How many seats in a training contract?
If you are interested in qualifying to be a solicitor, you may know a bit about training contracts and how they are the stepping stone to becoming fully qualified. However, one area you may know a little less about are the different seats available for trainee solicitors.
What is a seat?
A seat refers to each department you will rotate through while on your training contract. The term comes from the fact that a seat used to be just that: a chair in the office of a more experienced lawyer in a different department. There is no set number of seats and the number varies. Quite a few law firms have their trainees cover four different departments in six months, while others cover six in four months. There are a few that do not follow any of these patterns at all.
Benefits of a seat
Given that each seat is in a different department, they offer you a chance to learn about several different topics, from intellectual property and commercial litigation to sports and aviation. This rotation allows you to discover which topics interest you the most and which you would be interested in specialising in. During each seat, trainees develop different skills and build a varied knowledge of the work of the firm. You will be working with a partner or an associate with each seat, who will be responsible for giving you feedback and ensuring you are as involved as possible.
There are a few law firms that offer secondments: a seat abroad! Trainees in a few different law firms have worked in places such as Hong Kong and New York. Aside from being able to travel and experience another culture, trainees are able to understand how foreign markets operate as well as learning valuable insights about the laws of another country. In addition, given that many law firms are based in the UK, a secondment will offer you the chance to work in a smaller office with more responsibility.
Another type of seat is known as a client secondment, which allows trainees to work with a client in the in-house legal team. Firms work with a variety of different companies, and a role in an in-house team would involve working with one specific company. This allows you to have greater responsibilities, given that in-house tend to be quite small. Aside from this, trainees learn what it is like to be a client. Such information is invaluable upon return to the firm, as you learn how to best fit the needs of the client.
Things to consider
There are a few things that need to be taken into consideration regarding seats. Firstly, it’s important to look at the seat options for each firm you are applying to, to make sure you are doing something you are interested in. However, you must keep an open mind with regards to what options are available.
There are some seats that will end up being the most popular and you will be competing with the rest of your fellow trainees. It’s not uncommon with trainees to not get their first or second choice for seats. This is particularly true for secondments as most trainees are eager to go abroad. Furthermore, certain seats are incredibly strenuous such as corporate or finance. Trainees who undertake these seats often have to work long hours and may even have to deal with all nighters.
Regardless of which area you are working in, each seat provides an incredibly valuable experience. They help you to discover your passion and learn more about the variety of law that the firm practises.