Trainee Blog: Which seats should I pick?

The ultimate aim of a training contract is to give you a broad view of several areas of law, so that you can make an informed decision about what type of law you want to practice once you qualify.

Whilst it's handy to have some idea of where you may want to qualify, it's best to approach a training contract with an open mind. Many trainees come into the process set on one area of law, only to have their minds changed by the end of their first seat.

Beyond the type of law itself, there are a few considerations that a trainee should think about when choosing a seat:

Contentious v Non-contentious

A key decision that trainees will often think about early on their training contract is whether they want to opt for contentious or non-contentious work, or something which has a bit of overlap. A lot of lawyers will say that they're adamantly one or the other, but it's perfectly fine to enjoy a mixture of both! My fellow trainee, Grace Awan, has helpfully explained the differences between contentious and non-contentious seats in her recent article.

At the start of your training contract, try not to let the contentious v non-contentious element influence your decisions too heavily. You have to do a mixture throughout the training contract anyway, so ensure that you're open to enjoying both of them.

The clients

Michelmores has three distinct departments: Business, Private Client and Real Estate: broadly speaking, in Private Client the clients are predominantly individuals or trusts; in Business most of the clients are companies of some sort; and in Real Estate there's a broad mixture of the two. There are also seats where you may work with a very specific form of clientele, such as working with large estate owners in our Agricultural Property team.

Depending on which seat you find yourself in, you will need to adjust to the varying demands and needs of different types of clients. You'll also get differing levels of client contact. For example, in transactional seats where you may be running a handful of smaller matters, you might be the first point of contact for the client, whereas in seats where you're working on a few large matters, your involvement with the client may be more limited.

Across the training contract, you'll have the opportunity to engage with clients with a range of working dynamics, and it's best to experience working with a variety of clients before deciding which ones you like working with best.

The smaller things

One of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given during my training is not to think about the area of law so much as the sort of tasks you'll be carrying out. If you have an idea of the skills you'd like to focus on using, and how they will apply to the typical tasks required in a seat, you can opt for a seat where you'll engage much more with the work, which will lead to a more enjoyable time in the seat overall.

For example, throughout my studies I found that the skills I really enjoyed utilising were problem-solving and developing written arguments. Knowing this, I've looked for seats that will enable me to look at creative ways around legal issues, and give me opportunities to present legal research.

Overall, keep an open mind. Whatever seat you find yourself in, throw yourself into it in order to make the most out of your time there. Even if it's not one of your first choices, aim to make it an enjoyable learning experience where you can develop your skills.

If you have any questions about seat choices or general life as a trainee, please feel free to contact myself or any of the other trainees at Michelmores.