There isn’t a text book for you to study and an exam to take in commercial acumen! Up until now you have studied extensively, demonstrated lots of academic rigour, but nothing really prepares you on how develop your career and exactly what options are available and what barriers exist.
No amount of study prepares you to think about these decisions. Its takes an awful lot of commercial acumen to take all things into consideration and succeed in practice today. Becoming a good technical lawyer is one thing, securing an NQ solicitor position and developing the client relationships you need to be successful is another . One of the keys to success is an individuals degree of commercial acumen. Good commercial acumen is the key to preparing for and getting the most out of life as a lawyer in private practice. Being commercial astute allows you adapt to your environment.
Law firms spend a phenomenal amount of time and money in searching for the most talented lawyers. Developing their own trainees to become talented lawyers and future partners of the firm is their key objective but they also have to recruit externally too in order to reach their objectives. Partners spend a great deal of time considering what attributes make the “brightest talent”, and invariably seek to recruit only the very best and most able people. Law firms do not expect you to be the finished article, but are looking for “projected ability” and real potential. It would be naive to assume that every employer is looking for precisely the same traits, but aspiring lawyers must be able to demonstrate certain discernible skills both to succeed as a solicitor to operate effectively in the competitive professional and business world.
So what do you need to do to build commercial awareness? How can you demonstrate it during an interview? Think about ways you can get to understand your clients better and what part you play, what events you can attend to help you gain access to clients, existing or potential? What social events are there which are organised by clients or other lawyers that you can attend? Perhaps you can think of ones to organise yourself that help you get in front of clients and understand them more? How can you demonstrate that you are able to converse with clients and be seen as a trusted advisor? Being seen as a person and not just a lawyer will enable you to be identified by potential employers as someone who can gain trust. You will do this by being able to explain legal matters to clients in plain English and thus retain their business and gain referrals to other clients. A commercial client will often not care about the technical meaning of legal terminology, but they will be deeply interested in the impact that it may have on the matter at hand. Legal advice always takes on a business element and every trainee needs to be commercially aware, so that you will be able to contextualise legal advice to the client.