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Handling stress - barrister

My story

“I think that the Bar Wellbeing initiative is crucial. You can use stress to improve your performance, but there comes a point when it becomes counter-productive, and your performance deteriorates due to misplaced perfectionism. You need to be able to talk to somebody. That is not easy to do at the Bar. I spoke about my anxieties mainly to my wife, but also to trusted friends in chambers.  A ‘buttoned-up” approach means that you can’t get rid of the same, circular thoughts. It is vital to recognise that sharing your anxieties is not a sign of weakness.

The wonderful thing about the Bar is independence. Success or failure is down to you. But that carries with it the vice that you are on your own and your failures are very public. Everybody has terrible cases – even the best barristers – and they cause terrible stress. I got better at handling the stress, but it took years of experience.”

Mr Justice Henry Carr

Here are some of my tips:

  1. Focus on your performance and not the result.
  2. Give yourself sufficient time to prepare each case, even if that means turning work down. It will make your performance much better and the working day shorter.
  3. Have a daily plan about what you need to achieve (but know that if you do not meet your goal that is ok).
  4. Take regular breaks and keep proper hours.
  5. Try very hard not to look at emails when you are not working.
  6. When you are preparing a case, don’t look at emails or take calls on other matters until e.g. 12:30 and 16:30.
  7. Select your best points and stick to them.
  8. When faced with a difficult judge, remain polite and non-confrontational. Do your best to still put your points as calmly as you can.

Overall, I found that the maintenance of a good work / life balance, so that I was there for my wife and children, helped to keep triumphs and disasters at work in a proper perspective.

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’

59% of barristers demonstrate unhealthy levels of perfectionism