By Sean Doig
Exams are finished, you have your freedom at last. However, that does not mean you should stop caring about what is happening in the legal world while you are on holiday. We are all told we need to be commercially aware throughout our studies. Commercial awareness is a critical skill that all students should have in the increasingly competitive legal industry. But what does that actually mean? How do you become “commercially aware”? Below are a few quick tips on ways in which you can become more commercially aware every day.
1. Read or watch the news
It sounds so simple, yet it is so effective. I would imagine that you have a smartphone, perhaps you are reading this blog on one right now. Make your phone work for you; download news applications such as the BBC, Sky News, or The Guardian and set up alerts relating to your interests. If you are not sure about which area(s) of law interest you yet – particularly if you are in first year – just read generally the law and business sections of newspapers such as The Scotsman, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Financial Times, and The Guardian. A lot of newspapers understand that students work to a strict budget, so they offer student discounts on their website. But remember, becoming more commercially aware does NOT mean you have to read the Financial Times cover-to-cover every day.
As your interests evolve, you will find that an area of law will be more interesting to read than others. Once you have an area in mind, you may want to start reading more specialised industry publications. For example, if you find that you are really interested in Property Law, a publication like Property Week would be an extremely useful resource to become more aware of the developments within Property Law.
2. Listen to podcasts and radio
This is a completely free and useful way to become more aware of recent news stories and legal developments. There are many legal podcasts out there on platforms such as Spotify or Apple Podcasts, with a range of topics to help you with career advice, law applications, podcasts on specific areas of law, and general business news. The beauty of podcasts is that you can listen to them while on the go, on public transport, in a coffee shop, or anywhere you wish. In addition, they provide you with a deep insight into someone’s opinion on the law and on topics of public debate. When applying to law firms, they want to see that you have developed your own informed opinion on your area of interest, and listening to professionals expressing their opinion through podcasts can be helpful in forming your own personal viewpoint.
For example, if you are passionate and keen on undertaking a career in Family Law, it would be very useful for you to listen to ‘The Family Law Podcast’ where practising lawyers give their opinion on hot topics and debates within the family law sphere to help you make an informed opinion for yourself. Maybe you will be a family lawyer in the future giving your own opinions on a podcast one day!
3. Social media
Take a look at the social media pages of the firms that specialise in the area of law you would like to work in. This is particularly important when it comes to applying for vacation schemes or traineeships. Law firms use their social media platforms to promote their firm on purpose. They might share a big case they are working on, development in the law they are involved with, or any opportunities for students to get involved with.
One of the most important social media sites you should have as a law student is LinkedIn. If you do not have an account yet, make one now. It is just like setting up any other social media account, except it is all about you as a student and your career aspirations. You can connect with people you already know, students and lecturers in your university, and even network with professionals in the area of law that interests you. There is also the opportunity to follow law firms and keep up to date with the work they do. The Law Review has its own page where we post updates such as new blogs, competitions, events, and to advertise any opportunities. Why not give us a follow!
4. Commercial awareness websites
There are many free online resources that give you updates and insights into developments within the law or the news in general. One of the best websites to read as a law student is Legal Cheek. If you do not already know, Legal Cheek is a website aimed at law students to provide insights into legal developments and news stories often using student-friendly language. There are many articles on almost every area of the law and a whole range of useful facts about law firms in the UK. A great advantage to Legal Cheek is that they have their very own application that you can download for free to a phone or tablet and stay updated throughout the day. The one drawback for Scottish students is that often the articles focus on developments in England so do be careful when reading that you do not get confused with English legal terminology or procedure that is different to Scotland. Nevertheless, there are plenty of articles on Scots law with a simple search to keep you busy!
We were lucky enough to be sponsored by BeComAware for our first ever competition. BeComAware is a website, created by Sibel Vurdu (a trainee lawyer), which provides succinct updates on legal, business, and financial news. There are also definitions of some commercial and legal terminology that you should familiarise yourself with while you are still studying. If you want to stay ahead of the competition, you could choose to purchase a commercial awareness calendar on their website filled with commercial awareness essentials.
5. Read our Commercial Awareness Updates page
We have started a ‘Commercial Awareness Updates’ page on our website to bring you some of the key updates in different areas of the law. Our team work hard to keep an eye on developments in their favourite areas of the law and report back to the Law Review so we can bring the developments directly to you. In addition, we will post a ‘Commercial Term of the week’ for you to learn and build your bank of terminology. At the end of every month, test yourself to see if you can remember them.
Alternatively, why not work with us? You can join our team of researchers in an area of law that interests you. There is no better way to become more commercially aware than researching an area of law and explaining it to others.
Do not Panic if you have not been doing any of the above before, you cannot change the past. Start doing at least one of them today.
Focus on your interests. Be specific and true to what area(s) of law you are really interested in. If you do not know which area of law you want to focus on yet and you find that what you are reading or researching is quite dry and dull, then it is probably not the right path for you. Keep an open mind until you find the right one.
Start Early. It is never too early (or late) to be commercially aware. Even if you are a first-year student, starting early will really help you when it comes to choosing your career path later on.
Remember: do not stop striving to be better.