Wellbeing at the Bar

Wellbeing and mental health should be a priority for barristers and their chambers. Despite this, personal experiences of difficulties in those areas are rarely spoken about within the legal profession.

The Association has been recognised for all our wellbeing work and we received a Certificate of Recognition from the Bar Council in November 2017.

Wellbeing ChBA/IBC Best Practice Policy

The Chancery Bar Association and the Institute of Barristers Clerks have published a Best Practice Policy for Wellbeing.  This was launched on 4 October 2017 at a seminar - Manage your working relationship with your clerk.  This policy was updated in October 2018.

The aim of the policy is to improve the way that barristers and their staff manage their relationships and consequently improve health and productivity.  This policy is not intended to be exhaustive but is designed to assist barristers and staff (who include both clerks and other staff who are not clerks) to achieve best practice in this regard. It gives a number of examples of best practice on wellbeing which the association has gathered. It has been drafted by senior clerks, with additional input from chancery practitioners.  Chambers are encouraged to adopt this policy, with their own additions if thought appropriate.  The policy will be reviewed annually so if you do have any comments or suggestions please contact Francesca Compton at admin@chba.org.uk.

In putting together the policy the ChBA noted the results of the survey conducted by the Bar Council in April 2015 - Wellbeing at the Bar - to assess members’ health and well-being and to identify risk factors which may affect their performance. The survey was the first cross-profession survey on this subject and resulted in a record level of responses, indicating the importance of the topic to practitioners. The survey revealed a range of well-being related difficulties experienced across the spectrum of the profession (the results are available to view here).

Wellbeing at the Bar Working Group

The Bar Council has teamed up with the Inns of Court and Institute of Barristers’ Clerks (IBC) to launch the Wellbeing at the Bar Portal (www.wellbeingatthebar.co.uk) – a website to specifically provide support and best practice to barristers, clerks and chambers on wellbeing and mental health issues.

The portal is geared towards giving barristers, clerks and chambers staff access to guidance, tips, support and contacts for help on matters concerning wellbeing. Information on wellbeing events, real-life stories from professionals who share their experiences, sample chambers’ wellbeing policies and activities and useful contact numbers for those needing advice or help on a wellbeing or mental health matter are just some of the resources on the portal.

Chancery Bar Association response:

Collaboratively with the Bar Council working group, the Chancery Bar Association is itself taking steps to support its members and their chambers in this important area, and to normalise investment in well-being amongst its membership.

On 15 June 2016 the Association held a seminar on the topic of “Resilience at the Bar”, open to members and their clerks. The session featured Dr Bill Mitchell, a clinical psychologist who led the seminar and provided extremely useful material dealing with how to keep yourself in a good state of health and well-being, how to recognise signs that you or a colleague may be on a pathway towards ill health and corrective steps that can be taken in such circumstances. Dr Mitchell’s materials from the talk are available to members to view at the bottom of this page.

In addition, Elizabeth Rimmer, chief executive of LawCare, spoke at the seminar. LawCare is a charity offering a free, confidential telephone help-line to all members of the legal profession, including barristers, the judiciary and solicitors. Please see below for an article covering the work of LawCare. The final speaker of the evening was Hormoz Ahmadzadeh, a personal coach with experience of having lived through a stress-related breakdown, who spoke to the benefits of external coaching in early management of issues which the Bar Council’s survey has revealed as commonly affecting barristers.

All three speakers emphasised the importance of recognition of common signs that an individual’s well-being has moved off track and of how critical an early conversation can be in the ability to correct a pathway of ill-health (as set out further in Dr Mitchell’s materials).

On 17 October 2018, the association held a further seminar chaired by Nigel Jones, Chair of the City Mental Health Alliance and a former partner of a magic circle law firm. At the seminar, Dr Mitchell gave a ‘refresher’ course for those attending, and Nigel Jones spoke compellingly on the need for solicitors and barristers to work collaboratively to promote wellbeing. Will East updated those attending on the changes to the Best Practice Policy and on the implementation of the policy amongst Chancery chambers.

In addition to the activities above, the Chancery Bar Association continues to develop plans to support its members’ well-being. For example, exercise classes have been made available to members. In addition the Association continues to deliver its mentoring programme. Whilst not directed specifically to wellbeing issues, mentoring has proven to be an important tool in sustaining healthy attitudes in practice - click here for further details of the ChBA scheme.

Useful contact details

Useful contact details arising from the “Resilience at the Bar” seminar are as follows:

LawCare support (freephone from landlines and mobiles): 0800 2796888 (NB the helpline is strictly confidential & does not report on any potential breaches of Code of Conduct discussed during calls).  http://www.lawcare.org.uk/

The Mitchell Practice:   0207 0366180http://www.mitchellpractice.co.uk/

Hormoz Ahmadzadeh: 07946 621276; http://youdoltd.co.uk/