The season you join is the season you set up your lab.
Everyone gets to hut the ground running. I just looked up the HR we had been using, and it turns out it is easier than I indicated. you may either...
- Start off with a basic lab requiring no time or effort
- Spen a season to configure your lab with a balanced number of Virtues & Flaws
- Spend time refining your lab and then some time installing Virtues & Flaws.
Installing/Rearranging Virtues & Flaws takes a single season if they are balanced. Otherwise it takes a minimum of ONE season, plus one season per Minor Virtue and two per Major, minus one season per Minor Flaw and minus two for Major.
I grant this benefit for two main reasons. First, it is so new characters can get into the mix as quickly as possible. Secondly, I don't want to wait and wait for you to finish your lab before I can hook you into a story.
The real limiting factor is Upkeep. Journeymen are covered up to Upkeep +2 and have to pay for the rest out of pocked (though the are allowed to go into debt). For Masters, the covenant pays for Upkeep +4 and above that splits the difference (and Masters are also allowed to go into debt).