I have thought a lot about what to say in this message, how to even begin to address the enormity of what has been happening. At the time of writing, two of my dear friends have lost their mothers. Neither of them was able to be there at the end.
In the context of such universal loss, I worry that it seems self-absorbed to be thinking about work. The issues that are particularly close to home at the moment are cases coming out of the diary at the rate of knots, the uncertainty about whether the next day’s hearing is going ahead, the demands of remote hearings, not just technologically, but also the fact that they are physically very tiring and seem to require much more concentration than usual, that clerks and members of staff are being furloughed and you feel that somehow you have let them down, even though it makes financial sense.
A great source of comfort in these times is the camaraderie at the Bar: the fact that we choose to remain connected with each other by email, WhatsApp, Twitter and Zoom, a reminder that we are all in the same boat and not struggling with this on our own.
On 2 April I chaired a Wellbeing Working Group meeting attended by representatives from all areas of the Bar, including the Inns of Court, the Employed Bar and the Young Barristers’ Committee, together with representatives from the Institute of Barristers’ Clerks. It was reassuring to see everyone working so hard to try to make this horrible situation better for their colleagues. We all shared our concerns and experiences to date, and agreed to remain in touch about emerging issues. We are regularly exchanging resources which may be useful for all of us in these times, so please keep an eye on the Wellbeing at the Bar website for updates: https://www.wellbeingatthebar.org.uk.
If you are able to do so, please promote and take part in mentoring schemes, to help provide encouragement and support to those who would really welcome it right now. Also remember that the free and confidential Assistance Programme is available to anyone at the Bar who would benefit from some counselling: https://www.wellbeingatthebar.org.uk/assistance-programme/.
Please stay safe and well and keep in touch. I am thinking of you all.
15 April 2020