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KBW Chambers

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

What was the business (other case) for action?

In March 2018, KBW became increasingly conscious of the need to recognise and promote wellbeing at the Bar and more specifically within Chambers, particularly as the general conversation surrounding mental health increased nationally. Our objective was to change the culture in Chambers, to refocus on transparency amongst peers regarding our respective struggles, and step away from the stigma associated with such openness.

 

Our primary objective was to make the work environment even more supportive and responsive to individual wellbeing issues. We also wanted to help improve the performance of individuals and thereby Chambers’ reputation, and to reduce unexpected absences due to ill health (physical or mental).

 

What did the Chambers do?

Governance:

  • KBW formed a Wellbeing Committee which meets three times a year but operates an open channel of communication, so issues can be raised at any time.
  • The committee includes a representative for the clerks. Chambers has appointed two Wellbeing Officers, one senior and one junior.
  • The Wellbeing Committee has prepared an annual plan of action which has been incorporated into KBW’s annual business plan.

Wellbeing Policy:

  • Wellbeing Officers as a point of contact for any wellbeing-related issues and a clear explanation regarding confidentiality;
  • Provision of a mentor for each pupil;
  • That a post box be placed in the library at KBW to allow for issues to be raised anonymously;
  • Lines of communication between the Wellbeing Committee and the other Committees, i.e. Equality and Diversity and Pupillage Committees to ensure effective responses to specific issues.
  • An acknowledgment that everyone needs to take holidays, and a commitment to avoiding judgment when holiday is requested (particularly for pupils).
  • An acknowledgment that everyone can put their ‘out of office’ on between certain hours if they so wish, and this will not be judged negatively at KBW.
  • A specific plan of action for ‘emergency cases’ whereby individuals are unexpectedly absent from work. For example, by adopting a channel of communication between a named “confidant” and Chambers.

 

 

  • A separate document entitled ‘Responsibilities of the Wellbeing Officers’ clearly sets out the expectations regarding confidentiality, turnaround times (with a response to a wellbeing related issue expected within 24 hours), and the referral process.

Mental Health Training:

  • The Head of Chambers, the Wellbeing Officers and the Chair attended Mental Health First Aid Training with a view to understanding how to identify and approach wellbeing matters.

Awareness Raising Events:

  • KBW has organised and held seminars on Vicarious Trauma at KBW for all members of the North Eastern Circuit.
  • Open discussion sessions are held to encourage everyone to identify any wellbeing-related concerns – separate events are held with barristers, clerks, and pupils to allow for specific issues to be raised without worry.
  • A monthly drop-in wellbeing clinic has been established with one of the Wellbeing Committee members.

Other activities:

  • KBW organises seasonal walks or activities at least three times per year to support chambers cohesion. In Autumn last year, KBW held a weekend picnic which was very well attended.

KBW has impressed. They have a clear vision and have put in place governance arrangements and a policy which defines what is on offer and what should be expected. It is particularly heartening to see that they already feel their wellbeing officers are adding value and supporting colleagues across chambers

Wellbeing at the Bar Working Group

What were the results?

KBW has seen a tangible result from its promotion of wellbeing and openness. The Wellbeing Officers have been well utilised. Individuals have come forward to discuss long-standing issues which have been impacting upon their professional life. In all cases, the Wellbeing Officers have responded positively by making the appropriate referrals (e.g. counselling, or work assessment), setting up new strategies within KBW and, in one case, adopting an approach set out in Bar Council Guidance.

Tips

Dos

  1. Hold a wellbeing introductory seminar for all individuals at Chambers. It shows presence, commitment to the cause and starts to change the impression that wellbeing is a flimsy concept with no practical application.
  2. Do hold separate open discussion sessions with clerks, barristers and pupils to ensure their specific issues are raised from the outset without the worry of offending someone.
  3. Do set up a monthly wellbeing drop-in clinic. If nothing else, it shows presence and serves as a reminder of the wellbeing initiative.

Don’ts

  1. Don’t set the initial bar too high – a realistic early goal (e.g. a first draft of the core policy objectives) is both manageable and something that will naturally assist the development of the project into something more substantial.
  2. Don’t be concerned about asking perceived competitors for help – this is not an area where people are cagey about sharing what they are doing, indeed quite the opposite is the case. We are fellow professionals and it is important that we support each other as one community.
  3. Don’t underestimate how impactful even seemingly small changes can be. For example, a small gesture such as organising a regular weekly in-house lunch gathering can do a lot to improve cohesion and morale.

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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