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same firm, different team

3 February 2014

Before starting my training contract, I’d always wondered – how did it end up becoming standard to split the two years into separate, 6-month stints? If you’re like me, when you’re about to start a career, you’d expect that’s going to be your job for the foreseeable future. There was a nagging confusion; wouldn’t it make more sense to keep your trainees in the same place for 2 years and let them build up their specialist skills and knowledge they need for whatever sector they’re in?

At the time, I came to the conclusion that a seat move would probably be a fairly cosmetic affair – “it can’t really be all that different surely?”

Well I’m coming up to my final move in March, and I can only say that I couldn’t have been more wrong.

My 3rd seat just happens to be on the same floor of the same office wing as my 2nd seat. I’m sitting 10 metres away from my old desk. I use the same kitchen to make a cup of tea. But as for the job, for all the similarities it bears to my previous team I could just as well be 100 miles away in a different office of a different firm. The skills you need, the work you do and the people you work with – everything that defines your day to day life is turned upside down.

So why do it; why uproot people every 6 months two years? There are probably a number of reasons but for my money it comes down to this:

Imagine a firm with two trainees and two seats. Alex the trainee is, by nature, a creative extrovert; he’s most at home when he’s getting out and meeting people, forging connections and with people to see new ways of looking at an issue. Ben the trainee is an analytical introvert, and feels most comfortable when he’s got his head in a file, absorbing the facts and details of a complicated scenario and analysing it. Then imagine that the work in seat A happens to involve a lot of the sort of thing Alex is a natural at; while seat B would be perfect for Ben.

It’s not a big leap to imagine what the worst case scenario is without seat rotation. Alex spends 2 years in seat B, Ben spends 2 years in seat A, and they both end up coming to the conclusion that being a lawyer just isn’t for them. Then think how different things would be if they’d just swapped jobs for a bit.

The diversity you get at a firm like Browne Jacobson can only be a good thing. We get moved around so that by the end of 2 years, we’ll understand our strengths and what we enjoy, we’ll recognise where we struggle and have room to grow, and because of that we’ll have the confidence that, whatever we end up gravitating towards, it’s because it’s the best fit for us.

It’s a comforting thought, and takes some of the sting out of being thrown right back in at the deep end every time you starting to feel like you know what you’re doing.

So before your training contract, don’t worry too much about what you think you want to do – that’s what seat moves are for. Just keep an open mind and remember that a training contract isn’t something to get once you’ve found your niche, it’s your route in to finding it.