I initially applied to work experience at Matrix after seeing some of their high-profile cases in the news: from the Russia v Ukraine case in the ICJ to the recent, monumental Rwanda ruling. Initially, I was apprehensive that such a well-esteemed chamber would be an unwelcoming, tense environment; fortunately, I could not be more wrong.
Even before the placement began, I was pleasantly surprised by the efforts taken by Matrix to accommodate us – inexperienced students – and ensure we felt at ease. For instance, they provided a detailed location map of the Chambers in advance which was extremely helpful as someone who struggles with directions! On arrival, I was greeted by Christine and Melanie (the receptionists) and given a Matrix-branded sweet (certainly a highlight of the week!). There, I met my fellow work experience students – Rowena and Danielle, who were wonderful lunch buddies throughout the placement. Alice Brighouse (Equality, Diversity and Project manager) delivered a presentation to us about Matrix – emphasising the importance of its core values including a democratic structure, promotion of equality and diversity, wellbeing, and the environment. Particularly since careers in law can often seem closed off in an inaccessible, traditional bubble, this commitment to principled modernity was really inspiring and filled me with optimism. Alice then showed us around the office; everyone was very friendly and eager to answer our (many!) questions.
For our first task, the fees and finance team gave us a research project on different types of legal funding. This helped me understand the basic structure of a barrister’s work including their business relationship with the clients and the Government. Furthermore, the department was very transparent in answering our questions about the financial aspect of being a self-employed barrister – a topic largely neglected in school’s careers advice yet fundamental to our futures. Through the discussion, I feel far more equipped to make informed decisions about whether the Bar is a career for me. In the afternoon, we were given a debate-style task and interviewed for the Future Lawyer’s Scheme an experience which was very useful as practice for my upcoming university interviews.
On the second day, Idris, from the Facilities Team, gave us a tour of the whole premises: telling us all sorts of interesting facts about the history and current functioning of Gray’s Inn (which dates back to the 14th century). In particular, it was useful to see the offices in which barristers work and learn how their working lifestyle has changed due to COVID. Next, Jo from the Marketing Team shared her insights about how Matrix markets itself, as well as the barristers themselves. This was very interesting as I hadn’t previously considered this aspect of a legal career – particularly important in such a social media-focused age. Additionally, as someone who is potentially interested in a marketing career, hearing her trajectory towards her current role was very beneficial for me.
We rounded off the (very busy!) day by talking with Zoe from the Legal Support Service who explained her role as a legal researcher and her path to becoming a trainee at Matrix (a position she will assume next year). She was incredibly friendly and patient with all our questions explaining the basics of legal research, a discipline I’d never encountered before, including the use of Westlaw, BAILII and more.
On the third day, with much excitement, we went into the Royal Courts of Justice to watch a fascinating case in which Matrix barristers were involved. We briefly met with the barristers (Chris Buttler KC, Aidan Wills, and Rosalind Comyn) on the walk there and, despite being very busy, they took the time to answer some of our questions about their role in the case. I would be lying if I said we weren’t a little star-struck! Before we arrived, Nina gave us the claimant’s skeleton argument to read which enabled us to better understand the quite complex technicalities of the legal basis. The case regarded the use of GPS technologies to monitor people on immigration bail- prompting thought-provoking public law and human rights questions about the ability of the state to curb individual rights.
The court (Aldwych House) is an imposing, historic building with exhibitions about the history of the legal profession and mazes of stone corridors; it was so inspiring to think that, one day, I could work somewhere like that! Attending the hearing itself was a very novel experience: immersed in the wig wearing traditions, legal jargon and academic atmosphere. In particular, I found the structure of the barrister’s arguments very interesting- seamlessly combining practical, ethical, and legal arguments and speaking with remarkable fluency for numerous hours. As a keen debater, I gathered a lot of new techniques to improve my own speeches. Furthermore, the experience enabled me to further understand the legal process including the roles of the various courts, professionals, and sources of law.
For our last day, we were lucky enough to attend court again to see the final submissions of the GPS tracking case. The hearing was even more lively than yesterday with the defence rebutting the claimant’s arguments convincingly. In fact, the case was so contentious that, between ourselves, Rowena, Danielle and I all disagreed on what the outcome should be- making for interesting discussions over lunch.
To conclude, I want to thank everyone at Matrix Chambers who made these past four days such an enjoyable and insightful experience with their patience and friendliness. I have learnt so much about the work not only of barristers but of the whole legal process- administration, marketing, facilities and more- through varied tasks and discussions. I would thoroughly recommend this work experience for any aspiring lawyers!