The term commercial awareness is an elusive terminology that has evaded the grasp of many law students and lawyers. Even as a first year law student, I used to wonder why there existed an entire stand dedicated to a wide array of legal and business newspapers in the law library. Back then I had the impression the library was a reservoir of books and journals and that the appearance of newspapers in the library was an anomaly. But looking back now in retrospect, I’m beginning to see the wisdom behind the decision to leave magazines in the law library.
It was to make us commercially aware. While attaining the highest law degree distinction has always been regarded as the surest guarantee to securing a job, law students must realize that this no more the next best thing to a six figure job. Employers are demanding that more than achieving academic distinction, law graduates demonstrate commercial awareness.
An understanding of commercial awareness is very critical to job searching candidates. Without this knowledge employers will likely impeach the pedigree of a job applicant.
What then is commercial awareness?
It is having an understanding of the industry in which you are seeking a job. It basically means having the knowledge of how a business works and knowing the day-to-day happenings in the world of business- the latest mergers and acquisitions, the winners and losers of specific industries and the position of the main players.
In the case of seeking jobs in law firms, a law student may be asked to demonstrate an understanding of the law firms business and the situation of its competitors. In other cases they may be asked to comment or give their opinion on the recent news or election. An instance could be “tell us what you think of the conduct of the recent elections in Ondo, State, Nigeria?” or “the implications of a Trump presidency to China”. You could also be asked a question about the world of business like “why do you think clients outsource services to places like India or China?”
How to develop commercial awareness
(1) Read Newspapers
You should read up the day’s newspapers to keep pace with the latest happening in the world. Also read bar association newsletters, industry publications and the likes.
(2) Use social media
Be constantly up to date through social media platforms like Facebook, twitter and LinkedIn. Follow influencers in your specific industry and pages with financial headlines. Follow law firms too if especially you intend approaching them one day for a job interview.
(3) Visit websites
If you think picking up a paper to read every day would come at quite a cost to you, then visit on-line news websites to stay current. You have sites like Buzz feed, in Nigeria, the Vanguard, and Punch are all good reads.
(4) Work experience
You can gain commercial awareness through knowledge you gain working in the related job field.
(5) Watch the News.
Make out time each day to listen in on the latest news. Tune in to the early morning radio broadcast or TV at night.
A youngish lawyer with penetrating insight, Patrick Herbert is the Editor-in-Chief and founder of Lawstudenthub, a site dedicated to helping new wigs find their footing in a trickily slippery legal profession and stay current with emerging developments in the legal industry. He holds an LL.B from the University of Benin and a BL from the Nigerian Law School, Abuja.
To get in touch, follow him on social media.