Matt Broadbent - Develop your commercial awareness
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'Commercial awareness'; the phrase on the lips of every recruiter, careers adviser and candidate. If you don't have it, the advice goes, then you've got no chance of securing a job. To a great extent this is true. Commercial awareness underpins just about everything in the legal profession and everybody (yes, everybody!) in the profession is either working for a business or is subject to pressures that ultimately come down to how much resource can be expended on different activities (eg, by case or client). In other words, you MUST understand the subtext, the back story, why people and businesses act the way they do, whose interests they serve and who pays the piper.
So the next question is, "How do I find out more?" The first thing to do is read this article on LawCareers.Net, which gives you lots of the basic information. Then have a look at LawCareers.Net's own commercial awareness arena: The Burning Question. The genesis of the section was to let employers be explicit about the level of insight and understanding that they expect to see when recruiting by providing them with a forum in which to write about commercial matters. Each week, a firm provides a sample question and model answer based around a commercial matter that impacts on them and their clients. What are the implications of certain developments in the financial world? How will new legislation impact on how businesses (ie, firms’ clients) act and what might that mean for the firms serving them? Generally, the pieces are written by trainees - individuals who were in the same boat as you a few short years ago - and we encourage these writers to think about what they know now that they wish they had known when looking for a job.
Burning Question has been running for quite a few years now and all the pieces we have published remain online to provide an invaluable archive for you to dip into. You'll see what firms are concerned with, what sort of work they do, how and why they act and get a proper feel for what lawyers (mainly commercial lawyers, to be fair, but the general rules are transferable) think about day to day.