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Help for barristers

Barristers inherently face very specific challenges on a daily basis. If you need some help click on support to find contact details and advice on seeking support.

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Help for clerks and staff

The professional lives of clerks and chambers’ staff include many potential stressors. If you don’t know how to broach an issue, want advice on your options.

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Help for students and pupils

These resources have been designed specifically for those who have completed their BPTC and for pupils up to tenancy.

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Our vision

Find out what Wellbeing at the Bar aims to achieve.

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Policy & practice

Guidance on how to introduce wellbeing policies and initiatives and on tackling a wellbeing issue in chambers.

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Media pack

Logos and banners to help you to promote wellbeing.

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Case studies

Examples of successful wellbeing initiatives adopted by chambers, Specialist Bar Associations and the Inns of Court.

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Support for barristers

Who to talk to, how to get help in coping with the pressures and demands of life at the Bar.

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Support for clerks and staff

Who to talk to and how to get help, resources are for clerks and staff themselves.

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Support for students and pupils

Who to talk to and how to get help for those who have completed their BPTC and for pupils up to tenancy.

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Assistance programme

The confidential 24/7 helpline with access to counselling for barristers, pupils, clerks and chambers’ staff.

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Support for barristers

Assistance Programme

Click here

Need help? CONFIDENTIAL telephone support, counselling services, as well as online resources are now available.

This Assistance Programme (AP) service, funded by the Bar Mutual Indemnity Fund (BMIF), is now available to the entire self-employed Bar. It is also available to members of the Institute of Barristers’ Clerks (IBC) and the Legal Practice Managers Association (LPMA).

How to have a wellbeing conversation

Increasing self-awareness will help you spots the signs and symptoms of stress more easily. This improves emotional intelligence (EI), a key driver in effective leadership and self-management. High EI means you address difficulties head-on, draw on internal resilience and source creative solutions which work for you.

Resilient people know when to ask for support. Whilst this is not always easy, this courageous move will fast-track you to re-building strength and performance. Research demonstrates that hoping things will get better on their own or ignoring signs and symptoms of stress frequently results in unhelpful negative thought patterns. This can manifest itself in poor sleep, distraction, procrastination and poor performance.

Who can I speak to?

You should pick someone you trust and who you think has the capacity to listen. This person doesn’t have to be from the same chambers or even in the same area of law; a professional friend is likely to be a good place to start. It may be more helpful to speak to someone more senior or about the same level of call, depending on the issue.

Before asking for support it is completely natural to have doubts about whether or not you can trust the person. You might worry about their reaction. Ultimately it is only you who can choose the person with whom you will share your concerns.

Remember one in four adults in the UK will experience a mental health concern or issue in any one year (Mind, 2016). It is entirely possible that the person you disclose to will have experience of mental ill-health, either directly or through close friends and family. The more we can open up to others about mental ill-health, the more we reduce stigma and misunderstanding.

What should I say?

You might start the discussion with a simple statement or question such as “Have you got 5 minutes, I could do with a chat?” or “I’m not feeling 100% at the moment”. Or perhaps “I need some help and I would appreciate your advice”.

I don’t want to burden others

It is completely natural to be concerned about opening up to someone, particularly if you believe that everyone in chambers feels as overworked as you do. You might be surprised by people’s response. It is possible that by opening up you give others the courage to share their fears too.

Trying to carry on when your wellbeing is compromised will eventually affect you negatively. We are not designed to withstand relentlessly high levels of pressure. Think of this as an opportunity to relieve the pressure and move towards re-building your resilience. Ultimately you will be back to previous high levels of performance more quickly than if left to fester.

But stress is part of the job isn’t it?

Stress and pressure are two different things. We need pressure to stimulate us into action. Pressure is certainly part of a life in law. For many barristers and clerks the intellectual stimulation and high-stakes decision-making are what attracts them to the role in the first place. Temporary high levels of pressure such as preparing for a case in short timeframes, presenting to a packed court with a challenging judge, researching a significant point of law are common scenarios for barristers. The human body and mind are designed to function effectively during these periods, provided they are followed by rest and recuperation. Consistently operating under high pressure, with ineffective (or no) breaks leads to stress. Stress is a harmful, affecting the mind, body and behaviour in ways that can cause long term damage.

To operate at the top of your game you need to build in mechanisms to maintain energy and focus. Many of these strategies are discussed in The ingredients to good wellbeing. Once you have developed your own techniques for managing pressure and avoiding stress these stay with you for life.

What will help me most?

You may already know what you need. It might be something as simple as taking a break, making a cup of tea and having something to eat. It could be having a night off work completely, including emails. Maybe that can be the start of achieving a longer break from cases, for a day or two or even long enough to take a holiday. For some, writing a ‘To Do’ list and focusing only on the task or tasks that actually need to be done now can help enormously. But perhaps right now a listening ear will make the biggest impact. Simply talking to a colleague may be what you need to put things in perspective and start the journey towards practical adjustments and solutions. You do not have to solve everything immediately. This is about taking the first step. It could make the biggest difference to your life right now.

Mental health charities

The following mental health charities have lots of information about different mental health conditions and where individuals can find support.


LawCare LawCare is an independent charity offering emotional support, information and training to the legal community.

Tel: 0800 279 6888

Mental health foundation

Charity improving the lives of those with mental health problems or learning disabilities.



A mental health charity and helpline to offer support those dealing with mental illness. Also provide information about treatment.

Tel: 0300 123 3393


A website offering help and support for people affected by mental illness.



Available 24 hours a day to provide confidential emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress, despair or suicidal thoughts.

Tel: 116 123


A mental health charity helping improve the quality of life for anyone affected by mental illness.

Tel: 0300 304 7000

Barrister Networks

Barristers with Lived Experience of Mental Illness

The aim of Barristers with Lived Experience of Mental Illness (BLEMI) is to provide a mutual support network for its members and to make the Bar more accessible to people with lived experience of mental illness.

For more information please contact:

Steve Broach:

Alice Irving:



Financial support

Financial pressure is a major cause of stress and anxiety at the Bar. The Barristers’ Benevolent Association can help in certain circumstances.

The Barristers’ Benevolent Association

The BBA is here to assist barristers (past and present), members of the judiciary (past and present) and their dependants through difficult times, financially or ill health.

Tel: 020 7242 4761

Marshall Hall Trust

The Inner Temple has authorised a fund during the COVID-19 crisis to alleviate the hardship experienced by pupils and very junior practitioners who are not eligible for the Government scheme for the self-employed. The application process and loans and grants awarded will be administered by the Inn’s existing hardship fund, the Marshall Hall Trust. Please click here for further information.

Other legal wellbeing charities

Charlie Waller Memorial Trust

The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust is here to talk openly about depression, show how to maintain wellbeing, and offer help as to what and where the most appropriate treatment is available.


Silence of Suicide Initiative

Silence of Suicide is an initiative borne out of the tragedy of suicide which aims to facilitate open discourse & eradicate stigma.


Dealing with Bereavement


A website with links to different bereavement charities.


Getting psychological support

It takes courage to acknowledge you are experiencing difficulties with mental wellbeing. Asking for professional help can be a daunting prospect. How can you be sure what type of service would be best placed to help you? Will this treatment/approach work? How do you know this service provider delivers safe, effective treatments?

There are different routes you can take to access support. If you are an employed barrister, you may find your employer offers an employee assistance programme (e.g. telephone counselling). Whilst this may not be an option for most self-employed barristers, there are lots of other ways of getting psychological support.


Counselling (or therapy) is provided by qualified practitioners working under a code of good ethical practice. They will have completed between 400 – 450 hours of training and will be associated with a professional body such as The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy

Other professional bodies include;

  • The United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy
  • The British Psychoanalytical Council
  • The British Psychological Society

If you need further clarification of someone’s qualifications before embarking on counselling their professional body will be happy to help.

To find a qualified counsellor or psychotherapist in your area, you can access a list through the BACP website. Throughout the following descriptions the term ‘counsellor’ is used synonymously with psychotherapist/therapist.

What happens in a counselling session?

You can expect a counselling session to last approximately 50 minutes. You will usually be offered a series of sessions – between six and eight sessions is typical, although this will be discussed. Your counsellor will have been trained in a particular clinical approach and will make their style and specialisms clear with you before you start working together. A good counsellor creates a safe, trusted and confidential space where you will feel able to work at your own pace. You will be supported to share your thinking and feelings with a non-judgemental expert. You will also be encouraged to create your own way forward with encouragement and guidance. Suggestions and recommendations for further activity and resources may be offered.

It is not unusual to believe our issues are overwhelming or too complex to be solved. We might also feel that personal problems are in some way insignificant, especially if we are experiencing guilt, thinking that others are worse off than us. Counsellors have experience across the range of human emotion and adversity. The areas you wish to address will always be respected. If you feel that you have not connected with your counsellor on first meeting, this does not mean counselling is not for you. You may find that you need to contact a different counsellor.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

CBT is a therapeutic intervention commonly employed by counsellors. It is a practical talking therapy focusing on the links and patterns between feelings, thinking (cognition) and action (behaviour). The intention of CBT is to break negative and unhelpful thinking patterns. A counsellor using CBT methods will work with you to explore your thinking, feeling and behaviour. He/she will create understanding around and how faulty thinking can lead to distress. The process is future focused and goal oriented. It is designed to change behaviour, replacing negative behaviour patterns with more helpful approached. Discussion is generally about the present and future with little emphasis on the past. Many people find this refreshing as they prefer not to talk about childhood or traumatic past experiences.

CBT can also be delivered online, in groups and through books. It is important to remember that as with any mental ill-health intervention, CBT does not work for everyone. This does not mean that your issues cannot be resolved.

Other therapeutic approaches including psychodynamic therapy, dialectical behaviour therapy and eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) are described here


LawCare is a free confidential telephone support service offered to members of the legal professions in the UK and Ireland. You can call their free helpline on 0800 279 6888.


Have you noticed that mindfulness is everywhere at the moment? It is the latest buzzword in wellbeing and everyone from US Marines to UK school children are practicing mindfulness in some capacity.

Mindfulness is the practice of present moment awareness. It is a secular concept based on ancient Buddhist practices of contemplation. In its simplest form, mindfulness is pausing to notice your present experience. This grounds us in reality and can help move us away from unhelpful thinking patterns about the past or future. Regular mindfulness practice (usually in the form of meditation) has been shown to reduce levels of stress, depression and anxiety. Considerable evidence is building to support mindfulness as a brain training tool to increase resilience, improve decision making and boost focus. Mindfulness is also being used to support people who wish to alter unhelpful relationships or habits with food and other aspects of life. Neuroscientists have been able to demonstrate physical brain changes in the brains of participants which indicate that mindfulness practice can positively alter brain function and human behaviour.

There are a multitude of mindfulness resources available including smart phone apps , books and online courses. Many people find that face to face teaching sessions are most beneficial as this provides a robust foundation on which to base daily practice. This approach also ensures that any challenges can be discussed with an expert.

Mindfulness involves being with your thoughts, observing them and noticing your emotional responses to thinking patterns. This ‘sitting’ with emotions is counter to our societal norms which generally involve avoidance and distraction. The experience of ‘being’ can initially feel overwhelming. We spend much of our lives on ‘autopilot’ moving from one task to the next. As a legal professional you doubtless experience a permanently ‘busy brain’. This can be an inevitable consequence of an intellectually demanding role and balancing the demands of family life. Taking time to slow down and focus initially requires support from an experienced mindfulness practitioner.

Those currently experiencing mental ill-health or with a diagnosis of depression, anxiety (or other mental health condition) are advised to carefully consider the capability of their teacher before embarking on a programme of training. Mindfulness is not currently regulated in the UK. This means anyone can claim to be an expert in mindfulness and offer teaching free or for profit.

A reputable mindfulness practitioner will have been trained according to the guidelines of the UK network for mindfulness based teacher training organisations. This requires a high level of personal and teaching practice, including supervision by more experienced practitioners.

Mindfulness can be a transformative experience for many. However, as with CBT and other wellbeing interventions it does not provide a guaranteed solution.


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Your GP

Consulting your GP is a positive first step. Being proactive as soon as you suspect you may be depressed will help you feel more in control of your situation.

If you are diagnosed with depression or anxiety (for example) your GP should offer a range of support.

Take a look at this short video clip from a GP about the approach to depression typically taken in UK general practice.

Your GP will ask you some clarifying questions and may work through a simple survey which might look similar this to He or she will be particularly interested in whether you have been feeling low for a period longer than two weeks.

Your GP should offer a number of options including a range of talking therapies. One option may also be anti-depressant medication, which can be very supportive for addressing the symptoms certain types of depression. If you do wish to take this route, forms of anti-depressants include:

1. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

These are the most commonly prescribed forms of anti-depressant medication and are often known by the brand names; Prozac, Seroxat and Cipramil.

2. Serotonin noradrenalin reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)

These are sometimes prescribed for people who do not respond well to SSRIs. Efexor is an example brand name.

3. Noradrenaline and specific serotonergic antidepressants (NASSAs)

Prescribed for people unable to tolerate SSRIs. Similar side effects. Brand name example Zispin

4. Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)

An older medication no longer commonly prescribed. Sometimes used for other mental ill-health diagnoses including bi-polar and obsessive compulsive disorders. Examples include Tryptizol and Anafranil.

Medication will usually take at least 7days dosage (and often longer) before positive impact will be experienced. All medication carries the risk of side effects and these should be fully discussed with your GP. You may be able to try another medication if the first produces unpleasant or intolerable side effects. Medication does not always work for patients with depression and/or anxiety. It is also worth remembering that whilst anti-depressants may resolve symptoms, the source of your depression is likely to require talking therapy or another intervention in order to effect long lasting change.

You can find out more about anti-depressants here

If the GP feels additional expertise is necessary, you may be referred to see a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist is a medical practitioner who can prescribe as well as diagnose and treat chronic and complex forms of mental ill-health.

Places of calm in the Inns of Court

The chapels in the Inns of Court are places of calm which provide space for quiet reflection and are open to all. They are Church of England foundations but people from all Christian denominations, and those from all faiths and none, are always welcome. Further details are provided below.

The contribution of the Church in the Inns to wellbeing at the Bar is described in more detail here.

Gray’s Inn Chapel

Contact: Bishop Michael Doe, Preacher

The Chapel is open every weekday from 10am to 6pm.

For further information visit: Gray’s Inn Chapel

Lincoln’s Inn Chapel

Contact: The preacher will be The Venerable Sheila Watson

The Chapel is usually open between 9am and 5pm on weekdays.

For further information visit: Lincoln’s Inn Chapel

The Temple Church

Contacts: The Reverend Robin Griffith-Jones, The Master
The Reverend Mark Hatcher, The Reader

The Church is usually open between 10am and 4pm on weekdays.

For further information visit: The Temple Church

Contacts at the Bar

Individuals on the circuits and in the following organisations can provide information on what they are doing to support barrister and clerks’ wellbeing. Please contact them for information on events or to provide feedback about what more we can do to promote wellbeing at the Bar.

Circuit Contact
Northern Circuit Lorraine Cavanagh
North Eastern Circuit
Midland Circuit
South Eastern Circuit Nicola Shannon KC:
Western Circuit
Wales & Chester Circuit


Association Contact
The Bar Association for Commerce, Finance & Industry Shameem Purdasy:
Bar European Group Nina Caplin:
Chancery Bar Association Gary Blaker KC:
Council of the Inns of Court Lynda Gibbs KC:
Criminal Bar Association Gerwyn Wise:
The European Circuit Anneli Howard KC:
Administrative Law Bar Association
Court of Protection Bar Association
Family Law Bar Association Victoria Wilson:
Intellectual Property Bar Charlotte May KC:
London Common Law and Commercial Bar Association Oliver Caplin KC:
Legal Practice Management Association Mat Swallow:
Personal Injury Bar Association Sarah Lambert KC:
Planning and Environmental Bar Association Mark Beard:
Professional Negligence Bar Association
Employment Law Bar Association


Institute Contact
Institute of Barristers’ Clerks Lucy Burrows:


Bar Contact
Bar Council Sam Mercer: & Mariam Diaby:
Young Bar Anushka
Employed Bar


Inns of Court Contact
Inner David Miller:
Middle Laura Hacon:
Gray’s Stephen Innes:

Jasmine Mead:

Lincoln’s Linda Turnbull:

We hope that you review these resources to help you and your colleagues to work as a community for better wellbeing and professional resilience amongst the legal profession.

Get involved 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’

1 in 3 barristers find it difficult to control or stop worrying