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Practising Barrister Blog

Former Northumbria student Matthew Crowe writes about life training to be a barrister.

The Second First Day

‘Have you reached a verdict upon which you all agree?’ questioned the Clerk at the Crown Court. The juror closest to the Judge duly nodded. ‘Do you find the defendant guilty or not guilty of threatening with a bladed article’ ‘Not guilty’, said the juror, calmly. On the alternative charge of possession of a knife: not guilty.

By and large, this was the opening to my first blog post when observing a Trinity Barrister in a jury trial. This is not the opening to a blog about my own first jury trial.

On the third day, a full acquittal was secured.

The jury went out at 3pm on the Wednesday and returned a verdict around 11.30am on Thursday.

It is important to provide a frank account of what ran through my head at the end of the case.

The night before the verdict: should I have called that witness? Should I have left that line of questioning? Was I standing a bit funny? Did I make a word up in closing…Is countenanced even a word? Where is a dictionary? I am pretty sure I made a word up in closing. Was that juror on my side? Did the jury see how the prosecution witnesses crumbled?

Before the verdict? Utter terror. After the verdict? utter relief.

A smile crept across my face. When I left, the defendant’s mother was in tears, his friends were jubilant and I saw the same relief I felt reflected in the now-acquitted defendant.

Feel free to contact me at with any questions.

The First Day

‘Mags Trial Tomorrow!!’ was the commanding headline that appeared in my e-mail inbox at 5pm. My first trial had arrived. I was instructed to defend a man against charges of fraud and other offences. If convicted, the Magistrates’ could not have been criticised for imprisoning the defendant.

While he faced such a thought the night before, I faced a late, unnerving night of preparation. The reality: it was an all-nighter, but the training, tuition, tips, tricks, observations, readings and writings over the years kicked in.

After going through various legal machinations, the man walked away with a conditional discharge (no punishment, providing he does not do the same again) and an order to pay compensation. He was overjoyed … as was I. 

Feel free to contact me at with any questions.

A New Chapter, literally.

NU-Law -BlogThis month, I have a second book chapter coming out written by my Co-Author – Wayne Jordash QC – and I. As with the original chapter, it is on international criminal law. The two are published by Oxford University Press and Palgrave Macmillan. As a Pupil, people often perceive your working week as restricted severely. This has not rung true for me; the understanding afforded by Trinity Chambers has enabled me to have two book chapters published.

They are available at:

Feel free to contact me at with any questions.


Hallmarks of Good Advocacy

As a pupil, many practitioners are kind enough to share tips arising from their experience. Below is a recital of some popular advocacy tricks I have been told:

  • Structure, structure, structure: the easier it is to follow your submissions, the more attractive they will appear;
  • Preparation is key: as Lord Bowen once said, cases are won at chambers.
  • The one-liner: a phrase in which a case is encapsulated can set the tone for the proceedings and colour the submissions of the other side.

‘This is a case about a lady suing her former employer’, versus ‘The narrative in this case concerns a lady who – after one year of full paid leave, full support from her employers and a generous redundancy package – seeks a second bite of the cherry’.

‘The Claimant applies to the Court for summary judgment’, versus ‘After four months of writing to the Defendant without response, the Claimant seeks to end the proceedings by way of summary judgment.’

  • Facts, law, principles: if the facts are on your side, argue the facts. If you do not have the facts, argue the law or overarching principles such as the overriding objective;
  • Ownership: there is little more powerful that a tribunal of fact or law piecing together elements of a case and forming an initial conclusion in their mind;
  • Knowing when to be quiet: following on from point (v), knowing when to be quiet can be crucial, which may include not examining a witness or not arguing a point; and
  • Less is often more.

Feel free to contact me at with any questions.

‘Have you reached a verdict upon which you all agree?’
questioned the Clerk at Newcastle Crown Court. The juror closest to the Judge duly nodded. ‘Do you find the defendant guilty or not guilty of witness intimidation?’ ‘Not guilty’, barked the juror. The now-acquitted defendant punched the air in glee. His wife was, in every way, the visible personification of utter relief. An acquittal was secured; a barrister at Trinity Chambers was the architect.

Last month, I began the final stage of my training at Trinity Chambers as a barrister. This year of training – “pupillage”, as it is properly known – gives real experience to those who have completed a law degree and the Bar Professional Training Course. For the most part, my legal path has followed a conventional route. I graduated from Northumbria last year; I survived the rigors of Northumbria’s own M Law (BPTC) course.

After a year in Toronto, I returned to start pupillage. Beginning with some trepidation and armed with a wealth of horror stories, I started in September. My pupillage was to be in criminal and regulatory law. In a bid to refresh myself on the intricacies of criminal law, I tore through reams of paper and books from my Northumbria days.

Since then, my fears have been firmly dispelled. Pupillage does not seem like “work”; it is too fascinating, intriguing and intellectually-demanding. There is no denying that the work requires real commitment, but the cases and people involved make turning up at Chambers or court something to look forward to.

After a few weeks, my pupillage has already involved:

  • writing arguments for a case involving a group of individuals who have been burgling jewellery from properties and selling them on. One of the co-accused asked the court to dismiss all of the allegations against him. I was tasked with the response,
  • writing arguments for a man who is challenging a conviction of trafficking females for sexual exploitation after a very lengthy trial,
  • writing my legal opinion on a case involving historic abuse of a girl in care, and
  • last week, a book chapter I co-authored was published by Oxford University Press.

I look forward to the next eleven months with optimism.

Every month, I will be writing about my experiences as a trainee barrister. Hopefully, they will provide some insight for the readers into a year commonly shrouded in mystery.

Feel free to contact me at with any questions. Details about Trinity Barristers Chambers can be found on


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