It's a phrase that can send a shiver down any trainee solicitor's spine: 'Seat Rotation'. Groups of trainees are congregating in hallways, desperately trying to second guess the final seat move schedule and, having just settled into your current department, you're left wondering "how has it been six months already?!".
Seat moves can be a stressful time for any trainee. You've probably just started to get to grips with the law in your current department, and now, you've got to start from scratch with a subject matter you haven't studied for years, with a team you don't know, potentially in a location you've never been to before.
In an attempt to minimise the impeding feeling of doom, here are my top tips to survive the seat rotation process.
- Consider your options
In a firm like Ashfords, there are loads of different departments angling for a trainee, so make sure you know a bit about the teams, the sort of work they do and where you would fit in. If there is already a trainee working in an area you may be interested in, chat to them for an honest opinion on their experiences so far. If you are a first year, maybe you want to mix things up a bit and go from transactional work to litigation? If you're a second year, you will probably want to be considering areas you may be interested in qualifying into.
- Be honest
At Ashfords, we have a chat with HR three months before we move so that we can discuss our seat preferences. Be totally open with HR, now is not the time to be keeping your cards close to your chest. If you really don’t want to do a certain area of law, tell them. If you are really keen on another area, but you know a trainee in the year above is also interested, who cares, tell HR anyway. Being transparent with your choices will only benefit you over the course of your training contract.
- Keep an open mind
So you didn't get one of your top three seat selections, for any trainee, that's extremely frustrating. However, make sure you keep an open mind - you may get to the department and realise that you actually love it! Even if you don't, you will be surprised at how quickly six months will pass. Having a bad attitude will be noticed, and news of any temper tantrums will probably get back to the department that you may have an interest in qualifying into…
- Effective handovers
You will more than likely receive a handover from the trainee leaving your current seat - make sure you use this time wisely! Sure, you will get told about current matters and any work you may need to undertake in the near future, but you should also ask questions about how the team works. Does your supervisor like to review work on screen or on paper? Are they a big fan of in depth research memos or would they rather you just tell them the answer quickly? How do the tea rounds work?!
- Don't panic
It's a horrible feeling going from feeling reasonably comfortable in one department on a Friday, to not having a clue as to what's going on in another department on the Monday. Just get stuck in and read into your subject matter as much as possible. Remember, you do this four times over the course of your training contract, you'll be a pro at dealing with the 'Seat Rotation Fear' in the end.