It is probably not a good idea to admit to too many people that the thing which first got you interested in being a barrister is a TV drama, namely the BBC’s sublime programme, Silk. Turning up on Monday 3rd July, fed on a diet of TV legal dramas with all the traditional misconceptions about life at the Bar that that entails, a week at chambers has taught me that Matrix and Silk are worlds apart – and for the better!
Monday started off with an induction, being introduced to all the staff at Matrix, and it became very clear to me that from the outset, it would be a week of shattered misconceptions. For starters, though I was aware Matrix prided itself on being modern and different to the rest of the Bar, little could have prepared me for the extremely relaxed and casual nature of the office, as well as the sartorial surprise that I was one of two people (h/t to Simon) who wore a tie – things were set to be very different indeed!
The afternoon of the Monday involved watching the majestic Mark Summers QC at a sentencing hearing at the Old Bailey for a defendant who had been found guilty of plotting terrorist atrocities (he was sentenced to life). Though the hard, wooden benches of the public gallery made church pews seem positively decadent and made noises louder than Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon when we moved but an inch, the afternoon proved to be an invaluable experience – not only were we able to experience a high-profile criminal trial, as well as hear thought-provoking and moving testimony from an imam, we were witness to Mr Summers’ eloquent defence, a most unenviable task for many! It was particularly exciting to see the story in the News at 10 later that evening.
Mercifully, Tuesday’s trip to the Court of Appeal with Tim Owen QC marked an end to unforgiving Victorian benches, with their replacement with plush cushioned seats. More importantly however, though the points of law being debated were confusingly complex, it was a real insight to watch an appeal regarding a prisoner versus the Probation Board. Three teams of two barristers, each with a team of solicitors beavering away behind, engaged in an intellectual wrestling match, trying to convince the three judges of their respective legal arguments. I had never witnessed so fierce and large a legal debate, so to do so was truly an eye opener. It also gave me an insight into the kind of cases which public lawyers have to deal with, and the role of the judiciary in acting as a check on the state, protecting the rights of the citizen.
Wednesday morning involved us receiving a task from the LSS team – we were to research and summarise a recent Supreme Court case, identify and justify our favourite right, and identify a law which we felt needed changing. This was a very stimulating task, given I had not previously conducted such an activity before. This was followed by a trip with David Wolfe QC to the Administrative Court to watch David arguing for a claimant in a judicial review case (which continued into Thursday) concerning the granting of a commercial dog breeding licence and concerns over animal welfare. This was particularly eye-opening, as we had a front-row seat, experiencing the extremely broad range of practice areas Matrix deals with. It was also particularly poignant as the practical implications of what David was arguing for were all too real, a similar theme we experienced on Friday when we watched Mr Summers again seek to defend a Russian national from extradition to Russia, on the grounds of the inhumane nature of Russian prisons.
The week was topped off with an extremely helpful mock interview which gave me much food for thought.
In sum then, a truly enjoyable and unforgettable experience! I hope to be back at Matrix at some point in the not too distant future!