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LCN Says

Commercial awareness – creating a level playing field for non-Russell Group law schools

updated on 14 July 2020

By not teaching law students any commercial awareness skills, some non-Russell Group law schools are impeding the chances of their students succeeding.

Since leaving the world of corporate law and investment banking three years ago, I’ve been a visiting lecturer at three non-Russell Group universities teaching commercial awareness to law students.

The three law schools I have been involved with understand that providing commercial awareness to students is vitally important. However, some non-Russell Group law schools fail to recognise the importance of commercial awareness and provide no teaching or insights into developing this skill.

City and commercial law firms tend to recruit students from Russell Group universities as they receive 82% of training contracts. The lack of commercial awareness training puts many non-Russell group law students at a disadvantage - yet I have been extremely impressed with the talent, commitment and commercial focus shown by the students I have taught at the three law schools.

By not giving them any commercial awareness skills, some non-Russell Group law schools are impeding the chances of their students succeeding in the interview process at City and commercial law firms. I’ve had many law students bitterly complain that they fail in those interviews because they have not been given any guidance or teaching on commercial awareness or business acumen.

One student angrily told me: "When I asked a senior law school lecturer for some guidance on how I should go about obtaining more commercial awareness, she disparagingly told me that I should just read the business section of the BBC now and again."

There seems to be either a complete lack of knowledge at very senior levels of some non-Russell Group law schools of the critical importance of teaching their students commercial awareness and business acumen skills – or an unwillingness to actually do something about it.

So late last year I decided to do something about the situation and founded the British Inter University Commercial Awareness Competition (BIUCAC 2020). It was established to make a positive change by providing opportunities for students to develop commercial awareness and aims to highlight the overlooked talent at non-Russell Group law schools by levelling out the playing field.

Along with nine students from Essex University law school, I am running a non-profit, student-led competition to promote opportunities for students studying at non-Russell Group universities to enter the commercial law sphere.

BUICAC 2020 will take place in October and November 2020. Currently law societies from 24 non-Russell Group universities are going to participate in the competition and it is anticipated that there will be between 1,500 and 2,000 law students competing in round one.

The two key aims of the competition are to shine a torch on the huge talent at non-Russell Group law schools; and to try to help promote a level playing field for all law students who want to obtain training contracts at City or commercial law firms. The playing field remains so unfair in modern Britain in 2020 and that cannot be right. It must be changed.

Most law firms I spoke to about the competition when seeking sponsorship were extremely enthusiastic about supporting the aims of the competition. I have received sponsorship from 12 of the leading City and commercial law firms in the UK, including Fieldfisher, BCLP, Simmons & Simmons and White & Case, who are providing some fantastic prizes for the top competition winners – including a vacation scheme placement and other work experience.

Contestants also have the opportunity to win other valuable prizes from firms such as Clifford Chance, Ashurst and Hogan Lovells. For the full list of prizes, visit the BIUCAC website.

In addition to offering prizes, partners and senior associates of BIUCAC sponsors will act as judges in the final round of the competition, to be held at BCLP's office on 25 November 2020. Graduate recruitment teams will also join students during this event, which will be a unique opportunity to network with partners, senior associates and heads of graduate recruitment from top UK law firms.

The final round of BIUCAC 2020 will enable law students from non-Russell Group universities to showcase their knowledge and commercial awareness skills directly to leading UK law firms. The detailed description of the rounds of the competition can be found on our website.

The interest from law societies has surpassed my expectations and I am hopeful that up to 30 non-Russell Group universities will participate in BIUCAC 2020. If students cannot find their law society on the BIUCAC website they should contact their law society and ask the executive to join the competition. Alternatively email the BIUCAC 2020 committee at biucac@hotmail.com.

Applications for BIUCAC 2020 will open at the end of August on our website. Students can easily apply by clicking on their respective law society and entering their name and university email address. There are no restrictions on who can participate in BIUCAC 2020 – you just have to be a law student at a non-Russell Group university. For new information about the competition, students should follow the BIUCAC social media accounts below, so that they do not miss any updates.

I would strongly urge all law students from non-Russell group universities to join BIUCAC 2020 – it will be a great competition and a unique opportunity to show case your talent directly to partners and senior associates from some of the best law firms in the UK!

Denis Viskovich is the founder of BUICAC. He is a former City lawyer and visiting lecturer at the University of Essex law school. Follow BIUCAC on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook