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Meet our Master of Advocacy & CPD – Q&A with Matthew Butt KC

We’re a small, but dynamic, team at Gray’s Inn and we want to showcase what we do!

At the Inn we rely on Members who volunteer their time to support training and education. Next up we talk to our Master of Advocacy, Matthew Butt KC, who volunteers his time to support Education and Training programmes for students pursuing a career at the Bar.

Matthew is a barrister at Three Raymond Buildings, specialising in criminal, police and public law. He took silk in 2020 and sits as a Recorder of the Crown Court and a Deputy High Court Judge (King’s Bench Division). He was called to the Bar by Gray’s Inn in 2002 and has been an advocacy trainer since 2011.


What is the main purpose of your role?

I chair the Advocacy Sub Committee which oversees all of the work we do in advocacy training within the Inn. The barrister and judge members of the committee work alongside me and the Education Department to keep our busy programme on track.

Gray’s Inn runs events throughout the year and at all levels from outreach days at schools and universities, through to assessed courses for pupils, new practitioners and vulnerable witness training. We also support and train our members to become accredited advocacy trainers.

Every year we work to update our training materials in order to keep them up to date and relevant so they reflect the sort of work that junior barristers will face in practice. We are also extending the areas of law in which we conduct training to make sure it is relevant to family, criminal and civil practice areas. I know how important advocacy training is to the Inn and I want to make sure that every event we run is of real benefit to our members.

I also attend as many of these training events that I can as an advocacy trainer.


Why is it important that students access opportunities for advocacy training through their Inn?

Through Advocacy training, the Inns provide a bridge between what students learn at Bar School and what pupils experience in practice as well as an introduction to advocacy for those at university.

For many barristers at Gray’s Inn, the university advocacy programme will be the first time they practice advocacy in a realistic setting with practitioners and judges.

Diversity and inclusion are central to the ethos of Gray’s Inn and that is especially true of the Education Department. We run training events throughout the country and see this as an important means of enabling access to the legal profession. We see our advocacy courses as a small step towards levelling the playing field and providing opportunity, connections and support to those who have no previous experience or contacts within the legal profession.

Attending one of our courses is an invaluable way of learning the basics of the art of advocacy in areas from witness handling to closing submissions and legal argument.


What opportunities are there at the Inn for students during their training for the Bar?

We offer training opportunities for members at every level.

In addition to the university advocacy days and outreach work, we run debating and mooting workshops and competitions for students and pupil barristers.

We also run several residential events every year for students which are intense weekend advocacy courses. These are attended by some of the leading barristers and judges from the Inn. The events are heavily subsidised by Gray’s and offer a unique opportunity to learn from some of the best advocates at the Bar today. No educational institution or commercial organisation can rival the experience that we offer, thanks to our members who agree to give up their time for free to train the next generation of lawyers.

I am also very proud of the work Gray’s Inn does in advocacy training with prisoners through the Vocalise Programme. This always requires student volunteers to keep this successful programme alive.


What advice would you give to students, yet to join an Inn, considering a career at the Bar? 

It always annoys me when experienced barristers try to dissuade students from applying to work at the publicly funded Bar. For many of us, this is a genuine calling. If you are thinking about this kind of work, then get in touch with the Education Department. We can help provide you with an insight from junior barristers who might have a more rounded view about the future of legal aid work. We don’t have all the answers and there are without doubt financial challenges in undertaking legal aid work but the Inn also offers scholarships specifically for those who practice in this area as well as mentoring and help with pupillage applications and interviews for all students.

Be ambitious about scholarships, mini pupillages and pupillage applications. When I applied for pupillage I had no legal experience and no contacts at all in the legal profession. I was encouraged to join Gray’s Inn and to apply to my current chambers by a barrister I met via the Education Department.


What are the most rewarding aspects of your role?

By far the most rewarding part of my role as an advocacy trainer is seeing those we have trained as students succeeding at the Bar and going on to secure pupillage, tenancy and to become advocacy trainers themselves. Whilst the Inn’s advocacy programme plays a very small part in their success we are there to support them every step of the way.

I can remember how I felt when I attended my first advocacy training session as a student. As an Inn we understand how this can at times seem to be an intimidating profession to join.

It is a bit of a cliché that Gray’s Inn is the friendliest of the Inns but in my experience that has proved to be true. I am still friends with those I trained with both as a student and during pupillage and with several of my trainers, some of whom I now appear in front of at the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

The students and trainers who attend our events are a far more diverse group than we have ever had before. There is lots of work still to do in this regard, but the Inn is committed to this process. The students who are joining Gray’s Inn now will go on to become the future of our profession. It is essential that the Inn does everything it can to support that and to ensure that tomorrow’s lawyers truly reflect the diversity of our society.

If anyone is considering a career at the Bar then they should seriously consider joining Gray’s Inn and taking advantage of our advocacy training programme. It was the best decision I ever made!

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