Why commercial law?
Why this firm?
What is a news story that you have been following?
With the wrong ingredients, this sandwich will kill a law student’s application. Okay, I exaggerate a bit. But the truth is, most students feel lost when faced with these questions.
These three questions call you to tell a story, and if you’re a good storyteller; well, it’s storytime!
Why Commercial law?
As Izzet Hassan on LinkedIn quite rightly presented on here, most students do not clearly state what exactly inspired them to pursue commercial law. They talk about what commercial law is generally but do not tailor it to their experiences.
If you think about it, what makes your commercial law answer special, if you simply regurgitate what you read on Chambers students without linking it to your personal experience?
Nothing? Yes, you’re absolutely right.
With that, a “why commercial law” answer should go a little something like this…
Commercial law appeals to me because of its intellectually engaging nature.
You then state when and where you applied this claim. So, you may have participated in a negotiation in law school, where you needed to engage your mind to find a variety of solutions to the issue at hand while trying to consider the law and fulfil your clients’ best interests.
You could add more recent examples of your pro-activity to gain more knowledge in the industry e.g. legal workshops or commercial awareness workshops, where trainees explain their role. Say what those experiences taught you about commercial law and what you enjoyed.
Then end with re-enforcing your initial claim of why commercial law.
In short, SHOW don’t tell.
Why the firm?
We continue the story and your “why commercial law” should lead neatly into “why the firm”. Your motivation for commercial law should start to help you narrow down what type of firm you want to work for. But I believe it is both your motivation and your interests that will help you determine your shortlist of firms.
Here it is important that you interact with the people in the firm in some way, to know if the firm is for you. Other forms of research are equally as important, for example, reading annual reports or listening to podcasts to get a feel of the firm’s strategy and where the firm is heading. Look out for the clients the firm works with (Legal 500’s website is great for this).
Let’s carry on from the example above. Your zeal for intellectually engaging work may lead you to want a global career because you want to engage with multiple jurisdictions. You may also have an interest in technology. You may then find out the firm is well known for complex cross border work and has a guaranteed international secondment (work placement abroad) for its trainees, and also adopts a technology-driven strategy and encourages lawyers to interact with its technological developments.
Well, now you’ve found two reasons to apply to the firm. Don’t forget to take it back to what it means for your career.
News Story aka “Commercial Awareness”
Now, the last and final bit of the sandwich.
Some say you have to start with the firm’s practice areas and sectors (which comes with research on the firm). This personally didn’t work for me, because even though I knew firms’ practice areas and the work they engaged in, it felt artificial to look for the firm’s sector and then try and look for a story based on that. It also felt draining to sift through random news articles to decide what to talk about.
What worked for me was starting with my interests.
I am interested in technology.
Most firms I applied to were innovative or had some form of investment into a technological strategy.
We live in a digital era, and one of the biggest factors impacting the legal industry is technology (even the UK courts are trying to become more digitised).
As a result, I listened to/read news articles ranging from antitrust and intellectual property issues with tech companies to cybersecurity issues with organisations that adopt a digital strategy. I then applied it to the areas of the firm that may be impacted negatively or positively.
Providing you clarify your motivations and understanding of commercial law and your interests, it should make the other two bits of the sandwich a lot easier to tackle. However, this comes with gaining as much experience as possible; even if that means speaking to someone from inside the firm.