The Bar leads the way on wellbeing with launch of portal

15 October 2016

The Bar Council has teamed up with the Inns of Court and Institute of Barristers' Clerks (IBC) to launch the Wellbeing at the Bar Portal www.wellbeingatthebar.co.uk - a website to specifically provide support and best practice to barristers, clerks and chambers on wellbeing and mental health issues. 

The new portal is geared towards giving barristers, clerks and chambers staff access to guidance, tips, support and contacts for help on matters concerning wellbeing. Information on wellbeing events, real-life stories from professionals who share their experiences, sample chambers' wellbeing policies and activities and useful contact numbers for those needing advice or help on a wellbeing or mental health matter are just some of the resources on the portal. 

The launch of the Wellbeing at the Bar portal comes after a Bar Council survey in 2014 saw more than 2500 barristers respond. The survey results and subsequent report highlighted the challenges some members of the Bar were facing in their work in relation to mental health. Following the survey, the Bar Council vowed to act and provide more support to barristers and chambers. 

Chairman of the Bar, Chantal-Aimee Doerries QC, said: "Every piece of content on the Wellbeing at the Bar portal is about sharing best practice for dealing with the stresses and strains of practice and ensuring that support is available to all to meet the challenges of life at the Bar. The website provides information and skills to help barristers and those they work with to stay well. Our main aim in producing and promoting this new portal is to encourage barristers, clerks and others to recognise and address the negative effects of working in a high pressure environment at an early stage, before they risk getting out of hand. Equally, we hope that those already in need of help will use this website as a first port of call for getting help." 

The website is the product of a working group specifically compiled to reflect the entire profession, Inns of Court and IBC. Working together they have sought to reflect and respond to the survey results on behalf of their members. 

Rachel Spearing, barrister and Co-Founder of the Wellbeing at the Bar initiative, said: "Until a couple of years ago, wellbeing and mental health were not talked about by the profession. It was seen as a sign of weakness, though we all knew it was an issue. Thanks to the survey in 2014, the subsequent report and efforts right across the Bar to raise this as an issue of high importance which can impact on our performance as barristers, wellbeing and mental health now loom large on the Bar's and the wider legal sector's agenda.

 "Putting this support online means anyone, at any time can go on the portal from anywhere to access what they need. But this website is only the beginning. The Portal will evolve with more resources over time. We now want the Bar to give us feedback as well as take important advice from it. We are also planning further initiatives, such as wellbeing training and more." 

In addition to the Portal, the Inns of Court, Circuit and SBAs as well as individual chambers have been proactive on wellbeing. Initiatives include: 

  • Individual chambers have set up wellbeing committees, policies and introduced initiatives such as mindfulness classes and mental health check-ups; 

  • 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. 

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