Saturday, 13 August 2011

The magic Third Seat: hopping season strike 2 and a trip to Wales

If the welsh Names are anything like this I'm done for!
While I was a lounging with a leg the size of the tree trunk, hopping season breezed through the office. Unlike my very first blog post, this season felt different, as different as the end of spring feels to the end of summer.
Let me set the scene.

The NQ process is now over, all the second years (those who are staying anyway) are preparing to become Fully Fledged Lawyers. The stress and worry for them at this stage is over, they have relative job security and are starting to look past the 2 years of donkey work they have almost completed. All this does for the first years is remind us how close we are getting to qualification. It doesn't help that every secretary that comes into contact with a first year says ' Only two seats left! OOh, not long now, and that will be you!'. Not at all comforting - indeed, the exact opposite of comforting.

That's right, we realise. Only two seats left. We should KNOW by now. You know, what we want to DO. (Most trainees are filled with this idea that our practice area should just fit, like meeting a soul mate. I am one of them but I am fully aware this is as naive as thinking Prince Charming is going to come and rescue me. Well it happened for Kate!)

Then the list is distributed. Speculation becomes reality. This time round we get supposed first pick at the seats - we are becoming Second Years after all so there is a sense of possibility, of optimism. We are sadly disappointed. There are several departments who have not had a trainee before and several that were training contract staples that have gone. Reading the list as a hermit, I had no idea what to pick. Reading it in the office with all the gossip and scheming must have been a nightmare.

There was, it seemed,a light at the end of the tunnel. An obvious choice: secondment in house with a client exposing the lucky trainee to several legal disciplines with supervision from one of the managing partners. Bingo!! Not surprisingly over half of us put this as our first choice leading HR to have 'informal chats' with us all. Unlucky for me mine was by telephone conference a day after being operated on and I was not particularly coherent. In any event, SIT (Super Important Trainee strikes again) treated the informal chat as a proper interview, prepared the heck out of it and out-manoeuvred us all! Boy, did she look smug. (Having considered this seat, I have decided (sorry In-housers) that it is a wolf wrapped up to look like a perfect seat. Any mistake you make on secondment is going to be a hell of a lot worse - it makes you look bad in the eyes of a client and possibly costs them money. And you are out of the office when you should be being observed by the recruiting departments to see where you fit within the firm. Looks like I had a lucky escape)

The rest of us filtered into the remaining seats glum, disillusioned, angry with ourselves that we had missed a trick. Unfortunately there was another snake in the grass we couldn't see - some of the supervisors had requested second years. Woe betide the second year who thought they had the opportunity to choose something they might be interested in! Not a chance, Corporate couldn't possibly have a newbie doing their photocopying. We were asked and asked to choose seats until we uttered a magic second year seat. Some were lucky and hit the target on the first go. Others, such as myself, had to keep going and ended up with fourth or even fifth choice. Not great for your third seat.

Now I know there are some law firms who don't give their trainees a choice: either they have too many trainees to organise such a process or there are some seats that no one would choose. Personally I think this is akin to playing lottery with your training budget and I am extremely grateful that my firm at least pretends to give us a choice. The problem here was the lack of transparency, the lack of coordination and the inequality of selection across the field. Half the trainees got their first choice and half who don't feel like they have been given a choice at all. Equally some of the supervisors who have been allocated new starters were unaware of their sneaky colleagues tactics and feel hard done by too, especially when a second year wanted to go to their department and was denied. But, Trainees can't possibly be seen to complain too much as seats are chosen for the business need of the firm and no trainee wants to look like we aren't pro-firm. So we are resigned to our new departments, happy or otherwise.

I am moving into the Projects department, a mysterious place with lots of files, travelling and mysterious acronyms the meanings of which are revealed as you prove yourself. No one else has any idea what Projects do except make a lot of money and stay late. It was not my first choice but it is a seat that wasn't on offer before so the prospect of something new was exciting.

I met my supervisor this week to find out a little more. I still have no idea what projects do except there are lots of people with Names. These people have Names that open doors, in the same way as Madonna or Beyonce. If you mention a particular Name you are given power to Organise and to win Deals. You must at all times be nice to the Names, be professional in front of the Names and essentially give your life to the Names. Then, they give you money. (I know, it sounds a lot like night walking for the legal profession......)

I did, however, find out what they need me for. I am covering the work of a 4 year qualified who is going away to have babies. That's right. FOUR years qualified. Why did she have to be fertilised now!? No wonder no one else wanted to do it. Its positively terrifying. On top of this, as she can't travel, I am joining the Hod (Head of Department - see the acronyms start now. SIBTLT - Soon I will Be Talking Like This) on a week long business trip for 3 days of meetings and 2 days of travelling to ... wait for it..... WALES! Yea I know, not very glamorous, in fact its probably going to be raining. I will be leaving for said trip on the first day in the seat. No adjustment time, no time to even move my stationary. (The newbie better not go NEAR my pens! Its taken me a long time to steal the good ones from the stationary cupboard.) Nope, first thing I will do is crossing the border to meet lots and lots of welsh Names.

Seriously, what have I signed up for!

1 comment:

  1. This is probably not what you want to hear, but 'Projects' sounds horrifying!! :-\