Becoming a Business lawyer – Commercial Awareness, reading the FT and all that. Part 1

These tips are in two parts. Read part 2 as well for some specific commercial awareness topics that you will need to know.

What are law firms interested in ?

  • Law firms are businesses.
  • Commercial law firms serve businesses.
  • So the ideal lawyer needs to think like a business person.
  • Law firms therefore want to recruit people who are not only good lawyers, but are good business thinkers.

How is analytical ability and ‘commercial awareness’ tested at interview ?

  • Analysis of an article or case study.
  • Case study possibilities :
    • Financial (valuing a company),
    • Economy focussed (e.g. the housing market), or
    • Ethical (e.g. conflicts of interest, reputation, bribery).
  • You may be asked to summarise the article or case study in a few sentences : practice these skills several times before the interview using articles from the FT and the Economist.
  • You’ll be asked questions about the article or case study which are intended to test how you analyse problems and think, judgement and common sense.
  • You’ll also need to be prepared to answer questions about current affairs and the business world.

What qualities, exactly, are law firms trying to test ?

  • In a nutshell : clarity, creativity and flexible thinking, common sense, interest and curiosity, and the ability to talk intelligently about what’s going on in the world.
  • The interviewer will also be asking him or herself : do I like this person and is he or she someone who’ll impress clients ?

So what, in practice, should you do in the interview ?

  • Identify key issues and explain them clearly
  • Think and argue creatively and flexibly
  • Use clear expression and vocabulary
  • Show that you’re a likeable, engaging person
  • Show common sense and that you think about issues
  • Display curiosity and awareness about the world
  • How you answer questions is important – be brief, clear and confident; don’t ramble; saying ‘I don’t know’ is OK (sometimes) ! Ask if the question is unclear.

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