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Commercial Awareness Competition
Our top tips for success
1) Develop an interest in business and how it affects law firms
You should read business news publications daily in whichever medium you prefer e.g., hardcopy newspaper, online articles, email updates, podcasts etc. Aspiring Solicitors recommends that you dedicate at least 20 minutes per day to reviewing business news, as well as:
- Discuss commercial developments with your peers: share knowledge and challenge each other on commercial topics to enhance your understanding; and
- Have an opinion on current business trends and developments.
- At the very least, be able to articulate “who, what, where why and when” on potential questions.
2) Practice your presentation skills
An important element of the competition from Quarter-Final onwards is your verbal reasoning skills and how you present your arguments. Ahead of the Competition, you should:
- Practice vocalising your opinion on commercial matters and analysis.
- Record yourself to watch back afterwards. Whilst watching back, consider what you might’ve changed.
- Consider your posture and how you project your voice.
3) Use this opportunity to network and build a support network
The competition is intense, and this might be your first high-pressured experience of this kind. However, it also gives you exposure to fellow competitors and law firms which you might not have had exposure to before. We would encourage you to maximise this by:
- During each in-person round, make sure to introduce yourself to your fellow competitors if you can do so. Engaging in a conversation while you feel nervous is a good way to shake off the pre-assessment nerves!
- Follow up with a LinkedIn connection if you feel it is appropriate to do so.
- Practice a short elevator pitch which you might want to use if you can network with representatives from law firms or corporate sponsors. Remember that they are often using the Competition to assist with their recruitment, so a good first impression can help you to build strong professional relationships.
- Remember to have boundaries with other competitors and law firm representatives and corporate sponsors. Be mindful of contacting people at unsociable hours or in an inappropriate manner.
4) Be open, honest, and prepared to share your reasonable adjustments
Aspiring Solicitors is an organisation dedicated to assist diverse talent, so we understand if you may have an adjustment which you believe could help you to compete at your best during the Competition. An adjustment would be considered for someone with a Disability, Neurodiverse condition, or someone with a long-term health condition. You can read examples of what we can offer here.
- Don’t sit in silence, we want to know how we can support you so if you are entitled to a reasonable adjustment, do not be afraid to flag it. This is good practice for when you are attending assessment centres later down the time.
- Consider which adjustments you might need for each stage of the competition and make sure to plan ahead.
- We would require at least 48 hours’ notice of any changes/additions to your reasonable adjustments, so please ensure that you communicate with as much notice as possible.
- We will require evidence of your reasonable adjustments, which should be submitted within the entry form.
- Embrace your differences – it is what makes you, you and law firms want to hire diverse talent so that they can have diversity of thought.
Overview of each Round
Throughout the Competition, you should be able to:
- answer questions on important individuals within the commercial world, including political leaders and key business figures.
- explain and discuss current affairs with commercial consequences.
- identify places, industries or markets of commercial importance and significance; and
- be able to explain how the above impact commercial law firms or their clients.
Preliminary Online Rounds
The Preliminary Online Rounds encompasses Round 1 and 2 of the Competition. Entrants will answer a series of multiple-choice questions (30 in total) and will have six minutes (or greater if you are entitled to additional time) to complete this exercise. The multiple-choice questions will focus on popular commercial topics such as core concepts and finance, as well as asking you to respond based on some pre-reading provided by our sponsor, LexisNexis. There will be a step up in difficulty between the rounds.
Aspiring Solicitors will provide you with an online link to this round via email. You will also be provided with a LexisNexis article to read in advance of this round and a selection of the questions will be based on this article.
After clicking the online link provided to you via email by Aspiring Solicitors, you will be prompted with a landing page introducing the assessment and asking you to confirm that you have complied with the Competition Guidelines. These guidelines include a requirement not to use any materials or information that would assist you with the Preliminary Online Rounds.
The focus of the Preliminary Online Rounds is general commercial awareness and does not focus on one area of commerce, but tests basic commercial knowledge. There will be a step up in difficulty between the Rounds.
The highest scoring entrants will progress to the Quarter-finals.
Our top tip: This round is highly time pressured, so make sure to have a strategy in mind for how you might want to proceed. You will have roughly 12 seconds per question, so you need to be prepared to make quick decisions and maintain a good flow throughout!
Quarter-Final: Zoom call
Quarter-Finals will be held via Zoom and will be 20 minutes in duration. As many as 5 competitors will be assessed at the same time during the video call.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you have a reliable internet connection. We recommend a download speed of at least 5Mbps.
The Quarter-Finals will be based on recent commercial news and LexisNexis pre-reading.
The best performing Quarter-Finalists will progress to the Semi-Finals. Where necessary, performance at previous rounds will be taken into consideration.
Unfortunately, due to the large number of participants in the Quarter-Finals, it is not possible to provide feedback on performance.
Our top tip: Try and control as many elements as you can, e.g., digest your pre-reading, prepare your workspace around you, dress in smart business-wear, have the link to the Zoom call ready and make sure to join the call slightly early in case of technical errors (or pesky updates which seem to arrive at the worst time). While other contestants are in the virtual room with you, try and focus on your own performance and don’t compare yourself to others; this is an individual exercise.
Semi-Final: in person at sponsor firm
A total of five Semi-Finals will be held and hosted at the offices of sponsor firms. The judging panel will consist of the Aspiring Solicitors team and representatives from the host firm that may include trainees, graduate recruitment members, associates, or partners.
The assessment centre style Semi-Finals will involve team-based commercial presentation tasks and details will be provided to performers who progress beyond the Quarter-Finals.
The best performers at the Semi-Finals will progress to the Grand Final.
Our top tip: This is the first in-person event, so again you would want to control as many elements as you can e.g., know the location of the semi-final, plan your route, check for any potential obstacles in your way (such as train strikes if you are taking public transport) and arrive early. While this stage might be nerve-racking, reframe it as an opportunity to grow your network even further with contestants and law firm representatives.
Grand Final: in person at Barclays office
The Grand Final is a full-day event. The judging panel will consist of partners and senior lawyers.
This assessment centre style day will involve unseen topics and will truly test the depth of each team member’s ability to commercially analyse different business sectors.
Aspiring Solicitors reserves the right to combine Grand Final teams and/or alter the composition of Grand Final teams as/where required.
The six winning individuals will be based on the scores accumulated during the day based on set criteria. This will be determined by the independent panel of partners and senior lawyers on the Grand Final judging panel.
Our top tip: You have made it to the final 25 contestants; you can be proud of yourself, no matter the outcome! With this in mind, try and enjoy the day. Don’t try and second-guess what the judges are looking for, remember the skills you’ve practiced so far and do your best.
In line with Aspiring Solicitors’ values, we want to ‘Promote Difference’, championing diversity and inclusion at all times. This links to another of our values which is ‘Authenticity’; we want to do our utmost to ensure freedom from discrimination and prejudice and to strive to achieve meritocracy. We recognise that to achieve meritocracy, entrants need to have an equal chance to succeed, and we believe that by sharing and being transparent about our approach to making reasonable adjustments for those who need them, we can do this.
Did you know: Statistics suggest that there was no adverse impact on competitors with a Disability, long-term health condition or neurodiversity in the Competition in 2022. Competitors from this group represented 21% of overall entrants at the start of the competition, but this had increased to 32% in our Grand Final. With the right tools to succeed, we believe that entrants are empowered to achieve their full potential in like with their career aspirations and abilities.
How will I know if I am entitled to Reasonable Adjustments?
If you are entitled to reasonable adjustments such as additional time, you will usually have a note or evidence from a doctor (or similar medical professional) or a learning support professional which would outline recommendations for exam/timed assessment conditions. This evidence should be provided to Aspiring Solicitors along with your entry form. Please note that adjustments must be deemed reasonable, and requests may be rejected if they fall outside of this definition.
Preliminary Online Rounds
The Preliminary Online Rounds includes Rounds 1 and 2 of the Competition. Entrants will answer a series of multiple-choice questions (30 in total) and will have six minutes to complete this exercise. The multiple-choice questions will focus on popular commercial topics such as core concepts and finance, as well as asking you to respond based on some pre-reading provided by our sponsor, LexisNexis.
If you are entitled to additional time for timed assessments, this would be added onto the standard six minutes that competitors without additional time would receive to complete the preliminary rounds. Our standard time increments are 10%, 25% and 40% but you can request a different extension if you are usually entitled to more time if you can provide evidence to support this request.
The Quarter-Final is a round which is assessed by a member of the Aspiring Solicitors team in a virtual setting (i.e. over Zoom). Competitors will be assessed in small groups based off their responses to a variety of questions including quick-fire and opinion-based questions. Competitors are assessed on an individual basis; this is not a team-based exercise.
As for the preliminary rounds mentioned above, additional time is available for competitors who request it in advance and add their evidence to the Dropbox link (clear instructions are provided in the communications we have with all entrants). We can offer 10%, 25% or 40% extra time. We will aim to pair groups of students together who have the same timing allowances but if we’re not able to do this, we may also be able to accommodate a 1-2-1 appointment; this is on the basis that everyone is assessed as an individual, as opposed to a team. However please note:
- these slots are available on a limited basis and will be capacity dependent; and
- we would encourage entrants to use this opportunity to become familiar with group settings, which you may find yourself in during a law firm assessment centre where this adjustment would not be possible, as well as at the CAC Semi-Final or Grand Final.
For competitors who are neurodivergent, we encourage an open line of communication with us about what you might find useful. For example, if you struggle to maintain eye contact, we can alert the assessors in advance so that it can be factored into their considerations. Everyone is different, and your needs will also differ, so please make us aware to enable us to factor this into the process.
This round is held in-person and will take place at one of the law firm sponsor’s offices, e.g., the semi-final runs over the course of one week and competitors will attend one of the five semi-finals at either Baker McKenzie, BCLP, Dechert, Mayer Brown or Skadden’s offices in London. The Semi-Final stage will involve two verbal tasks and a networking lunch. The tasks are designed to assess your commercial acumen, team-working, presentation and employability skills.
Because the Semi-Final stage is completely verbal and no pre-reading is required, no additional time will be offered for the formal assessment.
If you require support with regards to processing information, you may be able to have use of a laptop during this stage. Please note that sufficient notice will be required to accommodate this request (at least 48 hours).
If you are neurodivergent, you may become over-stimulated and require a private space to recalibrate and allow you to perform at your best. If you require this, please flag this to us at the earliest opportunity. The adjustments that are listed in the quarter-final stage above (e.g., flagging to assessors if you struggle to maintain eye contact) also apply at this stage.
If you require any adjustments linked to access e.g., you have use of a wheelchair, requiring lift access, please communicate this to us at the earliest opportunity so that this can be communicated to our sponsor firms.
If you require any other adjustments (such as increased font size on any print-out documents due to visual impairment, or the use of a sign language interpreter) then please do not hesitate to flag this. Alternatively, your requirements might be dietary requirements, which we aim to accommodate with sufficient notice and the availability of alternatives.
As this stage is a full day event, please let the Aspiring Solicitors team know if you require space to pray.
The CAC Grand Final will be held at Barclays’ office in Canary Wharf. The Grand Final will include three verbal tasks which will take a step up in terms of the level of difficulty from the previous stages. As part of this Grand Final, there will also be a pre-final networking lunch the day prior to the Final and a Grand Final dinner on the evening of the Final.
The adjustments available at the Grand Final would replicate those offered at the semi-final stage above.
If you require any adjustments linked to access or dietary requirements, please flag this at the earliest opportunity so that arrangements can be made with Barclays and the lunch and dinner venues at the earliest opportunity.
All of this will be signposted to you as competitors progress through each stage of the CAC.
By outlining our position on reasonable adjustments above, we hope that this will empower entrants to be transparent and proactive about any adjustments that they require. However please note that we are open to positive change (in line with our value ‘Impatience for Change’). With this in mind, if there is an adjustment which is missing, please contact email@example.com and we are happy to discuss this further.