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COMMERCIAL AWARENESS ESSAY COMPETITION 2024

Developing commercial awareness is increasingly important for law students aiming to enter the legal profession. Lawyers must understand how to assist a business and its clients in achieving their commercial objectives and mitigating risks. 

The competition which will commence in the second semester, will comprise two rounds; a commercial awareness quiz followed by a commercial awareness essay.

Allen and Overy, an international commercial law firm sponsoring the Law Society, have kindly agreed to assess the entries and determine the winners. A big Thank you to Allen and Overy for their support on this, it is greatly appreciated. 

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Winner 2023: Yvette Ng

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Runner Up 2023: Barnaby Hearnden

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Runner Up 2023:

Cecile Vigneron

COMMERCIAL AWARENESS ESSAY "2023 HALL OF FAME"

Winner: Yvette Ng

The use of technology creates both opportunities and challenges to the legal sector. Law firms with greater digital capabilities are given more opportunities to enhance productivity and save costs. In particular, artificial intelligence (AI) is able to draft and review contracts, as well as conduct research on statutes and cases. For instance, Allen & Overy has utilised Harvey, an AI chatbot, to draft memos and merger and acquisition documents. Legal professionals, even trainees, may focus on less repetitive but more critical work.

 

However, the legal sector is challenged by higher risk of cyber security threats, especially after the shift to remote working and significant reliance on technology since the COVID-19 pandemic. As law firms often hold sensitive information of clients and have a large number of staff working from their own devices, they are targeted persistently by cybercriminals. For example, Tuckers Solicitors LLP was attacked and fined £98,000 in 2022 for breach of General Data Protection Regulation. Nowadays, firms pay closer attention to minimise potential reputational damage and financial sanctions resulting from a data privacy or information technology security breach.

Runner Up: Barnaby Hearnden

In the UK house prices have dropped to the lowest level since November 2012. Price sensitive house hunters would likely buy property during this low-price period and so would impact the property and real estate teams in law firms as they need advice and guidance. These lawyers could provide help with transactional work and help homeowners with their licenses and contracts for their new homes. However, this has come at a time where household finances are strained by high inflation and high interest rates. Interest rates are also expected to rise; the Governor of the Bank of England announced interest rates will need to rise to slow inflation and the rate is expected to peak at 4.5% in the Summer. However, interest rates have an inverse relationship to paying off mortgages. This would mean homeowners could have issues paying off their mortgages and so will look for legal advice on this. Mortgages have been more contentious recently as some mortgages sold to firms cannot offer new deals to homeowners because of interest rates and so people are stuck on higher mortgage rates. This means some homeowners are worried and fearful and so need reassuring and confident legal advice from solicitors.

Runner Up: Cecile Vigneron

Recently, the Russian war has shown global economic repercussions, naturally impacting the law. Among dissuasives economic sanctions on Russia, the freezing of Russian bank accounts abroad last year induced international trading companies impacted by delays in payment, or lack thereof. This is a persistent problem which can be a legal problem at the contractual level when it comes to booming industry after covid such as maritime trade. Regarding the delivery of perishable goods by sea, increased payment times reduce the shelf life of perishable products. In this case, a charter’s force-majeure clause can be complicated to argue because it usually must directly apply to the vessel, owner, or charterer to be effective. The challenge is to know who will bear the loss.

 

In addition, many Western companies such as Coca-Cola left Russia, creating an opportunity for local companies to further expand in the face of estranged competitors. It is an opportunity for employment and internal economic growth. However, this raises important IP issues as many of these Russian companies are copying these brands to regain their customers.

 

On the UK economic side, some Brexit trading rules will be applied later than foreseen in the treaty to give companies more time to adapt in the areas of employment law, international contract law and commercial law.

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COORDINATOR

Yvette Ng

Yvette.ng@uea.ac.uk

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SPONSOR & JUDGE

Allen and Overy

UEA Law Society Sponsor

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