On my first day at Matrix Chambers, I was very nervous as I did not know what sort of people or atmosphere to expect. I walked into the building and was greeted by the receptionists, Melanie and Christine, who made me feel welcome and at ease. Shortly after, Alice came down to pick us up and introduced herself. It helped me feel calmer to be greeted by someone somewhat familiar, as Alice had been emailing us in the weeks leading up to our placement. We then went into a meeting room so that Alice could outline the rules and expectations, as well as Matrix’s values as a chambers, and gave us a quick run-down of all the departments and members in the office, detailed with pictures. This was very useful as I now knew more of what to expect such as what people work here and the things Matrix Chambers value, which is something I was worried about just a few moments before, when I had not yet entered the building.
After this brief introduction, we were led upstairs to the large office to greet the members we had just gotten a quick description of! Then, we got to speak with Dan and Zoe who kindly explained to us the kind of work they do daily, which included tasks such as researching and collating information from cases. Zoe also explained a legal metaphor called ‘fruit of the poisonous tree’. We learnt that this is when evidence is obtained illegally, and discussed whether evidence that is obtained in this way is still valid, despite it possibly being very crucial. This interaction was very valuable to me, as until then, I had not realised that working in a barristers chambers could involve so much ‘behind the scenes’ work.
We then sat back down at our desks and Tom gave us the task of reading about and researching the different roles barristers and solicitors carry out, as well as other major differences such as education requirements, exams, and finance. After the task was complete, I realised that I had not known a lot of very common knowledge about barristers and solicitors, so it was a great opportunity to learn. Once this was completed, Tom advised us to read about what kind of work the barristers Guy and Tim have done, as we would be watching them in the Supreme Court for the next two days!
Lunch came around and we were kindly allowed to eat in the library, where we also chatted with a few barristers, helping to create a really friendly and approachable atmosphere. Adding onto this, after lunch we were very generously taken out to a local café for coffee with two trainee barristers at Matrix Chambers, Catherine and Hayley. This really helped to break the ice and make us more confident and was also very insightful as we chatted about common interests, the path to becoming a barrister, application processes, and more. I really appreciated this activity, especially that it was on the first day, as our casual and friendly conversation helped us to open up and it was a great way to wrap up the first day.
On my second day, I was really excited as it was on our timetable to go to the Supreme Court to watch a Privy Council trial. In the cab on our way to Parliament Square, Zoe helped us to make sense of what was going to happen during the trial and what it was about. We read a case summary together and discussed it, as it was very wordy and was a type of document which I had never read before! The case was specifically about Mauritius and competition law, an area of law which I had barely heard about before this. I also learnt loads about the Supreme Court and the fact that it is the highest court of appeal and that it deals with issues in the Commonwealth as well. The structure of cases held in the Supreme Court was also very different to everything I had seen before, as there was no jury, five judges called ‘Lords’ and ‘Ladies’, and the fact that it is pretty difficult to follow along for spectators due to the barristers always referring to papers that only those involved in the case have in front of them!
Despite this, it was still very interesting to watch the proceedings and how the judges interact with the barristers speaking, especially how they question them on their thinking and for further information. Zoe very helpfully taught us that you must bow towards the judges when leaving the courtroom in the middle of the trial which saved us some embarrassment! I was very grateful for this incredible opportunity as I had never even been to a real trial before, let alone the Supreme Court! Before the case started, Guy and Tim came up to us (which made me feel very important!) and introduced themselves, as well as explained to us the very confusing case in a way that made loads of sense, and what arguments they will make. It was great to actually interact with barristers that represent people in court and talk about the work that they do, and if I was not doing work experience with Matrix, I wouldn’t have had that opportunity!
On my third day, we went back to the Supreme Court to watch the second half of the case proceed. I felt a bit intimidated by all the solicitors and barristers carrying papers as they looked busy and like they really knew what they were doing, however Guy coming up to greet us again made me feel a lot more comfortable. This was the day where we actually got to see Guy deliver and argue his points. I noticed how long and tedious appeal cases can be, as it involves a lot of talking just by one individual, often for half the day! I realised that to be in the barristers’ position you need to have a lot of strength and resilience, as you may have to stand for hours, trying to get your point across while the judges constantly question you. When it finally got to Guy’s turn to speak, I immediately noticed how articulate he was, which I really admired and hope to develop that skill myself. Watching all five judges constantly question his arguments made me feel a bit nervous as I did not know how Guy would respond, but he, amazingly, did not crack under the immense pressure and delivered his entire argument. Watching this was very inspirational to me and I considered becoming a barrister even more after that. This day, I also had the chance to wander around the exhibition in the Supreme Court and learn about its rich history.
On the fourth and final day, we were introduced to the fees and finance team, where they explained their role to us and how barristers get paid. After this was complete, Venetia from the marketing team had a conversation with us about how they market Matrix Chambers, and how it is important to know who your target audience is so you can grab their attention. We also spoke about how it is important to adapt to the times, for example hosting webinars during lunch time, instead of in-person events in the evening, as people are more likely to attend these. Interacting with these two departments gave me an insight into aspects of law that are overlooked.
Overall, this experience was very enjoyable and informative. I learnt so many things I never knew before and met amazing people. The opportunities were great, and I also just got to experience a busy office environment! I would definitely recommend work experience at Matrix Chambers to others.