As we sat down on a cold, damp Monday afternoon in October it became evident those Monday afternoon blues would be blown away. We were there to review submissions made by chambers, Inns, organisations and Specialist Bar Associations as part of the profession-wide Certificate of Recognition for Wellbeing at the Bar.
Far too often these days we read news of vile acts committed by one human-being against another. Daily it appears we have report of workplace harassment. The lack of respect for another’s wellbeing such daily news stories demonstrate leaves a terrible taste. For some members of the Bar this is part of their daily working life.
It was therefore a refreshing privilege to read dozens of inspirational examples of Wellbeing at the Bar in action. These salutary stories stand as a beacon of light.
We feel there is something here for everyone. No matter how small or large the organisation, nor what resources are available, the submissions we were discussing provided learning for all.
Some contributors are already leading the way in Wellbeing at the Bar. Others are taking their first steps on their own wellbeing journey. These steps are firm and certain. Every single step in every single submission awarded a Certificate of Recognition has the potential to deliver positive results.
The leadership roles already taken by some organisations including the IBC, Chancery Bar Association and Middle Temple jumped right out of the page. Their innovation and commitment will reap rewards for the whole profession.
Despite the diverse range of submissions as a group we felt there were some strong themes to emerge.
- The positive ethos of “members looking out for each other”. Clerk and barristers helping each other through structured mentoring schemes, or initiatives like QEB’s active listening approach. These inclusive schemes are for all members of chambers and targeted at each stage of their careers. Also ably demonstrated at Henderson Chambers.
- Coming together as a community. Gather as a group and sharing an experience was a powerful driver. The Serjeant’s Inn’s cupcakes jumped out at us all. (No cupcakes were harmed by members of the wellbeing committee as part of this process!)
- Use of policy and frameworks to guide the way. Maitland Chamber’s Framework Risk Assessment was one of a number of examples of good practice in this area.
- The business case for implementing wellbeing was particularly well set out by St John’s Building rising to the challenge of their geographic spread. Their new choir will be singing about it for a long time. Elsewhere, there were even reports of wellbeing being used as a marketing opportunity by some chambers.
- The great outdoors of chambers –While some opted for running clubs – this would have been a little too fast for a couple of us in the room on that damp Monday evening – Ropewalk’s ramble appealed.
The level of investment shown by some was frankly amazing. Free gym memberships, 24-hour helplines and the time to develop a full policy are not cheap, however the business cases were all clear. Other submissions demonstrated that a lack of resources is not a barrier to making a quick and positive intervention with some actions clearly having a material impact (e.g. yoga).
The levels of support for Wellbeing at the Bar demonstrated and the commitments made are inspiring and humbling. Whatever the reason for starting this journey we felt every single recipient of a Certificate of Recognition for Wellbeing at the Bar must be applauded.
Take 5 minutes and dip into them here. Take some inspiration as we did. Ask “what can we do differently?” “What extra action can I take to make a difference in my organisation?”
Grant Warnsby (1997 call) is Senior Counsel at BP and is the Employed Bar Representative on the Wellbeing at the Bar Working Group. His principal area of work is providing legal support on oil & gas exportation and access.