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17 July 2023

Developing commercial awareness

Being up to speed with case law, understanding legislation, and being familiar with legal procedures are all critical for any aspiring lawyer, but competence in the legal profession requires knowledge that extends well beyond the law.

One of the top skills that law firms look for in prospective employees is commercial awareness – understanding the broader business environment that lawyers and their clients operate in. Whether you are working in house or for a law firm, for corporate or private clients, contextual knowledge of relevant markets and industries is key for providing effective legal services.

 

Why does it matter?

The quality of legal advice hinges on its practicality. As business advisors, lawyers must be able to consider sector trends, economic factors and evolving market conditions when working towards solutions. Legal teams with robust commercial awareness are best set to factor business objectives and potential risks into their advice, and to speak the same language as their client when communicating actions and rationale.

As well as bridging the gap between lawyers and clients, commercial awareness also plays a valuable role within legal circles. Law firms are businesses, so legal professionals are expected to work in a cost-effective manner and contribute to the commercial goals of their employer. When seeking to progress in your career, your legal skillset is your core asset, but abilities such as managing client relationships and demonstrating service value are also indispensable.

 

How can I build it?

Awareness of your clients’ and employers’ commercial context shouldn’t be mistaken for comprehensive knowledge. No legal professional will be expected to have an exhaustive understanding of the business environment from day one, but good habits and previous commercial experience can provide a strong foundation for more detailed expertise in time.

Developing a media routine that suits you is a great way of maintaining awareness of market trends and events that impact your clients. For some, skimming a broadsheet over breakfast is an enjoyable set up for a daily update, but for others, podcasts, newsletters, or apps work much better. Finding platforms that fit your routine and publications that cover topics both relevant to your work and interesting to you are the first steps towards productive media habits.

Experience working in both legal and non-legal roles also contributes to your commercial insight, directly or indirectly. It is worth considering how your previous jobs might overlap with industries you will work with in future, for instance, a role managing a shop may offer valuable lessons in how businesses are run.

Our fully flexible courses offer opportunities to maintain full time or part time work alongside your legal studies, allowing you to gain practical experience and deepen your real-world understanding of how industries operate as you work toward your qualifications.

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