Commercial awareness

‘Commercial awareness’ is a term you’ve probably heard thrown around a lot by law firm recruiters. It can seem vague and intimidating, but this is a vital skill that law firms want to see in their future trainees, so it is important that you know how to be commercially aware, and demonstrate this well in your applications.

What is commercial awareness?

Commercial awareness is essentially about understanding the business environment within which a law firm and its clients operate. It’s knowing that law firms advise clients who operate in the business world, and that a law firm is a business in itself. Firms need to be up-to-date with the business issues that might affect their clients, but they also have their own business drivers and motives.

For more on understanding the client and its aims, as well as understanding the law firm as a business, this LCN Says runs through examples of how lawyers are faced with commercial issues on a day-to-day basis.

How can I be commercially aware?

It’s important to keep track of the latest business news and to follow the issues that current lawyers are thinking about, and advising their clients on.

Here are some ways to top up your commercial awareness:

  • Read our commercial news round-ups which are posted every Thursday and summarise the week’s biggest and most important news stories.
  • Dive into current commercial topics with our Commercial Questions which are written by leading law firms and designed to get you thinking about the latest business issues.
  • Subscribe to Lexology which brings together the latest articles on a range of topics across practice areas – it’s a great way to understand how law firms work and how they present themselves to clients.
  • Read the relevant publications, listen to podcasts and the radio, and watch suitable TV programmes – there are specific recommendations for that here.

For more information read our guide to commercial awareness.

How do I demonstrate commercial awareness to law firms?

Hint: when law firms ask you in applications what skills and attributes you possess to become a good commercial lawyer, one of the main things you should talk about is commercial awareness. You can demonstrate this in a number ways, from mentioning specific issues that you have been keeping up with (and that hopefully link to the firm’s own work areas), to conducting research on the cases the firm has been advising on. It’s also useful to have a broad understanding of general issues that will affect how law firms think and act. For example: what is an emerging market? What have been the consequences of the 2008 financial crisis for businesses and regulators? How is Brexit likely to affect the legal profession as a whole? What is happening in the world of technology and AI that could impact the legal industry?

An easy way to provide real-life evidence of commercial awareness is to draw upon a part-time job and explain how working in a consumer-based environment has given you a sense of how businesses work. Describing tasks such as handling money, serving customers and improving sales are all solid examples of commercial awareness on a small scale.

Read this excellent piece by LCN blogger Hayley about how waiting tables could make you a better lawyer.

Read Violet's tips on how to increase your commercial awareness - aside from reading the news.

Find out what legal hackathons are and why they are the solution to increasing innovation in the legal industry with this blog post.

Take a deep dive into the issues surrounding legal technology with Matthew's article.