October 14, 2014, by James Jupe

How to build your commercial awareness and get that job

By Joshua Clinch, trainee solicitor 

There’s no greater truth than the famous idiom, knowledge is power. If you want to succeed in a field and be given the job, you need to show that you’ve taken all of the steps needed to be informed.  We spoke with Joshua Clinch, a trainee solicitor from Norton Rose Fulbright, who offers his professional insights into building your commercial awareness to get ahead.

Know your client and market

Commercial awareness is the ability to stay up-to-date with current affairs and developments in the business and commercial world. City law firms’ clients are (primarily) large businesses. While these clients employ law firms for legal advice and assistance, it is important that this advice is tailored and delivered in a way that is commercially beneficial for the client.  Therefore, an in-depth knowledge of your client and the surrounding market that it resides in is essential in providing a practical and profitable solution to the given situation.

For example, when advising a client on the implications of expanding their business internationally, a commercially astute solicitor might consider issues such as international market trends; demand for that type of business; tax issues; competition law restrictions; other competitors within the same international market and the long-term profitability, or potential risks, for the business should the proposal go ahead.

You need to see the big picture

There is no such thing as being ‘naturally’ commercially astute, so it’s fair to say that graduate recruitment teams are not expecting you to be experts. Commercial awareness is something that is continuously developed and strengthened.

Keeping abreast of commercial issues through consistent engagement with financial and mainstream media, such as newspapers, journals and websites is a great way to develop your confidence in this area. Additionally, obtaining work experience, whether legal or commercially focused, is an invaluable way of gaining first-hand experience of how businesses work.

Graduate recruitment teams are looking for applicants that have a sound understanding of the commercial world, and have the potential to apply this within a professional environment around a legal issue. Candidates that are commercially aware are able to see the ‘big picture’. They see the long-term implications of a proposal, in addition to the immediate consequences, while having an awareness of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that a client may have, and face, as a consequence of a particular proposal.

Go the extra mile with your analysis

When it comes to interviews, many applicants make the mistake of simply memorising and reeling off a list of recent and notable deals that that particular law firm has been involved with or has advised on. This information is probably displayed for all to see on the firm’s website. Successful applicants go the extra mile.

They may, for example, research what role that law firm played on the deals, and explain precisely why that deal was significant for the firm, the client and, if applicable, the wider market. Was the deal ground-breaking? Was a key client of the firm involved? Was this a new and lucrative client for the firm? This is the sort of analysis that will impress graduate recruitment as it illustrates that you have taken the time to research and understand the firm and its business. Above all, firms want to hear your opinions and discuss, and debate, the merits of your arguments. I should also note as a trainee lawyer and for your legal career, you’ll be focusing on commercial issues on a day-to-day basis, so it’s essential to have a genuine interest!

For those of you interested in a legal career we recommend that you attend our Law Fair on Monday 20 October where you will meet law firms, professional bodies and legal education providers all in one place. You can also find out more about potential jobs in the legal sector by checking our webpage.

Posted in Applying For JobsWork experience