Top 10 Commercial Awareness Questions & How to Answer Them

August 16, 2020

4 min read

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When it comes to vacation scheme or training contract applications, there is bound to be a question on commercial awareness.  In this guide, we break down the types of commercial awareness application questions a law firm could ask.  Then, if that doesn’t quite satisfy those commercial cravings, we’ll even take you through 10 common examples.

Commercial awareness questions can be broken down into 5 categories. Understanding what category a question falls into is the first step in drafting a successful answer.  The second step is identifying what key points the question wants you to address.

General Questions
This question is designed to test your ability to understand a wide-reaching issue. It could be related to the UK, a global issue or a wider commercial theme in the news.  The idea behind the question is to test how you believe this issue is affecting the wider market, e.g. certain clients/sectors of a firm, as well as the specific firm to which you are applying.

Examples:

  1. How do you think business will be affected by UK politics?
  2. Tell us about a recent commercial deal that has captured your interest.

 

LittleLaw’s Top Tips: 

  • It may sound obvious, but read the news regularly (Economist, FT &, of course, LittleLaw). You will find topics which interest you and explore these further. Behind every news story, a legal issue can be found. For example, consider the recent political decision to ban Huawei from building the UK’s 5G network.  The decision will disadvantage many telecoms firms like BT but open the market to others like Nokia. Perhaps the firm you are applying to represents one of these clients, or do its clients have a presence in Asia which the decision could impact?
  • Don’t mention infamous news – it’s tempting, we understand. Things like Brexit will continue to plague businesses in the UK. But recruiters will read thousands of applications specifically focusing on Brexit or the Coronavirus pandemic. Be unique, don’t follow the sheep…

Firm-Specific Questions
These questions want you to explain how certain events or commercial deals will directly impact your chosen law firm. It’s also a way of demonstrating why you want to work for this firm above any other. The question tests your knowledge of the firm, its practice areas and competition.

Examples:

 3. Who are our main competitors and how do we differentiate ourselves from them?
4. What do you hope to get out of a career at a firm like ours?

LittleLaw’s Top Tips: 

  • A great place to start is undertaking a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) of the firm and its competitors. Listing the strengths and opportunities of a firm can allow you to demonstrate that you know the markets targeted by the firm and its USPs which appeal to you.

Industry-Specific Questions
Similar to firm-specific questions, these sorts of questions want you to highlight where the law fits in. This requires a layered response, taking a broad topic and narrowing it down to specific examples.

Examples:

 5. What is/will be the biggest issue to face the legal industry?
6. What can a law firm do to stay profitable and what should the firm highlight to clients when pitching for work??

LittleLaw’s Top Tips: 

  • A great example of one such issue is legal tech. Start by mentioning the broader impact of legal tech on the industry. Use the weaknesses and threats you identified in the SWOT analysis and think about what a firm can do to turn them into strengths and opportunities. Maybe there might be specific examples of how your firm has evolved its business model to overcome these threats?

Questions Specific to You
These questions allow you to show off what you have done to upskill yourself and develop commercial awareness. They are designed so you can answer in a personal manner.

Examples:

 7. How would you demonstrate commercial awareness?
8. What can a law firm do to stay profitable and what should the firm highlight to clients when pitching for work??

LittleLaw’s Top Tips: 

The Quirky Questions
Some firms like testing your commercial awareness with questions which require thinking outside the box. These are probably the most difficult to write, but the idea behind them remains the same.  Again, they are designed so you can convey your personality. 

Examples:

 9. What do you wish you had invented and why?
10. If you were given £1,000, what would you invest in?

LittleLaw’s Top Tips: 

  • Everyone wishes they had invented the iPhone.  We think a quirky question deserves an equally out-there answer.  Perhaps something like the humble barcode, after all, a considerable amount of global trade relies on it.
  • Similarly, investing money in a Silicon Valley company is obvious. The question is designed for you to demonstrate expertise in an area of interest. Think about the pros and cons of an investment. For example, the advantage of good grammar software is that  the author makes less mistakes. But the software isn’t advanced enough to know it should be “fewer”, so would be a waste of money. 

Report written by Michael Johnson

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