Demonstrating Commercial Awareness

So we know what commercial awareness is (if you’re behind, have a look at this blog post or this IGTV), but how can we PROVE to a recruiter that we get it? I actually think it can be simple. Overthinking it is the WORST. In my experience, it’s just been a case of slipping it ~ casually ~ into a sentence.


Application

Every application is different, so I’m going to make this as generic as possible. You need to prove to the firm that you understand their market, why they are relevant in it and what’s going on in it. For example, have you had some work experience in a certain field? What did you learn and does this translate into any of the work the firm has recently done?

OR have you had a part-time job where you had to provide a customer service? What did you learn about keeping clients happy? How does this translate into the legal field and what can you see the firm doing to help build these client relationships?

If you can remove the name of the firm from your application, and can’t work out which firm it’s about, then you’ve got some re-drafting to do. Part of demonstrating your commercial understanding is getting that tailoring spot on. It’s about working out why the firm is unique and how that plays out in business.

In an application, it’s important that you give examples for everything you mention. This works for demonstrating commercial awareness too, simply use your example to link to a firm’s example. Whether that be innovation, a particular deal or something you find interesting about the firm’s structure etc.

Interview

Demonstrating commercial awareness in a competency interview works the same as in an application. You just have to link your experiences/answer to the firm or legal market at the end of each sentence. If you’re talking about being part of a pro bono project at uni – has the firm done something similar? It can be as simple as that. When have you had to cut time/costs in a job? Does this link to any innovation that the firm is working with/on?

In a case study interview, it’s time to think about the wider implications. This is where keeping up with the news comes in handy. Let’s say you’re given a piece of news or a transaction about an acquisition, your commercial awareness will really kick in when you think of issues that aren’t directly spoken about within the materials. I’ve somehow always managed to link what I’m talking about to the collapse of the high-street (probably because a lot of my case studies have been on tech giants and online retail!) and the wider implications of this. When you think of the high-street collapsing, what else do you think about? Here are some ideas;

  • Retailers that aren’t just shops (what happens to restaurants, cinemas, sense of community…)
  • Self-scanning machines replacing human labour (now you’ve sparked a whole discussion on employment and innovation)
  • Environmental challenges (is is sustainable to have multiple packages arriving at different times by different couriers when you could get them all in one place on a high-street?)

It may seem obvious, it may not, but it’s these wider discussions that will show your ability to commercially analyse a situation.


Disclaimer! Everything I write is based on MY journey securing vacation schemes with three top law firms. It’s definitely not exhaustive and it’s important to remember that different people have different experiences.

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