In the current climate keeping up to date with commercial stories and trying to upskill from home can be difficult. ‘Normal’ events such as keynote presentations, university society sessions, networking conferences and more are on hold and will likely be so for the considerable future.
That said, in the digital age there are a number of ways you can continue to practise your commercial awareness ahead of the major application season so that you’re ready to go before an interview. This article aims to break down a few ways you can do exactly that.
Follow the news
Keeping up to date with the latest news and developments in the world – business or otherwise – is a critical component of developing commercial awareness. You should hopefully be doing it regardless of the current circumstances as much as you can.
If you’re looking to keep your reading refreshing, using mind maps can be a great way to understand and visualise how news stories interact with one another. Take one news story in isolation, extract the relevant stakeholders/parties involved and then try to ‘connect the dots’ to other relevant stories you’ve read about. Continuously practising this will allow you to compartmentalise stories as affecting or belonging to certain industries and sectors more quickly and therefore identify consumer/client/economic trends more easily.
Read online articles and blogs
In addition to news sources, blogging and article-writing are extremely popular hobbies among many lawyers across the globe. Many share their thoughts on industry developments relating to their practice area or industry, including their own opinion on the matter. Use social media – through keyword searching and hashtags – to identify leading writers on topics you’re interested in and either sign up to their blogging email or simply check in with what they’re writing periodically. It’s a great way to learn more about how lawyers think and engage in discussions without having to meet them in person or attend larger-scale networking events. Engaging with this form of online networking is a great way to meet new mentors, advisers and thought leaders, which could turn into long-term points of contact as and when lockdowns are lifted.
It’s also advisable to undertake more general reading on the industry so that you can account for the ‘bigger picture’ effects of any changes. The LawCareers.Net website contains an abundance of information on almost every facet of the legal industry, as well as its LCN Says platform, which you can sift through to glean insights and information.
While you’ll almost certainly undertake this step before applying to firms or graduate positions, researching firms can be considered a form of developing commercial awareness if done correctly. It’s important to understand the different types of firm – for example, regional, national or international – and the pros and cons of not just working there, but from a client’s perspective as well. Delving into annual reports to gain an insight into the ‘numbers’ behind the delivery of legal services can also prove invaluable in supplementing your current understanding.
Complete online courses
If you’re looking for something a little more formal, there are a plethora of opportunities to undertake a wide variety of free and paid online courses. This example from the Open University gives you some insight into using SWOT and PESTLE effectively. Completing such courses will not only give you valuable information and new models of thinking across almost any area imaginable, but some will even offer certificates of participation too.
Listen to podcasts, videos and webinars
LawCareers.Net’s own podcast covers a wide variety of topics for aspiring solicitors that feature currently practising lawyers sharing their own insights. My own podcast, More From Law, also has a number of episodes dedicated to developing commercial awareness.
On the visual side of things, many firms, thought leaders and institutions are turning to live events and webinars amidst lockdown rules in order to continue to develop their brand, as well as to keep in touch with their clients and audience. Many events are often free, requiring only minimal registration, and can feature discussions on almost every facet of law (covid-19-focussed or otherwise).
Working some of the above examples into your daily, weekly or monthly routine will keep your commercial awareness up to date for applications, and hopefully generate some more learning opportunities to engage in once lockdowns have lifted.