We all have ideas about the area we want to qualify into when we start and we are told by numerous people that those ideas will change during the training contract. As trainees we spend a certain period of time working in a number of departments over the two years. Each of these periods are called seats and at some point during our training contract we will be asked to make decisions regarding our next seat.
As a trainee, the next seat for which you express a preference is very important. Seats provide an opportunity to get a better understanding of which areas of law you are interested in. It is important to be open-minded and listen to the advice of your training providers because your seats can allow you to consider practice areas you may never have thought of before.
Some firms may provide more formal advice than others when choosing your seats but there is always a good pool of information from which to draw inspiration. Each firm will differ in its seat planning process and will provide a different number of seats and seat durations.
Woodfines generally offers four 6-month seats during the training contract and this provides a good level of experience in each seat while enabling you to complete a wide range of practice areas. Of course, this is not fixed and seat duration and area can be negotiated depending on the firm’s and trainee’s requirements.
Because seat planning varies in each firm, this is likely to be a way the firm markets itself to future trainees so it is not just something to consider during your training contract but while you are applying for training contracts as well. Additionally, it is probably a good idea to mention it in your interview and explain why the firm’s chosen arrangement is particularly appealing to you, or if it has not been made clear in any of the literature or during the course of the interview you could mention it in the ‘do you have any further questions?’ part of the interview.
Most trainees will have different preferences which can change over time but a lot of your choice will be dictated by instinct. This is not wrong and should be relied on as a good indicator, but make sure you use your instinct in conjunction with the advice available, especially the advice of your colleagues. A good question to ask is can you see yourself dealing with the issues associated with that area of law for six months? Does the prospect of a seat in that area make you feel excited?
Another important factor to consider is the depth of the experience a department will be able to offer. Find a trainee who has completed a seat in that department and ask them what type of work they completed.
Finally, be careful not to put too much pressure on yourself when choosing a seat. Focus on gaining a wide range of experiences from your training contract and most importantly whichever seat is allocated to you work hard and enjoy yourself.