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Ella Work Experience Blog

Coming into Matrix in Gray’s Inn, I was slightly awed to have finally arrived at the chambers I’d read so much about. When I arrived in London the previous day (a bank holiday) the Inn’s imperious walls had been firmly gated. I was therefore highly relieved to walk freely into the bright Matrix foyer, struck by the company’s modernity, in such an historic setting.

Any nerves quickly evaporated on meeting the reception team, Melanie and Christine due to their professionalism and down to earth approach. My work experience partner Molly soon arrived, and Lindsay Clarke, Matrix’s HR manager came down to meet us. She was incredibly welcoming and approachable and took us through some forms as well as a brief outline of our week, which we were excited to hear would involve two days in the Royal Courts of Justice.

Lindsay showed us around the office upstairs. This included the Fees and Legal Support departments, as well as the Practice Managers’ (called barristers’ clerks in other chambers) area. Jim Sholl at the Practice Desk took us through his role in Team X, which deals with Public Law. It was intriguing to hear of his journey to becoming a clerk, and of the vital part they play in maintaining the relationships between barristers and solicitors, to keep the legal system running.

We met Becky Khan, Legal Support Assistant, who took us through the role of the Legal Support Service team in conducting research for barristers. She gave us a task – researching a recent trial Matrix has been involved with and using Westlaw to find the relevant legislation and judgments. It was a brilliant opportunity to use some of the software which is vital for studying law, as well as finding out about Matrix’s work.

After lunch we went for coffee and cake with trainee barristers (called pupil barristers at other chambers) Abiodun Olatokun and Jack Boswell. It was hugely revealing to hear from trainees who have been so successful in their early careers, to gain an insight into the world we might be entering in our careers soon. They were incredibly kind and supportive, and answered our many questions. Plus, the cake didn’t hurt!

In the afternoon we were given three skeleton arguments regarding the case for Judicial Review we were to observe for the next two days. It was an environmental Public Law case, challenging the methods employed by the government to assess cumulative carbon emissions – this would have significant repercussions on the UK’s goal of achieving net zero by the year 2050.

The next morning, we received an induction from Joanna Colton, Marketing Manager at Matrix. Learning about the increasing role of marketing in the historically individualistic bar profession was fascinating, especially as Matrix has pioneered a more cohesive approach as a chambers.

We then met Dr David Wolfe KC at reception and walked to the Royal Courts of Justice Together, quickly hearing about the background to the case, before going through security and into the labyrinthine RCJ to the courtroom (there are almost seventy courtrooms!). Watching the skeleton arguments we’d read come to life before the judge, Dame Justine Thornton was massively compelling, and left a lasting impression.

The next day the case concluded, reaching a dramatic end as James Strachan KC defended the Transport Secretary’s position, before David Wolfe had the final say. Talking with the instructing solicitors, defendant and junior barristers afterwards was fascinating, particularly regarding the current growth in environmental law, and significance of Public Law in holding the government to account. David was incredibly generous giving us advice as we find our way in the occasionally bewildering world of law.

On the final day we had a fees induction with James Lloyd Jones – an interesting insight into how barristers’ fees are managed, working between solicitors, clients and the barristers. It was interesting to learn how barristers manage their casework to balance remunerative cases with pro bono and low fee work with a moral or legally interesting aspect, and so develop their practice.

We had a tour around Matrix and Gray’s Inn with Idris Mohammed, facilities coordinator – Matrix is uniquely positioned in the Inn, as a modern building and older annex surrounded by the traditional chambers and seventeenth century Great Hall. This perfectly reflects its modernising influence in the age-old profession, whilst still embracing the knowledge and history intrinsic to the institution of the bar.

We completed several other tasks, finding out about the funding system for legal representation and doing some technical research.  Finally, I prepared and delivered my arguments as part of a task in a mock interview setting, which was extremely valuable in developing my presentation skills. Chris Smith, the Practice Manager who interviewed me, was very supportive and I learnt a great deal from the experience.

What became clear through the week was the difference of approach taken by Matrix, which has succeeded in letting some much-needed light into a profession steeped in history. Walking back through Gray’s Inn square I was still impressed by the scale and beauty of the Inn, but its grandiosity was more understood; a little more accessible. My time at Matrix, even in the midst of train strikes and a shortened week due to the coronation, was by turns daunting and challenging but overwhelmingly inspiring. It is very unusual for chambers to allow school age students an experience of their work, let alone one with the standing of Matrix, and I am deeply grateful to have been afforded this opportunity.

Thank you to every member of Matrix who made our week so engaging. In particular, I am grateful to Alice Brighouse, Projects and Equality and Inclusion Manager who coordinated our week and made us feel welcome, as well as David Wolfe KC and the trainee barristers who far surpassed what was required of them to help Molly and I gain an insight into this sequestered industry.