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“Suits has been lying to us”- Aaminah’s week at Matrix

Monday morning was like no other morning I had encountered. I had woken up at an ungodly hour and was groggy with sleep as I embarked upon my train. At this point, I was in a nervous state of excitement. I was about to embark on a wonderful experience at Matrix. I expected it to be like Suits, which is a guilty pleasure of mine but it is not at all accurate- it heavily glamorises the life of people in a legal profession. The view that people in a law firm are boring or cold wasn’t what I experienced. Everyone I met were friendly and whilst sitting at a desk I was able to experience the ‘banter’ and fun they all have on a first hand basis. The atmosphere was calm and relaxed- people weren’t stressing out or shouting or struggling to talk above each other.

On my arrival, I was lost but I pulled out the map emailed to me and found my way. I was greeted by Matt and Zuwaina who were extremely friendly and immediately rang Lindsay who would give me my induction. I thought it would be extremely difficult and that I would be thrown into the deep end but it was nothing like that. Lindsay talked me through Matrix and escorted me round, introducing me to everyone in the staff team and explaining what their roles involved. They were all willing to help and ensure my experience was enjoyable especially Matt and Steve on the Practice Team, Shams from Legal Support Service, Eric from Fees and Finance, Polly and Rob the OOAs and Sara from Marketing. Alice (PA to the CEO) who would be in charge of my timetable, was bubbly and helped me throughout the week.

Shortly after settling in, I was taken to the Court of Appeals by Richard and Polly. They were both very welcoming and asked me questions and were interested in what I had to say. The case I was observing was a case whether the United Kingdom government was complicit in assisting in torture of a couple in 2004. It was probably one of the best moments of the week, where I was able to observe Edward Craven and Richard Hermer QC. Both were receptive and easily approachable, they worked smoothly together and in my opinion were phenomenal. It was extremely informative to observe because I am interested in human rights and I will be using ‘enhanced interrogation’ as the subject of my EPQ next year.

Tuesday was another day at the Court of Appeals and I was with Helen Mountfield QC. The case was about gender segregation in a school (unnamed). Helen was passionate about the case which was evident, she was calm and collected and was able to put forward her case. Whilst waiting to go inside the court, I had the opportunity to speak with two students from Cambridge. They gave me extremely helpful advice on applying to universities, what optional topics I should study and advice about when I should start hitting the books.

On Wednesday I received a task from Steve which was to use a list of people who had to be in court (for extradition cases) and correlate it with our own barristers. Steve also explained to me what his role entailed. I then went to the High Court where I thoroughly enjoyed watching Nick Armstrong, he was extremely hands-on and he argued his case in depth and detail. The case in question was surrounding the death of Ann Maguire who was a school teacher who was unfortunately stabbed to death by a student. Hearing Nick put his case across and seeing the family of Ann Maguire made me even more determined to be a barrister and reminded me why I always wanted to work in the legal sector.

Thursday was the only day where I would not be in court. I spent time with fees and finance where I learnt where Eric introduced me to the different types of cases, how billing works and the different ways fees are determined and paid. He explained everything in great depth and allowed me to understand the economic benefits of being a barrister. I then had an induction to the legal support services where Shams introduced me to what duties he had to do in order to assist the barristers. He took me to the Gray’s Inn library and explained to me what an Inn was. Shortly after I was set tasks where I had to write a short summary of a case, decide what my favourite human right was and why, what law I would like to change and a summary of a news story. All tasks were quite intellectually stimulating and broadened my mind by having me consider two sides of an argument and my decision making skills as I had to decide on issues that I believed were important. After this, Alice and Sara gave me a mock interview. They asked questions which got me to think and consider the strengths and weaknesses I had. After my interview, they gave me really useful feedback.

As soon as I got in on Friday I was set a marketing task which entailed finding suitable conference venues for the office in Geneva. This task helped my critical thinking skills as I had consider many aspects along with how suitable the venue was. Shortly after, I visited the Old Bailey Court with a student who was doing a mini-pupillage. We saw somebody being cross-examined and it was a different experience than going to the other courts as you can’t speak at all and couldn’t have your phones. My experience at the Old Bailey was wonderful, we were able to go in and out of court as we pleased but had to do it quietly and discreetly.

When I came back, I was able to speak to Shams who went over the tasks I was set and he gave very useful advice about how I could structure it better and make it more concise. I was also given an induction to the Compliance and Projects where Natalie told me about what her role entails from business development to the maintenance of the social media platforms Matrix uses. I was then given a marketing task where I would have to find a venue suitable for an event Matrix would hold in November as well as researching into different catering companies. I was also able to meet with David Wolfe who specialises in environmental law due to my interests in that area. David answered the questions I had and provided me with the information I would need (how to get into environmental law, the challenges and the merits of practising it).

Overall, I loved my time here at Matrix. The dynamic was professional but extremely relaxed and friendly. I was able to meet a range of people who did a wide range of work, all of my questions, and those that I didn’t know I had, were answered! Going to court was an amazing experience, you cannot fully appreciate the hard work, dedication, time and demands that a barrister has. My week at Matrix cannot be summed up into an account, the experience is worthwhile and unforgettable. I would strongly urge anyone to do this, I found this placement opportunity myself and ever since I’ve been glad. You cannot put a price onto the insights you gain, the people you meet and the newly gained knowledge that you can use. Nobody was rude or cold. There weren’t any angry clients or loud people. I can honestly say that I will miss coming to Matrix. The people within the firm do make it special, there was a lot of diversity and a range of different personalities- I will miss everyone at Matrix and would like to extend my thanks for a unique week. I only went on a placement for a week but coming here and working throughout the day seems like second nature to me.