It is easy to be overwhelmed and not know where to start when introducing wellbeing to chambers (or broaching the subject with your employer).
This area provides guidance packs and promotional media for barristers’ chambers, barristers, clerks & chambers’ staff and external agencies.
Robin Allen QC, Head of Chambers at Cloisters, shares experience of supporting barristers with poor wellbeing and explains the benefits of early intervention and of being proactive on the wellbeing agenda.
It can be difficult to manage and support an individual member or staff with a wellbeing problem. Here we set out simple steps that we recommend you consider before introducing wellbeing to your organisation. We also provide advice and guidance in dealing with a wellbeing issue at work for those in a management role.
If you are doing something interesting on wellbeing and are willing to share, please tell us about it. Your experience will help others.
Psychological Wellbeing: Best practice guidelines for the legal profession
The Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation (TJMF) Mental Health Guidelines document provides a voluntary framework for legal organisations to utilise, identifying 13 psychological factors that support wellbeing in the workplace.
The advantage of this type of framework (and others like it) is that they enable you to audit your current working environment and working conditions with respect to members and staff wellbeing, and on this basis to identify gaps and priorities for action.
The TJMF Framework suggests actions ranging from basic compliance through to standard, advanced and best practice.
On first reading it may seem too complex for any chambers but if you simplify and adapt the framework it will support you in developing a more considered approach to wellbeing and to wellbeing initiatives.
Creating mentally healthy workplaces
A report on what works in regards to mental health in the workplace complements the TJMF model and suggests six success factors for a mentally healthy workplace:
This research also suggests that creating a mentally healthy workplace requires an ongoing, staged approach with five key steps:
This is a sensible approach to developing any policy.
If you come across another piece of research or framework which you have found useful in your organisation or chambers, please do let us know and we will provide the link to others interested in this agenda.
Wellbeing Standards, Charters, Pledges or Indices are a useful way to access:
A number of local authorities have established Workplace Wellbeing Charters you can go onto the main national website and key in your area to find out whether your local authority participates.
You can read about how St John’s Chambers in Bristol has got involved with their local Bristol Workplace Wellbeing Charter initiative below.
MIND promote a workplace based ‘Employer Pledge’. Signing it helps organisations demonstrate their commitment to mental health in the workplace.
MIND are also developing a Workplace Wellbeing Index at the moment. This will provide a benchmark for best policy and practice. It is designed for employers so all aspects may not be relevant for chambers but we will provide a review when we know more.
Other indices to consider
A healthy workplace charter – mostly public sector and London based.
https://www.businesshealthy.org/ – this is part of a City of London initiative and produces some useful blogs about mental wellbeing.
http://citymha.org.uk/ – this is designed for professional services and mental health, but is worth looking at – it includes big professional services names.
Mental Health First Aid England – managers’ resource
Other pledges, awards and standards to sign up for
A number of chambers have been kind enough to share their policies:
Or take a look at our case studies of various chambers and how they have benefited from taking part in a wellbeing initiative: Case studies
Take a look at our FAQ page.
Tip: We recommend signing up to a larger initiative if you are looking to take wellbeing forward in chambers. Linking your activity to a recognised initiative will help you to frame your strategy, access resources and get recognition for your work.
“The role of a barrister is a very lonely one and we have learnt it is very important to give opportunities to talk to members. I felt we needed to be more proactive than reactive and I therefore do a weekly walk through chambers picking up any issues”.
Fiona Fitzgerald, CEO, Radcliffe Chambers
As a chambers / entity you need to comply with both the BSB Handbook and with the law (e.g. employment and health & safety law).
There are four main areas of the BSB Handbook that you will need to be aware of in relation to managing your own or a chambers’ wellbeing issue:
Harassment and victimisation may amount to serious misconduct: see gC96.2 and the BSB’s separate Guidance on Reporting Serious Misconduct of Others (at paragraphs 11 to 18).
The BSB have also stated, in that separate Guidance (paragraph 8), that: “Depending on the severity and impact of the discriminatory behaviour, discrimination can constitute serious misconduct”.
The wide meaning in law of ‘discrimination’ is explained in paragraph 10 of that separate Guidance.
Other Core Duties
CD10 You must take reasonable steps to manage your practice, or carry out your role within your practice, competently and in such a way as to achieve compliance with your legal and regulatory obligations.
Equality and Diversity
rC110.3 You must take reasonable steps to ensure that in relation to your chambers or BSB authorised body, … the following requirements are complied with:
i. If you are a self-employed barrister, the affairs of your chambers are conducted in a manner which is fair and equitable for all members of chambers, pupils and/or employees (as appropriate). This includes, but is not limited to, the fair distribution of work opportunities among pupils and members of chambers;
Where mental or physical health is concerned, wider equality and diversity obligations may also be triggered.
rC89 Taking into account the provisions of Rule C90, you must take reasonable steps to ensure that:
.1 your chambers is [sic] administered competently and efficiently;
.8 appropriate risk management procedures are in place and are being complied with;
The focus of those provisions is likely to be seen as being risks to clients, but wellbeing issues may in some situations give rise to such risks. The management of such risks, and any policies in that regard, are a matter for each set of chambers.
Other Chambers’ Policies
Chambers may have their own policies in place specifically to deal with wellbeing issues which go beyond, or are separate from, strict equality and diversity issues, but there is no requirement to have such policies. For guidance on complaints see the FAQs.
Click here to view the FAQs to support those managing a wellbeing issue
In dealing with any wellbeing/wellbeing related issue in chambers (or an entity), you need to be clear on the following:
This might seem daunting but Andrew Walker QC, Chairman Ethics Committee (2016) has pointed out ““In general, we anticipate that the BSB is likely to take a proportionate approach, and be content for chambers to go as far as they sensibly and reasonably can and wish to go to manage a wellbeing issue internally, up to the point at which (1) this raises a risk to any duties under the Handbook, (2) the public interest is compromised, or (3) a significant risk of adverse consequences arises for clients, the public, the profession or members of chambers”
Related to this, in managing a member of chambers, you need to consider:
In managing a member of staff, you need to consider:
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.
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