Becoming a Business lawyer – Commercial Awareness, reading the FT and all that Part 2

These tips are in two parts. Read part 1 as well to get a feel for the commercial awareness qualities that law firms like to test.

What should you know about current affairs ?

  • Large firms advise clients whose business lives are acted out on the international stage. This means that you should be aware of the international economic and political pressures shaping those businesses today.
  • At the very least, this means reading about and understanding the main factors currently driving the economies of China, the US and Europe, as well as the UK.
  • You should also be able to talk confidently about the topics currently in the headlines, including in the financial press

What should you know about the business world and concepts ?

You should understand (and be able to explain briefly) basic business concepts and jargon, for example :

  • What is leverage ?
  • What is the difference between a business model and a business plan ?
  • What is a brand ?
  • What is a franchise ?
  • What is a vertically integrated business ?
  • How are patents different from copyright ?
  • What is the ‘fiscal cliff’ ?
  • What is an interest rate swap ?
  • What is a credit default swap ?
  • What is an IPO ?
  • What is a corporate merger ?
  • What is antitrust ?
  • What is an investment fund ?
  • What is a hedge fund ?
  • What is a private equity house ?
  • What is a bond issue ?
  • What is a syndicated corporate loan ?
  • What is LIBOR ?
  • What is Islamic finance ?

You should also understand something about the following types of businesses

  • Law firms :
  • What are the main departments in a law firm ?
  • What do you understand by a law firm’s ‘culture’ ?
  • Given an example of a law firm international strategy
  • Banks :
  • How do banks make their money ?
  • What is the difference between the retail and investment banking arm of a bank ?
  • What are the main departments within an investment bank ?
  • What are the economic and regulatory pressures faced by banks today ?

How should you go about preparing ?

  • Quality dailies : read the Financial Times or the Wall Street Journal at least twice a week, and daily in the week leading up to the interview.
  • Quality weeklies : read the Economist pretty much from cover to cover each week at least two months before the interview.
  • Law firm specialist press : Legal Week website
  • Other sources : TED Talks
  • Books : “Commercial Awareness 2013/14” by Christopher Stoakes.

Image on previous page © Dennis Skley