Commercial awareness is the latest thing that you hear about everywhere that everyone expects you to know about, yet no one can really explain to you. I went to a uni talk on it last October thinking it would be really popular, only I was the only person who turned up so it ended up being a one on one chat between me and a lady who worked in accounting. Having this one to one time with her was actually really useful, but she said to me a lot of people only go to commercial awareness events because they think it is something they can learn there and then, when actually commercial awareness is something that you need to find out for yourself – albeit these events can help put you in the right direction for finding out.
Her top tip to me was to just take a genuine interest in the world and what is going on around you. It’s true that a large part of commercial awareness is being aware of the world around you. It’s being aware of how business works, what affects businesses and where law firms fit into this. If you are naturally inquisitive, and naturally interested in the world, politics and economics in some way, then commercial awareness really isn’t a tricky concept.
The best way to get an understanding of commercial awareness is to keep reading up on what is going on in the news, in the business world, and in particular focusing on issues that interest you. You don’t have to know everything! Pick a commercial topic you are really interested in, along with making sure you know about the big current issues (like the impact of Brexit and AI/technology). Apart from that, it is up to you what you think are commercial issues that are worth talking about. Maybe you’re really interested in the impact that Iranian sanctions will have on oil prices, or maybe you’re passionate about banking or sport issues. All of these count as having commercial awareness in one or another, and the more connected you are to the topic you are reading about the more likely you are to have good things to remember and discuss about it.
The next thing to do once you have got some understanding of commercial awareness is – form your own opinions on it. Don’t just regurgitate what you have read, but think about how you think this will affect the future for businesses, or what you would do if you were a law firm in this particular situation. Firms want to see that you can think critically and give thought through advice – as this will become a large part of your job. This isn’t really something you can learn to do as such, but will come naturally the more you know about what is going on within business, economics and politics.
I’m sharing four sources that I found really useful for keeping up to date with commercial awareness and business news. Find different formats that work for you – everyone is different and some people just don’t jam with certain styles of writing or formats, I have only picked a few of my favourites but it is really easy to find more sources online!
- LinkedIn Daily Rundown
Follow this on LinkedIn – it provides summaries of the most important news and insights of the day. You can select different streams which cover different regions for example the UK, the US or Europe.
- The Financial Times
I read the FT most weekends when I can to get an idea of what is going on in the business and finance world. This gives the latest news in more detail which is super useful for when you get asked about issues at interview.
- Law Firm Blogs!
Generally, law firms have their own blogs in which they put updates about commercial issues going on and the repercussions of these. Check if the law firm you are applying to has one and make sure to have a read through it.
Some examples of these are:
4. Visual Capitalist
I follow the visual capitalist on LinkedIn because I love their infographics on economics and politics. They are so easy to understand and so aesthetically pleasing that you actually enjoy learning and absorbing the information they are giving you.
Note: To anyone who is reading this and doesn’t have LinkedIn – you can get updates from ALL FOUR of these sources on your LinkedIn feed so easily by following them so you never miss an update. I 100% recommend having a LinkedIn account and will be blogging about it soon!
Also if you have a tad of cash to splash – I really recommend reading The Economist. It is my fave mag but super pricey and not all unis have free copies, unlike newspapers which you can usually find somewhere for free.