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Rowena’s Week at Matrix

In order for someone to fail to recognise the years of legal tradition that Matrix Chambers is steeped in, they would have to be either severely visually impaired (and thus obviously blind to the near-imperial historic buildings of Gray’s Inn, which essentially speak for themselves as a credit to the reputability of Matrix as a whole), or willfully incapable of acknowledging true merit. I was not. However, any fears I may have originally harboured at the prospect of being surrounded by barristers experienced in the work I had only dreamed of for so long were immediately quashed by the welcoming smiles of Christine and Melanie, the friendly receptionists who effectively set the tone for the rest of my time at Matrix.

From the reception, my fellow work experience students and I were collected by Alice Brighouse, who I had been corresponding with for several months concerning this opportunity and did not falter in her positivity and friendly attitude which had been so apparent in her emails. With Alice, we set goals for our experience at Matrix and clarified the rules to make sure that our experience would be as efficient and beneficial to us as possible. Once this was clear, she led us upstairs to the office where she introduced us to various members across all teams, by whom we were welcomed with the same amiable attitude that we had grown used to by that point. After being inducted by George Newman and provided with all the information we needed, as well as access to our timetables for the week, we were soon guided to the Fees & Finance team; who did not originally seem to be applicable to my personal ambitions, yet from whom I quickly learned of their vitality to the operation of Matrix Chambers. Eric Ofori-Darko patiently explained to us the several types of legal funding, through which we were provided with a task in which we explained the difference between legal aid, CFAs, and pro bono cases, and able to fully understand the different options available to a practicing barrister, including the pros and cons of each.

Following our lunch break, we were given 45 minutes to prepare a debate-style task and given a range of topics to choose from, which we encouraged to thoroughly research in preparation for an interview with Chris Smith and George Newman.

After my first day, I left Matrix Chambers with my mind buzzing and already excited for the day ahead.

My second day at Matrix was somehow better than the first. Now settled into the office and comfortable with the people around me, I was able to complete the tasks that I was given in a timely fashion and to a high standard.

Opening the day, I was greeted with familiarity once more by Christine, who made it feel as if I had been at Matrix for infinitely longer than just 2 days. Our first “task” of the day was a tour of the premises from Idris, during which he explained to us some of the history of Gray’s Inn and showed us the offices of top barristers, through which he explained to us the way in which they work and how they interact with the facilities team. This was highly enjoyable and entertaining for myself, who could not help but get carried away with imagining myself in the offices we visited. Following this, we received an induction into the type of work that the Facilities team do from Frank, during which he explained the work that they do in cyber security in recent developments in the role of Artificial Intelligence in the legal environment. Somehow, I found myself interested in work that I had never considered before. After this, we were given the task of researching the best CCTV network for Matrix with a budget of £1000 and given a list of qualities that this security system should involve.

Next, we were given an induction into marketing with Joanna Colton, who kindly gave us valuable insight into how the relationship between barristers and the Marketing Team operates, who are surprisingly a vital part of Matrix and an interesting career pathway in the legal field.

The most interesting part of my day was, of course, my induction from the Legal Service Support team, in which we were given invaluable advice surrounding their journeys into finding a pupillage, including what they had studied in university and work experience they had done. Zoe Brereton was incredibly helpful in answering my endless questions and she showed us how to operate legal databases such as Westlaw, Lexus and BAILII.

I had been looking forward to my third day at Matrix since I found out what the plan for that day would be: I was given a skeleton argument to read for the first part of my morning concerning a case on GPS surveillance of people on immigration bail, questioning certain cases in which the Supreme Court’s decision may have been unjust. Then, my fellow students and I were taken to the Royal Court of Justice to witness the hearing. We were introduced to Rosalind Comyn, Chris Buttler KC, and Aidan Wills who, despite their busy day ahead, were extremely friendly and spoke to us for a while about their career paths. The experience of sitting through a court hearing was especially helpful to me, as it was my first time, and it allowed me to see how the proceedings work and how barristers argue their cases. It was also interesting to see the amount of research barristers must do before presenting their case, as well as how the Judge questioned and probed them for further evidence.

My final day at Matrix was bittersweet yet I was determined to make the most of it. We returned to court and watched the further proceedings of the GPS tracking case, which was a brilliant way to end the week as we were able to see how barristers argue against further evidence against their case and how junior barristers, KC’s and solicitors interact with each other as well as the judge.

Overall, my work experience at Matrix was as enjoyable as it was informative. Although it completely shattered the illusion of my past ideal of what a barristers’ job might look like, it replaced it with a new, more realistic version which provided me with a more tangible goal and a clear path to get there.