Wellbeing in the legal profession – one year on

13 May 2016

The Chairman of the Bar, Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC, has urged the legal sector and other professions to work together on supporting wellbeing and mental health in the professions one year after the Bar Council and the Inns of Court published its Wellbeing at the Bar report. 

Since the Bar report, which was prompted by an unprecedented response to a Bar Council wellbeing survey in 2014 in which 2500 barristers responded, the Bar has made major steps in supporting barristers' wellbeing with the creation of the Wellbeing Working Group, and with support for wellbeing initiatives from Specialist Bar Associations, Circuits, and most recently the Institute of Barristers' Clerks. 

Following the report the Bar Council and its Bar partners have set about improving barristers' wellbeing and resilience, chambers' management practices and understanding of wellbeing and mental health, as well as boosting the support available to those in crisis. 

Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC, Chairman of the Bar, said: "Next week is Mental Health Awareness Week. This is an opportune time to reflect on the progress we have made in raising awareness of and in tackling the health issues that some barristers may face, but also the progress we have made in relation to wellbeing more generally in the profession. 

"I've seen for myself how the landscape has changed. Before our survey and subsequent report on wellbeing, few spoke about the stress of the work we do and its impact. Now, when I visit chambers around the country, it is often a topic of discussion. Wellbeing is now high on the agenda at the Bar and we've been delighted by the way the whole profession has come together to proactively develop wellbeing support. 

"In creating wellbeing initiatives, sharing best practice within the Bar and beyond is important. We are talking to other professions outside the legal sector on wellbeing to see what they are doing, and I believe there is scope for greater working with the wider legal sector too. Although the high demands at the Bar are well-known, this isn't an issue limited to the Bar. Many professionals, by the nature of their work, face stresses and strains, which can become difficult to deal with. Getting support to meet those challenges is vital. 

"Although there is more to do, we've built up some valuable experience on wellbeing since we started on this path back in 2014 and we are willing keen to share that experience with the wider legal community and to learn from others." 

Since the Bar Council and Inns of Courts' report in April 2015, initiatives have included: 

  • The Bar Council and Inns of Court have started work on an online web portal specifically to support wellbeing at the Bar which is expected to launch this summer.  

  • Individual chambers have set up wellbeing committees, policies

  • The Young Barristers' Committee has launched a wellbeing guide on the Young Bar Hub and last summer hosted a YBC wellbeing seminar with the Bar Council 

  • The Bar Council, Specialist Bar Associations and chambers have extended mentoring programmes 

  • Middle Temple has launched Mindfulness Drop-in sessions 

  • Chancery Bar Association has run wellbeing seminars for its members 

  • The Bar Council has begun discussions with other professional organisations to share wellbeing ideas, and 

  • The Bar Council has been in talks with the Bar Standards Board about creating a regulatory environment which is sympathetic to wellbeing.  

Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC added: "Building a suite of wellbeing support for the Bar is work in progress. Our focus is on providing barristers with the information and skills they need to stay well, to support the profession as they deal with issues that arise in so far as they affect a barrister's professional life and to provide assistance for those with responsibility for or taking on a supporting role for those in difficulty or crisis. There will never come a day when we can say our work is done and dusted. However, there has undoubtedly been progress in the last year and we expect to see more developments in the near future."

Ends

Notes to Editors 

  1. Further information is available from the Bar Council Press Office on 020 7222 2525 and Press@BarCouncil.org.uk.

  2. The Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales. It promotes: 

  • The Bar's high quality specialist advocacy and advisory services

  • Fair access to justice for all

  • The highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across the profession, and

  • The development of business opportunities for barristers at home and abroad.

The General Council of the Bar is the Approved Regulator of the Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions through the independent Bar Standards Board