Along with the beginning of daylight saving time and the fun of Halloween, the month of October brought us second year trainees to two significant milestones in our PEAT 2 calendar: our fifth PEAT 2 Quarterly Performance Review (more on which from Eilidh here) and the selection of our final seat.
Brodies really give their trainees the chance to tailor their own experience. We are provided with a full list of the available options and asked to return a shortlist of three choices, ranked in order of preference and accompanied by a short “pitch”. Human Resources then look at all of our choices across the board, with the aim of giving everyone one of their choices. The process is fair, giving everyone an equal shot at getting what they want.
The task of making the shortlist can be difficult, or even daunting. As I make this decision for the 3rd (and final!) time, I’ve found myself reflecting on what I’ve learned about the process. How do you pick your perfect seat?
I started the traineeship with an idea of what I’d like to practice, focusing on areas of law I’d really enjoyed in university and during placements I’d undertaken at other firms. This is a good starting point, particularly for a first seat choice – you’re working with what you know, and if you’ve enjoyed studying something there’s a fair chance you’ll enjoy the experience of working in the area.
That said, while University was a great reference point to start with, it has become a little less useful as time has gone on. Just as I thought there’s a good chance I’d enjoy a seat I enjoyed studying about at university, I thought that the reverse was true. However, the practice of law is and feels so different to the study of it. In the years to come, when you’re making these decisions for yourselves, I’d urge you to actively push your boundaries – you may surprise yourself.
I’ve found it’s good to try to think about your skill set – did the Diploma reveal that you’re great at drafting? Or did it show that you’re great at negotiation? For your first seat – in the interests of settling in and finding your bearings – it’s a great idea to think about where your skills might “fit”. Later, it is a good idea (if a little scary) to start thinking about the skills you might lack and consider picking a seat which will help you develop those. It might result in a tougher few months, but it will be worth it in the long run.
I’ve tried to approach my seat choices in this way, from the perspective of getting a good training experience: this is even more important now that I’m selecting my final seat, from which I’ll apply for NQ (newly-qualified) jobs. The traineeship, of course, is about enjoying our work, but it’s also about coming out equipped to deal with life in law. I chose Private Client for my first seat as it pushed me to develop my skills in engaging with (and not be scared of) clients on a personal level, working on the fact that I already enjoyed working with and talking to people. It also gave me the chance to develop my drafting skills. A seat in Corporate has developed my transactional skills; business knowledge and commercial awareness. All of these skills will benefit me no matter what I choose to qualify into.
Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned throughout the last 15 months is that having the “perfect seat” is all in what you make of it. While getting to choose your seat is undoubtedly important, it’s far from fatal if you don’t get your first choice – or if your first choice isn’t even available! When you have something in mind it can be disheartening not to get what you want. However, it’s impossible to underestimate the number of transferable skills and useful knowledge you will develop through working hard in and getting the most out of any seat. Law very rarely, if ever, operates in isolation – especially in a collaborative, full service firm like Brodies. Knowledge you obtain during one seat will invariably help you in another, and branching out will never hold you back.
With all of this in mind, I really should go and start thinking about where I’ll apply next… wish me luck!
On November 5, 2014