Business-savvy Rafaella impresses top lawyers

A SAVVY student’s impressive analysis of how digital technology has dramatically changed the commercial world has won her a large cash prize, including £2,000 to help RGS students develop their research skills.

Rafaella Shiers is one of only 20 students from all over the UK to be selected from an ‘overwhelming number’ of applications in the Making Links Schools Challenge, run by the global law firm Linklaters.

The company asked entrants to submit a 500-word essay on innovation in the business world, in an exciting new competition designed to give UK students the edge they need to become savvy commercial lawyers of the future.

Rafaella, 17, from Ripon, chose digital technology as the subject for her essay, entitled: 'What in your opinion has been the biggest innovation or disruption in the business world in your lifetime?'

Studying economics, classics, history and chemistry at AS-level, Rafaella says she considered the competition a great opportunity to connect with such a major global company: “The essay question also encouraged me to think in terms of new dynamic, entrepreneurial and creative ideas, taking into consideration that today's solutions will not always be as effective in solving future challenges.”

Having already won £500 for herself and £2,000 for her school, she had to develop her idea further to present it to a panel of experts at the grand final of the competition on April 29. 

Although she missed out on the top prize - £8,000 for the winner’s school and a place on Linklaters’s work insight programme - Rafaella says she learnt a lot: "It was a very valuable experience, with lots of fierce competition."

In her prize-winning essay, Rafaella, who hopes to study history or classics at university, possibly followed by a law conversion course, argues: “Technological innovation is truly a worldwide phenomenon with just over 36 percent of the world now using a smartphone; a huge move in a short space of time considering the world wide web was only brought into being by Tim Berners-Lee in 1990.

“The familiar industrial order of the world is breaking down and being replaced by an information world run by millennials. The biggest concerning implication of the growth of transformative technology is the huge employment dislocations it will cause. An MIT study predicts that almost half of all jobs will be automated by 2034.

“I would advise businesses to connect with potential clients through the biggest up and coming social media applications. Every 60 seconds 3.3 million people post on Facebook and 29 million messages are sent on Whatsapp.

“The key to success in the near future for businesses would be targeting people using these applications to demonstrate their personality online and their company’s ethos. Businesses also need to be prepared for the next waves of information technology including Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and self-driving cars.”

In order to be a successful commercial lawyer, Linklaters stress that candidates need to understand a client’s market: “It takes a healthy dose of business acumen and commercial savvy. We must be dynamic, creative and entrepreneurial – especially when world is changing at a fast rate. Today’s solutions won’t be effective in solving tomorrow’s challenges so the need to question, listen and learn is now more vital than ever.”