Life at the Bar is demanding. We face difficult clients; sometimes even more difficult judges; bloated inboxes; the vagaries of self-employment; late delivery of briefs; swathes of evidence to read; and expectations of near-perfection, usually levied by our critical inner voice. The list goes on.

We need something to protect us from those challenges: that something is resilience and you can give yours an upgrade. Resilience won’t stop you facing times of stress, but it will help you to tolerate and bounce back from such times.

There are many models for resilience but the one I use for myself and commend to you in this article is the ‘seven Cs’ developed by Dr Ginsburg. They are: competence; confidence; connection; character; contribution; coping; and control.

I suggest you start by doing an honest audit of how each of the seven Cs applies to your life. Ringfence some time for yourself with a cup of tea, pen and notebook and write down your strengths and areas where you need to improve using the prompts/descriptions below (the brevity of which is bound up with the word limit for this article).

Some golden rules before you start:

1. Be honest with yourself: we all have areas in which we excel. This exercise is not one in which you should be modest – it is for your eyes only, and it is vital to recognise your strengths and praise yourself for them;

2. When you identify something which requires development, don’t berate yourself or associate that thing with weakness. It is a strength to identify where you can grow and downright impressive when you do the work to improve. Frame areas for improvement positively: you have made a plan for the better. Allow yourself to feel optimistic about the benefits you will reap;

3. On that point, when you identify an area for growth, plan what you will do using the SMART model (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound); and

4. If you cannot talk to/about yourself in a kind way, or see your wonderful, unique qualities, try to approach the exercise as though you are doing it about someone you respect and like in an evidence-based manner, being realistic and not hard on yourself due to low self-esteem or for some other reason.


Think about and list what you are good at. Now do the same with where you need to increase your knowledge. Identify situations which come up time and again. What is your plan for dealing with them? How could it be improved? Remember that some things require experience and practice to progress. Who could you approach for help in those areas? Write action plans.


This is rooted in competence. Take the list of what you are good at and identify the skills that contribute to those strengths. This is your skillset (and it’s probably larger than you’ve identified). It can be used in an almost infinite set of situations. Try it out – think where you could apply your skillset to real life situations.

If you struggle with imposter syndrome, you are far from alone. Some self-doubt can be channelled in a healthy way. However, sometimes we allow it to affect how we perform and function. Look at the evidence for and against your feelings and make a plan to address any legitimate weaknesses. You might need to repeat this exercise whenever imposter syndrome rears its ugly head.

Quick tips: on your way into work on big days, listen to a piece of music that gets you fired up/read a poem or passage in a book that really stirs you. It works wonders. At the time of writing, Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on body language boasts over 67 million views. Explore it for yourself – you might be surprised.


This is about community. The stronger your ties to your community within the profession, the stronger your sense of security, connection and support. Who are the people you can turn to? Make a list of who is there for you and in what circumstances. This is your community. Reflect on how that list makes you feel. Perhaps grateful. Make a list of people who count you as part of their support network or community. Reflect on how that makes you feel. If there are areas where you feel you need more support and connection, think about how you can work on that. Importantly, make time for social activities and prioritise maintaining strong relationships.

Quick tips: mentor someone or ask for a mentor. The mutual benefit is far-reaching and builds a community across the levels of experience at the Bar. Be kind to one another: be a difficult opponent only because you are doing your job well, never because you are mean or rude.


Be authentically you. What are your core values? Some may be more obvious than others. Identifying them will empower you to consistently live by them in a self-affirming and character-building way.

Quick tip: remove the metaphorical mask you wear to work if it is to feel more acceptable or accepted. It is an insidious message to yourself that you are not good enough which undermines your self-worth. Being authentically you will assist you in every areas of the seven Cs.


This can be improved by finding ways to give back to your community or profession. Contributing offers you an opportunity to express your character and pursue your core values.

Quick tips: The Bar offers unparalleled opportunities to contribute. You can join a committee in Chambers, your Inn, Circuit or Bar Association; respond to consultations; write an article; record or contribute to a podcast; share new case law with colleagues; say yes to networking events; deliver seminars; and more. Low-effort, high-reward contribution is available in the never-to-be-underrated post-court coffee or lunch with colleagues.


This is about having a sense of agency, being able to manage stress and finding time to relax. Write a list of what your coping strategies are. Honestly identify which genuinely serve you and those which don’t. Think about why the successful ones work and, if you identify unhealthy coping strategies, identify what you can do to make them healthy or to stop using them as a means of trying to cope.

There are many ways to cope with life’s stresses, and we each need a bespoke package. If you are struggling to think of anything, perhaps consider yoga, dancing, singing, reading, walking, listening to music, spending time with friends or family. It doesn’t have to be something grand – just something that takes you away from work and gives you space to unwind.

Quick tips: free-write two or three sides of paper each morning to empty your mind. Don’t read them back – that’s not the purpose of writing them. Close your notebook or throw away the pages once you have written them.

Some back to basics: take your holidays and don’t read your work emails when you’re away (sign out of your work email account). Eat some nutritious food every day. Move at least a little every day. Talk to someone if you are feeling stressed, especially if you feel you can’t cope.

The Bar Council Wellbeing portal is a rich source of information: You will find links to help for a myriad of issues including bereavement, bullying, gambling, debt, addiction, vicarious trauma, menopause and more. If you need immediate help, contact your GP, health provider, someone you trust or call the Samaritans on 116 123.


This word has very many negative connotations. However, in our context it is about being able to make decisions and take charge of your life. When we feel out of control of a situation, it can feel very destabilising. Identify those areas of your life you can control in healthy ways and work to maintain those. You can’t control how others behave but you can control how you react to them: humans are gifted with the unique ability to not just feel but to observe those feelings. It takes practice but you can take a mental step back from a situation and observe how it is making you feel, and decide to respond in a way informed not by those feelings but by rational thought.

Quick tips: You might want to think of times you have felt out of control of a situation and how you responded. What worked to help you feel like you could control your situation again and what did not work so well? Could you have done anything differently? Identify what helps you feel in control of your life. Always be ethical in controlling any areas of your life.


Building and nurturing your resilience takes time and effort, but it is worth it because it can help you better handle and recover from challenges at the Bar and beyond. 

Sources of help include the Bar Council’s wellbeing portal at; LawCare at / call 0800 279 6888; Samaritans at / call 116 123; and Befrienders Worldwide at