What is commercial awareness?
Commercial awareness involves knowing about the current deals, transactions and issues in the business world that could affect a client. Lawyers must have an understanding of the business environment and also political landscape. Most importantly, they must be able to put into perspective how their legal advice will affect the client’s business.
Why is commercial awareness important?
Lawyers provide their clients with advice and legal assistance on issues that are either related to or governed by economic, social and political events. While clients know so much about their business, they are generally not experts in the law. This is where lawyers come in, and it is their job to not only provide legal expertise, but also to match up their knowledge with that of their client and gain an in-depth understanding of their business.
For lawyers, understanding a client’s business means understanding what the business does and how it operates. However, for a lawyer to add real value to a business, they also need to know how the business functions internally, who the competitors are, and how other external factors might affect any legal action they decide to take. A lawyer should be able to advise a business in understanding what the consequences of taking legal action might be and knowing the best ways to help them achieve their business aims.
Law firms only offer positions to candidates who can demonstrate that they are up to speed with political, economic and social developments. They want to know you will keep up with being commercially aware after your training, so if you start it now and make it a habit, this will benefit your applications. It also benefits you personally, to know what is happening in the world and understanding how the dots connect (politics, business, law etc).
Ways to stay commercially aware
- Reading newspapers
- Watching the news
- Listening to podcasts on business, politics, economics
- Reading books
- Reading company newsletters
- Wtaching relevant TV programmes
- Keep an eye on the markets
- Listening to the radio (news related channels)
- Following news publications on Twitter (live updates)
- Networking with professionals outside of the legal industry
- Participating in discussion forums
- Attending events outside of the legal industry (e.g business, public affairs, finance)
- Attending lectures/seminars on business and commerce
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