The key challenges surrounding a seat change

Moving seats as a trainee requires fast adjustment. Major components of your job, such as the type of work you do, the fee earners you assist and the clients you advise, change over a weekend. You then have a matter of months to adapt before the next move. I have highlighted what, in my experience so far, are the main challenges when entering a new seat.

Managing a change in pace

How busy you are in any department can be down to the circumstances, such as the state of an industry, the size of a team or the time of year. However, it’s important to recognise that the pace of the work in one department over another varies a lot simply based on the nature of the work. For example, there are often tighter deadlines working on a property transaction, where there could be several parties contributing and expecting a fast turnaround, than there are on a private client matter where deadlines are more flexible and the lawyer-client relationship is more direct.

To avoid feeling overwhelmed by a change in pace, communicate consistently with your supervisor to keep your workload under control.”

Ask for tips from newly-qualified solicitors in your team or from trainees who have recently completed your current seat. They might have an approach that you hadn’t considered that improves your efficiency and makes the new seat more enjoyable.

Keeping an open mind

Trainees often have an idea of what areas are best for them at the beginning of their training contract without having ever experienced them in practice. There is no benefit to disregarding a seat early on based on prior reservations from your studies or a tough first few weeks.

“You should always form your own opinion on a new department when you move seat.”

Trainees ahead of you will express more favourable opinions on some seats over others based on their experiences. Do not let this influence you and take the stance that you should not rule anything out until you have given it a go.

If you begin to recognise that an area is not for you after trialling it for a few months, focus on what you can learn from that seat and take it forward to the next one. The fee earners in every department will be receptive to enthusiasm and a positive attitude.

Building relationships with a new team

Seats do not last long. You can begin to feel accustomed to the working methods and the personalities of the solicitors in one team and, before you know it, the next seat rotation takes place and you need to do it all over again.

Starting in a new team can be daunting but it is important as a trainee to be proactive in reaching out to your new colleagues, especially when working remotely. From the beginning, put yourself forward for anything to give yourself the chance to work with as many team members as possible. Diversifying who you work with is a great way to integrate quickly.

Attending firm socials from the beginning of your training contract also makes settling into a new seat much smoother. There is always a great turnout and the socials allow you to mix with members of different teams in a more relaxed setting in advance of potentially working with them.

Posted by Jack Johnson

Jack joined B P Collins as a paralegal in the property department before starting his training contract with the firm in September 2020.