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Gainsborough Law

To introduce wellbeing to the conversation in chambers, Chambers decided to design a range of pragmatic approaches which they felt would be meaningful and have impact. They felt that an earlier focus on enhancing a positive working culture within chambers provided them with a sound foundation and a level of trust and openness, conducive to discussing wellbeing.

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

One of Gainsborough Law’s recent business objectives was to focus on organisational development. They invited those who work within Chambers to discuss their views on what working for an engaging organisation meant to them. On the back of this, they implemented ideas to foster a positive and innovative working culture.

When faced with lockdown and the challenges of working remotely during a pandemic, they decided to build on their success and bring wellbeing to the forefront. They felt that increasing awareness of wellbeing and discussing it openly, was a natural progression for them.

The business case for introducing wellbeing at this point was based on the unprecedented situation everyone found themselves in (working from home, managing the unknown and coping with pandemic anxiety during the initial COVID-19 lockdown period). Chambers recognised that more than ever, there was a need to support each other and clients.

 

 

Chambers also knew that developing initiatives to support wellbeing in the workplace was widely-recognised as a trait of a successful organisation which believed in supporting its greatest asset – its people.

As individuals with different responsibilities within Chambers (ranging from clerking to IT to Head of Chambers to barrister), they understood that wellbeing would mean different things to different people at different times and they should aim to be aware of this in all they did.

What did Chambers do?

The range of approaches included the following actions:

Policy

  • Developing a Chambers’ “Wellbeing at Work” policy which set out a commitment to promoting work-life balance and dignity at work. The policy includes sources of support within chambers/signposting other support e.g. Wellbeing at the Bar, Law Care, Mind, SANE and the Samarians.

A new approach to meetings

  • Scheduling regular online video meetings for everyone and ensuring they always start with an informal chat to catch up on family news and life outside Chambers.
  • Ensuring meeting agendas are balanced between task and people updates. Where there are ‘people updates’, including ideas on ways to improve wellbeing and work/life balance in Chambers (sometimes this slot is used to share experiences/support others).
  • Increasing the number of formal and informal practice management meetings between barristers and practice managers to better monitor (and support) counsel in respect of changes in work and income during the pandemic.

Internship Programme (work experience)

  • Adopting more open communications with interns with a focus on looking after mental and physical health (especially during Covid-19)
  • Creating a modern and innovative internship and mentoring programme, designed to support the next generation of aspiring barristers – covering topics such as managing relationships at the Bar, stress, emotional and financial wellbeing.
  • Providing interns with emotional and financial support to reach those who would ordinarily be unable to undertake unpaid legal work experience or legal work.
  • Fostering a culture of participation, collaboration and equality in the internship programme where interns are encouraged to support other’s learning.
  • Using social media to celebrate and promote the successes of aspiring barristers and Chambers’ interns, particularly those who have overcome difficult circumstances.
  • Training members to become pupil supervisors and using the skills gained to inform the approach to the wellbeing and support of Chambers’ interns.

Communications about Wellbeing

  • Publishing articles about wellbeing (recent articles have included “Covid-19: The 3 things we do to promote a positive Chambers’ culture”) on Chambers’ website and via social media.
  • Championing wellbeing initiatives for those who work within and with Chambers via social media.

Wider Equality/CSR activity (which supports wellbeing)

  • Chambers champions equality and diversity for female barristers and celebrate events like International Women’s Day – publicly recognising the important contributions that female colleagues make to Chambers and recognising and supporting other female barristers and solicitors.
  • Developing and publishing Corporate and Social Responsibility policies for Chambers including an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policy
  • Promoting volunteering e.g. mentoring women barristers and students through Themis and Doughty Street Chambers Mentoring Scheme, pro bono work (including via the “We Are Advocate” scheme), offering mentoring via Middle Temple’s sponsorship scheme.
  • Charity work and fundraising such as participating in the London Legal Walk.

Social Support

  • A virtual “Welcome to Chambers” meeting with a new barrister joining Chambers with a more substantial celebratory virtual reception planned.
  • A virtual Chambers’ Christmas tea party with a prize for the best dressed Christmas outfit for all members of Chambers, staff and interns.

Clients

  • Adopting more open communications with clients, recognising that everyone was faced with the same challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic.

What were the results?

Chambers found and continue to find, many benefits of increasing their awareness of wellbeing and integrating it into work conversations and activities.

Some of the benefits experienced include:

  • Regular meetings have continued as participants have reported finding them immensely useful and supportive.
  • A feeling has been expressed that the development of the Gainsborough Law team and the aim to develop a more inclusive working culture, has led to people feeling more open to express views or problems, especially in relation to their own wellbeing.
  • Outside of meetings there is a greater feeling of camaraderie and understanding of the type of support that individuals find helpful when they are struggling with their wellbeing.
  • Meetings, projects, hearings or other activities are scheduled with the individual’s work/life demands in mind.
  • Everyone is more open about their caring responsibilities or other demands of their time outside of work. Chambers’ have now increased their support for more flexible working patterns.
  • Chambers’ staff, barristers and interns know each other better and there is a growing level of confidence in everyone’s abilities to contribute to Chambers’ success.
  • Awareness has increased over the importance of developing authentic client relationships. This now underpins Chambers’ philosophy with respect to the customer service they strive to provide and their aim to offer a first class, transparent service.
  • Aspiring and practising barristers contact Chambers to express interest in their approach and in joining Chambers. Judges, solicitors and lay clients have praised their wellbeing initiatives.

‘Gainsborough Law has clearly worked hard to create a supportive environment where people are comfortable in discussing wellbeing. It is also good to see such a focus on mentoring and the introduction of discussions around managing relationships at the Bar, stress and emotional and financial wellbeing for their interns’.

Wellbeing at the Bar Working Group

Tips

Do

  • Involve everyone who has a role in Chambers’ life to participate. This supports implementation and has other benefits such as increased understanding of others, trust, strong client relationships, creativity and teamwork.
  • Find out what would personally support everyone’s wellbeing at work. Often simple, inexpensive changes or actions make the world of difference to pressures that others are feeling.
  • Start with simple but effective ideas that can involve others and soon become embedded in the working culture of Chambers.

Don’t

  • Expect people to be open about their own wellbeing if the working environment of Chambers, or the leadership style within Chambers’ is autocratic and non-participative.
  • Spend time developing ‘formal’ wellbeing initiatives, policies or procedures which look good on paper but are difficult to implement.
  • Forget to reflect and review! Evaluation helps to continuously improve all aspects of wellbeing support.

 

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