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By Meera Patel, Author of Get Into Law

Did I miss the memo? I was 20 years old sat in Croydon asking myself why getting amazing grades at school didn’t somehow teach me to be “commercially aware”? Why did no-one mention this to me until NOW, a few months before application deadlines? Was it obvious to everyone else at university that we needed to be “commercially aware”?

I sat there in silence asking myself these questions in disbelief. I then found my laptop and looked at my student subscriptions and added three news ones. I subscribed to the Economist, the Financial Times and Time magazine. I had never read any of these publications before that day and remember wanting things to change for me. I feel that was the day my commercial awareness journey started, and if you’re reading this thinking you didn’t get the memo either, yours might have started today too.

12 years after graduating from university, and as a qualified lawyer, business advisor and author, here are three things you should know about commercial awareness.

  1. No-one is born with commercial awareness.
  2. Commercial awareness is a skill that can be learned, practiced and sharpened.
  3. If you want to work in the City, you will need commercial awareness skills for your business career from this day forward.

This blog will start you on your path, and if you stay the course, you’ll be commercially aware, savvy and smart. If you’re ready, keep reading.  

What is commercial awareness?

Commercial awareness is the ability to be up-to-speed on business and world news and apply this to how a law firm, or business organisation, operates and serves it clients. For solicitors and professional services specifically, it is important because advisory services will typically be driven by, relate to and be provided in the context of business, economic and political events. Having the attribute of commercial awareness can be the difference between succeeding at an interview or not.

How do you develop commercial awareness?

Ask yourself what articles, resources and materials you should be making an extra effort to read. There are so many out there, including free city career webinars, ‘recent deals’ sections on firm websites and the publications I noted above. You would not be best served to read every single page like you would a book. Start by scanning the headings and find articles that are at the top of the global and UK business agenda. In addition to this, aim to find articles that relate to your area of interest, for example data privacy, technology or regulation. Set up online alerts and add yourself to mailing lists so you never miss a beat.

Start to immerse yourself in commercial conversations, either in person or by listening to interviews, podcasts or watching Bloomberg, and share your views with like-minded individuals.

Meera’s three-step commercial awareness methodology

Apply the below every time you read a business article and as you prepare for your interviews.

  1. Truly understand the business news story you are reading.
  2. Write down a list of key departments at the law firm or company you are applying to, for example Tax, Corporate, Litigation and Employment.
  3. Assess the news story against each department you wrote down, and ask yourself relevant questions including:
    1. How will this story impact each department’s clients?
    1. How will this story impact each department itself?
    1. Is the impact good or bad? Could it lead to a profit or a loss for the company? 

Seek knowledge, apply and improve – repeat. You’ll forget you missed the memo and only remember when someone asks you how you figured it all out.

For more career information from Meera Patel, find her book Get Into Law on Amazon and follow @getintolawbook on Instagram.

Amazon Link –

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How do you determine whether you are inside IR35? Conduct a Google search and there are thousands of articles, all trying to understand this issue, it doesn’t appear to be straightforward or particularly clear cut enough, does it? Well, we have done the hard work for you, look no further:

The Main Factors that HRMC Considers:


  • How much does the End client control ? Do they control where, how and when you work? If you want to be outside of IR35, you need to be able to demonstrate that you use a degree of autonomy when undertaking a contract. Are you acting more like an employee or a consultant?
  • The contractor should be presented with specific tasks to achieve, rather than being provided with an open-ended pile of work.
  • Your signed contract and the way in which you work, should not be under direct the influence of the client, you shouldn’t have a direct manager / supervisor who controls how you work, so to speak
  • Do you receive staff benefits such as holidays and sick days?


  • It’s important to understand the difference between operating as an employee versus a company. It is a business to business agreement and the company doesn’t specifically need you, they can take someone else through your company if they have the correct skills and qualification
  • Therefore, all professionally drawn-up ‘IR35 friendly’ contracts will include a substitution clause.

Mutuality of Obligation

  • This is when the employer expects a worker to undertake work when asked to do so, and the worker expects to be given work on a constant basis. For self-employed people, they would expect a client to hire them to undertake a specific task, with no expectation of further work being provided after the initial task expires.
  • The mutuality of obligation question arises when this contract expires. For example, if  contract is constantly renewed, it could indicate that the contractor is in ‘employment’. The HMRC argues that “where work is regularly offered and accepted over a period of time a continuous contract of employment may be created.”

Other Factors to Consider and help you decide: Am I in ‘Employment’ and breaching IR35?

Equipment ProvisionDo you use equipment provided by the client, or do you use your own
Financial RiskHow much financial risk do you undertake in your work? If all the risk lies with the client, then this is an indicator of ‘employment’ Do you have business liability and professional indemnity insurance in place?  
InvolvementHow involved are you with the client? For example: are you attending staff meetings / staff social events / receiving staff benefits?
Exclusive ServiceDo you work for just one client? The self-employed typically work for several clients

Proof of company

Just like applying for a business bank account, the HMRC may want to see the following evidence:

  • Your own business website and company email address
  • Your own letterheaded paper, logo, and customised invoices
  • Is your company registered for VAT?
  • Has your company ever employed anyone else or used sub-contractors?
  • Has your company invested in your training and upskilling?
  • Is your company registered with the Information Commissioners’ Office under the Data Protection Act (for dealing with client’s data)?

For further information:

Are you within IR35? Use this tool created by HMRC to check:

Posted by & filed under Comment.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK Government has delayed the country’s IR35 reform, to the relief of many contractors. The recent announcement was made as part of the government’s £350bn financial aid to the UK economy, which includes business rate holiday, emergency loans for companies and financial assistance for the self-employed.

However, the fallout from business decisions earlier this year has already caused some damage to the contractor workers, many of whom have lost their agreements with large banking corporations and other FTSE entities. Why? Mainly because corporations do not want to be liable for a tax bill, should their contract workers be found within IR35.

So, let’s take another look at IR35:


Client is also known as the hiring organisation or engager, hirer or end client

Contractor worker who IR35 can apply to are those who:

  • Work through a limited company to the end client
  • Work through a personal service company (PSC)
  • Work through a partnership
  • Works as an individual (self-employed)

What is IR35?

‘Intermediaries Legislation’, otherwise known as ‘off-payroll working’.

It is a tax legislation that was introduced by the UK authorities back in 2000. It means that contract workers who work through their own Limited company or another type of intermediary to the client (i.e. Partnership, personal service company and an individual) can no longer set their tax status, instead it will be set by the business which they are contracted out to.

It is the responsibility of both the client and the contract worker to determine whether the off-payroll working rules apply.

Why was IR35 Introduced?

To crack down on ‘disguised employment’, in other words, contractors who behave as employees, and receive the same benefits of PAYE workers, but do not pay regular income tax and NI contributions.

The IR35 legislation will ensure people working like employees but through their own limited company, pay broadly the same tax as those employed directly.

What does ‘inside IR35’ mean?

It means that the contractor worker is acting to the equivalent to that of a permanent member of staff.

If you are found within IR35, it means that you will have to pay more tax, even though you do not receive benefits that full-time (PAYE) employees receive (e.g. holiday pay, sick pay, pension, parental leave).

Who is affected by IR35?

  • a worker who provides their services through their intermediary
  • a client who receives services from a worker through their intermediary
  • an agency providing workers’ services through their intermediary

How do I know if I am inside IR35 or not?

Well, it’s not totally straightforward, so we have written a separate article to help you. Click here

If I am inside IR35, running my own limited company, how do I work out tax owed?

There are various calculators online to help you with this. We are not qualified accountants, so we suggest you speak to an accountant.

You can also find further information here:

Further information here:

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Dear Candidates and Clients,

With the uncertainty and recent developments globally regarding Coronavirus, we would like to inform you of the steps TAP Search is taking to

avoid the disruption of our services and minimise the impact on you. We are mindfully watching the developments and putting plans into place to do everything we can to keep our candidates, clients and employees safe.

We are very well prepared to continue our workflow uninterrupted. The following steps are currently in place:

  • In order to ensure our business continues as close to normal as possible, home/remote working is in place
  • We are fully able to conduct candidate interviews and client meetings via video and audio conferencing
  • Employee covers have been arranged to guarantee all business-critical tasks are completed under any contractions of Coronavirus
  • We are keeping in regular contact with all partners and suppliers who we rely on in order to understand any impacts that may affect our services
  • All business travel by our employees has been postponed or cancelled until further notice

Now more than ever we all feel the importance of supporting each other and our greater industry. As we all plan for possible disruptions from Covid-19, we wanted to assure you that we are very well prepared to continue our workflow uninterrupted and look forward to remaining your committed partner as we plan for these events together. We have always been agile and taken a problem-solving approach, we will find solutions, while keeping in mind the priority of health and safety during these uncertain times.

As always, we are all accessible by mobile, landline redirection and email. We strongly value our client and candidate relationships and look forward to speaking to you and remaining a committed partner as we plan for these events together.

Should you have any concerns or questions regarding our continuity plan or any other queries, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Best Wishes and Good Health,

Natalie Thomas



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Written by Ana Piferrer, 14th September 2018

I recently went to see “Matilda, the Musical” and whilst it’s never been my favourite Roald Dahl story, I love a good stage musical! One of the lines that stuck with me the most was “You gotta be loud to stand out from the crowd!” sung in the most garish and belittling way possible by Mrs Wormwood to poor mousy Miss Honey. But there’s a nugget of truth in her words, and that’s what made me prick up my ears and got me thinking.

We’ve been led to believe that all that counts when looking for a new position is good exam results and ticking boxes of desirable experience in recognized organisations. I say you are so much more than your grades! You are so much more than that renowned company you’ve worked at! You are going to be interviewed by a human being with interests and hobbies and a rich life just like you. Find a connection with them.

I once heard a story of an IT professional who was applying directly for roles in large financial institutions. Underqualified for most of the roles applied for, yet he still managed to land interviews in all those companies. How did he get through to interview?? The answer is simple, but not immediately obvious.

Simply: You are more than just your CV

Not so obvious: How to show this on a CV

The individual’s recruiter understood that the hiring managers were seeking candidates who would be a good cultural fit, with the right attitude and approach, but it’s difficult to indicate your personality on your CV. It’s all well and good to describe yourself as a ‘hard working IT professional’, but it doesn’t really have any weight without evidence. Stipulating your job responsibilities and achievements is great, but your personality is still an unknown. The hiring managers wanted someone who was willing to take risk, roll their sleeves up and be dedicated.

This candidate has something very particular written in the interests and hobbies section. Turns out he had climbed Mount Everest and that had piqued the curiosity of the recruiter. The recruiter wanted to hear the details, the hows and whys, and…the but how!?? Most importantly, this gave the recruiter an insight into the candidate’s personality, what motivated them as an individual and helped the recruiter personality match the candidate to the roles.

I’m not saying that you need to take a sabbatical and risk your life, all you have to do is connect with the hiring manager on a personal level. Show them that you are more than your job, tell them that you have a love for Scotch (can we be friends?), that you have a penchant for skydiving, or explain how you managed to visit North Korea! This makes it easier for us to find points in common between you and the hiring managers we’re going to introduce you to. We are the gatekeepers, and you might have the most impressive CV, but ultimately we are looking for the right cultural fit and for candidates who are going to enjoy working with our clients and who will become intrinsic parts of their teams, not just as employees, but as people.

So whilst you might not want to give an exhaustive list of all that you do in your spare time, don’t be afraid to hint at the rich life you have outside of work. In the words of Tim Minchin by way of Mrs. Wormwood “You gotta give yourself permission to shine, to stand up and be proud, proud, proud, proud!”

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As a legal recruitment consultant, working as a link between clients and candidates, I am aware of the inner workings of the hiring process that many individuals will not have considered. I take pride and commitment in ensuring that I help build the relationship between a client and a candidate, so that eachparty may get the best outcome of the situation possible.

Many of my friends are curious as to what my job actually entails and how I can really add value to the recruitment process, asking ‘What are your actual day to day tasks?’ Essentially, my role is split into two main areas, The Client and The Candidate, allow me to explain:

The Client

Without the involvement of a consultant, a client can have either a large volume of applicants – many of which will be unsuited to the role and have to be sorted through – or a small volume of applicants, or even an absence of applicants entirely. For a client who does not already have systems for recruiting new team members, this can be a time consuming and frustrating process.

The Candidate

On the other side, a candidate searching for a role must search through a large number of job ads – some of which are written by individuals with an inadequate understanding of the legal profession – and apply with a CV that may not emphasise the relevant qualities that the candidate possesses. Once the application is sent the candidate must wait for a response, sometimes not even having a contact name to follow up with and often hearing nothing back if they have not been successful.

The overall process is improved with the presence of a consultant. For the client, having a dedicated professional who understands the specifics of the role and can tailor applications means they will have a higher quality shortlist to consider. The consultant will almost certainly already have a number of high quality candidates to discuss the role with, but can also post clear and concise job adverts that notify further candidates to the role. Once the shortlist is finalised by the client, the consultant will relay all the relevant information to the candidates, meaning one conversation for the client results in all candidates being aware of the information with very little time invested.

For the candidate, the consultant can offer the role without them having to spend time searching through job listings, and can discuss the role in depth to determine their suitability. The advice that the consultant gives will set the candidate on the right course to be offered the role since they can flag up potential issues or emphasise useful qualities before the candidate even interviews. Once the process is started the consultant will keep the candidate updated throughout, with the benefit of the candidate having a clear answer at each stage. If the candidate is invited to interview, the consultant will give useful information that they may not otherwise have had, including the dynamics of the team they will potentially be joining, the style of interview and questions that will be asked, the character traits the interviewers will be looking for, and elementary interview advice that is easy to forget in the heat of the moment if not prepared.

For me, possibly the most important part of my role is once past the first stage of interviews. The relationship that is building between the client and the candidate is nurtured by the consultant, I can relay positives and negatives across to each side if they did not come up during the interview. The consultant will also be able to negotiate around the position without damaging the relationship, and can ask the more difficult questions that will move the negotiation forward without either side feeling they have to be unreasonable. Above all, while the logistics and troubleshooting of the process will be improved, it is the optimised relationships between clients and candidates that benefit all parties the most.

If you have not previously worked with a recruitment consultant, I hope you now have reasons to consider building a relationship with us. It is our job to make the best of the circumstances you are in and deliver the most beneficial outcome for you. If you would like to know more, please get in touch.Rob Blog Photo

For any questions or if you would like to hear more about my role and the way in which TAP Search operates, please do not hesitate to me on 02071275274 or email

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In March, the UK inflation rate dropped to 0% and economic trends showed that growth in consumer demand has increased, but as always the long-term effects can go one of two ways. Overall, it has been stated that the UK economy is still set for continued growth in 2015, but may be at a slightly slower pace. With such a variety of economic and political factors continuing to influence the economy, it can be difficult to predict what the long term future holds. So, how will this affect your legal team and how might you manage the affects in your business when it comes to making commercial decisions within a timely fashion? Well, innovation and can flexibility certainly help, it’s a question of maintaining the balance between innovation and risk.

2015 is said to be the year that the desire to take new risks is being supported by positive growth within the UK and I for one believe that agility within any business department will be crucial and is certainly something to keep an eye on.

At TAP Search we believe that recruiting high calibre legal professionals into interim and contract roles, results in greater flexibility and strength to the in-house team. We work in partnership with General Counsel and Heads of Legal nationwide to recruit staff that will add value to their teams and achieve positive results.

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As the Senior Researcher at TAP Search, I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell you about some of the work I’ve been involved in recently. My team and I have been busy putting together the framework for our annual Salary Survey, the results of which we will be publishing in a few weeks’ time. I am most grateful to everyone who is kindly taking the time to complete our questionnaire – I’m looking forward to reading your responses and having a look at the results. If you haven’t had a chance to fill it in (which takes less than a minute), you’ll find a link to the questionnaire at the bottom of the page. Your responses are key to helping us produce some really useful information about the state of the legal market and to inform you about current market trends at national, regional and city level. We will also be able to provide information about what’s happening within specific sectors at this exciting time. Read more »

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Did you watch the Oscars a few weeks ago? Well, it kept me relatively entertained over that weekend, with Lady Gaga’s outstanding performance of the Sound of Music – the fact that Lady Gaga was dressed relatively normally – shocking; an incredibly moving speech by The Imitation Game’s Graham Moore…I could go on. Did I know much about the individual nominated films? No.

Admittedly, I am not an avid cinema goer (being kicked in the back, sharing arm rests and shoes in my hair are just not my thing) and therefore I tend to be about 6-12 months behind the film buffs, but like the rest of us, I do enjoy a good story. For me, one film in particular really did stand out from the rest: Citizenfour – more than just a story – a documentary about one of the most controversial and ongoing reports of 2013 – I had to watch it. Why did it stand out? Well for one thing, it won for good reason.

As a legal recruiter, everyday, the team and I analyse the legal market and note trends by following the news and networking with HR Managers, job seekers and Heads of Departments. As such it will come as no surprise to you that we can see just how much growth the technology industry has experienced over the past 5 years alone. About 50% of our roles are in the technology space and about 75% of our roles require lawyers who have some experience with IT law and most recently (over the past 12 months), an increase in demand for data protection and IP. The world in which we live is becoming more and more reliant on technology, and why not? It helps improve communication and makes day to day tasks easier by a click of a button *hang on a moment while I just remotely record the Great British Bakeoff online via my Android…great, job done!* As I was saying, your ability to get more done and multi-task is a fantastic advantage in both work and play.

But then the bombshell hits (were the Americans really surprised? Come on…) everything an American citizen does via a mobile, laptop etc. is being recorded by American Bodies and Edward Snowden has proof. Now for us British citizens, we have pretty much been made aware of this going on in the UK for some time, we just haven’t necessary made a big hoo-hah about it (not like the Americans at any rate), trusting in the Freedom of Information and the Data Protection Acts. Saying that, Edward Snowden has, over the past week, shed new light into what is being called the ‘great SIM Heist’ involving intelligence agencies from the UK, USA, Australia, Canada and New Zealand and Gemalto, the world’s biggest producer of SIM cards. Only time will tell what new information is to follow, and I for one recommend that if any of this interests you, watching the film/documentary is a good starting point.

What has really stuck in my mind is the fact that we do need to be more careful and aware of our rights. Data protection is under the spotlight more and more, especially in relation to technology, due to our advancements. Only today, was I reading on that EU legislators are looking to, wait for it, ‘future-proof’ new data protection laws against major technological advances – I’d like to have a greater understanding as to what that will look like. In-House Counsel should be being consulted by the powers that be within their company in relation to these issues and if not, why not? This issue only stands to grow. Data protection lawyers, in fact any in-house counsel – watch this space – 2015 is going to be an interesting ride.