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Atkin Chambers

Atkin Chambers aspires to be both a good employer and create a safe and supportive environment for work and practice.

What was the ‘business’ (other case) for action?

  • Chambers wishes to enhance its reputation as a desirable workplace, with a focus on staff physical and psychological wellbeing.
  • Chambers aims to encourage and facilitate working practices and services that support the health and wellbeing of all members, pupils and staff, and ensure all supportive measures are promoted and accessible.
  • Healthy and well-motivated members and staff can positively impact the productivity and success of members’ practices. Chambers’ policies and actions aim to reduce work-related stress and create a supportive culture.
  • Chambers wants to respond to the substantial evidence that a flexible approach to working patterns can have significant organisational benefits, including reduced absenteeism, improved morale, lower staff turnover and greater productivity.
  • There is a growing consensus at the Bar about the importance of wellbeing and the need to progress wellbeing initiatives, and Chambers wants to respond to this in a positive way.

What did Chambers do?

Governance

  • Chambers has a created a new dedicated wellbeing officer role for Chambers. The wellbeing officer leads initiatives within Chambers with assistance from Chambers’ COO. The wellbeing officer reports to the management committee ensuring that wellbeing is on the agenda at the top level of Chambers management.
  • Chambers has implemented a health and wellbeing policy to complement its other established policies and promote health and wellbeing initiatives. The policy is reviewed by the COO and the Management Committee every two years to ensure effective implementation of its strategies and is dynamic in that the policy changes with the needs of Chambers’ members, staff and pupils.
  • Chambers understands that a work-life balance is important to reduce work-related stress, and that each individual’s work-life balance is unique to them. Chambers is supportive of flexible working for members, staff and pupils and has implemented a flexible working policy.  Chambers does not encourage a culture that encourages regular working outside office hours.
  • Chambers has a high clerk-to-member ratio and the practice management team hold regular practice review meetings to enable any problems to be discussed early, recognising that feeling isolated can be an issue for barristers.
  • Chambers has implemented an assistance programme with Health Assured for all members, Door Tenants, pupils and staff at Atkin Chambers.  The programme provides top-up support to that provided under Chambers’ private medical health insurance scheme, and that accessible through LawCare.

 

Training

  • Chambers recognises that training is important in building awareness of and embedding best practice as reflected in the relevant policies adopted by Chambers. Training made available to members and staff includes topics such as: difference and diversity, support and mentoring, disability and mental health awareness, stress management, time management, teamwork and dealing with difficult people.
  • Chambers operates a mentoring scheme for members which provides pupils and junior tenants with support and guidance from more senior members. It also provides training to:
  • support managers with the skills to manage people, practice development, and the business as a whole;
  • skills training to utilise new systems and technologies;
  • greater awareness of equality and diversity including disability and mental health issues;
  • professional development for members relevant to their area of work;
  • awareness of the signs of stress in ourselves and in others.

 

Wellbeing initiatives

  • Chambers has created a new section of its intranet dedicated to wellbeing. It has been given prominence with a main link via the homepage. This is to ensure all information to support members, staff and pupils’ wellbeing can easily be located and accessed.
  • Regular proactive communication to staff/members.
  • Chambers recognises the evidential link between exercise and mental wellbeing and Pre-Covid, Chambers hosted a weekly Pilates session in Chambers. Chambers has continued this post-Covid with online sessions recorded for everyone to access in their own time.
  • Chambers hosted a seminar by a certified nutritionist for members and staff to explore healthy eating in the workplace, maximizing energy from what you eat and the link between nutrition and wellbeing.
  • Chambers has reduced the amount of sweet and sugary biscuits and treats available and replaced the offer with fresh fruit and healthy snacks (e.g. oat bars and nuts).
  • Regular social events for members and staff, monthly Chambers lunches and Chambers afternoon tea initiated and maintained. These are regarded as important for cohesiveness within Chambers and they strengthen informal lines of open communication which are helpful in surfacing issues early and making all staff and members feel valued at all levels.

What were the results?

Feedback in relation to the wellbeing initiatives has been positive, with many members and staff taking up the exercise classes available. This has been expanded via the virtual platform to include other forms of exercise including HIIT workouts and varying levels of yoga and Pilates.

There has been positive feedback from all in relation to the healthier snack options available and there has been an active effort following the seminar to change eating habits.

There is an increased recognition in Chambers regarding the importance of wellbeing and an increased readiness and acceptance of the need to discuss the related issues at all levels.

The new appointment of a wellbeing officer has created a clear and cohesive structure and focus on wellbeing.

This focus on wellbeing has continued even throughout the Covid pandemic where Chambers has:

  • supported home working by provided any equipment requested from staff and IT support to aid keeping stress levels down
  • paid for transport into Chambers for staff when it is necessary to be onsite
  • encouraged the use of video calling between all staff and members
  • regularly touching-base with staff and members
  • regular virtual socials including cheese and wine tasting, Friday drinks and quiz nights
  • an all-staff text chat allowing non-work communications and generally chatting and checking in with everyone.

Atkin has a plan – and their approach provides a fantastic example of ‘how to support wellbeing in Chambers’ – with a clearly thought through strategy, now being implemented. They deserve our recognition and our congratulations.

Wellbeing at the Bar Working Group

Tips

  • Continue to ensure wellbeing is seen as an ongoing priority at all levels, especially with staff and members working remotely.
  • Make the information on wellbeing easily accessible so everyone can access it and remind people how to access it regularly.
  • Ensure Chambers has an active and credible wellbeing champion(s) who takes an active role in the promotion of new wellbeing initiatives.

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