Wellbeing at the Bar



The Wellbeing at the Bar Programme was developed to look in greater detail at the unique aspects of a barristers' working environment and how this impacts on psychological health and wellbeing. The programme, chaired by Rachel Spearing, aims to encourage discussion on the topic and shift attitudes towards wellbeing, which is a subject rarely spoken about within the legal profession. The programme also aims to: 

  • Normalise investment in wellbeing, where it is needed, as being central to sustaining performance as a barrister

  • Ensure individuals know that support is available and feel comfortable accessing it

  • Rethink the Bar's attitude and approach towards health and wellbeing, and

  • Build understanding, acceptance and enthusiasm for the use of wellbeing toolkits and support resources among those with a management role. 

In October 2014, the Bar Council conducted a survey to assess members' health and wellbeing and to identify risk factors which may impact on their performance. This was the first time that the whole profession has been surveyed in relation to wellbeing in any country. An overwhelming response saw nearly 2,500 members complete the survey, implying the importance of wellbeing at the Bar. 

The results have been analysed by an independent third party Positive Group and the Wellbeing at the Bar report is now available to view  here. 

The Bar Council is proactive in leading and tackling this issue through the wellbeing project, which is funded by the Bar Representation Fee. 

What next?  

The Bar Council conducted the wellbeing survey to inform its programme of initiatives aimed at improving understanding and awareness of wellbeing issues at the Bar and to help barristers and those that work closely with them to manage wellbeing in the working environment. 

Our planned initiatives include: 

  • Establishing a working group formed of representatives from the Bar Council, Inns of Court, Circuits and Specialist Bar Association, to identify good practice and to design and deliver a long term programme to normalise Wellbeing at the Bar 

  • Extending the Bar Mentoring Service beyond its current focus on silk and judicial appointment to ensure suitable mentoring (social support) is available to barristers whatever their life stage or need 

  • Producing Guidance for chambers - chief executives, heads of chambers and clerks - to help identify when stress is becoming a problem for a barrister 

  • Developing educational resources for new practitioners and pupil supervisors 

  • Working with stakeholders like LawCare to improve the quality of service/support provided the profession, and 

  • Dismantling the stigma associated with seeking help.

This programme of work is supported by the Inns of Court, the Institute of Barristers' Clerks, the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, and Law Care. 

For more information contact Sam Mercer, Head of Policy, Equality & Diversity and CSR, at SMercer@BarCouncil.org.uk.