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Wellbeing at the Bar Blog: Valerie Charbit

The Bar and the Bench: Supporting One Another

Wellbeing is a work in progress for all of us, one which we should be required to consider daily, like a mantra in order to achieve regular improvements. Another way we can seek to change or improve our wellbeing is by attending events which provide us with some support for the variety of difficulties barristers face. The South Eastern Circuit has organised joint events to support both the Bar and the bench on this important topic.

HHJ Simon Davis and HHJ John Denniss from Isleworth Crown Court, were the first two judges to come and speak to the Bar in February 2017 in Inner Temple about this important topic. Chatham House rules apply so I won’t repeat what has been said by judges thus far but suffice it to say that the bench being made up of impressive advocates are impressive speakers on this topic.

The second event in April 2018 took place at Lincoln’s Inn and was supported by Judges from Wood Green (HHJ Noel Lucas Q.C., HHJ John Dodd Q.C., HHJ Kaly Kaul Q.C. and HHJ Greg Perrins). Each spoke about wellbeing and on this second occasion, Lee Moore also spoke to the Bar about secondary and vicarious trauma, and a self-care plan for barristers. The audience had doubled in size no doubt due to the impressive list of judicial speakers. Under the leadership of the resident judge, it was clear that judges at Wood Green were willing to help the Bar on listing where possible, lunchtime catering at court if ordered in the morning and even a willingness to deal with mentions by telephone at a time convenient to counsel (provided it was not due to an order having been breached).

The third event took place in July 2018 with judges from Luton and St Albans. Four judges were all willing to share their thoughts on wellbeing and all were excellent speakers.

Feedback from the events has been extremely positive and has encouraged us to continue these events. Our aim is to try to invite judges willing to speak and support these events from different court centres. The perspective of judges is a different one to the Bar and all those judges who have spoken have been generous with their words of wisdom and advice on wellbeing.

What have I taken away personally from the events?

The necessity to make my working environment as aesthetically pleasing as possible. This can be a challenge in a public building, but it was possible with the addition of a small orchid in the room we were using at court for our case. Reminding myself that the ‘great outdoors’ is a source of inspiration and a good stress reliever means I am continuing to try to spend time gardening.

I have found a shared recognition that barristers and Judges are all human and subject to human frailties. Each event may only plant one seed, but that seed may cause change resulting in a small improvement for audience members and their wellbeing.

Valerie Charbit is the South Eastern Circuit representative on the Wellbeing at the Bar Working Group. She has experience of a wide range of complex cases and her practice involves prosecuting and defending in equal measure. She has a broad ranging regulatory practice involving professional disciplinary and health and safety cases. She has particular specialism in cases involving vulnerable witnesses and the cross-examination of experts. She also sits as a part-time judge for the First Tier Tribunal (Mental Health).

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