Christianah Babajide, one of Lawbore’s legal journalists, is currently reading her LLB at City Law School. An aspiring barrister, Christianah is Communications Officer of City University’s Law Society, and also writes for CAREERS (City’s Careers blog). In this piece, she reports back on a Legal Cheek event.
Commercial Awareness Question Time – with Hardwicke and RPC
Alex Aldridge of Legal Cheek hosted a well-attended question time for future lawyers with top commercial chambers Hardwicke and leading law firm RPC.
David Pliener – Barrister (Hardwicke Chambers)
Education: City University London
Area of expertise: Commercial, Construction & Engineering
PJ Kirby QC – Barrister (Hardwicke Chambers)
Education: University of Hull
Area of expertise: Commercial & professional negligence
Simon Hart – Partner (RPC)
Education: Durham University
Area of expertise: Commercial Banking & Litigation
Amy Gallimore – Senior Associate (RPC)
Education: University of Leeds
Area of expertise: Personal & Corporate Insolvency law
The litigation-themed session took place at Hardwicke’s ultra-modern headquarters. Whether people were drawn by the varied panel and the prestigious venue (at the heart of Lincoln’s Inn), or like me, eager to gain some insights into commercial awareness, the topic on everyone’s lips was Remain or Leave, with most agreeing on the former.
The event kicked off with the student-lawyer audience questioning the expert panel about big financial and legal news stories in the past month.
The first question dug deep into the current affairs of the upcoming EU referendum by probing the impact Brexit may have on firms and chambers. Simon did not dwell on the possibility of a reduction of jobs for future lawyers, but instead called on us to work hard and persevere because these two factors will determine the type of litigation work we are exposed to.
The audience was predominantly filled with law students, so the questions posed soon swayed towards the impact Brexit would have on the EU law module, if it remains on the LLB syllabus. Simon assured us that Brexit did not necessarily mean the EU law will change, “there are currently lots of laws implemented on the statute book so it will take a long time to abolish them.”
Barrister PJ said that it would throw up many disputes and leave students with multiple problem questions to solve during their exams.
What about Football?
Discussion moved onto football and how Brexit might affect premiership league games. Membership of the EU currently offers loopholes for players from diverse backgrounds.
Brexit would mean restrictions on foreign players, which will make it much harder for European footballers to come to England to play. England is considered the home of football, with the premiership being one of the most popular sports leagues in the world, so how will the sports fans fare if the UK leaves the EU?
Commercial Awareness isn’t about You: It’s about Your Clients
Commercial awareness took centre stage of discussion and panellists emphasised its importance stretches far beyond interview preparation; continuing with you during your career. They pinpointed its key utility as how you serve your clients. David, who has conducted his fair share of interviews, conceded that many candidates lacked commercial awareness. He emphasised the significance of being able to speak the same language as your client.
Simon detailed RPC’s take on this skill, “We are always looking for applicants that have substantial commercial awareness, they don’t necessarily need to have a degree. We favour candidates with an interest in commerce because at the end of the day we run as a business.”
It is clear that leading law firms would rather recruit candidates who have an understanding of their clients, competitors and where they sit in the legal market. PJ strengthened Simon’s point by saying it was important for mini-pupils to have a business mind-set. He advised candidates who wish to join Hardwicke Chambers: “Come with a business plan, which demonstrates how you hope to grow in the next 5 years”.
Amy reassured us that we don’t have to read The Financial Times every day to gain commercial acumen, it can be gained by simply considering the role a Solicitor or Barrister serves. The key word is serve because essentially you are serving your clients by providing them with a successful commercial outcome.
When questioned what the future holds for tomorrow’s lawyers, the panel acknowledged Brexit may cause the mix of lawyers to change but there will always be a high demand for lawyers. “As long as you are diversified you will do well in the legal sector.”
It is clear things are always changing in the economy but Amy advised future lawyers,
“having an open mind and creativity will help you to cope with recessions and most circumstances.”
Is Legal Journalism the Key to Commercial Awareness?
Alex of Legal Cheek certainly thinks so. He advised future lawyers to write articles, do case commentaries and even start a Blog. He suggested writing pieces on recent developments in the law. He concluded the evening with this: “You don’t have to be a city lawyer but as City students you are in the heart of London, therefore, I would advise you to take advantage of the opportunities on your doorstep.”