In the dynamic realm of law, where the pulse of commerce beats fiercely, I found myself thrust into the British Inter-University Commercial Awareness Competition (BIUCAC) 2023—a crucible designed for non-Russell group university students like me. Amidst a sea of 2,500 talented participants and sponsorship from prestigious law firms such as Ashurst, Freshfields, White & Case and Travers Smith, as well as Allen & Overy, Linklaters and Clifford Chance, this journey unfolded as a transformative exploration, pushing the boundaries of my knowledge and skillset.
Navigating Uncharted Territories
BIUCAC demanded more than a casual understanding of the legal landscape; it beckoned us into the realms of Macroeconomics, ESG, Technology and AI, and global economics. These were uncharted waters for many, prompting a strategic approach to preparation. The Financial Times and “All you need to know about the City” by Chris Stoakes became my navigational tools, guiding me through the complex tapestry of concepts that awaited.
The initial stages were 30 multiple-choice questions with a 14-minute time limit delivered via a Google Docs form. The preparation paid off, propelling me into the quarterfinals. The questions, initially daunting, became more manageable with a foundation built on extensive reading and exploration.
The Quarterfinals: A Test of Proficiency and Nerve
As the competition advanced to the quarterfinals, a new set of challenges emerged. Beyond multiple-choice questions, we were tasked with answering four questions in front of senior partners from renowned law firms via Zoom. The topics—debt and equity, inflation and interest rates—demanded not just familiarity but a profound understanding of their implications on businesses in the UK and globally.
Recognising the need for additional expertise, I sought guidance from my International Economic Law professor, David Collins. This collaborative effort extended to seeking insights from friends with backgrounds in economics, creating a knowledge-sharing network that proved instrumental in honing my understanding of the Bank of England and the current economic state of the UK.
As the morning of the Zoom presentation dawned, nerves were present but mitigated by weeks of rigorous preparation. The partners, gracious and welcoming, provided a platform for me to showcase my proficiency, particularly in answering questions on the impact of high inflation rates on businesses. The successful navigation of this stage marked my entry into the final – a culmination of dedication and collaborative learning.
The Grand Finale: A Symphony of Collaboration
The final, held in person at Travers Smith, brought together 24 participants allocated into groups of three. The tasks were both intricate and demanding—negotiating an M&A, delivering a client pitch, and individually preparing answers to two questions, one of which would be posed on the day. Additionally, a case study on an Electric Vehicle company acquisition added a layer of complexity to the challenge.
Teaming up with individuals from different universities and backgrounds, I found myself immersed in a negotiation task that required not just legal acumen but collaborative problem-solving. I sought advice on how to conduct a successful negotiation from my Legal Skills lecturer James Catchpole. The result was an outstanding Head of Terms for a Share Purchase Agreement – a testament to the power of diversity and collaboration.
The day of the final was not just a showcase of legal prowess but a holistic experience. Travers-Smith welcomed us with a networking breakfast, fostering connections among contestants, the BIUCAC committee, and the firm’s trainees. The subsequent hour allowed teams to fine-tune their client pitch and negotiation strategies, adding an element of real-world preparation to the competition.
The pitch presentation, delivered as a team to two partners, showcased not just legal expertise but also the ability to articulate and persuade – a critical skill for any budding legal professional. The negotiation session that followed, though initially intense, evolved into a more amicable and professional exchange after a strategic pause for re-evaluation.
Reflections and Takeaways: Beyond the Competition
While my team did not clinch a spot in the grand final, the journey left an indelible mark on my understanding of commercial awareness. The competition served as a gateway to a deeper appreciation of the symbiotic relationship between legal practice and commercial acuity.
Beyond the competition proper, the networking event held after the final proved to be a treasure trove of opportunities. Connecting with industry professionals, trainees, and fellow contestants enriched my understanding of the legal landscape and opened avenues for future collaborations.
I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to Denis Viskovich and the BIUCAC Committee for orchestrating such a transformative event. To aspiring law professionals, I highly recommend participating in BIUCAC for a significant boost in commercial awareness, invaluable connections, and the chance to further deepen your legal knowledge.
If you would like to take part in next year’s competition you can pre-register now! Just fill out the online form and you’ll then be contacted once things kick off again…
Many thanks to Kuljit Singh for this great review of the BIUCAC experience. Kuljit is an international student from Canada completing the final year of the LLB at City Law School. She hopes to secure a training contract with a City law firm and wishes to pursue commercial law, more specifically work in Mergers and Acquisitions. She enjoy playing basketball for the University and loves being a part of the City University community!