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.
Serjeants’ Inn specialises in high profile – and often high pressure – medical, police, regulatory and public law cases, typically involving political, ethical or social issues.
Their cases are suffused with the complications and consequences of mental health issues and, as a result, they are particularly conscious of the need for a proactive, progressive approach to well-being within their own organisation.
What was the business (other case) for action?
They see a clear case for action for the following reasons:
They are conscious of the potential effects of these combined pressures on both barristers and staff and are keen to take steps to reduce and offset them.
They are also aware of the direct and indirect costs of well-being problems to a business, as publicised by, for example, the CBI in its report: “Getting better: workplace health as a business issue”.
What did the Chambers do?
They have adopted the BUPA philosophy:
“Well-being is not an initiative, it’s about creating a culture and environment where people thrive,” Patrick Watt, corporate director and global head of wellness at BUPA.
Their approach has therefore been to establish and publicise a general, central Chambers commitment to well-being in the conviction that a wide range of diverse, non-prescriptive initiatives would flourish from that, reflecting individual preferences and personalities and their different views of what “thriving” might mean.
They have set out to create an open, supportive culture in Chambers with an emphasis on a preventative – but not intrusive – approach to well-being.
Their approach includes measures as follows:
building awareness of well-being and its importance within Chambers:
improving communication about workload and stress points:
facilitating flexible working and investing in support – systems:
developing individual resilience and relevant skills:
supporting and promoting individual initiatives:
Some of these measures were introduced in direct response to suggestions made in a barrister and staff consultation exercise in 2015, which attracted a 96% response rate and which was followed by five workshop discussions. This process covered all aspects of working at Serjeants’ Inn and in so far as it concerned well-being it was informed by the Bar Council’s Resilience Framework Assessment on well-being which was published around the same time.
They have also been advised by a key member of staff who trained in well-being and stress management for self-employed practitioners as part of her degree in Music at the Guildhall. She is now their Well-being Officer.
What were the results?
This is difficult to quantify but they can provide some figures:
Qualitatively they would refer you to the following:
“Many places talk of having an open-door policy but SIC truly has this. In three decades in Chambers each person, whether barrister or staff, has always been open to any queries I have had about legal, professional, ethical or personal issues” – senior barrister
“Chambers provide members of staff with free gym membership which is a really helpful scheme, especially if you are having a tough day at the office. I find that a quick work-out at lunch time can be great stress relief and also helps increase my concentration levels for what might be in store for the afternoon” – staff member
“Upon joining Serjeants’ Inn I was provided with a mentor – a slightly more senior barrister doing similar work. I found the arrangement immensely helpful, both as a means of practical guidance and information but also pastorally, during what was a time of great change. It made the process of meeting new people and being accepted as a member very easy. It enabled me to feel included and confident around Chambers from very early on.” – established practitioner who joined from another set
“There is a very open attitude towards communicating any issues or concerns within chambers. Team leaders and the senior management team are proactive in relaying information to each other. It doesn’t matter how junior the member of staff or barrister is, time is made to support and resolve problems swiftly and efficiently. Making sure everyone feels like they are being listened to is crucial to minimizing stress. This is greatly assisted by the open-plan design of the premises but it is mainly about attitude and ethos” – staff member.
“Serjeant’s Inn Chambers’ story is well worth a read for the breadth of thought, support and safeguarding in place. Serjeant’s Inn clearly demonstrate a deep understanding of this agenda and have been strategic in recognising the need to tackle stress points as well as introduce new initiatives. This makes their approach much more authentic. Changing the way work is done in chambers, the focus on a positive workplace culture as well as the substantial commitment made in wide range of areas including initiatives like gym membership is inspiring.”
Wellbeing at the Bar Working Group
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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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