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Everything You Need to Know About Working in Commercial Law

Everything You Need to Know About Working in Commercial Law main image

Sponsored by the University of Johannesburg

With so many options to choose from, deciding what to specialize in when you’re fresh out of law school can be a daunting process. Nonetheless, it may be one of the most important decisions of your career, especially since swapping specialties, even after only a few years of practice, is surprisingly challenging. To help you make up your mind, we teamed up with the University of Johannesburg who run a prestigious law department to give you an insider’s guide to careers in commercial law - a popular, lucrative and fast-paced area of law with amazing job prospects for graduates. 

What you’ll be working on 

Working in commercial law, you would be spending your time advising clients on various day-to-day legal issues that may arise as they manage a business. Depending on the law firm, you might specialize even further in a particular practice area like dispute resolution, capital markets or banking. 

What do commercial law firms look for? 

A sound knowledge of law and high-level writing and reading skills aside, many law firms will ask that you demonstrate “commercial awareness”. If you’ve not encountered the phrase already, it’s not just a hollow buzzword, but one of the biggest differentiators between applicants.   So, what does it mean exactly? Well, candidates with commercial awareness are able to demonstrate a general sense of the world’s political and economic landscape and the different factors moving markets and informing business leaders’ decisions.   A graduate recruiter would expect you to know the answers to the following questions: who are our clients? How are they doing financially? Where are our offices based? While you wouldn’t be expected to turn up to an interview with the in-depth expertise of an economist, you should be able to discuss business trends and the marketplace like someone who actually reads the business press and keeps up with the news.     

So, what would you earn as a commercial lawyer? 

If you can stand the long hours, a career in commercial law will see you handsomely rewarded. In fact, salaries tend to be high from the get-go, with graduate corporate lawyers in the US earning as much as US$57,600 in their first year and salaries may rise to up to US$252,100 later with seniority, according to PayScale. Salary packages tend to include bonuses ranging between US$1,300 and US$51,200 as well as profit-sharing proceeds of up to US$157,600 depending on the company. Obviously, salary will vary by country, but corporate lawyers tend to earn a lot of money around the world; including between US$31,600-157,400 in the UK, US$46,300-117,200 in Canada, and up to US$143,700 in Singapore.   

How to kickstart a career in commercial law

While there are many routes into commercial law, a number of students turn to LLMs (which is short for master of law) as a way to specialize. If you’re interested in finding out more about this course, we did a great piece on the perks of doing an LLM last year.   In terms of LLMs actually valued by commercial law firms, you might want to take a look at courses with an international edge that ground theory in practical applications, like the University in Johannesburg’s LLM in international commercial law. It’s ideal for anyone interested in working in commercial law at home or in South Africa and promises to train you in civil and commercial jurisdiction in a number of countries around the world, including India, the US, Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and Switzerland. 

Sounds great but can’t afford to pay for graduate school? 

Don’t give up! The University of Johannesburg offers a number of bursaries to students interested in their LLM in commercial law. Find out here how to apply and get the chance to be reimbursed in full for all of your tuition fees. To be eligible, you just have to register by 2018 and complete your master’s degree within two years.   

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1 Comment

Thank you for sharing this information about commercial law. While working or studying in commercial law one should consider this point as while going for law study one of the difficult point is to select the stream. One should do a small research about all the fields of law before selecting one.