As someone who has taken interest in law as an academic subject but had never previously undertaken any vocational experience in the discipline, Matrix’s work experience placement proved to be invaluable. The placement challenges preconception through directly exposing you to a variety of court hearing types, astute, hard-working members and staff, and the tasks they do day-to-day.
We received a friendly welcome on arrival and had an introduction with Alice, Rachel, and Grace who were Head of HR, Head of Marketing, and a PA respectively and would be looking after us and arranging our activities for the week. We soon learned we’d be attending a tribunal hearing. Richard, an Outdoor and Office Assistant set forth into London with us, navigating the streets of London with a purpose-built trolley that quickly became laden with barristers’ papers as we travelled between offices. We arrived at Victory House where we’d spend the day observing James Laddie QC defend against what could potentially be the largest ever claim in an employment tribunal. Although we had missed his monumental seven-day cross examination of the witness, through his re-examinations and confrontational interventions with claimant’s barrister, it became clear why he’d gained a reputation for his charisma and ferocious command of the courtroom that so many other staff had alluded to. We got chance to speak with Mr. Laddie QC at lunch and while travelling back to chambers. His evident passion for his career was impossible not to be inspired by.
On Tuesday morning we were fortunate to attend ZXC v Bloomberg LP at the High Court of Justice. Here we saw Gavin Millar QC, Tim Owen QC, and Sara Mansoori. It was clear that none of these barristers were strangers to tackling such a high profile case; they delivered their factums with fluent references to previous cases and they revolved around balancing articles from the European Convention on Human Rights which was highly engaging. We noted that the formality of this court hearing type, the interactions between barristers and their instructing solicitors, and input from the judge contrasted significantly with our observation from yesterday. This was highly valuable in diversifying our understanding of oral advocacy and its practice.
On Wednesday morning we attended a trial at the Old Bailey. Again it was another stimulating contrast as there was the presence of a jury and high level of tension due to the severity of the alleged crime. The prosecuting barrister was a psychological tactician and it was great to see the way she ruthlessly tested the defendant’s confidence in their innocence.
Thursday morning consisted of attending an education hearing where Claire Darwin, another Matrix barrister took on a local authority. This judge was particularly keen to debate both arguments but Claire was exceptionally eloquent in the delivery of her submission and her quick-witted responses were impressive. Later on we were able to visit Claire at her office where she explained various parts of the case in more detail to reinforce our understanding. We also got the opportunity to ask questions related to what her career was like and for her advice on entering the profession.
Aside from all the hearings, we had numerous sessions in the afternoons with the different teams on the office floor. I was very impressed with the volume of hard work that goes into the running of the chambers, and I got the impression that Matrix do far more support work for their barristers than other chambers might. We met Polly, a Legal Support Manager who explained her role in communicating with barristers to provide them with their requested information supporting their cases. It also gave us an insight into how barristers’ bundles are constructed and depth of research required, particularly when specialist and obscure information is needed. We also met Eric from Fees and Finance who talked us through how barristers’ hourly rates are structured depending on the type of case and their experience.
Finally, on Friday, Rachel, Marketing Manager talked us through her duties. She also gave us a research task to gather inspiration for a project she was running that would involve a large change to the website and the chamber’s image. I then had a mock interview with Alice and Polly. This was particularly useful as I was given a job description and a task to complete prior to the interview as though I was applying for a specific job at Matrix adding to its realism, rather than it being just a generic set of questions. To conclude our week we went for coffee and cake with Tim James-Matthews, a Trainee Barrister at Matrix. Tim was evidently very experienced and a high achieving individual so it was great to learn from the comments he made regarding his time as a trainee and what Matrix look for when recruiting prospective trainees.
Overall I feel that the work experience placement at Matrix is fast-paced, hospitable, and quintessential in providing an aspiring student with a preliminary understanding of the legal industry. I’m thankful for all the staff involved in organising the placement and for the staff that took time out of their working day for our benefit.