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


Stay ahead of the game and think digital!

It is becoming ever more apparent that businesses need to keep up with the newest technology and IT systems available, in order to ensure work is completed in an efficient manner and to beat off fierce competition for work.

I was lucky enough to be chosen to attend the event “Upload: LIVE” at Barclays HQ in Canary Wharf, London. The event was hosted by Barclays Digital Eagles and Free Formers, who describe themselves as a ‘digital transformation company’ and run workshops all over the UK for all ages to help develop their digital skills.

The day was split into four interactive workshops:

  1. Social
  2. Code
  3. Lab
  4. Security

Here are some of the insights I gained from the day that I feel will be useful for anyone running a small business.


  • Personal brand

The social session gave key insight into developing a personal brand, and showed me how to link my various social media pages together in order to create a bigger picture of who I am and how I work. Emphasis was placed on using online platforms to showcase a more human and humorous side to oneself.

  • Networking

We also undertook a 5 minute networking activity, based on a game of bingo. Everyone had a card and tasks were written on each square. The aim was to chat to as many people as possible to find out who fulfilled the criteria in each square. For example, one of the squares read: “Find a person who has more than 500 twitter followers”. In those 5 minutes, I must have spoken to more than 30 people, and got their social media page information so we could remain in touch after the event. This simple group activity showed me the effectiveness of networking and how it is a skill all of its own. Indeed, it often appears that the most effective tool for a small business to attain new clients is through recommendation by other people.


  • Free resources for businesses

I was surprised to find just how many free resources there are online which teach coding, and that there are plenty of templates to give you a head start, which you can adopt and adapt for your own website for your business. If you have the time to devote to learning the skill of coding, this would be a fantastic way of saving money rather than paying a website designer.

  • Html coding

This was completely alien to me at the beginning, having never done any html scripting before. I managed to learn, in a very intense hour and a half, how to create a web page. I really took confidence from this session and it showed me that truly anyone can learn to code, and you should not underestimate your digital skills, as they can easily be shaped and developed with a little time, enthusiasm and persistence.


  • Creativity

I learned how to design and create an app, something I had never before imagined myself doing. The opportunity to be as creative as possible, and the challenge to come up with something a little obscure, brand new and perhaps controversial, was very inspiring for me.

  • Making an app for small businesses

This would be a fantastic step forward in putting your product out into people’s everyday lives. An app sits on your phone and once downloaded, the consumer will see the logo hundreds of times a day, and they can receive information instantaneously about updates to your product or services. Getting the image and brand of the business into the back of people’s minds is a great tool for marketing, as consumers are more likely to be a product or a service, from a company or individual who are familiar and comfortable in their minds.


  • Think like a hacker!

The security session was packed full of tips to keep safe on the internet. There were warnings of phishing emails and identity theft, and how to recognise a secure website where information is safely encrypted, compared to a fake and insecure page. We were advised to look for the https:// at the start of a web page to ensure it is secure, and to look out for the green padlock symbol just above the address box, as this too is a symbol of a secure site. In order to remain safe online, we must think like hackers and be aware just how public information is once we put it online, as well as being selective about the information we give out to people we do not know.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Upload:LIVE event and would highly recommend the Free Formers team. In a world of quickly moving digital technology, it is important to stay one step ahead of your competition and think digital!

Details on booking a digital transformation course with Free Formers and more information on the company can be found here. Free online training guides and resources from Barclays Digital Eagles are also fantastic and can be found here.

This blog post was written by Juliet Gough. Juliet is an MLaw student working in a business and commercial firm at Northumbria Law School. On graduation she hopes to secure a training contract with a reputable commercial firm. She plans to undertake paralegal work in the meantime to broaden her experience and further develop the key skills she will use in practice.