Alex’s week at Matrix

My week at Matrix Chambers has been an incredible insight into the functioning of such a progressive and inviting chambers as well as the wider bar system. Whilst Law, and particularly “the bar” is often stereotyped as an excessively traditional and formal field, this was certainly not the case at Matrix where the environment was very warm and friendly, though that is not to say that the exciting traditions are lost, but rather that key focus is given to progression and cohesion between colleagues.

My week began with an induction “behind the scenes” in their offices, discovering the complex and wide-ranging tasks that must be completed before, during and after the legal cases beyond the barristers’ case work. Whilst many chambers simply have ‘clerks’ who deal with all the administrative work, this is split into multiple teams with core focusses at Matrix in order to ensure all expertise is used to its maximum potential.

First, I was introduced to the Marketing team and learnt of the great importance of maintaining a great, and well-deserved, reputation and public image. In order to do so, there must be continued and sustained efforts to showcase the strength of the chambers from keeping websites up to date to organising events to network and demonstrate Matrix barristers’ superior and extensive expertise. As part of this, I was tasked with listening to one of Matrix’s numerous interesting Podcasts on contemporary legal matters (in my case, relating to the current takeover by the Taliban in Afghanistan) and creating a few promotional audiograms and digital posters on this.

Next, I was introduced to the Practice Managers at Matrix who are tasked with the organisation of barristers’ time and case-load and ensure the flow of information between client, barrister and court is smooth and speedy. This team is also further split into three sub-teams who deal with barristers in a certain area of law (for example, criminal law or public law) to allow them even greater unrivalled focus towards each barrister and the managing of their affairs.

I also met the fees team who have the unenviable task of ensuring that fees are properly paid and managed. Here, I learnt of all the different arrangements that barristers can have with clients and the many challenges that each can bring. For example, the processing of legal aid fees requires extensive justification and paperwork before, after and during the case and it can often take months after the conclusion of the case before anything at all is received.

Finally, I also met the Legal Support Service (LSS) team within Matrix Chambers – a novel idea that is not replicated in other chambers. This team is designated with assisting barristers with the legal authorities and case precedents they will need to rely on in court. Beyond the practical printing and ‘bundling’ of material, this also means doing extensive research across legal case history to find niche cases and judgements of interest to assist the barristers. This often comes with a challengingly short ‘turn-around’ time with anything ranging from a fortnight to an hour to research and produce findings for barristers. The LSS team also plays a much wider role within the whole legal community as it is also tasked with the summarising and compiling of case judgements for numerous courts.

Overall, the first day alone was an incredibly insightful experience into the often unheard and unsung heroes behind the scenes who do a great deal of important work in seeing the chambers runs efficiently.

On Tuesday, I had the incredible privilege of being able to attend the Supreme Court to watch an immigration case in which Matrix Chambers was representing a client against the Home Office. Here, I met Matrix’s Raza Husain QC and Eleanor Mitchell. Despite the incredible workload and deadlines facing the barristers, this did not stop them from taking the time to speak to me about the case, explaining the issues with great clarity as well as their work as barristers overall. I was then able to watch the immense skill with which Raza tackled the issues of the case and how composed and succinct he remained despite the judges’ numerous questions which could have quite easily interrupted his flow. I am incredibly grateful for having this opportunity to watch such skilled barristers at work in such a high court and for Raza and Eleanor for taking the time to speak to me despite the immense stress and pressure upon them.

On Wednesday, I was granted another opportunity to see another two of Matrix’s barristers at work in a separate court. I had the pleasure of meeting Zoë Leventhal and Darryl Hutcheon at the Administrative Court within the Royal Courts of Justice on Fleet Street as they tackled a case of Universal Credit discrimination against the Department for Work and Pensions. Despite the incredibly complex and intricate case law issues, both barristers were (characteristic of the Matrix style) incredibly warm and helpful, summarising the pertinent points so I could keep up with the events in court despite my joining the hearing from its second day. After the day’s hearings I was also able to witness the many discussions in preparation for continued hearing the next day. Again, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity and the warm advice and help given by Zoë and Darryl despite the clearly taxing and immediate work that was facing them.

Seeing these two cases (expertly fought by Matrix barristers) really gave me an insight into the law in practice. Firstly, I was able to see the wide-ranging fields of law that exist beyond commercial and criminal law that get much more publicity and awareness. I also was able to see the complex level of debate and interaction with judges that is required when arguing such extensive cases. Personally, this has only furthered my ambitions to go into the field of Law, but also opened my mind to the many different fields of law available to practice within.

Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed my week at Matrix Chambers and the insight it has given me into the bar both observing the barristers and others’ work behind the scenes. I am incredibly grateful to everyone at Matrix for giving me this fantastic opportunity and the warm, friendly and helpful treatment throughout the week.