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Bar Council focuses on health and wellbeing

Barristers' performance at risk from lack of mental health awareness

22 October 2014

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The Bar Council has launched a new survey to assess health and wellbeing of its members and identify risk factors which may impact on their performance.

The survey forms part of a larger wellbeing project coordinated by the regulator, which aims to provide valuable insights into the working environment of barristers and how their unique role impacts on psychological health and wellbeing.

Data collected from the survey will be used to highlight wellbeing as fundamental to sustaining performance as a practising barrister, and empower and equip members of the Bar in addressing risky behaviours which may affect performance.

Chairman of the Bar, Nicholas Lavender QC, commented: "The Bar Council is committed to equipping the profession with the skills and knowledge to recognise and address behaviours which might impact on their wellbeing and performance as a result of workplace pressures. By undertaking this vital research, we plan to develop practical tools and learning materials to support barristers in sustaining their performance whilst managing the demands of practice.

"Wellbeing, and mental health more generally, within the legal profession is rarely spoken about. Through our wellbeing campaign, we aim to dismantle the stigma associated with seeking help. Given the recent increased pressures on the Bar, there has never been a more important time to give this issue the attention it deserves."

Rachel Spearing, barrister and chair of the Wellbeing at the Bar Programme, said: "The Bar, by its very nature, is a stressful place to work. From the speed at which cases can change to the often isolating nature and responsibilities of self-employed practice, barristers are acutely at risk from performance-inhibiting factors.

"It is also equally important that we support those entering the profession to develop the skills needed to manage their wellbeing in a challenging work environment. Now, more than ever, we need to encourage discussion on the topic and rethink our attitudes towards health and wellbeing."

Responses to the survey will be anonymous and treated as strictly confidential. Data will be analysed by an independent third party and only aggregated data will be made available.

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

John van der Luit-Drummond is legal reporter for Solicitors Journal

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