Skip to content

Close

Search

Pump Court Chambers

Pump Court Chambers is a mixed common law set, with teams of barristers operating in different areas of law, raising different forms of practice demands. Chambers’ had experienced colleagues becoming unwell with chronic illness, sometimes involving mental impairment and had also experienced cases of sudden death.

There was also a personal interest in pursuing this agenda. The Chair of the Wellbeing at the Bar working group (Rachel Spearing) is a member of chambers and it was important to her that her own chambers took a lead with policies and practices to support the wellbeing initiative being undertaken by Bar Council and the SBAs.

What was the business (other case) for action?

Pump Court Chambers wanted to ensure that all of its members practiced well and safely in their working lives whilst undertaking the role and demands of the job. They knew that those demands on younger practitioners often varied, but in some cases were based around finances, time management and perfectionism. In more experienced practitioners health issues and burn out were not uncommon.

What did the Chambers do?

They started to initiate work on this agenda by speaking to a variety of people in chambers at varying levels of Call to ‘sound out’ their support, and explain the business case for doing so.  There was overwhelming support.

They then looked at what other Chambers had done and found two other chambers’ CEOs who were prepared to share their Employment Assistance Program Information and a policy that they had used.  They redrafted the policy, reflecting their own Set and provided the details of the EAPs to their management committee seeking their approval to have the ‘wellbeing policy’ added to the Chambers’ Handbook and Guide.  They requested that reference to the new policy is made to new clerks, in the induction of new members and in Chambers’ ongoing commitment and training of all colleagues.

 

The proposal and policy was approved by Chambers’ ManCom and a financial amount committed to support the policy, associated training and activities. Pump Court Chambers’ Company Secretary then took over investigating potential EAP companies, and found a policy with Health Assured which was very reasonable and provided everyone with cards and a policy number to allow confidential access, at no cost to the member.

A poster was then put up in chambers’ private workspaces in all locations (we are a Circuit Set) to advertise the new service. An email is now also sent out each month from the Company Secretary with information about the initiative. As the email comes from Chambers’ business manager it is received and read alongside other important business issues, which Chambers’ believe can aid perception of the information.

“We have enthusiastically embraced this thoughtful initiative in chambers and embedded it in our standard policies and procedures. As barristers we spend so much time looking after the problems of others but too often neglect our own. A Wellbeing Policy serves as a welcome reminder that it’s ok to seek help and support from time to time!”

Head of Chambers, Pump Court Chambers

What were the results?

As a senior member of Chambers I feel that I have a safe place to go to if I am experiencing any difficulties, and I am also reminded by the emails that these wellbeing tips and hints can be easily adopted.  It connects me to health and issues outside of work and it makes me feel reassured that my Chambers does care about me and my wellbeing and optimizing my practice with this focus” – Rachel Spearing.

I joined Pump Court Chambers for pupillage and have been a tenant for almost a year. Pupillage was enjoyable but also extremely challenging, not least in terms of dealing with the pressures that come with a year-long interview, starting on your feet, developing a fledgling practice and hoping to obtain tenancy at the end.

Getting tenancy was fantastic, but I have found that the pressures undoubtedly remain, albeit they are slightly altered. There can be a sense of bravado at the bar, particularly around the culture of working long hours and taking on tasks that appear impossible in scale. It is difficult at times to know where to draw the line between working hard and building your practice, and looking after yourself and keeping a semblance of a work-life balance.

As collectives of self-employed people, barristers’ chambers do not tend to have the valuable Human Resources infrastructure commonly found in employment settings. To have a policy in Chambers specifically aimed at wellbeing is an extremely positive step forward. It is important that all barristers, and especially juniors, have access to help and support in what can be an isolated profession.

The bar thrives because each generation helps those that follow. As barristers are so willing to lend a hand to their colleagues, wellbeing policies are really part of this tradition. But by building a policy with structured options, named mentors, routes to confidential advice and other services such as the Employee Assistance Programme, this tradition becomes something altogether more tangible and accessible. It becomes officially ‘okay’ to recognise that people struggle at the bar, they may need help, and it should be available. This is particularly important for juniors, and for pupils who may not otherwise know where to turn during pupillage, when there is such focus on impressing and performing at your best.

 

“We have enthusiastically embraced this thoughtful initiative in chambers and embedded it in our standard policies and procedures. As barristers we spend so much time looking after the problems of others but too often neglect our own.  A Wellbeing Policy serves as a welcome reminder that it’s ok to seek help and support from time to time!” – Head of Chambers, Pump Court Chambers

The bar thrives because each generation helps those that follow. As barristers are so willing to lend a hand to their colleagues, wellbeing policies are really part of this tradition. But by building a policy with structured options, named mentors, routes to confidential advice and other services such as the Employee Assistance Programme, this tradition becomes something altogether more tangible and accessible. It becomes officially ‘okay’ to recognise that people struggle at the bar, they may need help, and it should be available. This is particularly important for juniors, and for pupils who may not otherwise know where to turn during pupillage, when there is such focus on impressing and performing at your best.

I am very proud to be a member of a set which is actively striving to improve wellbeing, and to change the culture at the bar for the better.” – A Junior Tenant

“We have enthusiastically embraced this thoughtful initiative in chambers and embedded it in our standard policies and procedures. As barristers we spend so much time looking after the problems of others but too often neglect our own.  A Wellbeing Policy serves as a welcome reminder that it’s ok to seek help and support from time to time!” – Head of Chambers, Pump Court Chambers

Tips

  • Treat the initiation and addition of a wellbeing policy as if it were any other equality and diversity good practice issue.
  • Look around for a comprehensive EAP which can simply signpost confidentially to support members.
  • Ensure that staff & barristers are aware of the policy, and leadership endorses its use.
  • Take up one of the suggested practices and get a few colleagues together to support it, e.g. dryathlon, or only taking stairs.
  • Don’t be deterred by negative feedback, examine why they express those views and cross examine the issues.

The information and resource packs on this website are designed to help you and your colleagues to work as a community for better wellbeing and professional resilience. If you want to provide feedback on these resources, or to get involved in promoting wellbeing please get in touch.


Get in touch Policy & practice

It can be difficult to make a living from law and it can be pressurised and demanding. Competition and an adversarial approach to everything can make collegiate relationships difficult. This website aims to provide you with the knowledge to manage these stressors, make emotionally informed, wise professional decisions and thrive in your chosen profession.

A simple expression that sums up wellbeing is ‘travelling well’

Psychological wellbeing within the profession is rarely spoken about