One of the most renowned names at the bar, Matrix is never far from the news thanks to its leading human rights practice and roster of high-profile silks. Founded only in the year 2000, the doggedly progressive set has ditched traditional bar terminology, recruiting “trainees” (rather than “pupils”) to join the approximately 90 existing “members” (rather than “tenants”), and listing its barristers in alphabetical order rather than by seniority.
While best known for human rights, Matrix barristers cover a wider range of law, including commercial, media, employment and crime. Silks include EU law guru Aiden O’Neill, media man Hugh Tomlinson and public lawyer Helen Mountfield. Not to be outdone by Doughty Street having a former Director of Public Prosecutions, Matrix has an ex-DPP of its own in Ken Macdonald. In human rights land, Raza Husain QC has appeared in over 30 Supreme Court or House of Lords cases, while high-profile academics Conor Gearty and Phillipe Sands are also in the Matrix stable. Members’ work before international courts is supported by offices in Brussels and Geneva.
Head honcho James Laddie QC represented struck-off doctor Hadiza Bawa-Garba in her successful Court of Appeal case in 2018, while outspoken Remain campaigner Jessica Simor QC is throwing herself into Brexit litigation like the decision on Vote Leave’s referendum spending. Other big cases include taking the UK’s surveillance laws to Strasbourg, defending the BBC in the Cliff Richard privacy case and winning landmark employment law case Pimlico Plumbers.
Matrix has posted decent scores in the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2020-21. As its nifty recruitment brochure explains, potential recruits are expected to be at the top of their game academically, but there are also points for practical legal experience, relevant life experience and displaying “Matrix attributes”. The set actively encourages applications from various minorities, and we get the sense that this is more than just the standard lip service to diversity. There’s a guaranteed interview scheme for qualified disabled candidates, for example, and Matrix is the only major chambers in the land where close to a majority of juniors are female (this figure has dipped slightly this year from 48% to 46%).
But it’s worth noting that the set takes on just two pupils a year, so prospective human rights barristers will face quite a battle to get a foot in the door.