Because there are so many attorneys in the United States, graduating law students have to think of ways to differentiate themselves from their peers. Obviously, these new attorneys are going to have to quickly learn the actual law in their jurisdiction.
But beyond this basic starting point, the best lawyers emphasize commerciality. By commerciality, I mean these attorneys understand their client’s (or a prospective client’s) business, the client’s objectives, the importance of communicating in a “non-legal” way to solve the client’s problem(s), and the importance of efficiency to eliminate any unnecessary work or billable hours.
It seems like an obvious point. But it’s often the case that attorneys are so in the weeds with the law that they forget that they are tasked with solving problems for clients. This is actually a common mistake that I, and many young attorneys, made. We’re comfortable researching case law and using the skills we learned in law school to write detailed memos on legal precedent. The real world is different, and clients expect concise answers to their problems. They don’t necessarily care about the legal precedent itself; rather, how the law applies to their facts. This is where knowledge of the client’s business, objectives and its industry becomes beneficial.
Further, the best lawyers will showcase their commercial awareness when responding to an RFP or when pitching their services to prospective clients. In-house counsel will be looking to see if the attorney actually knows their business and industry and, on a more meta level, is willing to put in the time to understand the details. As the fight to win business becomes even more competitive, Big Law firms are emphasizing commerciality when trying to build their books of business.
Some of the best ways to become commercially aware are to attend industry events, read up as much as you can about your client’s business, and speak with experts. By putting in this work, you’ll be able to more effectively represent your client and will be able to win the business of prospective clients.