When I entered Matrix Chambers, I was welcomed instantly with kindness in such a modern and beautiful building by the receptionists Melanie and Christine. All the apprehension I had of attending a work experience placement disappeared, as every individual I met treated me and my peers with respect. The work environment was both relaxed (of which I was pleasantly surprised) and busy with everyone hard at work. I was greeted by Alice, who gave a lovely introduction of the firm and showed us upstairs. I was offered a desk for myself where I could work on the tasks given to me and fully experience how it was to work with other friendly people in the Practice Team.
A new member of the Practice Team, George introduced us to the team and what it meant to support barristers with their cases and their daily lives. We were then taken to the Fees and Finance Team, where Eric gave us an overview of how funding worked. I was entranced by the software used and interested in the various stories that he shared of the cases that many of the impressive barristers here at Chambers worked on. When working on the task given by this team, I learnt the different type of funding that can be used in legal cases, such as Conditional Fee Agreements and Legal Aid.
After lunch, we were introduced to the debate and interview task for the Future Lawyers Scheme. It was an excellent opportunity to prepare for an interview and a demanding task on such a tight schedule – I developed my ability to work under pressure and my confidence in speaking with little preparation. My interviewers, Chris, and George, set my nerves at ease with the relaxed atmosphere and listened to my argument, asked questions including some competency questions. Thus, Monday concluded with a full working day of being busy with exciting tasks set by Matrix.
I arrived into the now more familiar office of Matrix Chambers early in the morning at 9am. We started off the morning with a tour of the two sites that Matrix Chambers used, led by Idris. He showed us the sites and gave a very thorough tour of the Main Square and Gray’s Inn, allowing us to glimpse at the various offices that the barristers were situated in.
This was followed by an induction from Frank in the Facilities team. Here, we were introduced to the various improvements that Matrix had to undertake after the COVID-19 Pandemic, particularly in the realm of technology. We learnt that there were major updates to the system, shifting it entirely to cloud and dealing with remote hearings that had to take place after face-to-face was not allowed. We also delved into how AI is affecting the work of barristers, and the issues with ChatGPT as well as how helpful it can be. For example, in the case of Charlie Alliston, he was a cyclist that was jailed for 18 months over the death of a pedestrian due to removing his brakes on his bike while cycling in London. A barrister on the case searched for case precedents, and found one in the 1800s, regarding a carriage. Frank suggested how ChatGPT can also be used to find similar precedents, which would prove to be much more efficient than searching for them independently. The task that we were set was on searching for adequate CCTV systems that had the relevant criterion set by Frank. This was followed by a riddle, that myself and my peers worked together to answer, which was surprisingly a lot of fun!
Next, we were introduced to the marketing team by Joanna, who shared her experience with the evolving and new field of marketing and branding with barristers. As it is a relatively new field, it was interesting to listen to how that area is evolving, along with technological improvements.
After lunch, we were introduced to the Legal Support Service (LSS) team, where Zoe talked about how legal research worked and the various databases that could be used to find more about cases, such as Baili, Westlaw and Lexis. This was useful as legal research also makes up a large component of a law degree. She also shared her journey in law, talking about her paralegal work in Australia and how she is qualified in Australia, but moved to England and is to start a traineeship with Matrix soon. Listening to her share her experiences was very insightful.
Today is our first day to court, where we will be watching the hearing that Matrix barristers Chris Buttler KC and Aidan Wills, both who are human rights lawyers and have worked on high profile cases in courts such as the European Court of Human Rights. Chris Buttler KC has also worked on recent cases concerning asylum seekers and detentions of victims of torture. Rosalind Comyn was another junior barrister on the case, that supported the leading barrister Chris. It was lovely talking to them and chatting about how they prepared for the case and life of a barrister.
From reading the skeleton argument presented by Nina, the case is about how the use of a GPS tracker on people on immigration bail to monitor them, and whether it breaches the human rights of the individuals (particularly concerning Article 8 of the Convention). Electronic monitoring (EM) is used to monitor the individuals by the Secretary of State for the Home Department.
Attending court was an exciting experience – the novel things of standing when the Judge entered and bowing demonstrated the traditions of the court. This trial is set to last for three days, and today’s hearing was scheduled to last six hours. The barristers arguments for both the claimant (Matrix barristers) of the four individuals and the defendant (for the Secretary of State) were extremely intriguing and detailed. The arguments were detailed and full of interesting jargon that baffled me in parts, such as “representations”, a frequent word that cropped up in both parties’ arguments. Although I did not understand most of the language and points that both were making, it was wonderful to be able to immerse myself in the court and absorb the words that were spoken, as well as observe the procedures. This included how the solicitors (who sat behind the barristers) interacted with the barristers, the Judge that frequently asked questions to the barristers (to raise a point or for clarification) and the division of roles between the senior and junior barristers.
For our last day at Matrix Chambers, we were scheduled to go to court again for the same case on GPS tracking. Rosalind explained to us in simple language what the claimants were seeking (a declaration from the Secretary of State), rather than damages. Today’s hearing was much more engaging, with the Defendant’s argument of the co-barrister in simpler language when talking about the facts, making it easier to understand. The hearing concluded with the Secretary of State setting a date to deliver more evidence. The overall structure of the arguments was structured, with each barrister going through each issue as set out in the skeleton argument, and refuting arguments and developing them in their submissions. Within the arguments, there were several interesting principles, after which I looked up, including the British Oxygen Principle. This court case will end with a delayed judgement (thus not immediate), which will be delivered by the Judge a few months later in writing.
Among my peers, we discussed the case and what we thought the outcome would be, based on the limited understanding we had.
It is a lovely way to end our short experience here at Matrix, by seeing first-hand what barristers tackle with in their everyday lives. I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience here at Matrix, as all the staff and barristers have been absolutely lovely. The tasks that we were given really engaged and stimulated my mind, and gave a flavour of the work that would be carried out here. It is an experience that I thoroughly recommend, as it balances the active participation of tasks with the observations at court.