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Help for barristers

Barristers inherently face very specific challenges on a daily basis. If you need some help click on support to find contact details and advice on seeking support.

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Help for clerks and staff

The professional lives of clerks and chambers’ staff include many potential stressors. If you don’t know how to broach an issue, want advice on your options.

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Help for students and pupils

These resources have been designed specifically for those who have completed their BPTC and for pupils up to tenancy.

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Our vision

Find out what Wellbeing at the Bar aims to achieve.

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Policy & practice

Guidance on how to introduce wellbeing policies and initiatives and on tackling a wellbeing issue in chambers.

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Media pack

Logos and banners to help you to promote wellbeing.

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Case studies

Examples of successful wellbeing initiatives adopted by chambers, Specialist Bar Associations and the Inns of Court.

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Support for barristers

Who to talk to, how to get help in coping with the pressures and demands of life at the Bar.

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Support for clerks and staff

Who to talk to and how to get help, resources are for clerks and staff themselves.

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Support for students and pupils

Who to talk to and how to get help for those who have completed their BPTC and for pupils up to tenancy.

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Assistance programme

The confidential 24/7 helpline with access to counselling for barristers, pupils, clerks and chambers’ staff.

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Learning to support yourself and others (Nina Caplin)

Learning to support yourself and others

Since the inception of the Wellbeing at the Bar initiative in 2015, I have been greatly impressed at how quickly the issue of wellbeing has been embraced by the profession and those who work with barristers. In 2015 the Bar Council’s wellbeing survey indicated that 2 out of 3 barristers felt that showing signs of stress at work indicated weakness, yet now it already seems normal to hear barristers openly discussing stress, anxiety, burnout and related issues. I have a huge amount of admiration for those who have been brave enough to speak out about their own struggles. Many chambers and specialist bar associations have set up wellbeing committees, provided training on mental health, set up mentoring schemes and/or devised wellbeing policies (see for further examples).

These initiatives could not be more vital. In January of this year, a friend and former colleague of mine took his own life. He had suffered from sometimes severe depression for many years. Although he loved his work as an employed barrister in the public sector, he struggled with staying well in the workplace. He had been out of work for nearly two years at the time of his death, and I have no doubt that this contributed to the decline in his health. His identity as a barrister and professional was hugely important to him, and of course work provides us all with structure, purpose and social interaction. As with all of us who have lost someone to suicide, I feel guilt and sadness that I could not help him more.

How can we learn to support colleagues better?

In October I attended one of two pilot mental health courses run by Wellness for Law in conjunction with the Bar Council. The course was delivered by an experienced trainer in psychological health, ably assisted by our very own Rachel Spearing (who as well as co-founding and chairing the Wellbeing at the Bar working group, also established Wellness for Law). Rachel was able to tackle specific questions, such as where the line falls between keeping an issue confidential and our professional obligations to report (the quick answer is to contact the Bar Council’s ethics helpline).

Its aims were principally to provide us with a knowledge of common mental health issues, a specific understanding of the pressures facing barristers, and the ability to identify and respond to mental health issues in ourselves and others. We were given a detailed workbook which provided lots of information on where we could access further guidance and support.

The session was attended by barristers in both employed and self-employed practice, and chambers’ members of staff. The course was very interactive, and we discussed issues such as taking breaks (or not …), perfectionism, our personal stress/performance curves, and also worked through a case study. If you’re involved in wellbeing issues in your workplace, or just interested in learning more about how you could support a colleague or member of chambers with a mental health issue, I really recommend the course.

And finally, clearly it is not just at the Bar that there is a lot going on in the wellbeing space. In September, I attended the annual Mental Wealth Festival.  During one of the sessions on diversity in the workplace, a BBC news producer talked movingly about her struggles with a severe eating disorder and her ongoing recovery. Her story particularly resonated with me as she talked about managing her sometimes severe anxiety in a highly pressurised and fast-paced working environment. She has founded a network for those suffering from or recovering from eating disorders:

Nina Caplin represents the Bar European Group on the Wellbeing at the Bar working group. She is a Senior Associate at the Financial Conduct Authority.

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