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Catlin talks about her work experience week

Before beginning my week at Matrix I was a little nervous that I would find the environment intimidating, as I had assumed law to be quite a serious and inaccessible field. However, this was immediately resolved by the office’s warm atmosphere and welcoming staff. My work experience partner and I first met Eric from Fees and Finance, who is incredibly friendly and who gave us the skeleton argument for a case that we would be watching that morning.

Travelling to the Westminster Magistrates’ Court was exciting as I hadn’t expected to go to court so early in the week, and was unsure about what to expect. We saw Jessica Jones defend a man in an extradition case, which was fascinating as it demonstrated how complicated a case could be, and also the emotions felt by the defendant in the witness box. As I hadn’t been too aware of extradition cases before coming to Matrix, I also found it interesting to hear how those cases are argued, and the way that countries’ jurisdictions can differ. Afterwards, we had lunch with Jessica and chatted about how she had got into law and the reasons that it interested her. This disputed my assumption that barristers are intimidating or unapproachable, as she was really friendly and happy to answer our questions. Back in the office, we were introduced to Sabrina, who works with Eric in Fees and Finance. She explained how the department works, including how barristers’ fees are worked out and paid. We were then given a research task to complete: finding out about legal aid, Conditional Fee Agreements, and funding for criminal cases. I enjoyed this task as it taught me about how the legal aid system works and the problems that it faces.

Tuesday was spent entirely in the High Court of Justice watching two extradition cases, the second being defended by Jessica Jones and Clare Montgomery QC in their wigs and gowns. The latter case was particularly interesting because of the media coverage it attracted, and as we were able to see Clare put forward her argument with admirable clarity and assurance. It was also an illuminating day as I hadn’t appreciated that bail application hearings could go on as long as they did.

We stayed in the office on Wednesday, which allowed me to meet more members of the office teams and learn what the different departments do. We met Frank from the Facilities department and Rachel from the LSS, and they both explained what their jobs entailed and how it added to the overall running of the chambers. I found the LSS especially interesting as it was a job role I hadn’t been aware of, and appeared to be a highly interesting job from which I could later become a barrister, as Rachel was planning.

On Thursday morning we went to the Westminster Magistrates’ Court again to see Mark Summers QC in a directions hearing, which was surprisingly brief but still helpful in showing the day-to-day work of barristers. Walking back to Matrix, Mark explained the background of the case to us, which made the hearing more interesting as it was an unusual extradition case, the details of which hadn’t been discussed in court that morning. We then spoke to him about the other extraditions we had seen that week. His knowledge of these types of case was impressive, and he invited us back to the court on Friday to watch a similar hearing for Julian Assange, another that had a lot of media attention and which sounded highly interesting. That afternoon, we met Rachel, the head of the Marketing team, who explained to us the role of marketing in attracting new clients and promoting Matrix’s core values. It was really interesting to speak to her, as I hadn’t expected a barristers’ chambers to have such an active marketing department. She, too, gave us a task to complete that afternoon, one of which was drafting an email to justify Matrix’s recent move to vegetarianism in accordance with their commitment to helping the environment. Being in the office over these two days was valuable to me as it showed me the various roles that are needed to support barristers, and the friendly environment made working there seem greatly appealing.

On Friday morning we arrived at Westminster Magistrates’ Court to find a mass of protesters in front of the doors, as well as journalists and police. This was a bizarre experience that we hadn’t expected, though it was still fun to watch. Inside the courtroom it was similarly busy, meaning we were unable to get inside to watch the trial, however I still enjoyed being able to see such a public case unfold. We then returned to Matrix and after lunch were given some time to prepare for mock interviews. I thought the interview was a really great experience for talking confidently on the spot as well as getting used to the types of answers employers are looking for. The feedback I was given afterwards will be really beneficial to me in the future.

I have greatly enjoyed my week at Matrix and am grateful to everyone I met. I recommend this work experience placement to anyone who is considering a career in law, as it is a great insight into how a chambers is run and all the different jobs involved besides the barristers themselves. It has been incredibly helpful in showing a genuine experience of working in this field, unlike the drama of film and TV, and has reaffirmed my interest in studying law after university.