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How to Build Commercial Awareness

Updated: Aug 27, 2023

By Lily Edwards

‘Commercial Awareness’… Do you see it in job descriptions, hear it in interviews, know you

should have it but often struggle to show how you have it and where you got it from? Well,

you’re not alone! Building and showing commercial awareness is a common area which law

students struggle with, so we have compiled some tips to help.

Our top tips for commercial awareness

Understand exactly what commercial awareness is

In order to demonstrate that you have commercial awareness, you need to know exactly

what it is. Commercial awareness is all about having knowledge of how the business works,

not just internally but from a wider perspective of the industry which can be influenced by

many factors such as political, economic, technological etc. It is therefore no surprise that it

is such an important skill required by employers, as it shows that you really know the

industry that you are applying for, as to have commercial awareness means you have a good

understanding of not only the firm, but the industry itself which has many transferrable


Research… Then research some more!

One of the easiest and most efficient ways to build your own commercial awareness is to

research the forms you are interested in. Even if you are interested in only one firm,

research more as it is crucial you look into a few as this helps you get a better understanding

of the industry as a whole. When researching, try and gain an idea of what the values and

priorities are of each firm. These will usually be outlined in the ‘about’ section of the

website, but you should go further than this and read any news articles and reports about

the firms. This will help you understand what the strengths of the firm are. The next step is

to think about what the weaknesses of the firms are. IT is unlikely that these will. Be listed

on the website, so you need tp put your thinking hat on! What are issues that could

threaten the firm? This is an important question to ask, as it could come up in interviews to

assess your commercial awareness.

Read the news

Commercial awareness is not limited to the law firms you are interested in, or even the just

the legal industry. As mentioned, it is impacted by a multitude of factors such as economic,

political and even technological. The best way to keep in the loop with these issues is to

read the news every day, and ask yourself how this affects specific firms, and the industry at

large. For example, what is the impact of the recession on the legal industry? What about

for city firms compared to high street firms? By getting into a habit of this, you will begin to

build your commercial awareness without thinking about it and will be able to use things

you’ve picked up from the news in interviews for example.

Hands on experience

This one is more difficult to obtain but is invaluable: work experience. Working in the

industry is one of the most efficient ways to gain an understanding of the industry, its

strengths and weaknesses and how these impact day to day workings of a business. If you

are lucky enough to have work experience, one of the best tips is to ask questions: why that

happens the way it does, how was that specific outcome reached etc. That, along with your

other methods such as reading and researching will allow you to think about how you would

act in these situations – and that is the key to having commercial awareness: being are

cognizant of what is happening within the business and understanding what the best

outcome would be.

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