging moots, reading applications, conducting pupillage interviews, mentoring students and of Life at the Bar to give listeners precious insights, tips and pitfalls to avoid. https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-pupillage-podcast/id1448140217?mt=2
• Talking Law, Women in the Law and Business UK on iTunes ‘Talking Law profiles leading figures in UK law as they discuss the highs and lows of their career plus the challenges and realities of the legal profession. https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/talking-law/id1446876356?mt=2
• Clifford Chance, The SMART series – https://careers.cliffordchance.com/london/our-people/podcasts.html
• 4 New Square podcasts – ‘Analysis: Commercial Dispute Resolution and Life at the Bar’. cover recent developments in commercial law and life at the Bar. You can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Android and Google Podcasts (just type 4 New Square or the podcast name into your podcast app) or you can listen via their website here – https://www.4newsquare.com/podcasts/
- • The Hearing – Legal Podcast with Kevin Poulter (Thomson Reuters)
• Law Pod UK 1 COR barristers, current issues of civil and common law
• Lawyer 2 Lawyer – this is a US podcast but there are a lot of episodes that cover a much broader range of topics
• Chambers Student, commercial awareness, legal blogs – https://www.chambersstudent.co.uk/where-to-start/commercial-awareness/commercial-awareness-resources-legal-blogs
• Bethany Wren – The 10 podcasts all law students should listen to – https://www.lawcareers.net/Explore/LCNSays/The-10-podcasts-all-law-students-should-listen-to They include (click on the hyperlink provided to get the hyperlinks for the following):
BBC Radio 4 Beyond Today – They answer one big story from the news every weekday.
UK Law Weekly – a weekly podcast on recent legal decisions and news.
First 100 Years Podcast – discover the history of women in the legal profession from 1919 to 1959.
DLA Piper TechLaw Podcast – the podcast forecasts new trends and covers policies and regulation, and contract and legal changes. It’s a must-listen for anyone interested in technology law.
The Law Society Podcast – a collection of interviews with human rights lawyers
The World of Business Podcast – insights into the business world.
The Ahead of the Curve podcast – The series aims to tackle legal issues and grey matters, so keep an eye out for further episodes as they are released.
(I’ve removed from the above list the ones that are listed below)
Olivia Partridge from LawCareers.Net has also created the following list
- Law Pod UK – this is a fairly new podcast brought to you by barristers at One Crown Office Row. It covers developments across aspects of civil and public law in the UK. With more than 100 episodes already, you can stay up to date with recent developments in medical law, and gain insight into vaccine hesitancy.
- More from Law – this podcast was launched by Harry Clark – trainee solicitor at Baker McKenzie. Aiming to “broaden your legal horizon” it brings the latest legal industry developments and includes a variety of interviews, deep-dive analysis, commentary and discussion. Among other topics, it outlines what firms look for in junior lawyers, how to navigate life as a trainee and advice on the Watson-Glaser Test.
- Linkubator (Linklaters) – a student-led innovation podcast series, designed to help students who want to develop their understanding of how innovation and emerging technologies are transforming the legal sector. Episodes include conversations with experts and legal innovators on a number of topics, including non-financial misconduct and whistleblowing, and e-money communications and a new duty of care.
- The Intelligence, The Economist – this is a great podcast for aspiring lawyers looking to delve beyond the news that is making the headlines worldwide to impress firms at interview. With episodes just over 20 minutes long, you can learn about North Korea’s food shortages, Russia’s third wave of covid-19 and the latest on the Chinese ride-hailing app Didi.
- BBC Radio 4 Best of Today – the Best of Today podcast challenges key policy makers on the latest news stories and features insight, analysis and expert debate, which will support your developing commercial awareness. The latest episodes include conversations on the easing of covid-19 restrictions in England and an interview with Saskia Jones’ family following her death outside Fishmongers’ Hall in London.
- The Hardwicke Legal Podcast– a podcast from Gatehouse Chambers (formerly Hardwicke Chambers) offering informal opinions of important legal issues affecting individuals, companies and other legal entities. Recent episodes include a review of the 10 leading property cases of 2020, a clinical negligence review and a conversation on the issues surrounding the aggregation in solicitors’ professional indemnity insurance.
- Talking Law – Sally Penni, the founder and chair of Women in the Law UK and multi-award-winning barrister, hosts this brilliant podcast. It provides insight into the careers of leading figures in UK law, with discussions focusing on the highs and lows of their careers, as well as the challenges and realities they have faced in the legal profession. Recent guests include Jason Pitter QC, Maxine Peake and Jolyon Maugham QC.
- RightsUp – brought to you by the Oxford Human Rights Hub (OxHRH), this podcast features conversations with academics, practitioners and policy-makers from across the globe “to advance the understanding and protection of human rights and equality.” Topics addressed include understanding institutional racism and the role of gender in Colombia’s peace transition.
- UK Law Weekly – a weekly podcast on legal decisions and news. Find out about the latest cases and reviews from the courts with Marcus Cleaver, a former university lecturer in law. The latest episodes explore two tort cases, the planning crisis and what it means to be “deliberately inaccurate” with reference to a recent tax case.
- Herbert Smith Freehills Podcast – lawyers from global law firm Herbert Smith Freehills discuss a whole host of thought-provoking topics on their regular podcast. Episodes on women in tech, the future of work focusing on HR tech, AI and monitoring staff, and a future cities series – including a look at post-covid cities, tech in the city and net-zero cities – will be of interest to students wanting to hear how legal experts talk about contemporary legal and commercial issues.
- BBC Law in Action – hosted by Joshua Rozenberg QC, this is a long-running legal magazine programme which features reports and discussion on legal matters. With 147 episodes available to listen to, there’s plenty of content to keep you going, including episodes on e-scooters and the law, climate change and the law, and whether Love Island contestants leave their legal rights at the door of the villa.
- The Legal Room UK – featuring a diverse range of specialist lawyers, i.e. a look at residential landlords and covid-19, commercial lease break notices and pitfalls for tenants and divorce law reforms.
- Commercial Awareness with Watson’s Daily business and financial news – former stockbroker Peter Watson hosts this commercial awareness podcast, which offers an accessible insight into important business and financial markets news, including the future of shopping malls, OnlyFans’ potential IPO and WeWork prospects.
- FT News Briefing – regular updates to global business news. i.e “China’s widening tech crackdown” and “How English Channel ports avoided a Brexit meltdown”.
- LawCareers.Net Podcast – a different topic each month; features interviews with recruiters, students, and members of the LCN team.
- Channel4 News – The hour-long show allows time for special reports to explain issues more deeply
- BBC – The BBC’s business and economics team contributes regularly to BBC News and also has blogs and stories on the BBC website. Look out for reports and blogs from Robert Peston and Kamal Ahmed. Follow them on Twitter. The Beeb also makes some good one-off documentaries/short series about world economics and business
- Bloomberg TV – Bloomberg West is a tech-tastic one-hour show, offering all the news from Silicon Valley.
Credit to Law Careers.Net for the above list
Gaining knowledge of commercial awareness by reading:
- All You Need to Know About Commercial Awareness, Christopher Stoakes.
- The Money Machine: How the City Works, UK Edition 2015 Penguin by Philip Cogan.
The following publications are all free to you and available to be picked up in the Law School Receptions (Eliot College Extension in Canterbury and to the left of the stairs in the Compass Building at Medway). They are mostly published 4 times a year. Pick them up and read them:
- Lawyer2B – This publication has colour coded it’s reading sections and all the commercial awareness/business news is in the Blue section. How easy can this be? Also available to read on line – but this costs £2 per week!
- Young Lawyer Magazine – this is the junior version of the Solicitors Journal
- Student Legal Week
Other publications available in KLS:
- The KSLS commercial awareness newsletter – a monthly publication. Join KSLS to receive you copy.
The ‘Media’ – don’t forget many of these journals and newspapers are available free to students in the library and via various university subscriptions on line but most also have some free on-line content. The trick is to find the journal/newspaper/website that you like and to then read it regularly. DO NOT try to read everything – there just isn’t enough time for this. Choose a few topics and follow them through in detail but have a general all-round awareness of the big issues.
- The Lawyer magazine – www.thelawyer.com
- The Economist – https://www.economist.com/
- The Telegraph – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/
- The Times – The Times Law Supplement – www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/law/
- Financial Times – https://www.ft.com/
- The Guardian – https://www.theguardian.com/uk
- Reuters – Heavy on the financial markets and good for fast news reports. http://uk.reuters.com/
- Bloomberg – Bloomberg.com
- City A.M. – City A.M. | London’s Business Newspaper – News, Opinion, and Analysis : CityAM
- Wall Street Journal – Interesting to read about European issues from another perspective. https://www.wsj.com/europe
- South China Post http://www.scmp.com/frontpage/international
- BBC News website – Pitches many stories at the non-expert, but this can be really helpful http://www.bbc.co.uk/news
- The Times of India –http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/defaultinterstitial.cms
- UK Law Students Association publishes a journal – http://www.legalissuesjournal.com/
Again, thanks to LawCareers.Net for most of the above list!
WEBSITES, E-NEWSLETTERS & SOCIAL MEDIA:
- For a great introduction and links to useful newspapers: http://www.lex100.com/index.php/gaining-commercial-awareness
- Lawyer2b – www.lawyer2b.com – sign up for their email alerts which include commercial awareness articles.
- LawCareers.Net weekly e-news letter is very helpful. Register here. There is a FB icon on their webpage but it doesn’t seem to be active. Give it a go…it may be a temporary blip.
- WELLS (Women Expat Lawyers and Law Students) – a networking/support Facebook group for women who are now expat lawyers/law students. Click here to access
- The Lex 100 – To receive a bi-monthly newsletter email email@example.com FB – https://www.facebook.com/TheLex100
- Legal Business Magazine – really aimed at senior lawyers, this one is for those who really want to do lots of extra research. Sign up here.
- The Law Society Gazette (www.lawgazette.co.uk)
- Legal Futures – resource tracking the evolving legal landscape. http://www.legalfutures.co.uk/
- Legal Week (www.legalweek.com),
- TED Talks – https://www.ted.com/talks?sort=newest&topics%5B%5D=business
- The Am Law Daily (https://www.law.com/americanlawyer/) will have information for US firms. Look out for big deals, financial results and stories making a splash in the profession to judge how well a firm is performing.
- Roll on Friday – www.rollonfriday.com this is a UK legal gossip website so do treat what you read with caution.
- Above the Law is an American law gossip website (again, treat with caution) which has become quite powerful. www.abovethelaw.com.
- Legal Cheek (www.legalcheek.com) (another gossip one – treat with caution) emulates Above the Law’s model but is not as well-established.
- The New Jurist – http://news.newjurist.com/ – This International journal aims to examine laws and legal issues from a humanistic and enlightened perspective. Articles in English and German.
- Little Law – https://www.linkedin.com/company/littlelaw/?msgConversationId=6581849146611892224&msgOverlay=true
- The Bright Network – https://www.brightnetwork.co.uk/graduate-career-advice/commercial-awareness/an-overview/
LegalTech is a massively growing area and law firms may want to test your understanding of it. As part of your overall commercial awareness about how law firms operate you should be able to identify how legal tech supports the work of lawyers. Additionally, there is a growing number of support jobs and lawyers specialising in this area. Some of the large firms now recruit trainees to graduate schemes around legal technology and business operations (this is not a trainee solicitor role) whilst some firms have included it as one of the seats in the training contract. To keep abreast of developments see:
- https://lawtechuk.io/ – This is a small (but growing) website which helps you to understand how technology is being used in the legal industry. (don’t worry about the unusual country domain (it’s British Indian Ocean!) this website is good and links with the UK legal industry.)
- https://www.artificiallawyer.com/ – this is also a good website for understanding the legal tech sector