Final seat trainee: ‘I didn’t get my dream NQ role in tech — should I look elsewhere?’

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I will instead be qualifying into commercial litigation

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one final seat trainee requires readers’ advice after failing to secure a role in her “dream” department.

“I am working in a large corporate firm and I’m in my final seat. Since the start, I have wanted one department — technology. All of my work history prior to starting my TC has been in tech firms of one shape or another. I have been open to trying other departments, and some of them have been good, but I still wanted to do this seat the most. Now that I am in my last seat, I’ve been turned down yet again for tech and I will instead be going into commercial litigation.

How do I make this work for me in the future? I’d hate to think my dream of tech is dead but is there any way I can work this to my advantage? Do I need to start looking for work elsewhere post-qualification or is commercial work helpful no matter what I end up doing long-term (particularly in the context of a COVID-19 downturn)? Many thanks for your help.”

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If you get offered an NQ job in any division, though preferably transactional, take it. It’s a job, there aren’t many out there at the moment.

When the market comes back, you can then either try to get a move to the tech team at you LZR shop or another (accept you may have to take a pay cut for this) or go in-house at a tech company. The latter spans a huge range, from joining a tech giant in some central, steady but quite dull division like procurement through to going as sole counsel to an exciting Hoxton start up which flying by the seat of its financial arse from one month to the next.



Agreed. Make the most of your final seat in Commercial Litigation and keep an open mind once the NQ jobs list comes out. If possible, try to stay at your current firm as NQ, even if it is not in your preferred department. As bad as it sounds, the alternative is to be jobless: the legal market is a corpse right now and roles in IP/Tech are like gold dust these days. Many recruiters in the City got furloughed and who knows how many of them will be coming back once the scheme ends. Times are bad.

Try to play the long game, as things may begin to pick up in Q1 2021 and you could either move over to your firm’s IP team, or try to make a lateral move someplace else, potentially even in-house. But right now sit tight and ride out the mess first.



Understandable everyone telling OP to take the role given the current market but if what they really want to do is tech m&a work or tech agreements then taking a litigation role will not make it easy to transfer. Worth managing expectations in that regard.



“Tech” is not a practice area in the same way that M&A, banking or disputes are; it’s an industry. It’s very hard to move between practice areas, but if your firm has a tech focus then it will probably act on some tech disputes as well. If you can get staffed on one of those, then you can build up a CV that will allow you to apply for a job at a firm that has a dedicated tech disputes practice, or go in-house at a tech firm into a general counsel role. In particular, if you went to work at a start up, you’d be required to do a bit of everything. Which is to say, take the job – the market for NQs is awful, and then do your best to follow the above steps.



I did not even qualify into a TMT department and I have worked in house at many technology companies as an IT lawyer. I learnt my technology law skills on the job and currently advise financial institutions on technology law matters and commercial contracts. So it is possible not to do a seat in technology law or even qualify into the technology law department and still become an IT/IP law specialist.


Eagle Snr

Sometimes the bird must leave the nest. There are many worms out there. Yet be wary right now. There are predators afoot and the supply of worms is temporarily scarce. It might be worthwhile keeping to the nest for now. Don’t worry my little feathered friend, there will be a time for you to spread your wings.


Old Codger

Pure ornithological poetry sir, bravo.



Who dreams of being a lawyer? I dream of getting the money.


Legally Anon

Get over yourself. And if you are that ungrateful and unfulfilled, move over so someone else can be.


David Mitchell

I wanted a training contract and preferred NQ position as much as the next guy, but can we please stop referring to firm’s and junior positions in the legal industry as our ‘dreams’.

You just sound like a delusional kid whose watched Suits too many times.

Nobody dreams of becoming a white-collar serf.



Walk away. Apply for your “dream job” elsewhere. And in the meantime flip burgers. When you realise the dream job does not exist and you are still flipping burgers you will learn a valuable lesson, namely that when someone says “follow your dreams” never, ever listen to anything that comes out of their mouth again. Same goes for those that say “listen to your heart” or “ask on the universe will provide” or anyone who ever quotes “The Secret”.





Bitcoin Blockchain Wizard

“Tech” seems like a buzzword to me. If you want to do non-con transactional work with an IT focus, comm lit won’t help you get there, but if you want to be an IP litigator on the other hand I think comm lit is the closest you can get at the moment really? At least you’ll be on top of the CPR and the likes when IP lit jobs become available again.


Pull the other one

This is fake as usual. Anyone qualifying in 2020 knows the market is awful, everyone talks to recruiters, every recruiter says the market is dead and there isn’t any job going at all (nevermind in “tech”), and so less than two months before qualifying this alleged associate to be, instead of reaching out to a single recruiter, is asking legalcheek commentators (the majority of whom are students).

Likely story.



Not fake – just taken from a TSR thread where this question was asked


Yes but

I see. But it’s been misrepresented, hasn’t it so it is still a fake career thread. The tag line in this article is “I will instead be qualifying into commercial litigation” indicating something entirely different than a third seat trainee going into a fourth seat in September.



in fairness, recruiters will tell you what suits them to tell you as well. Any recruiter I’ve ever spoken to has tried to get me to move to some offshore island to do banking, no matter how many times ive said I dont want to do that


Sweaty expat bloata

What’s wrong about that? Embrace the offshore life, live phat, sunburnt and wealthy like me!



Er, what is the problem with qualifying into commercial litigation? That’s where the big bucks are. Enjoy!



“I’ve qualified into a recession proof seat, but I want what I want even though it does not exist”. Pathetic.



As someone facing redundancy because my firm doesn’t have enough jobs and the NQ market is deader than King Tut, my sympathies are non-existent.



If this person really is in a “large corporate firm” then their commercial litigation team should do a decent amount of tech work. I would recommend taking the NQ role because the alternative is unemployment then targeting the partners that work on tech-y stuff.

Then when the market picks up you shaft them and start looking for roles in the department you want. Commercial litigation is just the other side or commercial law which you hope never to see, working in a litigation department you will still gain valuable experience with clients and contracts that can easily be applied to a tech practice.

My main advice though is to give up on your dreams. The sooner you accept that the vast majority of the population is miserable and laments their dreams every day the sooner you can move on and make a success of what the real world offers: friends, family and five weeks’ holiday per year.

Hope that helps.


Same case!

Hi author, I am in an exact similar position with you. I qualified in April 2020 and was going to be offered an NQ role in the Technology practice group, but due to the pandemic, I was denied the opportunity (no position was available due to COVID) and was offered a role in the Civil Litigation department instead. I decided to reject the opportunity as I know I wouldnt enjoy doing Litigation and will be applying for tech lawyer role in Q1 2021. In the meantime, I have taken up another well-paying job in a financial firm (non-law role) before applying to rejoin legal practice next year.



Cool story brah, changed my unemployed life.



Civil Litigation? As opposed to the non-civil litigation team?





Bitter Old Git

Fair play to you for making that decision. If you really don’t like an area then don’t qualify into it. However as someone who went through a similar thing at the start of this decade post GFC, you need to accept the fact that you will likely not be able to get back into law and therefore need to get comfortable with your current job. You will be competing for jobs next year with NQs from March 2020, Sep 2020, March 2021 and Sep 2021. Unless your current job is really useful for your desired role, you have very little chance of moving. Also now you have left as an NQ and not to another firm, you will be asked until 7/8 years pqe to explain that move. Don’t turn down opportunities in life because they don’t fit your dreams, I learnt the very hard way. Sometimes opportunities can get you where you want to go in a roundabout way, or will open up something that you may really enjoy but you never considered before.


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