What is Commercial Law?
Commercial law or sometimes referred to as business law is that body of law that regulates the conduct of persons, merchants, and businesses who are engaged in trade, sales, and commerce. Essentially, commercial Law is a term used to describe the legal services provided by lawyers to support their clients’ businesses in making money from their products and services. That commercial law offers services to help businesses make a profit does not mean consumers are neglected; commercial law also covers consumer protection and even employment contracts. Consequently, commercial law is a broad area of law that interacts with many other areas of law such as intellectual property, real estate, banking & finance, bankruptcy, tax and environmental laws.
The broadness of commercial law is also what makes it different from other areas of law. There is no other area of law that cuts across every other practice area. No matter the industry or practice area you may think of whether it is tech or intellectual property, commercial law is involved. Some of the best commercial law firms in the City (this is not to say that there are no top commercial firms outside the City) include:
- Baker & McKenzie
- Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
- Kirkland & Ellis
- DLA Piper
- Berwin Leighton Paisner
- Bird & Bird
- Hogan Lovells
- Norton Rose Fulbright
- Travers Smith
What do Commercial Lawyers do?
Because of the broadness of commercial law, the work that a commercial lawyer will often find him or herself carrying out will be spread across different practice areas and types of legal issues. However, the most common work that commercial lawyers face dealing with issues concerning contracts; these might be in banking & finance or entertainment & media law. Furthermore, the work will also deal with several areas like advertising disputes, marketing term violations, unfair trade practices, consumer complaints, and leakage of trade secrets. What you should bear in mind is that commercial lawyers are known for being able to help in resolving all complex issues regardless of the practice area.
However, most commercial lawyers tend to specialise in a certain practice area, especially those lawyers working at big firms. For example, a commercial lawyer can choose to specialise in tax, and another may prefer dealing in M&A or technology, media & telecommunications. As a result, the area the lawyer chooses to specialize in will determine the duties that a commercial lawyer carries out. Notwithstanding, there are some duties prevalent among commercial lawyers, such as:
- Drafting and amending various documents such as service agreements
- Compiling documents
- Advising on and producing reviews of various transactions and deals that the clients are involved in
- Closing deals
- Preparing new terms and conditions for clients
Why do Law Firms ask Applicants the “Why Commercial Law” Question?
If you are applying for a role in a commercial law firm, roles such as vacation schemes and training contracts the question that will often rear its beautiful head are ‘why commercial law’. Even if you are not asked directly but the law firm uses a cover letter system you will be expected to answer it (have a look at our article on training contract cover letters and applications). And to do exceedingly well you must answer it. In your application, if you have not explained to the recruiter why you have chosen commercial law over other areas of law you might as well wave your chances of success goodbye.
While commercial law firms may seek to be seen to be employing eccentric staff, no firm will employ someone who has no idea why he has chosen commercial law. Commercial law practice is a profession that is quite taxing and demanding, as such people seeking to participate in the field must show dedication and commitment to the course – this is why the question is asked. Essentially, law firms are asking applicants to show that they have the traits to be successful in commercial law.
Why is it important that you show that you have the necessary traits to succeed you asked? Well if you are familiar with the legal system you would understand the importance of this question. Every year in the UK, law firms and chambers give out training contracts and pupillages to thousands of candidates who seek to work for them. And for each of those training contracts or pupilage, the firm invests thousands of pounds to make sure that the candidates are trained to the possible best. For example, some law firms pay the full LPC fees and provide maintenance fees; both provisions will reach 20,000 or more and some law firms offer over 80 training contracts in a year. In addition to this, the firms usually keep investing in successful candidates when they start working for them. Examples might include partners being attached to trainees to help them with their law journey, being given international or client secondments and countless other benefits.
Every aspiring lawyer that works in a commercial law firm will be massively invested in by the firm. Thus, is it surprising that commercial law firms want to know if you have what it takes to be successful in the field? Is it astonishing that they want to know if you are with them for the long haul or if you’ll pack your briefcase and disappear when there’s a little turbulence in your career or at the firm? No, it is not in any way shocking.
How to Answer the “Why Commercial Law Question”?
To answer this subtopic, we should first examine what you should not do. Your reasons for choosing commercial law should not be unremarkable and blasé. You should avoid saying something like ever since I was a child I’ve always wanted to be a commercial solicitor or ‘ever since I was in my mother’s womb I have been excited about becoming a commercial lawyer or any variations you may think of. Gone are the days when a law firm recruiter looked at such a cover letter and said ‘wow give that applicant a TC’ – that is if such days ever existed. Now let’s consider the steps or methodology of answering this question.
When answering this question, applicants need to show why they chose commercial law practice and not some other noble practice areas. You need to show what drives you in your quest to become a commercial lawyer. In answering this question, you need to give valid and engaging reasons as to why you want to become a commercial lawyer. And there is no better place where you can find valid and engaging reasons than within you. What we are saying is that your story is the best way to convince the recruiter of why you want commercial law. A lot of applicants make the mistake of going to the website of the firm that asked the question, picking up pieces of information and regurgitating it in the answer space. There’s no way that you will not fail that answer if that is the approach that you take. The reason is that you have not given the law firm a look into your ‘mental space’; you have not helped the firm to see your viewpoint on commercial law.
Continuing, before you put pen to paper, you should first think of if you are interested in commercial law. If you are, what are the main things about commercial law that interests you? After you have done this then you need to write those things down. On the other hand, the reasons might not come easily to you. If so, you should look at your commercial experiences and link them to why you want a career as a commercial lawyer. The trick to doing this well is to think about what you enjoyed about those experiences and link them to the competencies of a commercial lawyer or the competencies that the particular law firm is looking for. For example, if you worked as a bartender or you worked on a vacation scheme, pick specific actions that you took during the work experience, the results that you achieved, and how that would be of benefit in a commercial law setting. Another great example is applicants using the lessons that they learnt from seeing a commercial lawyer work during their work experience.
Whatever you do, in answering this question it is of utmost importance that you demonstrate that you have the guile and ambition to pursue a career in commercial law. You must convince the recruiter that over the past few years you have confirmed your interest in commercial law.
The “PEEL” framework: The Structure Law Firms Want you to use
The PEEL framework is a way to write an answer, essay, paragraph or any piece of writing that gives the user of the method the most excellent chance at creating a compelling and informative piece of writing. PEEL writing is strongly advocated for and used across various professions (especially the legal field) as a way to make sure answers are structured clearly. Not only can it be used when answering questions such as ‘why commercial law’ or ‘why that firm’, but it also can be used to great effect in answering law exams. Its promotion of a great discourse structure which students can take into their adult life makes it a valuable skill to develop.
The PEEL framework comprises four components; Point, Evidence, Explain, and Link. Law firms love this structure because when used properly it can make the opinions and answers of the applicants clear, helping the law firms arrive at a more informed conclusion as to who they should pick for the advertised position.
Consequently, as an applicant you must remember that when answering the question ‘why commercial law’ your goal is to be persuasive, convincing the law firm recruiter reading your piece that your reasons for commercial law are the real deal. To be successful at this goal, you need the four components of this writing style to bring the law firms to agree with your perspective. On that note, we shall now discuss each of the components individually.
We believe that ‘Point’ is the most important aspect of this writing style. From the onset of your writing, you need to set your point down. That means that from the opening sentence, you should be making your point. You should use the opening sentence as your way to introduce to the reader the topic that you’re going to be speaking about. In this stage, you must be clear, concise and specific. This matters because this stage is the first impression stage and if you know the general view of the first impression you will not play with your point.
This stage is where you use evidence and examples to show the reader that your point is well-supported and grounded in fact. Generally, the work of law firms calls for lawyers to base their decisions on evidence and not on fluff or emotions. Thus by submitting or incorporating evidence you are telling the recruiter that they should agree to your point because it’s the most logical thing to do. Only when you understand that there’s no better way to persuade a legal recruiter to trust your point and agree with you than setting down quantifiable evidence, will you attack this stage with the vigorousness it deserves. Evidence equals speaking with authority and confidence.
Great answers or pieces of writing regarding the subject matter of our article do not end at providing a compelling point and adducing evidence but they go further by explaining the evidence to the reader. What is the use of a point or evidence if the reader does not understand them? To excel at this stage, you need to clearly explain the way that your evidence supports your point, making sure there isn’t any doubt in the reader’s mind as to why you want commercial law. The explanation is the place where you’re going to make the most influence on a reader to agree with you.
For some, it might make more sense to put the explanation before the evidence stage, it does not matter so far as it works out well.
It has been said and rightly so that ‘Link’ is the bridge between the entire key points that you have talked about in your answer. For example, if you have written more than one reason why commercial law interests you; when ending the first point and you want to move to the next point you should find a way to bridge the two of them. Thus linking happens at the end of the point (paragraph) not at the beginning or in the middle. To achieve this, some might prefer introducing a snippet of the next point at the end of the paragraph while others might choose to circle back to the main point. While it can be tricky when trying to introduce a new idea when you’re ending the last one, if done well the rewards to the structure and flow of your answer will be worth the time.
Why Commercial Law Sample Answer [Pinsent Masons]
Throughout my studies, I have thrived in a rigorous academic setting, therefore a career with a top law firm such as Pinsent Masons was a natural choice. Having a scientific background at the secondary education level, I developed the ability to analyse and review vast amounts of data, approaching scenarios innovatively and creatively
When volunteering for the [Name of NGO] I have developed these skills in a legal context, analysing domestic and international legislation, judicial opinions and contemporary discussion. Consequently, I have demonstrated the skill of strong analytical reasoning, and the ability to contextualise such conclusions within the legal culture of the particular society. As such, The opportunity to predict legal trends and adapt my solutions to them is highly attractive.
I am also interested in a legal career due to its dynamic nature, catalysed by changing regulations, cultural shifts and Brexit-related uncertainties. To remain at the forefront of legal expertise, intellectual curiosity must be prioritised. Throughout my academic career, I have been motivated to develop such an attitude, attending extra-curricular Mandarin classes in secondary school and pursuing coding at university. I aim to continue learning throughout my legal career – as a market-shaping firm, Pinsent Masons is the ideal place to foster such ambition.
Furthermore, the collaborative nature of the career excites me. I thrive both when leading or working within a team, demonstrated by my wide range of extra-curricular activities. When volunteering as an English teacher in [Country in Latin America], I delivered classes with other volunteers, I encouraged creativity and innovation, brainstorming new ways in which we could engage the children with limited resources. I worked with local employees to create a consistent class structure, formatting each lesson similarly- as such, the children benefitted from a coherent learning stream. I enjoyed seeing the increase in efficiency positively impacting the academic experience of the pupils, as it served to increase motivation individually and collectively- there was a strong sense of purpose in achieving a common goal. I found that working with those of a different background to mine not only increased my cultural awareness but also promoted self-analysis, a huge benefit for me- I received clarity on my competencies and was encouraged to reflect on my operational methods. Whether it be working with colleagues towards a common goal or liaising with large corporations, I will work diligently and harmoniously for the benefit of the wider cause.
The interweaving of business acumen with the law is an exciting prospect. As Head of Sponsorship of a charity event at the university, I liaised with companies and business owners, developing invaluable negotiation skills. In communicating coherently and professionally, I considered the factors that drive their business and tried to the best of my ability to incorporate these into the sponsorship contract, whilst also attempting to maximise profit for the event. As such, I prioritised adaptability whilst also remaining steadfast and confident in my ultimate goal. I have also applied this commercial knowledge to a legal situation, completing the [Top US law firm] InsideSherpa Virtual Experience Programme, I gained critical insight into an M&A transaction, further developing my interest in highly complex legal issues. In a due diligence exercise, I reviewed various documents such as amended NDAs, SPAs, customer agreements, and disclosure schedules, demonstrating practical skills to supplement such a passion. Furthermore, in attending a [Magic Circle Law Firm] Open Day, I engaged in a Project Finance case study- I was enthused by the complex issues posed, and the multidisciplinary approach required to solve such issues.
Why Commercial Law Sample Answer [Ashurst]
Dear Mr Wong,
I am keen on pursuing a career as a commercial lawyer as I am drawn to the advisory aspect of the work. Having participated in several negotiation rounds in [Russel Group University London], I developed an appreciation for the role of lawyers in understanding their clients’ interests, analysing the ‘best’ solution and ultimately finding creative compromises with the other side.
I gained further insight into the role of a solicitor after completing the Ahead with Ashurst scheme. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Debt Capital Markets team and learnt about the process of bond issuance, the different ways of financing a transaction through debt and the role of a bond trustee lawyer. Through this experience, I learnt about the commercial realities of advising clients (in this instance, investment banks) on the legal and regulatory aspects of each transaction. I am specifically attracted to the client-facing nature of the role.
Secondly, I am drawn to the fast-paced nature of corporate transactions. I appreciate being heavily involved in virtually every aspect of a transaction, from its conception to consummation. After completing a 4-week scheme in the Corporate M&A team at [Name of Law Firm], a top law firm in [Asian Country], I developed a better understanding of the legal due diligence process and the structure of a typical acquisition. Among other things, I proofread the final due diligence report, calculated the value at risk for a put and call option agreement and conducted research on the regulatory compliance of a proposed joint venture with the SGX Listing Manual. Moreover, I like the collaborative aspect of the job. During my time with the Corporation Transactions (Private Equity) team at Ashurst, I sat in on a due diligence meeting and witnessed how each different department (from Real Estate to Tax) contributed to the legal due diligence process of the target. As a hardworking, inquisitive and social individual, I believe that I will thoroughly enjoy the continuous learning curve and collaboration inherent in this career.
Furthermore, I want to be a commercial lawyer because of the strong business focus of the work. A lawyer must possess a combination of strong legal expertise and an excellent understanding of the client’s needs and industry trends. I achieved excellent marks in my first-year examinations where I obtained the highest mark in contract law and the third-highest overall average mark in the cohort. I strongly believe that my strength in core foundation subjects (contract law and property law specifically) would be useful as I take on more advanced subjects in the LPC and when I eventually become a trainee with the firm.
Why Commercial Law Sample Answer [DLA Piper]
Lawyers solve problems to make deals go through. I am a problem-solver who wants to make an impact. Whether it is securing orphanage funding, or founding the [Legal Society] at LSE, I seek intellectual challenges and receive satisfaction from making things happen.
I am thus excited by the prospect of providing commercially sound solutions to complex legal issues to deliver the best client services.
I want to be a commercial lawyer because commercial law couples a legal, analytical aspect with a financial, entrepreneurial approach. When working at ExxonMobil, I enjoyed dealing with legal matters in a financial context when negotiating contract terms with distributors to mitigate ExxonMobil’s risk exposure. I want to continue doing this because I want to understand complex financial mechanisms, whilst exploring legal questions.
Commercial law is increasingly international. Being fluent in four languages and having lived in four countries, I enjoy learning the particulars of different jurisdictions. I pursue this interest in the Investment Society by writing articles on primary sector issues which improves my understanding of international finance. I want to partake in cross-jurisdictional deals where I can apply and extend my knowledge of different markets.
I like working in teams and being part of a friendly, yet determined atmosphere. I am consequently attracted by the solicitor branch of the legal profession. At CIUK, I found that cooperation brings together each individual’s unique knowledge and skills, consequently yielding the best results. Furthermore, success is more enjoyable when part of a team because it is shared with other individuals.
I am applying to DLA Piper because I have a particular interest in Corporate legal work. Having attended several first-year schemes, I realised that I want to engage in dynamic, quick-paced work and understand complex financial mechanisms in a legal context. DLA Piper’s focus on mid-market deals will enable me to partake in work of higher responsibility, which is more dynamic. Similarly, being allowed to learn from top lawyers, who win awards like the “European Mid-Market M&A Legal Adviser of the Year” from Mergermarket, for five years since 2010, will mean that I acquire the necessary skills and industry insight to succeed in handling this responsibility
Furthermore, DLA Piper’s high number of services enables it to work with half of FTSE350 companies in any area of law. This means that I will receive top-level training and deal with top-level clients throughout the entirety of my training contract, regardless of seat. This will make me a more versatile lawyer and broaden my choices of what area to qualify into.
Being the DLA Piper Brand Manager at LSE, I enjoyed getting insight into the friendly culture. Working alongside Graduate Recruitment and trainees to promote the firm during the Law Fair, and on campus in general, allowed me to experience the friendly and determined atmosphere. Similarly, the fact that Simon Levine personally addressed all the Brand Managers during our induction day illustrated that the firm truly values its employees. These experiences suggest that the steep learning curve at the start of my legal career will be made easier due to the firm’s support.
Having completed legal work experience in three countries and currently engaging in commodities research, I am interested in exploring different markets and their interactions. By completing deals involving work in up to 29 countries and having over 90 offices worldwide, DLA Piper will grant me this international exposure in my day-to-day work as well as through secondment opportunities.
The Experiences to Consider when Drafting your Answer
Earlier on, we stated that to answer this question well you need to be able to talk about the experiences that you have had that indicate your interest in commercial law. This is where you will your reader’s trust. If you have participated in vacation schemes, mini-pupillages or unpaid legal work experience put them here. Some law firms might require that you have completed at least one law-related program in a law firm before applying for their training contract or pupillage; others might view participation in more law-related programs as the way to go. While others state that all experience matters. For those who are not aware, a vacation scheme or mini-pupillage is a short work experience in a law firm or chamber that is very useful in showing the legal recruiter that you want to be committed to the law. When you have filled in your legal work experiences, you are showing the recruitment team that you have drive and commitment. When explaining your experiences, be succinct; tell them what you learned concisely.
While law firms will generally love vacation schemes, mini-pupillages and pro bono experiences to be at the top of the applicant’s list of experiences, it does not in any way mean that you should ignore part-time jobs, internships, paid work in other legal or non-legal employment and other experiences you have taken part in. For example, keeping a regular working schedule, interacting with people and the decision-making that occurs in almost any job are all useful in showing a law firm that you can look after yourself in your pursuit of a commercial law career. The above-mentioned categories of experience can show drive, commitment and your ability to work with a team.
The trick to making these sorts of experiences shine forth in your answer is by telling the recruiter as succinctly as possible what you do/did in those roles, what you have learned and how you can learn more and the link of those roles to the qualities needed for a commercial lawyer. For example, a job in a bar gives people skills, and teaching children shows patience and the ability to impart information. Mooting, debating, motivational talks, public speaking, and lecturing are ways of showing that you can communicate clearly – an essential skill in commercial law. Furthermore, you can include roles where you have been given a position of responsibility, such as being captain of your football team, being a student voice leader, being the chairman of your university’s law society and helping out with the Sunday school of your local church. Essentially what I’m trying to tell you through this post is there are a wide plethora of skills that are useful to a career as a commercial lawyer, and you should not dismiss any of them that you have acquired.
How Much do Commercial Lawyers Earn?
The salary of a commercial lawyer in the UK among other factors will be dependent on the location that they are practising in and the category of the law firm. For example, the capital of the UK is London, England, and London is renowned for being a global financial centre, home to a multitude of top commercial law firms in the world. This means that a lawyer practising in London will earn more than his other UK counterparts.
Based on this premise, a newly qualified lawyer (solicitor) working in a commercial law firm, in his first year may earn in the region of £70,000-£160,000. On the other hand, the salaries of newly qualified lawyers in regional firms or high street firms may range between £22,000 and £45,000+. For barristers in commercial law (in London), in their first year of tenancy, they could get £70,000-£150,000; while their second year could see them pulling in £80,000-£200,000. For barristers with practices outside London, their take-home pay will be less than their London counterparts.
Charles is a writer, practising lawyer and personal trainer who loves learning and developing himself. He graduated from Middlesex University, London with eight first-class grades in the second and third years of his law degree, and received a postgraduate offer from Cambridge University. He loves strength training, boxing and encouraging people to succeed in their pursuits (legal ones)
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