3 habits you can build to improve your commercial awareness

August 25, 2021

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3 min read

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At this point, the importance of commercial awareness for aspiring lawyers is well documented. It is an increasingly sought-after characteristic in candidates. What constitutes commercial awareness is debatable and there are many definitions. This article will focus on developing three habits to develop commercial awareness. These habits can be seen as three key strategies which are defined as absorption, analysis, and explanation.

1. Reading the right news

The first and most crucial habit is to just begin reading commercial news. This does not mean heading to the FT stocks section straight away. On the contrary, at an early stage the commitment should not be overwhelming. For example, reserve 15 minutes per day to read one article and listen to one short podcast (e.g FT briefing). Once more comfortable with commercial stories, you can begin to make longer commitments such as subscribing to a google alert covering a sector or specific company, listening to longer podcasts, or reading books such as “Know The City”. Consistency is key as you begin to develop a knowledge bank and the confidence in reading commercial news.

2. Analysing the news

After spending some time in this first phase, you will naturally begin to understand commercial concepts and visualise links you may previously have failed to see. With this knowledge in hand, the second, and arguably most important habit, is to seriously begin analysing what you are absorbing. While previously you may have found it difficult to analyse news stories due to a lack of information, now you should be armed with some knowledge to provide a deeper analysis of a story. The “analysis” can manifest in many forms, the most popular being PESTLE and STAR. As such, it is important to reserve an extra 10 minutes after reading for the analysis section. A top tip is to develop a strong argument or choose a side as interviewers will expect you to justify your position.

3. Practise, practise, practise

Finally, after implementing the first two habits for a few months, an important next step is to orally present your commercial news stories. Here,  we recommend two steps. Firstly, try explaining commercial concepts or a recent commercial news story to friends or family that have no background or expertise in the corporate sector. This is usually a good way to establish the extent of your own understanding and it helps develop your ability to communicate succinctly and effectively. If they do not understand what you are saying, then it is probably because you have not explained it well enough. Secondly, present those same concepts or news articles to friends or family that are knowledgeable in the sector. This is also important because they are more likely to poke holes in your analysis and offer you a new perspective. This will reinforce your own understanding and prepare you for interviews, most of which will require you to present your commercial knowledge orally.

In conclusion, begin to read commercial news – even if it is passively for the first few months. Then, you should have the confidence to begin analysing the stories in more depth. Finally, practice explaining and discussing commercial news stories orally to prepare for interviews. If you find yourself in an M&A or Private Equity based case study interview, a question you will certainly encounter is: “This acquisition is legally feasible, but do you think it is commercially beneficial to our client?” With these three habits in place, you will be more than prepared to answer!

Report written by Andri Boda

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