‘Survival of the fittest’? Perceptions of wellbeing at The Bar of Northern Ireland

Graffin, Neil and Jones, Emma (2021). ‘Survival of the fittest’? Perceptions of wellbeing at The Bar of Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly (In press).

Abstract

This article, based on a qualitative study conducted in June-July 2019, assesses how barristers at The Bar of Northern Ireland perceive wellbeing and mental ill-health within their profession. It will argue that the Bar can be a competitive and potentially hostile workplace environment, leading to detrimental impacts on wellbeing. It will also contend that being a barrister in Northern Ireland provides its own unique challenges for practitioners due to the self-employed independent nature of the role, where practitioners do not work in chambers or stables like their counterparts in England & Wales and Scotland. At the same time, barristers spoke positively about the flexibility of their roles, beneficial forms of collegiality, as well as an evolving culture which places greater emphasis on wellbeing. This article will argue, using the JD-R model, efforts should be made to decrease job demands and increase the job resources of barristers of The Bar of Northern Ireland to improve levels of wellbeing. This model could also be applied to the Bar in other jurisdictions to assess the impact of both shared and unique challenges and opportunities.

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