How to become a commercial lawyer in 7 simple steps

Updated 30 January 2023

The legal industry attracts interest from many people because it's a rewarding profession, which makes it a competitive industry to enter. In commercial law, there is a lot of potential for growth and financial success. Commercial lawyers can find work in both the public and private sectors, so you have a range of opportunities to explore. In this article, we explain how to become a commercial lawyer with an overview of the steps you can take to achieve this career goal.

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How to become a commercial lawyer

If you're interested in commercial law and legal regulations in business and commerce, you might be wondering how to become a commercial lawyer. The role of a commercial lawyer is to guide their clients on contract terms, draft paperwork and overlook the process of transactions. It's a lucrative field that involves dealing with businesses on a day-to-day basis. It's slightly broader than corporate law and covers litigation, protection of intellectual property and franchising laws. The commercial lawyer job description also includes negotiating contracts or terms of licensing agreements.

Related: What is an employer?

What does a commercial lawyer do?

There are various specialisations that a commercial lawyer can take up, such as those related to communications or intellectual property rights. Mostly, such solicitors work with small to large businesses and individuals, too. They handle legal issues, mitigating conflicts arising during mergers or litigation.

A commercial lawyer can also negotiate on behalf of the client and represent them in court. Some commercial solicitors are also in-house legal counsels for businesses or companies. This means that they only work with a single client and can offer their services to one organisation. For specific business problems such as those involving tort or property claims, solicitors can get guidance from commercial barristers.

They typically assist with the paperwork and help solicitors brief their clients on what to expect from the opposing side. Commercial lawyers fulfil the following responsibilities:

  • amending and drafting contracts

  • reviewing terms of mergers

  • maintaining and managing legal documentation

  • drafting reports for commercial transactions

  • responding to legal concerns from clients

How to become a commercial lawyer

Like any other job, becoming a commercial lawyer requires a lot of effort, hard work and dedication. Here are the seven steps that you can follow to become a commercial lawyer and establish a successful career:

1. Earn your undergraduate or bachelor's degree

Obtaining the proper degree qualification is one of the first steps that you can take towards becoming a commercial lawyer. Potential recruiters or employers also tend to prefer giving jobs to individuals who have finished their bachelor's degree in law. If your field of study doesn't relate to the legal field, then it could take slightly longer to pursue careers in commercial law. You'll complete a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) which offers a year of legal training.

Related: The best degrees for lawyers and how to choose your degree

2. Do a vacation scheme

It's a placement or period of work that can help people enter the industry and observe what it would be like to work in commercial law. Vacation schemes are for gaining experience at law firms and can last from one to four weeks. Think of this as a short internship before starting your career in the industry.

Look for firms that offer vacation schemes for commercial lawyers and get valuable insight into the structure of such firms and their corporate culture. Since it's essentially the beginning of a career in commercial law, you can also test out your abilities to perform daily tasks. After completing a vacation scheme, it could become easier to get through the door and look for vacancies.

3. Begin networking

Start building your connections and a strong network as early as possible. This could simplify the process of becoming a commercial lawyer for you. For commercial law careers, networking can certainly make quite a difference. You could get a career boost and make a convincing case to the hiring committee if you have a recommendation from a senior employee or established commercial lawyer. Reach out to people from past internships or vacation schemes and connect with them regularly.

4. Create a strong CV

You want to make a positive impression on the recruiter or employer from the beginning. So it's crucial to create a relevant and strong CV that shows why you're a suitable fit or choice for the firm. Here are two tips that could help you build an impressive CV:

  • Showcase your achievements: Highlight examples that demonstrate two or three of your key skills in the best way possible.

  • T**ailor your CV to the role:** Curate your submission to highlight your work experience and problem-solving qualities in relation to the types of cases you might encounter at the firm you're applying to.

If you're thinking about how to become a commercial lawyer, a good place to begin is your CV. When businesses are looking to hire commercial lawyers, one of the first traits they focus upon is the ability to think quickly and offer solutions, so it's important to make sure your CV stands out and highlights these skills.

Related: Essential lawyer skills for CVs (plus how to develop them)

5. Look for training contracts

Most people apply for these contracts during the final or last year of study. This is a common route to starting a career in commercial law and can help you practise at a top firm. Training contracts are slightly challenging to get into because the competition is quite tough. If you already have experience in the legal field, it could become easier to secure one.

Getting a training contract depends on the academic background and work experience. The following are three ways that you can apply for such contracts:

  • Wait until your second year of University: Students of law become eligible for training during their second year and can get secure offers too.

  • Non-law degrees require a different approach: In the case of a non-law degree, it's best to look for a training contract when you finish your GDL.

  • Complete your Legal Practice Course: Paralegals who have completed their Legal Practice Course (LPC) and have a year of experience are also eligible to apply.

6. Get work experience

This is slightly different from doing a vacation scheme or internship. It's a good idea to get work experience of six months to one year to increase your chances of becoming a commercial lawyer. Even if your previous job is not in the legal field, the experience can help you develop certain skills that employers look for. Having prior experience can also make your application for a training contract stand out. So focus on starting out early and search for jobs that allow you to improve your abilities.

7. Complete your LPC (Legal Practice Course)

Before you can start practising commercial law, it's essential to complete the LPC. Sometimes, people tend to take this immediately after finishing their undergraduate studies. It allows you to use the knowledge and training to real-life situations or legal problems. You can also prepare for your LPC during your final year of study and complete the course even after you secure a training contract.

In some cases, law firms can also pay for this, so make sure that you explore and consider your options carefully. The LPC is an important part of pursuing careers in commercial law and establishes credibility in the field.

Related: How long is law school? (With degree types and careers)

What are the skills required to become a commercial lawyer?

The role of a commercial lawyer requires you to possess good communication and interpersonal skills. It's common for solicitors to interact with clients, employees and other professionals so being clear when giving explanations or sending messages is crucial. Employers or recruiters are usually searching for applicants who can adapt to the fast-paced environment and add value to their firm or business.

Before building upon your skills, it's a good idea to increase your knowledge about the field of law and become commercially aware. Commercial awareness can set you apart from the beginning and boost your chances of getting hired. Other than that, the following three skills are required to become a commercial lawyer:

  • Quality research: Conducting in-depth reviews of existing cases can help you learn about previous incidents and regulations.

  • Analytical thinking: An investigative approach, combined with good data interpretation, is important for identifying and solving problems.

  • Good negotiation: Fair discussion of compromise could eventually lead to mutual agreements between parties without unnecessary upset.

Related: What is commercial use? (Definition and advantages)

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Who hires commercial lawyers?

Most commercial lawyers aim to grow their careers or begin by working at prestigious firms. In commercial law, the most reputable and prestigious firms are also popularly known as The Magic Circle. If you're interested in commercial law in a specific field or industry, commercial lawyers also have the option to work in-house for various corporations that require legal support on a regular basis.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.


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