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Chaitra’s Week at Matrix

Walking into the Matrix Chambers building, I was warmly greeted by the receptionists, which made me look forward to the tasks that were about to come, as they maintained a professional manner but remained friendly. Soon after, I was welcomed by HR Manager Lindsay Clarke, who meticulously took us through the week’s overview and health and safety arrangements but did so in a friendly manner that made the week ahead seem less intimidating and more approachable. She led us upstairs, where we were introduced to various teams and their responsibilities within Matrix and given a tour of the respective working areas. This introduced me to the many collaborative aspects within a law firm that I previously did not have as much knowledge about, so gaining this insight on various roles aided me in considering what sector I may want to pursue in the future. 

Soon after, we were delegated a task by Lauren Bardoe in the Fees team. This proved to be very intriguing and evoked in-depth research about the fees process and average hourly billing rates for different jobs within the law industry. This was helpful, as it was valuable to learn about the various pre-requisites to obtain legal aid, from household income to reputation, as well as other situations that warrant legal aid. After this, we were given an interview task to prepare a presentation which would entail follow-up questions, as part of interviewing for the Future Lawyers Scheme. We were interviewed by Chris Smith and Alice Brighouse, who both interviewed me in a way that was not intimidating but still detailed and professional. This was a great practice of timed research and interview skills for future study and jobs. 

After this, the Legal Support Team (LSS) – Zoë Brereton and Nandini Bulchandani – guided us through the legal research process, which includes but is not limited to researching specific cases/themes and compiling or summarising them into a cohesive document to support barristers in their cases. This area of law particularly interested me, as the idea of research is something I strongly wish to apply to my studies in university and a future career. Upon hearing that they read through cases and researched legislations as a key part of their jobs, I felt as though this may be a sector I want to work in in the future. Not only did they explain their roles in great detail, but they also gave us examples of the specific tasks that they do and answered any questions we asked through detailed examples of previous work. I found the details involved in their work to be particularly of interest, as a lot of the work they do is independent – which motivated me to include another level of depth in the tasks I completed. They showed us the various online reference systems they use to find cases, acts or legislations as evidence such as Westlaw, as well as the difference between reliable and unreliable sources of evidence in a case. 

On the second day, we went to an open court hearing to the Court of Appeals in the Royal Courts of Justice to observe the case of Begum v Secretary of State for the Home Department. Being a relevant case that has a lot of public interest, it was remarkably interesting to observe the legal proceedings involved in appeals of rulings, including the various documents prepared such as the skeleton argument and authority documents. The side for Begum was argued by Samantha Knights KC and Dan Squires KC, who both had unique styles of making their points. 

During the barristers’ reasonings, they often referred to other cases, policies or clauses that were relevant, which intrigued me as there were some detailed links made between various cases, court systems and clauses. For example, when arguing that trafficking and potential trafficking victims are not given the level of investigation they deserve, the barrister referenced the case of Rantsev v Cyprus and Russia. The connections established between that case and the Begum case were interesting to observe, as there were both similarities in terms of potential miscarriage of justice as well as less obvious links that the judges then questioned. What surprised me was that the judges were very involved in the questioning themselves, often asking Barristers to justify their arguments or clarify any vague or strong wording. This made the hearing less tense than expected and almost conversational at points, with the judges and barristers maintaining their individual tones and level of stoicism. On the second day of court, we observed the government lawyers make their argument. The drastic difference in style was intriguing, as well as the difference in level of questioning from the judges. This allowed us to gain insight to not only a relevant case, but also the distinct roles in a courtroom and their responsibilities or contributions towards the main argument, from junior barristers doing prep work and thinking of more points/ drawing up evidence, to the detailed presentation of it by the KCs. 

Additionally, we were given a third task on marketing a case, where we had to create a short news item, a LinkedIn and Twitter post draft to direct traffic towards the Matrix website. The case in question was the Environmental case that more than 2000 retired Swiss women made against the government for failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which in turn had an adverse effect on the ladies’ health, according to medical records they submitted as evidence. They were represented by Jessica Simor KC, who we had to refer to in the news item. This task, whilst initially challenging, was enjoyable to complete, as we had to use varying tones and levels of formality for each respective subsection. For example, the LinkedIn draft was more case and barrister focused, whilst the Twitter draft centralised the case and sensationalised the details more, whilst still maintaining an informative tone. Observing the different methods of communication and how to convey details of a case, as well as different focuses helped me to distinguish the different purposes of social media platforms within the law industry.  

Our fourth task was assigned by Head of Facilities Frank Osborne, where we had to devise a proposal. We were tasked with sourcing an affordable CCTV package with certain prerequisites such as being able to access playback through a mobile application. This was initially challenging, as we had to adhere to a budget of £1000 including all cameras and cloud based storage systems, but we also had a section that had an unlimited budget, which I found enjoyable, as it was interesting to compare the various prices and specifications of CCTV systems around the world, and to decide which would potentially be suitable for a firm such as Matrix. Frank also informed us extensively about the different responsibilities he has within his job, especially working and installing technologically advanced systems and how they have had a climate-positive impact on Matrix, which is powered completely by renewable energy and is making conscious efforts to be more paper-light. To further develop our close-reading skills of the law, we were assigned more legal tasks by James Sholl, where we had to examine sections of the laws such as the Human Rights Act and devise arguments that we could pose for both sides of the case. Here, I chose the side I felt to be more challenging, as I thought it would improve my reasoning skills. I found this task to be immensely helpful in that respect, as it made me think of ways to justify a point without having a vast selection of laws that could apply. As an extension, we were required to answer a set of questions about a judgement in the case of R V. Trowland, in which we had to examine the judgement and offer our personal opinions on it – a practice that was useful in a fact-based setting, as I could think more deeply about how the laws were actually applied towards the sentencing, and whether, in my opinion, it was fair. 

In the afternoon of the final day, we went for coffee with barrister Mariyam Kamil and were given the opportunity to ask her questions about her journey to become a barrister. Having completed her undergraduate degree in India, she had to complete a bar transfer test to be able to practice law in the UK. This inspired me deeply, as over the course of this week I have discovered there are several different pathways into the law industry. She explained various aspects of the profession, such as her duties, frequency of court appearances in a year, and what her standard day looks like. She also detailed the challenges she had to overcome, and the skills necessary to be a barrister, as well as how she personally ensures that she maintains a balance between her work, deadlines, and her life. This was helpful to hear about, as time management is a vital aspect of an industry such as law. 

Overall, the detailed nature of the tasks impressed me deeply, as they covered several aspects of the industry and simultaneously educated me about the procedures involved with legal proceedings, as well as how to closely read laws and apply relevant sections to support an argument. My favourite tasks were the legal support tasks, as I enjoyed examining laws and using specific sections as evidence to create an argument. Personally, I would like to pursue legal support or become a barrister, as through this placement I have discovered more about the research-based areas of law, involving sourcing evidence in the form of laws, acts or cases, which I find captivating. I thoroughly recommend this work experience placement to anyone not only seeking to pursue a career in the law industry, but also anyone who wishes to learn more about each role and gain some clarity about what area they might want to have a career in, as I found the week to be extremely insightful and enjoyable.