Commercial awareness is the ultimate buzz word in the world of Law, and graduate employers are going to test your knowledge if they are to offer you a training contract or even a vac scheme. Simply put, commercial awareness is the ability to understand how businesses and industries function and how they are affected by current affairs such as geopolitics, economic data points, sector-specific structural shifts or simple company news. It is knowing about the latest deals in capital markets and their impact, for example the pulling of the ANT IPO or the Siemens on-going de-conglomeration.
Being commercially aware is essential in the legal profession, as clients anticipate that their legal advisers will understand how their company works and profits and how it is positioned in its specific industry and the potential threats emerging from regulatory shifts. For example, a lawyer needs to be able to put in context a major merger deal in a particular sector for a client, by understanding how that might affect the client's business in terms of market share, pricing, and other factors. Without commercial awareness, legal advice can't be optimal for a client.
Although aspiring lawyers must be commercially aware, it is a skill that is not taught in Law School and takes time and effort to develop, much like learning a new language. It might seem a daunting task at first, but consistency and commitment will get you there.
In this blog post, Gwyn Day reveals his top resources for developing commercial awareness.
1. Your daily dose of business
It is crucial to stay on top of news and be aware of the latest deals and developments of the market. A good way of staying up-to-date is to subscribe to free newsletters by market actors, who will send you regular emails with updates straight into your inbox.
Here are some top newsletters to subscribe to:
by Eurasia Group
A newsletter on international affairs by GZero Media on geopolitics, international affairs and the potential business consequences
by Morgan Stanley
A newsletter on perspectives on market disruptions, reliable research and reports of major events.
by JP Morgan
This newsletter provides analysis on global economy perspectives, how industries are disrupted by current events and how innovation is transforming business.
by McKinsey & Company
A newsletter with extensive commentary on the future of major industries.
by The Wall Street Journal
A daily brief on the day’s most important events that you must be aware of – especially at an interview!
by Goldman Sachs
A weekly newsletter on market-shaping trends, the works of industries and global economy news.
2. Following the right people
Following inspiring professionals who report on industry news will shape your ability to 'think business' and understand different perceptions of a market trend or phenomenon.
Here are some top professionals for you to follow:
Mohamed Al. El-Erian
Chief Economic Advisor at Allianz
Senior EMEA Market Strategist at BNY Mellon
Listen to Geoffrey’s recent perspective on Real Yields here.
Global Fixed Income Strategist at Societe Generale
You can find some of Kit Juckes' commentary on the capital markets here.
3. Reading time
Honing commercial awareness can become a lot easier when it's broken down to simple concepts. Books are an incredible source of a thorough analysis of issues that affect commercial reality.
Here are our top picks:
By Christopher Stoakes
An essential guide to the financial markets that breaks down complex topics for students and young professionals interested in pursuing a career in the City and the corporate world.
By Phillip Coggan
The Money Machine is a practical guide that explains the financial markets, from what causes interest rates to fluctuate to which institutions matter and why.
By Richard E. Susskind
Tomorrow's Lawyers analyses how technology is revolutionising the legal profession. A book-guide to the future of the profession, from automation in legal documentation to online dispute resolution.
4. Take up a new course
Online courses are more popular than ever. Taking up an online course is both convenient and an excellent way to add to your transferable skills. See Gwyn’s picks below!
Offered by Yale University at Coursera
Legal terminology, concepts and tools are necessary to become a successful lawyer. The Law Student’s toolkit, offered by Yale University promises to teach you just that.
Offered by Harvard University at edX
As technology becomes an integral part of a lawyer’s work life, it is important to train yourself in understanding how it works and how it can potentially help you do your job better. A renowned course that will teach you the basics is Harvard’s CS50!
Offered by Allen & Overy (at Forage - formely InsideSherpa)
After watching the Youtube video by Allen & Overy, The Anatomy of a Deal, you can have a taste of what it’s like to work as an international transactional solicitor by doing the virtual internship offered by the firm at Forage.