The most important thing to remember is that there really is no right or wrong choice! However, as simple as this is to type, I know from experience that it really isn't the mantra that trainees enter into seat negotiations with. Therefore, to assist in the process, I have put together some top tips for choosing your seat.
Think about what topics you enjoy outside of work. Did you complete an engineering based degree prior to converting to law? In which instance a seat in construction might suit you. Do you love science or medicine? Do you love to draw or appreciate good design? Both might lead you to enjoy 6 months in the Intellectual Property department learning about patents, trademarks and inventions. Maybe you are part of a Young Farmers Organisation and therefore will be familiar with the lingo in the Agricultural Property department. You get the gist!
If you are anything like me, entering into my training contract there were a fair few departments of which I had no knowledge! If you think you might be interested in a department, or simply want to know what work the department does, speak to someone. This could be a trainee who is currently completing a seat there or who has previously completed a seat there or a current member of the department whether it be an NQ or the department head.
Make an Impression (as long as it is a favourable one!)
Get your name out there - work hard, get involved with your department and work hard for firm-wide events. If you are a hard working involved trainee you are more likely to get noticed by key members of departments who may have more influence over where you are placed.
If you particularly enjoy a subject area and have some idea of the type of law in which you want to qualify, think about which seats complement each other. For example, if you are thinking of qualifying into Commercial Property, seats such as Planning, Construction, Property Litigation and Banking and Finance offer key skill sets that would really enhance your position as a Commercial Property Solicitor. Also, if you are really certain of your career path, speak to the head of the relevant department and ask them for suggestions.
No Idea, Don't Fear
Do you simply not have a clue? Take the opportunity to be bold and adventurous, try new things. It is not a bad thing if you haven't made your mind up - do not worry about this. If you're not sure, try to do both a contentious and a non-contentious seat early on, or even a mixed seat. That way, you can determine whether you prefer litigation or transactional work which will assist in narrowing down your choices.
Why should you get that seat choice over X trainee who also wants it? It is important to be prepared on why you want to complete the particular seat and also why the department should want you as the trainee. Whilst it is really important to form good relations with your peers, it is also important to have in mind that you are competing for what you want.
Keep an Open Mind
No matter your choice and whether it turns out to be a seat you enjoy, it is important to ensure that you take full advantage of the opportunities given to you. Seat rotation simply put is part of the training process, there are always generic legal skills to be learnt from a seat as well as the more niche subject related skills. It really is important to keep your mind open to a seat as outwardly sulking can have a detrimental impact on your career potential within the firm.