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Wellbeing at the Bar blog: Nicholas Hill

On Thursday evening of last week the IBC held the first of its seminars on wellbeing. My own championing of wellbeing is well known and when I became Chair of the IBC in March 2016 I set continuing education of wellbeing as one of my key aims.

It’s quite tricky sometimes to know what is going to be of most benefit to people. We have to accept that some people will find the whole topic a bit hard to understand. After all, many people will go through their whole lives never encountering a mental health wellbeing issue; not every clerk will have to work with a member of their chambers who has a wellbeing issue.

Some thought had to be given on what will be most useful. On this occasion the idea was to focus on a way to help people manage a situation that might otherwise run the possibility of becoming a cause of stress.

The topic was ‘managing difficult conversations’ – something that many people, not just clerks, find challenging and which can be stressful, particularly in a chambers setting where the other person in the conversation may be a barrister who has a wider vocab or eloquence.

The talk was presented by Jane Gunn, a solicitor now mediator who has presented the talk for many organisations including to Doctors’ Practice Managers – a group with similar issues to Bar Clerks.

By breaking down the dynamics of what happens in a conversation, she taught us about the key stages:

  • Say what you SAW/HEARD + CHECK MEANING
  • Explain REASONING
  • Say what you NEED
  • Agree on WAY FORWARD

Simple really when it is broken down and explained, and the feedback from those attending was that it really helped and gave confidence. So that’s one fewer potential stressor. And like so much else with mental health wellbeing – much easier when it is spoken about.


Nick has been a barristers’ clerk for over 30 years and a senior clerk since 1999, he joined 3 New Square as Senior Clerk in July 2012. In addition to his chambers role, Nick is the Chairman of the Institute of Barristers’ Clerks (IBC), his 3 year term started in March 2016. Nick has a particular interest in mental health, has been a member of the Wellbeing at the Bar working group since its inception and is a regular speaker on the topic.