I will confess that I have something close to an aversion – if not a principled objection – to columns like this, because they make achievement seem so remote, unattainable, and self-congratulatory. They foster unrealistic expectations and burning resentment, so the inevitable coda ‘but at the end of the day, I’m just a dad/dog-owner/beleaguered wife/recovering addict/superstar housewife’ sounds like false modesty. For many of us, these diary pieces excite that disappointingly hard-wearing anxiety that no matter what we have achieved, it is insufficient.

I should, therefore, point out that the following description represents a composite of my professional and extra-professional work. I do not do all of this in one day; if I tried, I would (a) fail and/or (b) end up in hospital. In current conditions and after years of being let down, ignored, taken for granted, exploited, dismissed and publicly traduced, I think that anyone at the publicly funded Bar who can get from one end of a working day to the other with a semblance of dignity is pretty extraordinary.

I am sure that some people will see my title and expect me to describe a day which begins with an hour of yoga and meditation, followed by a run in the park and topped off with something made of quinoa and turmeric. I have never, ever had such a morning. I once did a Power Pump class at 7.15am and felt like Alexander the Great until about 11.05am, at which point I nearly mugged my opponent for his peanut butter KitKat.

I try to make the first hour of the day my own but, in reality, I am too frequently caught by the tractor-beam of email. Our administrator, Aaron Dolan, alerted me to a practice in the German legal system in which professional correspondence is only to be conducted within certain hours. Like so many of the changes we are seeking to effect, the positive ramifications of adopting this approach are disproportionately greater than the any of the costs. What if we can’t email one another at midnight about tomorrow’s hearing? Will the case collapse? Will our clients be poorly served? Plainly not. Will we be on better form, and therefore more effective in court, because we have had the chance of a decent night’s sleep? Almost certainly.

If I’m not at court, I am either having one of the meetings that have crept into my working life like Japanese Knotweed, working on something CBA-related or prepping a case. When I have time, I walk into chambers and work there. The introduction of digital working has promoted a whole new level of isolation for criminal barristers, and it now takes a conscious effort to come into chambers for any length of time. Like any discipline, the benefits (both short and long term) invariably outweigh the inconvenience. I share a room with five criminal Silks; the adjoining room accommodates our two pupils. Time spent with any of these people is always a pleasure and frequently enlightening; the Bar ignores the value of collegiate learning at our peril, and we should never be so arrogant as to believe it only travels in one direction.

"In current conditions and after years of being let down, ignored, taken for granted, exploited, dismissed and publicly traduced, I think that anyone at the publicly funded Bar who can get from one end of a working day to the other with a semblance of dignity is pretty extraordinary"

My meeting-count is nothing as compared to any of the Bar leaders, but the time I have spent in the MoJ building far exceeds my original expectations (to be clear, those expectations were: no time at all). Ditto Portcullis House. Ditto the AG’s office. I’ve spoken to politicians, law officers and civil servants about the operation of s 41 (the use of evidence of a complainant’s sexual history), about flexible operating hours, about the devolving of judicial functions to court staff, about disclosure in criminal cases, about listing practices and about the treatment of witnesses. Everyone is fantastically polite. They also – almost without exception – have no idea of the facts of life in the criminal courts, nor do they particularly care. Not because they are dreadful, callous people, but because taking as much money as possible out of the system is just a job for them. They are not like us; there may be a multiplicity of reasons that they went into their respective professions, but very few of them know the vocational calling to justice. We must understand that in all our dealings with them.

My practice is overwhelmingly defending allegations of very serious violence, sexual and otherwise. I am a facilitator for the ICCA’s Advocacy and the Vulnerable Training and also sit on the HMCTS s 28 (pre-recorded cross examination) rollout working group. The two are intimately linked and involve fundamental changes in the way we approach our work. Anyone who conducts cases involving vulnerable witnesses knows how exhausting and, on occasion, harrowing they can be. Our members undertake this training, for free, and in their own time. They devote hours of preparation and complete the course in remarkably short order, and it never fails to impress me how rapidly people assimilate such a vast cultural shift. It offends me beyond measure that my profession is so frequently characterised as obstructive to change, all the more so because this observation is so seldom made by those with the criminal justice system’s best interests at heart.

The speed with which the criminal Bar has adopted the Wellbeing Initiative is as heartening as it is instructive. People don’t necessarily know exactly what my post entails, but the membership’s generosity and, frankly, gratitude that the CBA is taking the issue of mental health seriously is overwhelming. When the post was first created, I had a plan. Then, in some kind of Stanislavski masterstroke, I had a serious health problem. It was met with decency, practical help and compassion from my professional colleagues. No one derided or belittled me. The response was not only invaluable in an effective recovery, it confounded my fears.

Since then, the recent action by the CBA has swallowed whole large chunks of all the officers’ lives, and the original wellbeing timetable was swallowed with them. This means that it is time for a reboot, so I am back to some of the rudiments of the campaign. I am consciously avoiding the model of a sub-committee, based in the capital; wellbeing needs to be as prominent for every working structure (chambers, Bar Mess, Circuit) as training, professional standards and fees, and we cannot afford to treat London as the centre of the known universe.

An occasional highlight is my participation with Speakers for Schools (a charity set up to foster contacts between State schools and high-status occupations). I cannot recommend involvement highly enough – sharing your passion for the law with a room that shimmers with promise and energy is a singularly rewarding experience. To describe it as a shot in the arm does the experience no justice at all; it fills me with hope, and a sense of future for my beloved profession.

Sarah Vine is a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers and Wellbeing Director of the Criminal Bar Association: www.criminalbar.com/wellbeing