Law firms invariably demand that would-be trainees demonstrate commercial awareness - do you know what it means?
Here's what commercial awareness doesn't mean. Commentary on the daily fluctuations of the stock market. Chapter-and-verse knowledge of the latest EU legislation. Theories of management or business.
So what's left?
Commercial awareness is a way of thinking - you need to focus on how a company or law firm makes money. What product or service do they sell? What kinds of things are likely to make that product/service less popular or more expensive? Who are their competitors?
In short - what is important to the client?
You should (as firms keep telling you) read the FT and business sections of reputable newspapers, but do so mindfully and try to interrogate what you're reading. Why is Company X involved in a particular transaction? What market are they in? What's the biggest threat to their business?
Great, but how do I show law firms that I get it? For one, remember that law firms are businesses. All those application questions asking you to identify the firm's biggest competitor / next big client base - those questions are testing your commercial awareness.
Try to put yourself in the client's shoes - if you were the owner of Tesco / West Ham Football Club / H&M, what would be keeping you up at night? What poses a risk? What do you need to do to stay competitive?
Law firms don't expect you to be business gurus, but they will want evidence that you understand the challenges business face and the things they can do to increase their profitability.
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