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St Philips Chambers

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

In April 2018, St Philips formed a Wellbeing Committee in Chambers to: (a) further the interests of barristers, clerks and non-clerking staff members in respect of their physical, mental and emotional health; (b) to promote opportunities for their personal and professional development; and to (c) promote the cohesion and wellbeing of chambers.

In the modern Chambers environment, managing wellbeing is non-negotiable. We identified that the issue of wellbeing needed a clear and cohesive strategy be effective – it needed planning, budgeting, participation at all levels, and buy-in from the leadership. On that basis a Wellbeing Committee was formed, which currently includes 4 barristers, 2 members of the clerking team and a member of the administration team.

 

What was the business (other case) for action?

The Wellbeing Committee identified four key needs which it felt required attention for them to continue to move forward as a successful, modern set of Chambers, with barrister and staff welfare at the forefront of its strategy.

  • The need for barristers to feel part of a cohesive unit, to ensure retention, motivation and the avoidance of burn-out. This would keep barristers healthy and happy, which would lead to increased efficiency and quality of work, and reduce sudden absences on grounds of stress etc. It would also foster a cohesion and team spirit at a time when agile working can seem more appealing to the younger population of chambers (thereby reducing their ‘face-time’ in chambers).
  • The need for the clerks, especially junior clerks, to be given opportunities to develop and improve. Again, this was to encourage retention, and to promote Chambers as a responsible employer, but also to drive performance in the clerks’ room (for which there is an obvious business case)
  • The need for staff to be rewarded and appreciated. Again, this is to improve retention and motivation, promote chambers as a responsible employer, and to create a happier workforce which would, in turn, reduce the amount of management time taken up with staff issues.

The need for a purpose and identity, which every business needs, but which had become particularly acute after two mergers and the acquisition of two sites away from the Birmingham hub. The camaraderie for which chambers had locally become famous needed reinforcing as it was in danger of dilution by the spreading of chambers’ net to London and Leeds.

What did the Chambers do?

  • Set up a designated Wellbeing Committee in Chambers with its own ring-fenced budget
  • Secured visible support from the Head of Chambers and the management committee
  • Introduced a regular ‘chambers tea’ which, outside of London, is relatively unusual – and recognised the need to continue to facilitate social events where barristers and staff can mix
  • Set up in-house sporting activities (boxing lessons are now in place)
  • Established a formal partnership with Chaplaincy Plus, a local charity that provides chaplaincy and listening services for barristers or staff
  • Hosted a seminar on the topic of “Making A Difference in a Performance Culture”, presented by the previous FD of a multi-national ‘household name’ company, with more seminars and workshops to come
  • Introducing staff incentive schemes (‘extra mile’ award)
  • Facilitated participation in mentoring and tutoring of talented low-income A-Level/GCSE students via The Access Project (hosting an information session, and signposting those who wish to volunteer)

St Philips is also:

  • Looking to establish a ‘charity of the year’ and to engage in various fundraising or volunteering activities
  • Currently compiling a staff survey, and introducing a ‘suggestions box’

What were the results?

Although in its infancy, the response to the newly established Wellbeing Committee and its activities has been nothing but positive. It has given barristers and staff the opportunity and platform to voice their opinions and we are now finding that Chambers is already working in a more cohesive way to continually improve its operation.

“St Philips has a well-considered approach to wellbeing, establishing a committee with senior level buy-in to drive forward initiatives and maintain focus. We particularly impressed with links made to a local charity that provides chaplaincy and listening services for barristers or staff.”

Wellbeing at the Bar Working Group

Tips

  • Insist on buy-in from the chambers leadership and get explicit statements of support and intent. It helps when the top brass are clearly behind the initiatives!
  • Promote a positive attitude. Our profession can sometimes be slow to take on ideas which our clients have been embracing for years, so you need to grin and bear it sometimes.
  • Don’t let wellbeing become a forum for individual complaints or disputes!

 

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.

A simple expression that sums up wellbeing is ‘travelling well’

Psychological wellbeing within the profession is rarely spoken about