Question (3): What are you doing to show you are ‘commercial’?
Some might tell you that commerciality or commercial awareness is something you acquire after practising or being in business for a significant period of time. Others (likely to be more uptight as human beings) will tell you that commerciality is about having a specific knowledge set – being-up-to-date with the markets, and having an almost intimate understanding of the economic variables that affect the way lawyers and business people act and work. At your stage, both these assertions are incorrect. You’re intending to be a lawyer and not an economist. As such, it’s opinions on bigger or macro issues that affect business that will impress. To form opinions, try doing the following:
- Read a broadsheet newspaper every day – cover to cover. Being commercial doesn’t just mean talking about business and/or commerce. You’ll need to show an interest in events that shape the world as well (from the latest Cabinet re-shuffle to Iranian foreign policy) so you’re not a one-dimensional dullard. By the way, the Daily Mail doesn’t count…
- Read The Lawyer, rollonfriday and Legal Week online every week – watch out for your chosen firm or preferred firms!
- Chat to friends once a month who work in other industries (that might impact on the work you could do in your firm) to understand subtle trends challenges – very impressive to raise these in interview or on a scheme!
- Read Private Eye twice a month for a more acerbic look at business and current affairs
- Read The Week if you have been out of the country for some time – a great way to catch up if you’ve missed a lot without trawling through back-copies of the newspaper.
Excel – train yourself up to be an excel guru and volunteer your expertise when you get to your firm. Your senior colleagues won’t have a clue how to use it. Big brownie points available if you can use complex formulae.
PowerPoint – do the same – volunteer to take control of slide presentations.
Look – be as formally dressed and turned out as possible to look commercial. Don’t make any statements with clothes (short skirts, socks, ties, cufflinks etc…). Be recognized for your brain and not your look. Be ready to be taken to a meeting at a moment’s notice.
What about the Financial Times? The Financial Times (FT) has two main purposes:
a) A useful but pretentious way to show off your financial ‘sophistication’ to others on public transport (if you complete the FT crossword in front of others, extra kudos points are available).
b) A rather long-winded and unnecessarily turgidly-written briefing tool for those who work in business who need to find out how money moulds their landscape daily.
The FT is quite boring (it’s even pink to try to make it look a little bit more ‘interesting’). Given that you need to acquire only a macro- and not a micro-economic knowledge as a lawyer, there are only a few bits and bobs in the FT that are of any use to you as a legal practitioner (bits you can probably find in your daily broadsheet, albeit written with slightly more polemic).
You should aim to ‘read’ the FT three times per week, and whilst we recommend that you keep a copy on your desk every now and then to show willing, here is our very short, pragmatic guide to ‘skim-reading’ the FT:
1. Read the companies and markets section – read this first (and possibly last if you are pushed for time).
2. Read the Lex colum – It is on the back page of the main section, it’s written by the FT’s bright young things, it is read by chief executives, bankers and lawyers and it’s a great way of detecting the trading patterns of companies
Written by our Guest Writer, Steve Weiner, author of “21st Century Solicitor: How to Make a Real Impact as a Junior Commercial Lawyer”. For more details about this book click here: 21st Century Solicitor
(Copyright – Steve Weiner 2011)