How to Increase Commercial Awareness as a Law Student

If you are a third or fourth year law student, you might be busy looking for internships right now. Law firms, government institutions, non-profits, the list are endless. However, if you have some interest in working in a law firm, you might be familiar with their Intern requirements. Often times one of them is having a “Commercial Awareness”. What is that exactly? Your second response would be what kind of regulations should I look up into?

Like the definition of “Law” itself, no consensus has been reached on it and no particular meaning is truer than the other. It sounds a little vague. If you ask some lawyers, their answers might be about being able to give legal advice with regards to the Client’s business interest in a particular industry. Basically, to understand how the business and economic activities world intertwined with the legal one.

If you elaborate more, according to The Lawyer Portal, having a Commercial Awareness means that you have a firm grasp of your clients’ business, have a wide understanding of the industry in which your client operates, understand how your client interacts and performs compared with direct competitors, as well as have a good understanding of what leads to the success of a client’s business in light of the challenges posed by politics and the world economy.

In law school, especially if you took Business or Commercial concentration, you are on the first step on becoming more commercially aware. But let’s not stop there. You can always find ways to increase your Commercial Awareness to improve your probability in getting an internship at a corporate law firm.

First, the non-negotiable one, you have to read a lot. Read everything related to the current trend of the business world. One habit I have developed during my internship at a small firm is reading a newspaper every morning. It does not have to be sophisticated. You can start by reading topics you like. For example, if you like aviation, you can read through all relevant publication about Garuda Indonesia and its current financial crisis. Be the most knowledgeable person on that topic so that if anyone ever bringing that up, you can add something valuable to the conversation. Look also for corporate actions, such as Initial Public Offering (IPO), Merger & Acquisition (M&A), and so on, especially for state-owned or big companies since everyone will talk about it.

Second, pay attention to law firms’ Insight and Publication on their website. When the government issues new regulations, they usually have a summary on what does it regulate, does it amend or revoke the previous regulation, and how that regulation relate to the specific industry including one or two examples from their recent success cases.

Third, utilize your social media. Sure, it can be daunting to always keeping up to date to the recent news, especially during this time. But, it can be a fun way to get to know what is happening in the business world. Also, if you follow companies’ social media account, you will know what they are into right know. Twitter and Linkedin also great to follow individuals or groups in your practice area, or in the industry that you are interested in.

Last, just be curious and talk to people. Reach out to your friends or seniors who already working in a place that you want. Find ways to make every conversation an insightful one. Research more about it to make sure your understanding is unbiased and in line with the fact. My current work is related to Banking, Finance, and Debt Restructuring matters. Therefore, it is mandatory for me to stay updated with the current trends by talking to my colleagues about certain regulations and deals. Your Partner and Associates will give you a lot of insight from their experience practicing the law. The ones that is very new concept and I’ve never come up with at university is about an Export Financing and Security Sharing Agreements.

I’m just starting to work in a corporate law firm. Everything is new, scary, and exciting at the same time. I too, have to remain myself to always keeping up with the Commercial Awareness. Learning, especially in the legal field, is a life-long process. One senior said that even if we live until we die, and be born again, to live and die again, we cannot understand every law theories and regulations that is happening right now. The road is still long. That is why I think curiosity, humility, and willingness to learn are the traits that drive you further on your career in law journey.