Wellbeing at the Bar Project

Project Overview

Barristers work in a highly pressurised environment with the responsibility to manage physically and emotionally challenging situations on a daily basis. This can place us at risk of mental distress, risk impact to our wellbeing and the quality of our working life and professional performance. Wellbeing (and mental health more generally) is rarely spoken about within the legal profession, yet within the bar’s relatively small community everyone can be affected by their own/colleagues’ poor mental health. 

The Bar Council, in association with the Office of the DPP, the Public Defenders Office, all heads of chambers and the Clerks Association are launching an initiative to better support members of the profession with regards to safeguarding their wellbeing and professional performance.

Aims

The Wellbeing at the Bar Project aims to:

  • gather evidence to identify the risks and challenges currently facing the New South Wales Bar;
  • respond to the issues identified by providing members of the profession with the information and skills they need in order to stay well;
  • address the challenges reported with leadership response at the appropriate levels seeking to influence culture change;
  • support members of the profession through difficulties that affect a barrister’s professional life; and
  • provide assistance to those responsible for or who are supporting those in difficulty or crisis.

Ethics statement

Participation in the survey is entirely voluntary, and your responses are completely anonymous. You can not be identified by responding to the email link, and you are not asked to provide any personal data, save for generic practice information if you wish. All questionnaires will be treated as strictly confidential. Learn more here.

Project phases

Research

What is involved

Bar Council has commissioned a professional research team from the UK to conduct a survey to identify the ‘individual’ and ‘environmental’ workplace risk factors that will impact on performance and directly support or impinge on a barrister’s professional practice.

How you can help

Please complete the Wellbeing at the Bar Survey launched during March. We need to gather responses from across the profession – promote the survey in chambers with colleagues.

Strategy

What is involved

The Bar Council will review the report analysing the data of the survey and presenting the thematic issues affecting the current profession and provide a strategic review and response to safeguard the profession.

How you can help

Engage with the consultation process when the Bar Council committees may request your assistance.

Delivering resources

Bar Council and the stakeholders will:

  • highlight the resources needed to support the profession;
  • make ‘psychological wellbeing’ a vital element of a successful practice at the bar;
  • provide education and training to help barristers meet their professional obligations;
  • advise governments that inadequate legal aid funding for courtroom representation can adversely affect the wellbeing of barristers; and
  • consult with the judiciary in relation to courtrooms as workplaces.

The Survey

In March 2017 the Bar Council (together with it’s stakeholders) will launch a research survey seeking to ‘take the temperature’ of the profession and gather evidence to evaluate the quality of their working lives and challenges. Our research will be led by Rachel Spearing, a barrister from the UK, co-founder and chair of the General Council of the Bar’s Wellbeing initiative. The Bar Council of England and Wales undertook research in 2015, with leadership responding with an online wellbeing portal of resources for barristers and those with a management/others with responsibility for barristers. Their data has also assisted the Executive in managing representational aspects with government and third parties.

Online resources

The portal can be found at www.wellbeingatthebar.org.uk

Keep up to date

We will keep you updated on the project via the news and current awareness bulletin InBrief and in Bar News: the Journal of the New South Wales Bar Association.