Nowadays, commercial awareness is a well-versed phrase amongst high-profile law firms. This has led various law students and employees in the legal field to question the exact meaning of the expression. It is now well established that to be successful in the legal field and become more alluring to law firms, showing commercial awareness in the real world is essential. This article will address exactly what this phrase means and its importance.

What is Commercial Awareness?

Simplified, commercial awareness is an understanding of how business’s work and their role within the economic and political landscape. In a sense, it is more than being aware of the commercial world. It is having commercial thinking and knowing how business’s make profit, work with clients, and employ their employees. For example, reading about how mergers can increase business profitability may build upon your commercial awareness. Therefore, in a broad sense, commercial awareness is not just an understanding of how a business works, but understanding the marketplace they conduct business in.

More specifically, commercial awareness in law means understanding law firms on a deeper level and their role in the marketplace. This is especially important for solicitors that want to go down the commercial law route. In commercial law you need to be aware of the current deals, transactions and marketplace in the business world. For example, legal commercial awareness may be demonstrated by knowing about a profitable deal with another firm or addressing economic changes with clients and their business. This concept does not have a singular definition but is constantly changing, reflecting a forever-changing business landscape. 

Thus, it is clear to see why this skill is so highly sought after. If a student can demonstrate this awareness to a firm, they show the firm that they can provide expert legal advice with an in-depth understanding of how that business works. This will be profitable for a firm as they know that their clients will only want to pay a lawyer if they know how their business works in the real world.

Why is Commercial Awareness so Important to Lawyers?

Commercial awareness is a vital skill for lawyers to have for various reasons:

  • Adds value to businesses’ by understanding general client needs
  • Provides clients with advice unique to how their business works
  • Can increase firm profits by knowing how their competitor’s work and operate
  • As a way of thinking, commercial awareness can result in better equipped lawyers, making them crucial to a firm’s success
  • Showing commercial awareness to firms can increase the chances of law students gaining a traineeship which leads them to being a practicing solicitor.
  • Being tuned in to the business world can help lawyers/law students themselves understand their clients’ needs
  • As lawyers work in a fast-paced environment, already knowing how companies work can save their clients and the firm money.

How to Develop Commercial Awareness?

There are many methods to develop commercial awareness early on. For instance, reading newspapers like the Financial Times and The Guardian can develop better awareness. This is because they have a specific focus on commerce and business, but reading any newspaper if options are limited can also help. However, even watching the news or talking to people about the subject can increase a person’s commercial awareness. Personally, the podcast ‘Watsons Daily’ offers a great insight into city firms and how the legal commercial world works. As can be seen, developing commercial awareness can be done in a flexible manner.


Overall, commercial awareness is an essential skill law firms look for in their future solicitors. By developing this skill, law students can make themselves stand out in traineeship applications and offer clients a more comprehensive solution to their legal commerce issues.  

By Kate Murray