by Tinks Wilson, Final year Law, currently on a study year abroad in the Netherlands
- Building Commercial Awareness
For students looking to break into Commercial law, Commercial Awareness is absolutely crucial. There is a lot of money to be made in Commercial Law, making it a popular and competitive choice for law students. The best candidates have a really good understanding of how businesses work, how the economy functions and how these can apply to potential clients. This is called Commercial Awareness.
Building Commercial Awareness takes time, but you’ll be surprised how much you learn if you stick at it! Here are some great ways to incorporate a bit more commercial awareness in your daily life:
-The Economist (Find via the app)
-Financial Times’s Daily News Briefing (these are free on the app, and they also have longer podcasts available if you want to deepen your knowledge on areas that interest you- find via the “podcasts” tab under the app)
-BBC’s “Wake Up To Money” podcast BBC Radio 5 Live – Wake Up to Money – Downloads
-Bright Network’s “Thinking Commercially” podcast (search “Thinking Commercially” into Spotify; the hosts are called Chris and Ben)
-Larger Law firms also often publish their own podcasts on their recent deals on their websites. Macfarlanes and Herbert Smith Freehills do particularly good ones.
– Watson’s Daily (available for free as a podcast on the website and on spotify, however they also have a paid subscription option with different prices for different levels of access; it’s not crazy expensive, but there are alternative sites which offer the same things (eg morning email updates) for free, such as Quartz Daily Briefing)
– LittleLaw (Note; not “Little’s Law”, which is a mathematical queueing theory)
–Investopedia (email you a term of the day which is very nice)
–Quartz Daily Brief (very US based, but still interesting)
-Reading the daily Business news on the BBC News (the Financial Times and the Economist are also commonly recommended, the Sussex library has an online subscription for them)
-“Everything You Need to Know About the City” Chris Stokes
-“All You Need to Know About Commercial Awareness” Chris Stokes
-”Commercial Law Handbook” City Career Series, Jake Schogger
-”Application, Interview and Internship Handbook” City Career Series, Jake Schogger
These books can be expensive, so it is worth checking Ebay or second hand book websites first. There is a facebook page for Second Hand Law Books for Sussex students called Sussex Law Society Second Hand Book Marketplace which is good.
- Researching Firms
Doing your research is the best thing you can do! Unfortunately, there is no shortcut to good research, but really think about what you can see yourself doing as a career and look at which firms you like which offer this. Furthermore, although they may all look fairly similar, all law firms are different, not only in specialisms but also culture. It’s good to also be really honest with yourself during this process; you may be dead set on an area or firm, only to research it further and change your mind. Similarly, whilst it may seem glamorous to refer to yourself as a Banking and Finance Lawyer, if you hate both Banking and Finance, this is not the specialism for you. This is perfectly okay and all part of the process, and it’s far better you find this out now than when you have to spend every day in the firm for at least 2 years whilst you train. Not being accepted into a firm may also have no reflection on your ability, just whether that firm suits you personally, and it is a painstaking process to apply to a firm which you and the firm ultimately know you won’t fit into and may not like once you’re there. So save yourself the time and energy and do your research!
Important differences to consider:
-If it is a US firm
-What that firm specialises in
-The size of the firm
-Where the firm is in Legal rankings
Here is a good article explaining the differences- Different types of law firm – Chambers Student Guide
Good places to research:
-The Firm’s website
- Understanding the Workings of Law Firms
–Forage virtual work experiences (These are free and so so helpful! The Clyde and Co one is especially interesting, and a good one to start off with; the White and Case one is very challenging and nearly put me off entirely)
-Use personal and family contacts for work experience if possible, but not everyone will be lucky enough to have this option.
-Attend court yourself (Lewes Crown Court is the closest to campus, you can get there on the 28 bus with your 24 hour student ticket. Get off at the “Law Courts” bus stop- it takes roughly 20-25 minutes to get there) https://www.find-court-tribunal.service.gov.uk/courts/lewes-combined-court-centre
Having a mentor to help you out is truly invaluable, and these websites are great for matching you with mentors to help you on your journey-
(Aspiring Solicitors is also linked to the Aspiring Solicitors Foundation, a charity which helps students from low socioeconomic backgrounds with paying for books etc- well worth a look for when that student loan just isn’t stretching far enough)
–GROW Mentoring (They can take a while to pair you with a mentor, so the sooner you apply the better)
Also, build your network! When you go to Law Fairs etc, (there are lots in the Law School, often with alumni who are happy to help) add the people you meet on LinkedIn and perhaps message them privately about something you discussed for more information. Of course always be respectful of their time and keep things professional, but this is a great way to build rapport and connections with professionals in the field.
- Psychometric Tests
When applying for firms from 2nd year onwards, you may have to do psychometric tests. Here are good ways to practise:
–Critical Thinking Tests – How to Become More Critical | How2become (another guide which is paid for unfortunately- I’ve heard good reviews and have not read it myself, but again you may be able to find it cheaper elsewhere)
–Job Test Prep (This one is free!)
-Many law firms have their own psychometric tests which are usually available for practices on their websites, eg Herbert Smith Freehills. Apply | Herbert Smith Freehills Graduate Careers (Scroll down to “2- Online Test” and click “Practice Test”).
- Practices for Assessment Centres
After applying for Vacation Schemes, you may be invited to an Assessment Centre to test your suitability for the firm before an offer is made. Good ways to prep for these are:
– Commercial Law Assessment Centre Guide | Mindfull Learning (Very very expensive (about £40) for what you could probably find out for free or in a much cheaper guide, but the option is there if you want it)
-Discuss news articles with friends who are interested in similar practice areas
-Test yourself! Read an article and write out the key points, key definitions, what you expect the response to this will be, etc.
-If you get onto the SEO London City Solicitors Horizons scheme (see above), they have weekly Commercial Awareness calls which are a really great way to practise applying knowledge and quick-fire interview questions)
-Sussex Uni also has access to interview practice, available here- Interviews : Applying for jobs : Careers and Entrepreneurship (They also do CV and Cover Letter reviews under Careers Hub, where you submit your documents, book an appointment and a supervisor will give you feedback).
I hope everyone manages to find something helpful in the above; although law is inherently competitive, it’s really important not to view everybody as your competition and view them instead as your colleagues and friends. Whilst you may be vying for the same Vacation Scheme places now, you may well be working with each other in the future, especially if you’re interested in the same firms and Practice Areas- so don’t burn those bridges, or worse, refuse to build them in the first place!
In other final words of advice, and I can’t stress this enough, do thorough research! There is no shortcut to this unfortunately, but even half an hour a day really adds up. Secondly, organisation is absolutely key. Buying a planner was the best thing I ever did- the Bloomsbury Academic Diary by Stella Cottrell is the best one I’ve ever used, and also has lots of pretty stickers 🙂 Finally, try not to take rejection too harshly. Law is a competitive field, and you’re bound to experience rejection at some points. While this can be tough, keep going and stick with it- you’ll get where you want to be eventually!
Best of luck on your journey!