UK: Making The Most Of Your Seat Change

Last Updated: 19 April 2018
Article by Rachael Jane Ruth

I completed the first seat of my traineeship at Brodies in the Personal & Family department, working within the Private Client team. Just over eight months ago, I travelled through to Edinburgh for the first commute of my traineeship, arriving in a new city and a new office and wondering if I would ever get used to the change.

I am pleased to say that settling into the department was a quick and (relatively!) painless process.

I loved working in Private Client. I was very fortunate in that the Private Client course I had studied during my Diploma in Professional Legal Practice had set me up well in terms of practical skills and knowledge needed to hit the ground running in my first seat. Within a day I had attended a meeting with clients to take notes and had prepared drafts of their new wills and powers of attorney. As my seat progressed, I was able to build upon my drafting abilities, expanding my repertoire to include more complex trust provisions incorporating inheritance tax planning, letters of wishes, trust creation and constitution documents, and various forms required in the administration of a deceased individual's estate. On a daily basis, I contacted clients and intermediaries alike and regularly attended client meetings. I had considerable autonomy in the management and daily administration of the cases I worked on.

The reality of a seat in Private Client is that trainees are expected to take on a lot of responsibility from the outset. However, I had a highly-skilled and experienced team around me, supporting my professional development and ready to step in where the expertise of a more senior practitioner was required. I felt confident that I made a valuable and meaningful contribution to the work of the firm throughout my seat.

Preparing for the seat move

Early this year, I was delighted to learn that I would be moving back to work in Glasgow in the Contentious Construction department for my second seat. Having taken a course in International Dispute Resolution during my time at University, and enjoying the Litigation classes offered on the Diploma, I was excited to join the Construction team.

However, the move itself was not without its challenges. As a consequence of the significant level of responsibility I held in my work in Private Client, I required to put a lot of work and time into finalising and progressing matters as far as possible before moving on. I drafted a detailed handover note to provide the trainee taking over my seat, and the rest of the Private Client team, with all the information required to pick up where I was to leave off when I moved to Construction. Keeping on top of your workload is key to a successful handover. Without a detailed record of my daily tasks, I would have found the job of explaining the progress of my matters and providing a note of next steps for my successor a much more difficult task.

Adapting to the change

The move from Private Client in Edinburgh to Construction in Glasgow was bittersweet – although I was excited to join a new team in a seat I had really wanted, I knew I would miss my colleagues in Private Client, and the familiarity that comes with working in the same practice area for several months. The key benefit of Brodies' 8 month-long traineeship seats for me is that you develop strong roots in your department. The slightly-longer seats give you the chance to enjoy the confidence which comes with experience before moving on. Fortunately, my predecessor in Construction had provided me in turn with a detailed handover note explaining some of the department-specific processes I would need to get accustomed to in my new seat, which helped with the transition.

As well as reacclimatising to being 'the new person' in your department again, expect a steep learning curve when you move seats. I have found Construction so far to be a highly-specialised area of law which often calls upon the expert knowledge of its practitioners. I have had to utilise a number of resources, such as textbooks and legal research databases such as Westlaw and Practical Law on a regular basis.

As I joined the department, an important case reached a pivotal stage, requiring the attention of almost the entire team at various points. From the outset I have been involved in administrative tasks as well as research to assist the team involved in this matter. The department has a wide-reach in terms of its involvement in various disputes, which for me meant attending a Court of Session hearing along with Counsel and a solicitor from my team after just a week. As a trainee in the wider Litigation department, I also appeared in Simple Procedure hearings in Glasgow Sheriff Court at the end of my second week in the department.

There is potential, if not an expectation, that as a Brodies trainee you will be involved in a diverse range of tasks across various legal practice areas from the outset. The Construction team is one of the busiest in the firm, but I am looking forward to the challenge.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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