‘I’ve accepted a TC with a firm which doesn’t cover the area I want to practise’

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I hope to specialise in aviation law

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one soon-to-be trainee solicitor wants to know how they should go about moving into their preferred practice area of aviation law upon qualification.

“Hi. I’m due to start my training contract with a firm shortly, but they don’t have a practice area/sector specialism in a niche [aviation law] I would like to go into, but of course in this climate with a single training contract offer I would have been stupid to not accept it on this basis. I know I would thrive in this niche as it’s a hobby and a subject matter I’m very knowledgeable in already.

“Commercial law is a good foundation for the niche, so how difficult would it be to eventually try to move into it? How should I go about it, and when? Thanks.”

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Have a look at job boards for specialist firms like HFW, WFW, etc. and more broadly speaking full service international types and the MC.

Speak with recruiters about moving post qualification. Of course all that’s hot right now is PE, finance, etc. but there’s no harm evaluating your options and seeing how you can break into aviation law after your TC.






An Associate

About 60% of my intake qualified into a department they didn’t expect to until they actually did it.

Keep an open mind and recognise that you basically have no idea what you want to practice. You have no way of knowing whether you’d thrive in aviation law until you actually give it a go. Being interested in something and practising it on a daily basis are very different things. I find litigation interesting, but didn’t particularly enjoy spending 10 hours a day doing doc review so didn’t qualify there.

If you want to maximise your appeal to an aviation team then look at who does it and their background. I’d guess seats in corporate, banking and regulation or public/administrative law would give you a helpful background.


Sir Gadabout

I sat in the aviation finance department of a Magic Circle firm. What is ‘aviation law’? Do you mean drafting IATA treaties? Can’t help you there.

If you mean some sort of commercial practice with an aviation focus, I’d get into a broad practice with links to aviation (finance or even M&A). When you qualify, you can then move to a firm that specialises in aviation finance, M&A with aviation companies etc.

When I was applying for TCs I thought I’d be a pensions lawyer. Now I’m a 2PQE corporate lawyer. Keep your mind and options open as it’s likely your dream department isn’t what you thought it would be.


Princess Pearl

Who on earth wants to be a pensions lawyer. Madness 😉


Robert Maxwell

People who wish to:

– practise actual law from day 1, rather than act as a glorified postman or grunt worker for years

– get paid city law salary to do work which if done properly helps improve the livelihoods of ordinary people rather than simply make rich corporations/people richer

– have some degree of predictability over their working hours

– become over 9000% more attractive on dating profiles to users over the age of 50



Lol @ the idea pension lawyers at corporate firms do worthwhile stuff. 90% of the work is working out how to fuck over pension beneficiaries for the companies your M&A or insolvency teams are ripping to shreds.


Another anon


You don’t know what you’re talking about.

Before you post have a quick look into the difference between working ‘trustee-side’ and ’employer-side’ as a pensions lawyer. Many advisory pensions practices in the City do only or mainly the former.

“90% of the work”…maybe at your particular firm if the pensions dept is corporate support rather than standalone advisory.


I was going to downvote until the last point.

Upvote obtained


Happy pensioner

I’m a pensions lawyer myself and I love it, but honestly it is crazy that you wanted to be a pensions lawyer before you started your TC. How did you even know that the role exists!? I thought it sounded as dull as dishwater before I went to the pensions dept (not by choice funnily enough).

Legal hopefuls here deciding where to apply for your TC/seats…Robert Maxwell touched on some of the perks of pensions law. Another is that you get paid the exact same base rate as your corporate / litigation colleagues down the hall but for doing near enough a 9-7 job – which is crazy considering the hours & stress dished out by those depts.

People always post on here about high legal salaries being a Faustian bargain where you sell your soul to your firm, but my firm pays over £100k at NQ and my life as a junior lawyer is chill. The pay/hours ratio is unbeatable in private practice, so far as I can tell.

Worth thinking about IMO.



Get a grip, plane nerd.

Do the TC and find an area of law you enjoy. If the aviation thing happens, so be it. There is no need to try to force yourself into a certain career path within law just to dovetail with a hobby. Doing so is likely to stifle you and be counterproductive.



Hobbies are good – keep it as a hobby and don’t let the realities of doing the actual job infect your enjoyment of it.



My suggestion would be to move upon qualification. In my experience two of the most asked questions at NQ role interviews are “why are you moving?” and “have you been offered a role at your training firm on qualification?”. You can clearly demonstrate the reason why you are moving – simply that your firm does not practice in that area. You will be assisted if you can demonstrate knowledge in the area. If you are offered a NQ role after training at your current firm, then that puts you in a stronger position to move.

Ultimately what seats you complete do not influence what roles you have access to. Several trainees have moved on from my current firm to roles in which they have never had active legal experience in. The core skills of commercial is definitely transferrable and will definitely assist, much like real estate finance would assist in the skills required for shipping finance.

Good luck and hope this helps.


Annie Onimouse

First year of TC keep your head down, work hard and on impressing everyone and aim to get a job at the end of it. Second year same but keep an eye on aviation law issues and start to look for any contact points between your areas of training/and aviation law. Basically if you want to move in the area you need to weave a web around you that will support you to move.

This can include many limbs
1. Writing articles across contact points with your fields on topical areas – esp I’m refereed journals. Don’t be shy about submitting your work if it’s good and well researched
2. Join any societies or groups for Aviation law if they exist. Found your own if they don’t- good excuse to make contacts.
3. Look for first clients at a smaller level- people who may need help at small
Flying clubs with legal issues.
4. Network furiously and go anywhere and everywhere you can meet those who specialise in it. If they have conferences see if you can go. Tell everyone you meet in the area of your interest.

5. Once you’ve qualified and got a job, then you are in the profession so then start acting like this is a field you are particularly knowledgable and interested in. Eventually you’ll find it all leads to the right job to apply for.

Good luck



Your plan sounds sensible – a few thoughts:

1. Keep an open mind. It’s difficult to know what working in a particular field entails until you actually do it. Often the main drivers for people liking a particular practice area can be cultural rather than the substance of that area of law – eg start/finish times, consistency of busyness levels, aggression vs friendliness.

2. Most people qualify into an area they trained in and stick with that but there are a significant minority of lawyers who have moved around. A lot of the skills you develop will be transferable and if you can show your passion / knowledge and have a story you can sell then that will be helpful.

3. The correct time to move will be a function of the market. You will find it easier to move when there is a mis-match between demand and supply of lawyers at your level and in the area you want to qualify into. That said, all things being equal, either at qualification or up to 3 years PQE is likely to be easiest to move.

4. The firm you’re in will impact your chances. It is generally easier to move from a more highly-rated firm to a less highly-rated one than the other way around, and it’s also likely to be easier to take the same direction of travel when changing qualification area.


Old Guy

Take the tc and do something else, and hope they keep you on. Wish I was given this advice when I was a trainee. Do not become obsessed with qualifying into a particular area, you should be flexible and find something else.


An actual lawyer

Do as much finance as possible and you’ll be fine to move laterally. Nobody wants to do aviation finance…


Aviation finance lawyer

Aviation finance is a great practice area. It was my favourite seat of the TC and here I am at 3 PQE still enjoying it… the people I work with both at my firm and also the firms I work across from seem to enjoy it too. What makes you say no one wants to do aviation finance? I agree that there are plenty of junior associate roles available in this area at the moment, but that’s a product of the market being busy rather than people not wanting to do aviation finance.


Who? What?

I see so many cliché comments here all saying that your TC seats don’t influence your job prospects. Makes me think all these commentators never tried getting a role outside their first NQ area. The actual truth is that if you never had a seat in a particular area, or if you don’t have any actual experience working in a particular field – it is EXTREMELY DIFFICULT to find a firm that will take you on as a “retrain”. I, myself, have been trying to move across from one commercial setting to another-not a massive jump and I’ve definitely gained a very good amount of experience dealing with major national clients and major projects… guess what-I’m still waiting for someone to give me a chance to prove that I can switch fields. The sad truth is that in the UK you are fairly limited when it comes to picking the field you want. Most people I know don’t actually enjoy the area of law they work in, most NQs don’t get to work in the areas they wanted and will never get the chance to change it. That’s what law school teachers fail to tell us-the hard truth.
For a those “you can do anything you want in law” believers, how about you stop perpetuating this fake image that ones will power can achieve anything one wants? Sometimes we just need to acknowledge that the industry is working against us and not with us.
Yes, anything is possible, but the actual chance of you getting what you want is extremely slim, especially if you’ve got no working experience.


HSF's Finest NQ

This is very true. Firms have compulsory seats and trainees compete with one another to get the actual seats they want. If you’re not keen on the compulsory seats then the remaining rotations become a gamble. At big firms this is particularly common as you can end up in a niche practice area and branching out is difficult.

Those choices naturally restrict your leverage for NQ and alas, you end up practising in tax.


Who? What?

Exactly that, I would just add that the competition amongs trainees and rotation of seats is competitive in any firm regardless of its size. Firms generally don’t care what seats juniors prefer or want. In most cases you’ll be told what you’ll practice in and this whole “we take your wishes into account” is nothing more than lip service (in most cases). Some of my friends had absolutely horrible experiences where firms effectively made it impossible for them to work in a field they’ve wanted or get anywhere near the area of law because all the partners cared about was patching the holes within departments that had high turnover rates. Well, we all know that if retention is not great in any particular firm/department/area of law, then there’s a very good reason for that. Again, let’s stop with the smoke screen and lying to young people about what the industry is really like. Everyone always emphasise how competitive the profession is but fail to mention the actual practicalities and prospects of having the kind of career you want. Will, hard grind and good academics will only get you so far. Everything else is pure luck.



Bit negative mate – anything is possible.



As someone who trained in aviation finance and moved to a broader practice after qualifying, don’t do it. That also applies to areas like rail finance, shipping finance etc.



Finance at all really



Actually law at all when I come to think of it


Fly me to the moon

I qualified into an area that the firm I trained at didn’t offer, off the back of experience I’d got in a secondment. I’d always try and build your interest into your training e.g. are there industry networks, training events, relevant news you can give updates on, relevant clients you can ask to work with? You can pick seats which are similar or build skill sets which are applicable to your preferred area. I think the attitude of ‘ do 4 seats, pick one and do it for 40 years’ is getting v outdated – a few years into qualification and I know loads of people who’ve organically moved into different areas, gone in-house etc. Good luck!



Yo imagine waking up and being like “yeah you know what, think I want to specialise in aviation law” .


Schidiz Panz LL.B

Go for criminal law.

More interesting and you may get a case of being drunk in charge of an airliner or a hijacking to keep the interest alive.


You still have time

Firstly, take the training contract offer that you have and make the most of it. In the meantime, search for aviation associate positions and get a feel for what their requirements are so you know what sort of seat preferences you should be choosing. When I recruited for an aviation department, they usually want an all rounded commercial lawyer so make sure to stick with corporate & banking and finance focused seats. Then when you have qualified, search for firms with that department (such as HFW, Clyde and co, Stephenson harwood etc.) and work out who the relevant partners are in those teams. Write a well researched and personalised covering email with a CV that highlights your skills and passion for aviation and throw in one or two sentences on why you’d love to work with that partner (so throw in some key recent transactions taken from their web bio) They will likely agree to meet you for a coffee at least and you should be all set if you are half decent.


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