‘It is simply not enough to be a Law Graduate’ anymore. Increasingly prospective law employees need to show commercial awareness. Second Year Law Student Brittany Gales shares her insights on Commercial Awareness after attending White and Chase’s Virtual Event on the Future of the Global Economy.
Law has always been a highly competitive area of employability; but the considerable advancement of technology and commerce over more recent years merely stresses that competition, particularly for aspiring lawyers, is only going to become fiercer. Law firms seek skills, beyond the mere ability to provide knowledge of the law and the ability to practice. The reality of it is that it is simply not enough to be a Law graduate. The introduction of the new SQE (Solicitors Qualifying Exam) means that a Law degree is no longer a necessity for an individual to practise as a Solicitor, and simply, that law graduates will be competing with candidates from a variety of disciplines, which will certainly be entertained by law firms across the spectrum.
As part of my second-year study, the new ‘Legal and Business Competence’ module has shone a further light to the necessity for me to expand my commercial awareness. I knew I had to do more in order to achieve my career aspirations in the legal sector. Subsequently, on Tuesday 3rd of November, I attended the ‘Future of the Global Economy’ virtual event with White and Case, a highly successful international law firm. Commencing business in New York, in 1901, White and Case have since progressed their business to engaging in international projects and providing legal services all around the world, being a truly global firm. The event commenced with a panel discussion lead by speakers Kamran Ahmad, Senior Associate in energy and infrastructure, and Lauren Vallender, Associate in Project Development. The discussion covered key topic areas such as emerging economies and areas of growth, the potential of a greener future, as well as the financing of corporate deals, and the rise of legal tech, whereby the panel speakers provided advice based on their own experiences.
Prior to attending the event, I was required to put forward two questions for the panel. I was lucky enough to have one of my questions read out first by the panel host. I asked: “Particularly considering the outbreak of Covid-19, which areas of the economy do you believe will thrive the most within the next decade or so? Are there any areas, in particular, that you would bring to notice to an aspiring lawyer?”. Kamran Ahmad, Senior Associate in energy and infrastructure, made some crucial points, with particular emphasis on the development and investment of new infrastructure following the pandemic, such as that of health facilities.
The senior associate further discussed the political & jurisdictional challenges that international firms are often faced with. I learned that project management is a primary skill required in order to be successful in the area of commercial law. For example when delivering on the highly successful project referred to as their “5 million Euro closure deal” surrounding the infrastructure of a new coal mine, railway and port in Africa, Kamran expressed that he’d spent a significant amount of time on this project simply coordinating meetings around the school holidays.
Kamran went on to address how the use of technology has thrived during the pandemic. Bearing in mind that White and Case is an international law firm, Kamran expressed that in ‘pre-pandemic’ times, his career entailed a significant amount of travel to locations all over the world, so he’d felt the impact in this sense. It was however added that this brought Kamran’s attention to the issue that a lot of the travel engaged in by people for work purposes, all over the world, is highly unnecessary.
Could the web presence that a lot of businesses have developed over the period of the pandemic potentially be for the foreseeable? Particularly considering the environmental implications, could this in fact be regarded as one of the few ‘good’ outcomes of the pandemic? The use of platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and the participation rates of Webinars have significantly spiked following the pandemic.
I’ve personally found that since participating in the White and Case ‘Future of the Global Economy’ event I will most certainly be attending more virtual events with the ‘virtual’ element in particular making them easier and more flexible to attend. I have in fact started an online ‘virtual work experience’ course, which is run by White and Case, thus providing a real taste of what the life of a practising lawyer is like, with a particular focus of developing an individual’s project management and financing skills, thus being an area that I hadn’t actually had direct experience of before. Particularly considering how challenging it can be for students to secure work experience within the legal sector, I would certainly recommend this course to any Law student. It’s flexible, simple to follow, and highly insightful!
To summarise, the event hosted by White and Case most definitely expanded my knowledge of commercial law. I will no doubt be keeping an eye out for future events hosted by White and Case, additionally to other law firms in order to familiarise with the different ways in which such firms structure and perform their work. For those of you sharing this interest, I would certainly advise you to follow ‘Legal Cheek’ on LinkedIn or subscribe to their mailing list as they’ll keep you up to date with the latest events being ran!