It's now April and I'm into my second month in my new seat with the Litigation team in the Firm's Bedford office. The weather is getting better, the days are getting longer (in terms of sunlight that is) and my commute has suddenly got a lot shorter!
In many ways starting a new seat means starting again somewhat from scratch; there are new procedures to learn, names to remember, stationery cupboard to locate – and that's all before the new area of legal practice looms into the fore with all its quirks and obscurities. This will likely be the experience of most trainees at this stage, regardless of however much their university studies or previous work experience can prepare a trainee for work in one area of law or another, a new seat – especially in a new office – will always mean learning some of the basics again.
The corollary of all this is that by the end of a six month seat in their given area a trainee will be experienced, confident and, most importantly, useful to their departments; it's in those latter months that a trainee is really able to carve out a place for themselves in the team, taking on their own caseload in some instances and becoming genuinely integral to the work that goes on. It's also around just this point, however, when it's time again for the next seat change! While going through that disorienting process of jumping from familiar waters into unchartered depths can be daunting at times, it is the ideal way for a budding solicitor to develop their capacity to learn and adapt in the face of new challenges. It is also their main opportunity to discover what kind of solicitor they want to be when it comes to qualifying, as they'll have tried four different flavours.
So, in the light of all this I'm going into Litigation with a fresh outlook and I am looking forward to building my skills up anew. I am lucky, however, in that civil litigation shares many similarities with my last seat in the Crime and Regulatory department. Both are contentious seats, both are highly client-facing for a trainee, and both involve many similar procedures with regards to correspondence, counsel and the courts. On the other hand these same procedures can be vastly different between the two areas of law, too, meaning that while the work in the (civil) Litigation department is familiar enough to be welcoming rather than overwhelming, it is still its own creature and needs to be approached as such. I've already found myself checking up now and then for refreshers on parts of the Civil Procedure Rules or the Sale of Goods Act; no doubt I'll know them back to front come September!