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What is Commercial Awareness and why is it Important (Allen & Overy)

29 September 2015 |

What is Commercial Awareness?

Commercial awareness is having an understanding of the context in which law firms operate.

An awareness of the economic and business landscape: to be able to understand the client, their business, their priorities, their competitors and the relevant industry sectors and markets so that you are able to offer informed, contextual advice.

Not only consideration of legal issues, but anticipation of the impact of the economic climate, political environment, and current affairs, trends and developments to maximise a client"s opportunities and minimise their exposure to risk.

Why is commercial awareness important for lawyers?

"Fundamentally, a lawyer is not just a practitioner of law but a business advisor. You will be dealing with complex business transactions covering multiple jurisdictions at A&O and we need to know that our lawyers are able to offer practical and innovative advice to large, global corporates, financial institutions, regulators and governments. The legal and economic landscape is constantly changing and so there is more pressure than ever in a competitive market for us to be able to offer our clients the very best commercial legal advice."

Claire Wright, Graduate Recruitment Partner, Allen & Overy LLP

Why is commercial awareness important for applicants?

In being commercially aware, you are demonstrating two things to the firms you are applying for. Firstly, your genuine interest and passion for the job and the industries with which you will be working. Secondly, the extent to which you are able to think in a commercial context: a crucial skill for lawyers.

"It is an area, where most students fall down," says Sarah Cockburn, Senior Graduate Recruitment Manager at Allen & Overy. "The emphasis must be to not just read about what is going on in the legal and business world, but to think practically how this could affect a law firm and its clients. Much of the assessment process focuses on evaluating the ability of candidates to show an understanding of key issues."

"In interviews, employers are looking for far more than an aptitude for law; I found that a basic awareness of how companies operate, the nature and range of financial products, and the function of the global markets helped me to demonstrate an understanding of transactional and advisory legal work in its wider commercial context – having not done a law degree I felt that was really important."

Luke Sampson, A&O Future Trainee

"Commercial awareness provided me with essential context that enabled me to better understand interview case studies and the transactions to which I was exposed during my vacation scheme. I was consequently able to participate in informed discussions with interviewers and supervisors, which demonstrated my enthusiasm with regards to the work in which the firm engages and willingness to learn more. This in turn was positively reflected in my feedback."