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4 New Square Chambers

This case study may be useful if you are looking for examples of increasing awareness of wellbeing, developing resilience training schemes and/or promoting wellbeing initiatives.

4 New Square have started and are developing a programme of training and support to enable members of chambers and staff to thrive in a supportive environment.

It became apparent from the observations of the clerking teams and from the feedback from members of chambers that resilience is an increasingly important attribute at the Bar, as the pressures and demands on barristers have been building up.

This has been through factors such as shorter and tighter court deadlines, increased email traffic, the perception of needing to be always contactable by clients, more onerous regulatory requirements and the frequency of marketing commitments.

What was the business (other case) for action?

Larger sets of chambers perhaps face some different challenges from smaller sets, as getting to know all colleagues individually can be more difficult, and barristers in diverging practice areas might face different pressures or have varying priorities.

As a large, well-resourced set, Chambers is fortunate in having been able to focus for some time (long before the current awareness of “wellbeing” as such) on policies and initiatives in areas such as pupillage, mentoring, fair allocation of work, parental leave, equality and diversity and staff training.

Several members of chambers have attended various external wellbeing events and have been persuaded of the business case for action. This has served as a catalyst for action in chambers, as it has been appreciated that they can build on what is already in place to develop a coherent package with wellbeing at the heart. They think that the key message is that work on wellbeing is not a cost for Chambers which detracts from its other business, but an opportunity to enhance its business.

 

Obvious benefits are:

  • Staff retention, where employees feel valued and supported;
  • Recruitment, of staff and barristers, if chambers is regarded as being a good place to work and build a practice;
  • Activities such as marketing are so much more effective when members of chambers support each other;
  • Chambers should have confidence that clients do not regard a focus on wellbeing as a sign of weakness but as part of what underpins them receiving a reliably excellent service.

What did the Chambers do?

Chambers’ provided professional resilience training by an external provider to all members of chambers and staff for two consecutive years. The training consisted of several sessions addressing a wide range of issues.

When a training need has been identified members of staff have been offered individual training and support to assist them with wellbeing issues.

The Chambers’ Management Committee has set up a working party to focus on wellbeing issues and to develop both a wellbeing policy for Chambers and initiatives to ensure that the policy is effective and promote wellbeing in chambers. The working party is currently developing the policy.

The materials on the Wellbeing at the Bar website have proved invaluable, but they are taking some time over their chambers’ wellbeing policy as they have concluded that it should be a bespoke policy tailored to chambers.

Examples of recent initiatives:

  • The pupillage policy provides for a member of chambers to support their pupils on a strictly confidential basis completely ring fenced from the pupillage assessment system. This is used by the pupils and has proved to be valuable.
  • Chambers has a running club. They run at lunchtimes and one morning each week. There are plans in place to start a weekly fitness training session and offer a weekly yoga class.
  • Junior members of chambers have a guardian for their first year of tenancy and they share a room with that person. Following that each member of chambers has two mentors for their first few years. They offer both informal support and guidance and more structured input in practice development meetings.
  • All members of chambers have quarterly practice development meetings. The regularity of the meetings enables problems to be caught early and promotes a sense of collective enterprise. They recognise that feeling isolated can be an issue.
  • Chambers’ lunches and drinks evenings have been a longstanding feature, regarded as important for cohesiveness in Chambers, but they have been experimenting with timing and venues to see what proves popular.
  • They have publicised the Wellbeing at the Bar website within chambers. Feedback about the site has been very positive.

“4 New Square has clearly identified the benefits of wellbeing investment with a well-articulated business case. They recognise the importance of existing policies e.g. mentoring and fair allocation of work etc. as contributors to any wellbeing strategy. Good to see too, a wide range of initiatives, ranging from resilience training to running and yoga, acknowledging the different strategies that can support individual wellbeing. ”

Wellbeing at the Bar Working Group

What were the results?

The training brought a new level of openness as well as awareness about wellbeing and mental health issues. This helps address one of the main problems which is the feeling that these things cannot be discussed. Openness helps everyone appreciate that lots of people have issues and that it is not something to be ashamed of or secretive about.

That said, confidentiality and autonomy are vital considerations for anyone who may experience a problem which they might wish to discuss, and 4 New Square are working on addressing that in their policy so that everyone can have confidence that confidentiality will be respected.

 

Offering support and training to staff helped performance levels.

They learnt that providing very similar training in consecutive years is not effective and that it is important to change content and approach.

Attitudes towards wellbeing and mental health are slow to change and it will be important to make this a long term project.

Tips

  • As in all walks of life, merely having a written policy on something does not itself necessarily bring about any change. It is essential that the case for a change is made, so that everyone buys into it.

 

  • Attitudes and habits take time to change, and it is not easy to predict what will prove popular and what will work. Keep trying different things to see what goes down well in your organisation.

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.

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