How to read the news
Know the background
Before reading amazing news publications like The Financial Times and The Economist out there, you need to make sure you are capable of understanding them. Unfortunately, they don’t feed you with all the background information and basics of how economies and markets operate.
Christopher Stoakes’ <All You Need to Know About the City> is a good start. Literally every single person I met at legal events recommended this book when I asked about building commercial awareness. Let’s be honest. Financial and business terms are pretty damn difficult. When I google some of the terms I encounter while reading the news, I sometimes don’t understand what they are saying. They are making difficult things even more difficult. I’ve bought this book ages ago but started properly reading it recently and it just makes everything SO EASY. Honestly even my 10 years old cousin could understand this. So, if you haven’t bought this already, go ahead and buy this. Right now!!
What do you need to read?
Some of the publications I am reading:
1. The Economist: The Economist is particularly helpful in forming opinions about an issue. It provides a really good analysis and opinions of issues, so if you follow through their analysis and commentaries, you get to know how to really critically think about an issue rather than passively accepting it.
2. The Financial Times: Useful in catching the market and business trends and key deals going on.
3. Finimize: They provide short and sweet summaries of daily news. What’s good is that they provide sections like “What Does This Mean?” and “Why Should I Care?” that links an issue to wider picture and to you personally.
Podcasts I listen to before I sleep or when I’m on a bus:
1. <Bloomberg Businessweek>
2. <Bloomberg Daybreak>
Reading news articles
I’ve found an article from <All About Finance Careers> that provides some helpful tips on reading news efficiently. It’s not from <All About Law> but financial careers and legal careers have huge overlaps and we all need to know about how markets work, so their tips are applicable to law students too. Here’s a summary of what they say:
1. When reading the FT, “the main section” and “the companies & markets section” are what you should focus on. Ditch the rest.
Personally, I would add another section to this. FT’s Due Diligence is very helpful in catching up with latest M&A deals and other business news. If you subscribe to FT Due Diligence, you can get daily updates.
2. FT’s LEX column. <All About Finance Careers> suggests reading the LEX column. This is helpful in catching a trend. For example, which companies are being talked about the most these days and why? How are they performing or what is happening to them?
3. When reading a news article, you’ll often find the writer throwing numbers and tables at you. You can just skip them because firstly, you’ll not going to remember all of them, and secondly, it’s important to know the story not all the little details of it. But this doesn’t mean you can also skip key numbers like by what percentage a company’s revenue grew this year because they could be essential part of the story.
Following are some of the tips I would give:
1. When reading the news, think about what that news means to law firms’ businesses. Does it create new opportunities for them? Is it detrimental to their business? More specifically, what does it mean to that particular firm you are applying to?
2. Research the firm. In order to understand what impact a particular issue has on a particular law firm you need to know about that firm.
▶ What are their goals and ambitions?
▶ What are their values?
▶ Who are their clients? Which industries do they operate in?
▶ Who are their competitors and how are they performing? What are they doing?
▶ Read their annual report.
Once you understand the firm it becomes clearer how a particular issue impacts a firm’s goals, business, clients and competitors. Then you can start forming your view on what you think that firm should do and why.