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St John’s 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.

St John’s chambers in Bristol signed up to a local government wellbeing charter which they now use to provide a framework for wellbeing initiatives and as a quality mark for marketing purposes.

“The Wellbeing of chambers staff and members is central to our success and the initiative reflects this priority. It provides a concrete focus for wealth improvement via the noticeboard and associated activities, and sends a positive message about chambers’ commitment to both clients and the community. We hope other chambers will join the initiative” – Susan Hunter, Head of Chambers (July 2016)

The Bristol Workplace Wellbeing Charter is an award that recognises positive local employers who manage and support their workforce. The Charter demonstrates the employer is working to a set of locally and nationally agreed standards. It involves:

  • Self-assessing against a set of nationally agreed standards
  • Devising an action plan to drive future change
  • Working with staff and other organisations to implement good practice
  • Reducing sickness absence and improving staff wellbeing

The Charter sets standards (and provides resources) for:

  • Leadership
  • Attendance Management
  • Health & Safety Requirements
  • Mental Health & Wellbeing
  • Smoking
  • Physical Activity
  • Healthy Eating
  • Alcohol and Substance Abuse

What was the business (other case) for action?

Aside from an existing commitment to the wellbeing of members and staff, as an added benefit, St John’s Chambers found adoption of the charter also helped differentiate their chambers in the local market (demonstrating social responsibility) and reflected the fact that five of their professional clients had also signed up to the initiative.

What did the Chambers do?

St John’s:

  • Signed up and got a ‘kit’ with lots of wellbeing resources
  • Used the Charter as a road map and adapted the materials to suit a chambers environment (mix of employees and self-employed members of chambers) and discussed/agreed adaptions with the local council team.
  • Used the Charter framework to audit chambers’ policy and practice and assess where they met criteria and where they didn’t. This helped them identify activity/priorities.

What were the results?

St John’s found one advantage of the Charter was that it provided a framework for chambers’ policies and initiatives.

They found there were some disadvantages with the Charter in that some of the language had to be adapted to suit a chambers environment (for the term employees in the Charter they needed to also accommodate self-employed barristers as ‘members’ of chambers).

They were able to negotiate these adaptions with the local council.

 

In using the Charter, St John’s found:

  • There were gaps in communication with staff and members who were not all aware of policies and support available in chambers.
  • The free resources available through the Charter were extremely useful
  • The Charter could easily be adapted to a chambers’ context

“We particularly loved the wellbeing wall in chambers! St John’s provide a great example of the effective use of an external initiative (Bristol’s local government wellbeing charter) as a framework and source of resources for their wellbeing initiatives. Interesting to also see their membership of this initiative identified as an opportunity to align chambers with their clients’ approach and commitment to wellbeing.”

Wellbeing at the Bar Working Group

Tips

St John’s Chambers suggest the following tips with respect to using a ‘Wellbeing Charter’

  • Use the fact that a number of professional clients/other clients use the framework to sell the concept of participation to your management board
  • Identify and cultivate ‘Wellbeing’ champions internally
  • Introduce initiatives (e.g. physical activity, smoking cessation etc.) periodically (the Charter recommends monthly but St John’s found this too frequent and instead introduced new initiatives a couple of times a year, based on the seasons)
  • Report progress annually to the management board
  • Develop a wellbeing noticeboard in a prominent place in chambers to showcase activity (include photo) and make a member of staff responsible for keeping it up to date
  • Use the Charter to access lots of free resources available through participation
  • Use the Charter as a quality mark in marketing promotion etc.

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.


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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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