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Mistake at work

"I think I made a mistake that may cost me my tenancy!"

The early years of practice are your most vulnerable, and it is common for pupils to make some mistakes while finding their feet.  What is critical is the way you respond.

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There are a range of organisations which can help with specific issues. Click here for some advice on seeking help and for a list of organisations and their contact details. Support

Here are some tips when dealing with a possible mistake

  • Rationalise – There is a major difference between real errors (negligence) and poor judgments on tactical issues.
  • Take a step back – Some (most) barristers are ruminators and perfectionists, and as a result, are masters at replaying events and wishing they had done something else. Take a step back, pause, and try not to obsess over a situation that you cannot change.
  • Analyse the situation – ask yourself whether this was a negligent error or a poor judgment call?
  • Take control – after evaluating the situation, take ownership of your actions. Whatever you think can be done to remedy the situation, take steps to do so.

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  • Speak up – If you made an error and could face disciplinary action or a professional complaint as a result, the best thing would be to share with your Pupil Supervisor or employer. There is nothing worse, for magnifying the scale of the problem, than internalising.
  • Ask a colleague – Seek the views of others in chambers, a mentor or another barrister friend for their view of the issue.

“I now accept that as a human being first and foremost, one makes mistakes, however as long as we learn from them then that’s ok.  It’s a much more forgiving and a humane perspective on not just work, but life in general”.

Barrister, 5+ years’ Call

Where can I find out more?

Contact Bar Council’s Ethical Enquiries Service

Tel: 020 7611 1307 (Monday – Friday 09:15 – 17:15)

Email: Ethics@BarCouncil.org.uk

Pupillage Helpline: 020 7611 1323

(09:15-17:15 Monday-Friday)

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The information and resource packs above are designed to help you during a very specific period in your training to become a barrister. If you want to provide feedback on these resources, or to get involved in promoting wellbeing amongst those in a similar position to yourself please get in touch.


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Training to become a barrister is pressured and demanding. Intensive competition for limited pupillages (and when in pupillage for tenancy or employment) can make collegiate relationships difficult. This website aims to provide you with the knowledge to manage those stressors, make emotionally informed, wise decisions and hopefully thrive in your chosen profession.

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

2 in 3 barristers feel that showing signs of stress equals weakness