Despite my parents coming from a Maths and Psychology background, law for a long time now has fascinated me as it is the bedrock of our society. It manages to protect us, whilst penalising those that don’t abide by it and provides the structure that every functioning society needs. I became aware of the law when I was younger, as my biological father was accused of a crime and later acquitted. This is where my interest in the law started, because it became personal, I wanted to learn about how it worked, whether that was through reading books, the news or visiting courts myself. This is why this opportunity for a week’s work experience at Matrix chambers was particularly exciting for me, because I would be able to explore a plethora of law as Matrix specialises in so many, and to narrow down the areas I would be interested in. Especially as for a long time I have aspired to be a barrister; the thought of being able quiz barristers about their experiences is an opportunity that rarely happens. My expectation of Matrix chambers was completely different to the reality: I imagined a stern, overwhelming, stressful environment. Whilst, although the different jobs probably can be stressful, everyone was so welcoming and supportive, making as much time for us as they could, even with their jobs.
I arrived on Monday morning nervously anticipating what was to and was warmly welcomed by staff, which softened my expectation of what Matrix chambers would be like and calmed my nerves. The first day consisted of inductions and getting familiarised with Matrix and how everything works. The fees and finance team were the team that looked after me during my stay at Matrix. They gave me an induction about what they do and how their team works whilst answering all the many questions I had about life at Matrix. Whilst doing this, they also told me about all the other teams there were. It dawned on me how many teams there are that are solely there to support the barristers which is when I truly realised the complexities and the hard work that must be involved in being a barrister. I then received a task about researching the different areas of funding for cases mainly: Legal aid, Conditional fee agreements and the funding available for criminal cases. I found that researching this developed the areas I lacked knowledge in, as prior to this I never knew what a conditional fee agreement was. The tasks encouraged us to collate and summarise information, similarly to what barristers do in practice
I later had an induction with the Admin and facilities team, essentially, the tech team, who are responsible for the running of the technology side of Matrix. They showed me the different areas involved in running the technology side of Matrix and how they stay ahead of the curve when it comes to this. They then gave me a task which was a travel itinerary for different barristers which also showed me the more glamorous side of being a barrister that involves traveling. After this, I had an induction with the Legal Support Services team (LSS), who are responsible for doing whatever research the barristers need and also keeping Matrix updated with legal changes or cases. Here, I was shown how meticulous and precise the information needed for barristers to use are and in turn, how precise and meticulous barristers have to be in practice. The tasks given to us by LSS involved us to read about different case and points of law, argue both sides whilst also providing an opinion and conclusion which again is similar to what barristers have to do.
On Tuesday and Wednesday we were taken to Hendon Court, to witness the trial of an activist group with counsel Tim James-Matthews, who were accused of obstructing police. One of the many reasons this case was interesting was because from the start, because although litigation is constantly described as being ‘unpredictable,’ the counsel for the defence knew from the start their clients most likely would be found guilty. The procedure of a trial was different to any other case I had previously seen in court before because it lived up to my original expectation of what court is like in my head which was created by various legal programmes. It involved a lot more debating and rebuttal than a normal hearing, even interjections on each other’s argument. We watched evidence through cross examination and examination in chief from the prosecution which was interesting to see how the barristers probed information out of their witness which would help their case. On Wednesday, we witnessed evidence from the defendants, the closing statements and the judgement. I found the closing statements by the barristers to be the most interesting part of the trial because it outlined each argument clearly, showing why whichever side should win the case so it was easier to follow. Seeing this case, I learnt how a lot of court cases are more about the conflict of two opposing laws, rather than the offence itself and the judgment is essentially the resolving of this conflict.
We were able to see another court hearing with counsel Claire Darwin and Emma Foubister which was an appeal case that involved the violation of data protection laws. We were able to go with one of the office and outdoor assistants, who prior to this on out induction gave us different ways to think about the application of the law in everyday life. On the way there, it was a great opportunity for me to ask newly qualified Emma, questions about the journey to being a barrister and what everyday life is like. Although the language was very technical and hard to understand, I found that the experience really helped me to learn more about the structure of a case like this and how the barristers create their arguments.
My final day on Friday was spent in chambers where I had another induction and a mock interview. The induction was with Marketing, who deal with how Matrix chambers is presented to customers- whether this is through merchandise, the website, events, press or with the practice team negotiating with the clients which barristers to use. I learnt how much is involved with how Matrix gets and keeps their clients and customers. The interview I found was really interesting and helpful as I had never experienced anything like it before. I think it will be great preparation for me in university interviews but also future jobs.
Overall, I found my experience to be extremely helpful and filled with information. I know this experience will really help me with my future aspirations in being a barrister as I have learnt so much about what it takes to be a barrister and the things you have to do be successful in this industry. I would like to give a huge thank you to Matrix chambers for this opportunity and the Fees and Finance team for looking after me!