How important is your business image?

Last month, food and drink giants Nestlè announced they had cancelled their sponsorship with the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), due to fear that the recent corruption and doping scandals enveloping athletics would damage its public image. This begs the question: how important is your business image?

The importance of having a good image

In their statement Nestlè explicitly state that they wish to protect their image and reputation. This is with good reason as in 2014/15 they registered sales of CHF 91.6 billion and no doubt they would want this to continue to rise. With allegations of corruption and doping surrounding the IAAF, Nestlè would no doubt be dragged into this scandal and guilt by association would at some point take place.

A good image is vital for a business to survive. Having a good image and reputation means that you may not have to spend a significant amount of time persuading potential customers or business partners that your services are worthwhile.  This could result in your business being transformed from a small, unknown business to one of the most trusted businesses in your sector. Instead of spending money on trying to improve your image, your image and reputation will speak for itself.

What happens if your business does not have a good image?

Should your image start to falter, it is important to ask why. For instance, has your business just received a bad review for the services it provides? Or are you in partnership with a business that does not have a particularly good image itself? Whatever the cause suffice to say that the problem needs immediate attention. If your business does not have a good image or reputation it could lead to the Nestlè scenario: cancellation of a partnership contract. It is interesting to note that Nestlè was not the first to act. The IAAF’s biggest sponsor, Adidas, reportedly pulled out of their contract too.

How can your business obtain a good image?

The most popular way a business can obtain a good image is getting involved in charity events. Not only do businesses get involved but so do law firms. For example, Morrisons are now the sponsors of the Great North Run in Newcastle. By sponsoring a national event that so many people use to raise money for charity, Morrisons will improve their image not only in the public eye but in the corporate eye also. Having completed the run myself I would say it indeed works!

Law firms also like to engage in charity work. For example, Muckle LLP provided pro bono services to over 60 charities that would have cost over £100,000 so that they could do their bit to help the local community. There are other great examples of law firms being active when it comes to charity work. Sills and Betteridge choose a different charity each year and then help raise money for that particular charity by organising different events, such as a bake sale or participating in the Lincoln 10K. These events and services help the local community and show the public that the law firms are responsible businesses.

Chris MThis post was written by Chris Middleton. Chris is a final year MLaw student currently working in the business and commercial firm in the Student Law Office. On graduation Chris hopes to travel through Europe before securing a training contract or a paralegal job to start his law career. Outside of law Chris is a keen sportsman, with football and long distance running being his main disciplines within sport.

Are you commercially aware?

Commercial awareness is an important skill that every employer looks for in candidates. Many students assume that it’s only relevant for those seeking corporate careers. That’s not true. Anyone who wants to be a solicitor, regardless of the type of firm they want to work for, needs to have commercial awareness.

Commercial awareness is one of the key requirements that a proficient and competent solicitor ought to master. So, for aspiring lawyers it is important to be commercially aware in order to secure a training contract.

SO WHAT IS COMMERCIAL AWARENESS?

Commercial awareness can be defined as staying up-to-date on daily activities and developments in the business and commercial world. However, commercial awareness is not merely being aware of the news. It also about understanding the implications of what is going on in the world- politically, economically, socially and how that impacts the clients of the firm. Commercially aware solicitors can tailor their advice to reflect the circumstances of their clients and in doing so will help to build stronger client-solicitor relationship.

Commercial awareness is about appreciating how a law firm works as a business. Law students usually understand how the law works. But to be commercially aware students need to also understand that a law firm is a business and it needs to make money. Employers want to see that you are also business minded and can identify ways in which the law firm can increase revenue. For example, this can be by undertaking exceptional work for the client so that the client brings in further work to the firm or by identifying a gap in the market or an opportunity to win a new client.

HOW CAN YOU BECOME COMMERCIALLY AWARE?

It is important to emphasise that becoming commercially aware does not happen overnight. It must be developed over a period of time, beginning with your basic legal education and growing as you continue your studies and embark on your legal career. Hence, thorough preparation is key to becoming commercially aware.

Research is the easiest way to gain commercial knowledge. Try reading newspapers, business publications and company newsletters, relevant books, watching relevant TV programmes, downloading business podcasts or reading business and commercial blogs like this one!

Predominantly you should be watching the news and reading newspapers daily to expand your general knowledge, as this is crucial to becoming commercially aware. So if you are interested in a particular story, make sure you follow it up all the way though to demonstrate genuine commercial awareness. One way you can do this is by, perhaps, signing up to the Law Society Gazette and keep updated on the stories which interest you.

Try and stay up-to-date on the latest deals, transactions, legislative changes and other relevant developments such that you are able to understand and appreciate both the big picture as well as the local economy on the doorstep of the firms you want to work for.

Work experience is probably the most practical way to gain commercial acumen; as it may give you knowledge about how a particular firm works. The strength and weaknesses of the business and what is affecting the business at that particular time.

Working in any kind of job though, not necessarily one in law, will provide insight into how a business is conducted, what factors contribute to success or failure, how to utilise manpower and resources to the best extent, and what will be the bottom-line result.

Other methods include taking part in discussion forums, industry-specific networking/ business clubs, attending lectures and seminars which focusses on business and commerce.

USING SOCIAL MEDIA TO BECOME SOCIALLY AWARE

Social media has become a part of most people’s daily life. Social media is an easy and fun way to become commercially aware.

Facebook

Facebook can aid in becoming commercially aware, since news outlets such as the Financial Times, The Times, Bloomberg Business and The Telegraph have their own Facebook pages.  You can effortlessly keep up to date with the latest affairs on your newsfeed by liking their pages, and simply clicking on article that interest you which will help your commercial awareness. It would be even better to like the pages of the Law Firms you are interested in potentially working for, as they may post updates about the firm which may be useful to know for interviews.

Twitter

Twitter can also be used to help individuals become commercially aware. You can follow the twitter pages of the news outlets mentioned above e.g Bloomberg Business and Financial Times. You can also follow The Law Society and the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority as well as the pages of the firms you want to apply to in the future, to keep up to date. Even the Student Law Office has a twitter page!

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a professional social media platform which acts as your online CV. So it is essential to have a profile on LinkedIn and ensure it is optimised for recruiters.

LinkedIn can help you be commercially aware as you can follow a range of law firms and remain updated on their activity. You can even check out the profiles of people who already work at a specific law firm to get an insight about the educational and professional background of the people the firm employs.

And last but not least, don’t just ‘consume’ information – you need to understand and apply what you’ve learnt. Recruiters are searching for candidates who can make connections, draw conclusions and understand the world around them. Recruiters want evidence – you need to give it to them!

rezwana dithy

This blog post was written by Rezwana Dithy. Rezwana is a MLaw student working in a business and commercial firm within the Student Law Office. After graduating from University, she hopes to secure a training contract within a commercial law firm. In the meantime, she plans to undertake paralegal work & also continue her work advising older clients at Age UK to develop important skills she will be utilising in practice.

10 TED talks to make you commercially aware

Commercial awareness is both a flexible and elusive term.  Perhaps it could be defined as the following:

“an awareness of business trends, strategies , successes, failures, threats, opportunities , events and a knowledge of entrepreneurship.”

For commercial lawyers, possessing the quality above is essential. A lawyer in a commercial context must have a firm grounding in both the legal and business marketplaces. An awareness of the competition and the growing trends within the legal sector is critical for a firm that wants to keep pace. Equally, as every client is a business, a solicitor must have a thorough knowledge of the relevant industry so that he can offer relevant, effective, and future-proof advice to a client.

A fact that employers often stress also emphasises the importance of commercial awareness; a law firm is a business. Therefore, an understanding of what makes a business successful, and the challenges it may face along the way, is an important tool for any prospective solicitor.

Many students find it difficult discovering ways to become commercially aware, many reaching straight for the business sections of the newspaper or going online to read the latest commercial and legal bulletins. However, there are much easier ways. Podcasts, blogs and apps perhaps make it easier than ever before to passively absorb business-sense. Less tedious than a broadsheet and something that you can tackle on the way to University.

A similar, and equally brilliant, untapped resource are TED talks. TED talks are video lectures, ideas and presentations. Better yet, TED talks are a great resource for picking up a subtle, and perhaps deeper understanding of commercial awareness. Listed below are ten great talks, focused on a range of general commercial issues, to get you started and send you on your way to becoming a guru of the commercially aware.

  1. Joseh Pine – What consumers want
  1. Margaret Steward – How YouTube thinks about copyright
  1. Ray Anderson – The business logic of sustainability
  1. Ricardo Semler – How to run a company with (almost) no rules
  1. Drew Curtis – How I beat a patent troll
  1. Harish Manwani – Profit’s not always the point
  1. Michael Porter – Why business can be good at solving social problems
  1. Nigel Marsh – How to make work-life balance work
  1. Yves Morieux – As work gets more complex, 6 rules to simplify
  1. Phillip Evans – How data will transform business

This blog post was written by James Warnock. James is currently studying the M Law degree at Northumbria University and is working as a student advisor for business and commercial law within its Student Law office. On graduation he hopes to secure a role which will allow him to apply the law-based skills he has acquired within a commercial context, whether this is in-house, in private practice or in a wider business context. He aspires to work alongside unique and passionate forms of enterprise.

James Warnock