I arrived at Matrix on Monday quite oblivious to the opportunities the week would afford me; I had a misconception I might simply be doing ad-hoc tasks for the entirety of my time at chambers. In contrast, the week left me enamoured with aspirations, further fuelling my determination to study law and practise at the Bar.
Arriving on Monday morning I was promptly welcomed by all the staff and given my desk for the week, along with being shown where the biscuit drawer was for times of need! My expectations of an average week were instantaneously quashed as I was scheduled to attend court that morning. I met with an approachable OOA (office and outdoor assistant), Richard, and a lovely new staff member, Katie, with whom I walked to the Royal Courts of Justice (RCJ). We walked down the antiquated halls where I was introduced to Hugh Tomlinson QC, Ben Silverstone and Natasha Holcroft-Emmess, a new trainee. For the next few hours I sat in the courtroom and observed the case where the defendant was a litigant in person, making for an interesting hearing. The case raised various points of law, such as the extent to which judges should be subject to public scrutiny. Furthermore, I was introduced to some issues concerning the 1998 Human Rights Act, such as the balance between Article 10, the right to freedom of expression, and Article 8, the right to respect for private and family life. This case therefore not only initiated me to the thrill of the courtroom, but to the engaging academic side of the law. In the lunch break, Hugh, Ben, Natasha and I went to Pret. We sat and discussed Hugh and Ben’s specialisms, in particular Media Law, something the case at hand concerned. Indeed, I found a genuine interest in this area which, before attending Matrix, I was largely unaware of. After the court was adjourned for the day, we walked back to Matrix through Lincoln’s Inn, which Hugh gave me a brief tour of. After making a cup of tea when back with the practice team, I was introduced to the Legal Support Service. Becky told me about their work and how I could find cases online, after which she showed me the library in chambers.
Tuesday was another incredible day. Within 20 minutes of arriving at chambers I was on the way to the RCJ for the continuation of Monday’s case. After hearing the judgement on the case, which Hugh and Ben were successful for in their claim, I strolled back to Gray’s Inn and had lunch. During the afternoon, I made pace on some tasks Becky had given me regarding summarising cases and reading up on the European Convention on Human Rights, something I was happily becoming well-acquainted with. Whilst making a cup of tea, I met Luis González García, a specialist in International Law. He happily spoke to me about his career, proving further the inclusive atmosphere at Matrix. Having earlier mentioned to Liz (a practice manager) my interest in assisted suicide, she arranged for me to meet Guy-Vassall Adams QC who was involved in the Nicklinson case in 2014. I had a wonderful conversation with him on the topic, and we also spoke about his varied career and time at the Bar. This conversation was perhaps the most inspiring of the week; it confirmed the topic of my EPQ but also affirmed my ambitions to study law.
Wednesday again afforded me the opportunity to attend court and the case I sat in on was undoubtedly my favourite of the week. I was with Sarah Hannett on the ‘X’ passports case that was seen in the news that same day. I walked to the RCJ with Sarah, stopping off for a coffee and discussing the case along the way. Arriving at the RCJ, I was introduced to some civil servants from the Home Department (whom Sarah was representing) before going inside the packed courtroom to hear the case. The arguments surrounding the case were academically stimulating, such as whether the state not allowing ‘X’ passports was breaching one’s human rights, with the defendant citing previous cases of transgendered people being allowed to declare their gender as another under Article 8. The case was truly engaging and concerned a multitude of legal, political and moral arguments. During the walk back to chambers, Sarah and I further discussed the case and she explained to me the concept of having a margin of appreciation which I found fascinating. She too spoke to me about her career and previous cases (as I was aware of some cases she had acted on in the past, such as the St. Olave’s case). Arriving back at chambers, I made some more progress with the tasks I had been given. Later in the afternoon, I was introduced to Amy from Practice Team M, who explained to me the role of the practice team in managing the barristers’ day-to-day working lives. Amy was lovely and gave me excellent advice for the future, along with telling me some fantastic stories regarding cases she’s seen in the past.
On Thursday I heard another case, although quite different to the two I had previously heard. Represented by Ayesha Christie, the claimant was seeking a judicial review of a decision by the Home Department to not allow him asylum. The claim involved interesting arguments surrounding mental health during assessment, and whether or not the Home Department had correctly applied their own procedures in the claimant’s case. Ayesha was clearly a very passionate and intelligent advocate. Arriving back at chambers, I was welcomed at chambers lunch by the congregation of barristers, practice managers, OOAs and members of staff who were enjoying food ordered from a nearby restaurant. The mixture of barristers with staff accentuated the progressive nature of Matrix and proved how it was a supportive and truly pleasant place to work, living up to being ‘the future of the Bar’. During the lunch I sat and spoke with a multitude of the barristers along with the two new trainees, having been with Natasha throughout the week and introduced to Emma Foubister at the lunch. The barristers and I spoke about the cases they had been involved in during the week and their experiences with litigants in person, which Natasha and I was well versed in from Monday and Tuesday’s case! The lunch was wholly enjoyable. During the afternoon, I met Natasha and Emma for coffee where we picked up on some of our conversation from lunch and throughout the week. Having mentioned my interest in applying to Oxbridge, both eagerly shared their university experiences and gave me a variety of tips for applying. Furthermore, Emma and Natasha shared with me their paths to getting to where they are now, and where I want to be. All of us needed to be getting back to chambers so we decided to reconvene for lunch on Friday to discuss topics further. I am incredibly thankful to both for giving up their time to talk to and advise me.
As Friday morning progressed, I met with the accomplished Jessica Simor QC to walk to the newer courts of the RCJ. She and I had an enthralling conversation about Brexit, discussing the youth response and how it has been depicted in the news. I then sat in on a case involving tax law and the purchase of iPhones, concluding my visits to court. As aforementioned, I then had lunch with Emma and Natasha which I have taken much knowledge away from. During the afternoon, I was given a practice interview and this has given me confidence and support for the future due to the feedback I received. To conclude my time at Matrix, I arranged to meet with Natasha once more as she so kindly offered to discuss her experiences of Oxford law interviews with me. She truly dispelled all misconceptions I had about them and has provided me with a positive mind-set for my application next year.
Overall, I had a wonderful, informative and inspiring time at Matrix. I would like to thank everyone who accommodated and afforded me the fantastic opportunities I had. Every member was welcoming and approachable, from those at reception through to the barristers. Indeed, the conversations I had are some I will never forget.