Commercial awareness – the ability to understand and interpret complex commercial law and business situations – is a crucial skill for any successful lawyer. Improving your commercial awareness can be difficult, but there are a few simple steps you can take to get started:
1. Get to know your industry
When researching a law firm to apply to, it is important to have a good understanding of the types of cases the firm typically handles. This will give you a better idea of the commercial awareness you will need for the job.
Another thing to look for is how long the firm has been in business. A younger firm may be more aggressive and willing to take on more commercial risk, while an older firm may be more established and cautious.
It is also important to check out the partners at the firm and see if any of them have worked on cases that interest you. This can give you an idea of the type of work you would be doing if you were hired by that firm.
Networking with lawyers outside your workplace is another important step in improving your commercial awareness. Attorneys can provide insights into their work, offer advice on career paths, and introduce aspiring lawyers to potential employers.
Consider a real (or hypothetical) client’s needs and interests. A lawyer should not only be able to advise their client but also understand where the client is coming from. This means that the attorney must have at least a basic understanding of that client’s business and industry.
2. Follow the news
Every day, there are new developments in the law profession. It is important to stay up-to-date on these events, to maintain a high level of commercial awareness.
The best way to do this is to read newspapers and journals, as well as watch the news. By keeping up with current events, you will be able to identify any potential changes or opportunities that might arise in your industry. You will also be better equipped to provide sound legal advice to your clients.
The business sections of newspapers such as The Times, The Guardian and The Financial Times offer insights into how the business world is changing and how it might impact the legal landscape. They also have a strong online presence, providing additional resources such as podcasts, videos and blogs.
In addition, business news TV channels are a great way to keep up with the latest goings-on in the business world. They offer a variety of programming, from news shows to documentaries, that can help you stay commercially aware. Try BBC News, CNBC Europe, or Bloomberg Television.
Another great way to stay up-to-date is by listening to daily law podcasts, which can be found on websites such as lawyerist.com and legaltalknetwork.com. These podcasts offer news and insights on a variety of legal topics, including recent court decisions, changes in the law, and tips for running a successful law practice.
And don’t forget social media: stay on top of the latest business and legal news via Twitter and LinkedIn.
3. Know your numbers
Lawyers need to have a good understanding of financial statements and key performance indicators (KPIs) if they want to be successful. Financial statements can tell you a lot about a company, such as how profitable it is, how much debt it has, and what its assets are worth.
KPIs are also important to understand, as they can give you an idea of how well a company is doing relative to its competitors.
Financial statements are typically divided into four sections: balance sheet, income statement, cash flow statement, and statement of retained earnings.
The balance sheet shows a company’s assets (property and equipment, cash and investments, accounts receivable, inventory), liabilities (notes payable, accounts payable), and shareholders’ equity (the amount of money invested in the company by its owners).
The income statement measures a company’s revenues and expenses over a specific period of time such as a month or year.
4. Understand the legal landscape
Know the basic laws that govern your industry. By understanding the legal landscape, you can avoid costly penalties and legal battles down the road. There are a number of different laws that may apply to your business, so it’s important to do your research. In particular, businesses can be impacted by the following three laws:
Copyright law protects original works from being copied or used without permission. This includes literary, artistic, and musical works. Businesses should be sure to get copyright permission before using any copyrighted materials.
Employment law governs the relationship between employers and employees. It covers things like hiring procedures, wage and hour laws, and workplace safety regulations. Businesses need to be in compliance with all applicable employment laws.
Contract law governs the formation and enforcement of contracts between parties. Businesses should make sure they have clear contracts in place for all transactions, and that both parties understand the terms of the contract before signing it.
5. Seek out mentors
Find a mentor with experience in the law field who can help develop your commercial awareness. A mentor can help you navigate your way through the legal profession by sharing their knowledge and experiences with you.
A mentor with the right legal experience can help you develop your commercial awareness. They can provide you with guidance on best practice, as well as offer networking opportunities.
When looking for a mentor, it is important to find someone who is reputable and experienced. You should also make sure that you are compatible with your mentor and that you are able to build a trusting relationship.
Commercial awareness is essential for success in the law industry. By following these tips, you can improve yours.
Commercial awareness is not only about knowing the law; it is also about understanding the business and commercial world in which the law operates. It takes time and practice to develop strong commercial awareness skills, but with hard work and dedication, it’s achievable.