If the jury’s still out on whether a career as a lawyer is right for you, here's an overview of commercial law including what skills you need, typical roles available and benefits of working in the sector.
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Typical types of law
Depending on your exact specialism and interest, tax lawyers usually investigate things like tax evasions, defending public authorities against private sector claims, prosecuting tax offenders and more. Working in tax law is intellectually demanding and you have to be on the ball and committed to keeping up with all the latest changes and developments in tax law.
Admiralty and Shipping Law
Admiralty and shipping law is one of the longest established areas of commercial law. The work in this area falls into two main areas. ‘Dry’ shipping deals with contract issues, which can range from charter disputes, price, performance or routes, to bills of lading. ‘Wet’ shipping deals with the ships themselves, which can involve their construction, sale, repair, refuelling, insurance, and mortgage. Shipping law also covers other marine craft, such as oil rigs.
Simply put, Media law governs what can be published and broadcast. A media lawyer covers legal issues that relate to the media, including everything from television, advertising and music. Often a media lawyers' case can include high-profile clients such as well-known music stars or actors.
Sports law consists of legal issues when it comes to professional and amateur sporting, this also includes areas like contracts, competition and intellectual property. A sports lawyer usually travels to different sporting venues, advising celebrities and negotiating contracts - you certainly need a love of sport to be involved in this field.
Read our guide to the different careers in Law to find out more.
Why should you work in commercial law?
Solicitors are among the highest paid professionals in the world. Salaries do vary depending on practice area, which city you work in, which firm you work for, and how experienced you are, however, regardless of this, from day one you can still expect to earn a steady and lucrative income well above the national average.
Read about life in commercial law.
Lawyers are notoriously analytically-minded, focused, and intellectual professionals. Perpetually in the pursuit of knowledge, your brain will need to flex between creative, linear, logical, categorical and rational thought processes every single day. So, if you are looking for a serious challenge, you’re on the right track!
In addition to a healthy salary, you can expect to be rewarded for your long hours with a variety of office perks and corporate benefits. In order to stay competitive in the war for talent, law firms have been clamouring to attract and retain employees with gym memberships, free fitness classes, music lessons, buy-and-sell holiday schemes, medical insurance, subsidised restaurants, dry-cleaning services. Love a freebie? You'll LOVE this...
There are dozens of specialities that you can focus your career on. You can choose to specialise in commercial, corporate, tax, environmental, intellectual property, banking (to name just a few). If you’re not sure where to start, your own interests might just be a good starting point for thinking about where your career can take you.
Opportunity to help others
Of course, we understand that it’s not all about the fat pay packets and on-site gyms. As a lawyer, you will also be in a unique opportunity to help individuals, communities, groups and organisations. Every single day public interest, criminal or pro-bono lawyers are working for the greater good. You can make a real difference in this profession.
Learn everything you need to know before you head to work with these free e-learning courses. Discover everything from how to develop your transferable and digital skills to how to smash the application process.
Who are the leading employers?
- Clyde & Co
- PwC Legal
- Slaughter and May
- Reed Smith
- Allen & Overy - read more about the key differences between magic circle law firms.
Discover more about the leading graduate employers in commercial law.
Skills to work in commercial law
- Networking: Talking to professionals already in the profession is another vital way to increase your knowledge and understanding of how life at a commercial law firm works, and the area in which your skills may be best suited. Being at the Bright Network Festival is an amazing place to start. Beyond the people you might meet at this event, try contacting your university careers service to put you in touch with graduates already following the commercial law route.
- Communication and negotiation: The importance of top-notch communication skills is stressed over and over again in the requirements for commercial law recruits. As is the importance of excelling to a high level in a range of interests outside your university degree. So use your time as a student to gain experience of working in teams (e.g. sports clubs/theatre/debating), both diversifying your friendship groups and your skillset. Work experience and internships also present great ways for you to push yourself out of your communication comfort zone. Don't just think this relates to how you present your ideas verbally. Beating the competition will include shining at every stage of the recruitment process - applications for open days, vacation schemes and training contracts, at interview and whilst completing any work experience. Find opportunities beyond your set essays to write a variety of texts, and take care how you go about it - whether in emails to friends and family or writing for your university magazine.
- Commercial awareness: We've said it before and we'll say it again: law firms are businesses and deal constantly with the business world. The best way to make a client happy (and your senior colleagues) is by showing a deep understanding of their commercial realities. The abstract nature of your academic work is not really going to set you up with deep commercial awareness, so this is something you need to proactively work on outside of your degree. Legal work experience is a good start, but even better is to look for work experience in a different kind of business. Whilst there, keep a note of the business challenges they face, who their customers are and how they go about tackling problems for maximum commercial success. Another idea might be to try setting up your own online business at university, giving you first-hand experience of profit margins as well as a bit of extra cash (hopefully). And you can't beat regularly reading a good financial newspaper (see our top tips for staying ahead in the legal sector here) to keep up to date with what's going on.
Timeline for commercial law applications
- Research firms that offer first-year Open Days and apply
- Research which firms offer Vacation Schemes
- Attend careers service events about the legal profession
- Draft a CV and get it checked by a careers adviser or Bright Network
- Attend law fairs (October to February) and network with recruiters
Christmas holiday and spring term:
- Apply for Easter/summer Vacation Schemes
- Investigate the possibility of attending Open Days
- Build up your work experience portfolio
- Apply for Vacation Schemes with smaller firms
- Focus on academic work
- Research and apply for Training Contracts
- Complete Vacation Scheme
- Research and apply for Training Contracts, if you haven't yet secured one
- Start inquiring about Christmas Vacation Schemes and apply
- Complete Vacation Scheme if still searching for Training Contracts
Where you can go to find out more
If you're a graduate or student, or you're looking to get your foot into the door, Bright Network's career path guide for commercial law is the perfect place to begin. We've got everything from tips for law students in their first year, our training contract application tips, how to secure a vacation scheme and how to become a barrister.
Browse available graduate jobs in Commercial Law today and take the next steps towards your career in this exciting sector.