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The Bar Council Barristers’ Working Lives Survey finds family law Barristers among lowest in overall wellbeing

Date:12 FEB 2024
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In a recent report published by the Bar Council.

The overall findings were as below:

"Overall analysis

1. In general terms, barristers in 2023 reported higher levels of work satisfaction and wellbeing compared to 2021, with three of the four main wellbeing measures being higher than in the previous survey.

2. Although, a third of respondents to the survey (32.2%) this year indicated they currently had a low level of overall wellbeing, this was a slight improvement over the proportion reported in 2021 (35.1%). QoWL Research Group University of Portsmouth United Kingdom, PO1 2DY + (0) 44 2392 84 9280 enquiries@qowl.co.uk

3. 61% of respondents felt they were overall satisfied with their job as a whole (the same percentage as in 2021).

4. Although 60% of respondents agreed they had good mood, over a third indicated they tended to feel down or in low spirits (34.9%), with 23.7%, or just over one quarter of respondents, indicating that they currently had low levels of psychological wellbeing.

5. Whilst approximately half (49%) of respondents reported they were managing their workloads well, nearly a third (31.4%) indicated they were not coping well.

6. Over 73% of respondents agreed they felt they had supportive colleagues and supportive work environments, a rise of 6% compared to 2021.

Demographic questions and overall wellbeing

1. Female Barristers (48% of the total responding) reported significantly lower levels of overall wellbeing compared to the men responding to the survey. This was the same finding as was observed in 2021, although the wellbeing scores were slightly higher for both groups in 2023.

2. Barristers who reported they were ethnically White (86% of all respondents) had significantly higher overall wellbeing than respondents who identified as Other ethnic / BAME (14% of respondents).

3. Generally, as barristers get older, they report higher levels of overall wellbeing, with the oldest age group (65+) reporting significantly higher wellbeing than all younger age groups.

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Work category questions and overall wellbeing

1. Barristers working in the Criminal Bar reported significantly lower overall wellbeing than all other practice areas. Barristers working in Family Law had significantly lower overall wellbeing compared to all other Practice Areas, except for the Criminal Bar. Those Barristers practising in Commercial Law reported the highest average overall wellbeing.

2. Those barristers who reported being in employed practice (only) were found to have significantly higher overall wellbeing than those who were self-employed in Chambers.

3. In general, those barristers called to the Bar more recently had lower levels of wellbeing than those called to the Bar before them; with those called to the Bar before 1990 reporting significantly higher rates of wellbeing compared to all other Call categories.

4. Those barristers working in the Greater London Region reported higher average wellbeing than most other regions, and significantly higher than barristers in the North East, North West, and the South East.

Support category questions and overall wellbeing

1. Barristers who had experienced or observed any type of workplace bullying or harassment (44% of the total sample) reported significantly lower wellbeing than those who had no experience of this, and this was slightly higher than in 2021 (38%).

2. A much higher proportion of Barristers in 2023 (65%) reported they were acting as a mentor to others compared to 2021 (45%).

3. Only 16% of Barristers indicated they had sought help or support from the Wellbeing at the Bar website, compared to 22% in 2021, but those that had sought online help reported significantly lower wellbeing than those who had not

4. Those barristers in higher income groups reported significantly greater overall wellbeing than those in lower income groups."

The report can be read in full here.