A conversation with Tapiwa Museba on commercial awareness

Q- Briefly tell us about yourself and your educational background

A- My name is Tapiwa Museba, I completed an LLB at the University of Kent, an LLM in International Commercial Law at University College London and most recently, the LPC at the University of Law, Manchester

Q- What made you want to study law?

A- I enjoyed its tangible nature. It’s in everything we consume, either in the foreground or background. Every show we watch (if it’s not based on lawyers, there are lawyers in the background drafting contracts, licensing IP), the food we eat (labour regulations, food standards directives), music we listen to (so much attention currently on record label contracts). It’s a career that is always relevant because law is always prevalent.

Q- Tell us about the Commercial Awareness podcast and why you started it

A- The Commercial Awareness Podcast is a weekly podcast aimed at aspiring solicitors predominantly in the UK to develop their commercial awareness. Very self-referential name, and that’s intentional. It does what it says it does. It has ranked in the top 10 in News Commentary Podcast charts around the world, including the UK, Ireland, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and even Kenya and Uganda. More importantly, a few people have contacted me in the last year to thank me for the (very) small part it played in them securing their training contracts, and that is always great to hear.

The primary reason I started it was because I had often heard that commercial awareness was important but rarely had it defined to me. There also weren’t many platforms specifically aimed at developing an aspiring solicitor’s commercial awareness.

The rest happened rather quickly. On a Monday, I saw that on the App Store, there was a podcast publishing app for free and downloaded it just in case. The next day, I searched for commercial awareness podcasts on my podcast apps and found none, so I wrote the first episode that day hoping it would give me incentive to keep up on the news and help others. I recorded Episode One the following day and here we are, 60+ episodes later. I think if I had waited even an extra day, I would’ve probably never created it. You can talk yourself out of a good idea.

Q- What is the importance of commercial awareness?

A- Good question. Depends on who you’re asking. I think law firms and recruiters use it to gauge an applicants’ engagement in the fields their firm practices in. It’s also an easy way to see how someone thinks by asking them about their thoughts on a development, and why they think that way.

More broadly, I think it lays the foundation for any person to understand what’s going on around them. Not every single update requires an essay, but being able to read a headline and get the wheels turning about what it means, who it affects, and what opportunities and challenges it presents for firms and their clients is a really useful skill.

Q- What role and value does commercial awareness add to a lawyer’s career?

A- I kind of already said it, but to elaborate, I think commercial awareness plays a slightly different role between an aspiring/junior lawyer and a more senior lawyer. An aspiring/junior lawyer is expected to know a little more about the things that are going on because it is assumed they have a bit more time than a partner, for example.

This is not to say a senior lawyer does not have commercial awareness, but their commercial awareness is more of experience in their practice area. They don’t need to keep up with every story. Their previous experience gives them the answers to those a fore mentioned questions anyway, and allows them to assist new clients with that wisdom.

Ultimately, the value it brings is an ability to know more about a client and the sector they operate in, and using that knowledge to best assist them on matters.

Q- How do you go about collecting content for your podcast?

A- I read the news quite often. I try to keep content relatively fresh. If I’ve spoken about transport a bit too much, I switch to finance. The pandemic has required me to become lateral in my approach to updates as well to safeguard against sounding like a broken record.

However, these days, especially with the podcast’s new Twitter account, scrolling on twitter for a few minutes every now and then keeps me up to date and helps me brainstorm topics for the next episodes.

Q- Are there any specific publications and sources that you would recommend for lawyers and law students to build their commercial awareness?

A- Part of the ethos behind the podcast is to make commercial awareness more accessible. Therefore, I will only recommend sources without paywalls, to further highlight commercial awareness’ accessibility.

The Guardian, Reuters, BBC News, City AM, all have very good journalists who write in great detail about any update and although they don’t have “commercial awareness” written out in plain form, they provide more than enough information for you to read between the lines.

Lexology aggregates articles written by firms which gives more clear commercial awareness considerations.

Recently, I’ve enjoyed the news website Axios because, like the podcast, every story has a “Why this matters” section.

Q- What areas of law interest you the most and why?

A- I do like M&A. I like considering the motivations behind the deal, how the deal is structured, and recently this year, the disputes that have sprung out of the economic downturn that has occurred between signing and closing for some transactions.

Secondly, investment arbitration. The entire investor-state dispute settlement system is… intriguing to say the least, and those dynamics backdropped by private investors, international treaties and multimillion dollar claims awarded by arbitrators is interesting to me from both an academic and practice perspective.

I’m also interested in IP and Finance. Honestly, I’m quite open-minded about areas of law at the moment.

Q- Where can we find you on socials?

Instagram and Twitter: @commawarepod. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn

Email me at tapiwa.museba@commawarepod.com.

All my other links (including podcast links): https://linktr.ee/commawarepod

I also have a webinar at the All About Law Virtual Fair. My talk is on the 27th of October
at 10AM GMT. Sign up here: https://bit.ly/30N3n3u

Q- Do you have any advice for our members?

A- The advice I give myself is I can’t have any nonzero days. I personally don’t subscribe to a “the grind doesn’t stop” mentality (it’s okay if you do), but I also believe that every day, I have to do something. Something that will have a long-term benefit to my self-development.

Otherwise, like I said earlier, do not talk yourself out of a good idea. If there is something you want to do, of course make a plan of how to do it, but make sure you actually do it. Taking initiative and executing is what makes the difference.

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