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Barristers told: Don’t be so negative with colleagues

Stokes: Smile at the next barrister you see

Barristers have been urged to be less negative in their dealings with colleagues as they may be damaging the profession’s wellbeing – particular of junior counsel.

Aimee Stokes, the Middle Temple Young Bar Association’s representative on the wellbeing at the Bar working group, said she had particularly noticed “the amount of discouragement aimed towards very junior members of the Bar, pupils and those contemplating coming to the Bar”.

Writing on the Wellbeing at the Bar website [1], the pupil barrister acknowledged that “the array of challenges faced by the modern Bar makes having a moan more justifiable than ever before”.

She said: “At the criminal Bar, I frequently hear counsel complaining about how awful or hopeless their case is, how long their day has been, how bored they are sitting and waiting for a case to be called on or how long it has taken them to get to court that day. The list goes on.

“The concern raised from all of this though is whether these sorts of attitudes are unintentionally creating an atmosphere conducive to damaging our wellbeing.”

She urged barristers to understand how such comments – while understandable – may create an environment which impacts those facing mental health issues.

Ms Stokes wrote: “Having faced my own wellbeing battles, I am particularly cautious of how my words and attitudes can have an effect on others. When working in an environment of constant negativity, it is so incredibly easy to feel mentally drained and physically exhausted.

“Those already facing challenges to their wellbeing are particularly prone to being drained faster and subject to a longer road back to a positive mental state.”

She said barristers needed to appreciate that there may well be people around them they do not know have mental health problems.

“There is no harm in looking for subtle signs of our own negativity and taking action based on our observations. Barristers are generally rather good at making observations, so let’s turn away from our papers and take a closer look at ourselves and our colleagues.

“Life at the Bar is fast paced, stressful and chaotic at times. But life at the Bar is also rewarding, enjoyable and a rare profession where camaraderie still exists. So, smile at the next barrister you see and encourage a more positive atmosphere at the Bar.”