How important is commercial awareness when becoming a lawyer?

What is Commercial Awareness?

Commercial awareness is having an understanding of the context in which a law firm operates in, which includes knowing current events in business, economics and politics. This allows us to think practically about how these factors will affect both clients and the law firm. Commercial awareness will help you understand the client, their business, priorities and markets they are competing in. It includes being able to anticipate how the economic climate and political scene will have an impact on the client thus minimising exposure to risk or making a bad business decision. 

Why is Commercial Awareness Important for lawyers?

For commercial lawyers, being an expert on the law and knowing how to apply it isn’t enough. In areas such as capital markets, finance, corporate or Real estate, a lawyer becomes almost a business advisor who can offer practical and innovative advice to companies and clients so that they make the best decisions possible for their future.  With such an ever changing political and economic landscape, its paramount that lawyers can give the best commercial legal advice which is up to date and relevant. 

Why is Commercial Awareness Important in Interviews?

When in an interview, being able to show commercial awareness demonstrates two things to potential employers:
1)      There is genuine/active interest and passion for the job and practise are you are applying for.
2)      It shows how well you are able to think and act due to commercial context of the time which we have seen already is a crucial skill for lawyers.
How to develop commercial awareness skills
Firstly you need to keep updated on both domestic and world affairs in business and politics by reading newspapers, watching the news, listening to business sections on radio and researching on the internet around such issues 
Secondly you need to think about and try to answer a few questions about the law firm or company:
•    What are their main products/services?
•    What are the problems facing their industry or sector at this time?
•    Who are their competitors?    
•    Who are their customers or clients?
•    Are there any market trends?
•    What are their recent developments?

In this way, you know about what is going on in the world and how your clients company or potential employers firm operates thus you can make links between the two to give sound advice or impress the interviewer.
By Alex Small