COVID-19 and various lockdowns forced many of us to reevaluate. As we try and play our roles in reducing backlogs in court, while ensuring access to justice for all, we must look after our mental health and wellbeing and find ways to relax – now more than ever. The growth in popularity of the Women in the Law UK (WITLUK) book club has provided one such means.

We formed the book club pre-pandemic, back in 2019, to ensure that our members read more than legal textbooks. One of the bonuses of video conferencing has been to facilitate a club such as ours, with attendees from all over the country. It would be easy to simply read feminist books (in fact, we used to in the ‘face-to-face’ days) but the criteria for our books, nominated by members, is that they are written by a lawyer or have another legal link.

Membership is free and we meet the last Friday of each month. It is an informal, fun place to be, where practitioners of all genders and at all stages of their career come to talk about the books (and members are discreet enough not to attend if they didn’t enjoy the book). Audio versions of the books have been useful for those of us travelling to Nightingale Courts up and down the country.

Various chambers and specialist Bar associations run book clubs, of course. The twist with ours is that we invite the author for a Q&A. The format has proved so popular that publishers have been known to send copies of the book to us to read. We have discussed a variety of titles, but tend towards those with characters and themes that offer discussion points. We have covered racism, consent, social mobility and, recently, assisted suicide in The Kindest Thing by Cath Staincliffe. We have debated solutions to the criminal justice system by reading Chris Daw QC’s book, Justice on Trial. Most recently, we enjoyed Spider Woman: A Life by Lady Hale.

We are looking forward to meeting the author Sarah Vaughan in March, whose thriller/courtroom drama Anatomy of a Scandal, starring Rupert Friend and Michelle Dockery, will soon be coming to the screen. We will watch the Netflix series and make a comparison with the book. Equally, barrister Sarah Langford’s next book, For a Love of the Land about farming is a must-read. We are also waiting with anticipation for The Secret Barrister’s third book. Meanwhile, we will enjoy the re-issued Without Prejudice by barrister Nicola Williams and we are also looking at young barrister Christian Weaver’s book about rights, stop and search etc. Perhaps one for the die-hard legal eagles!

As for me, I have really enjoyed writing my own books as well as talking about them. My latest is Talking Law and Skills with lots of contributions covering career management and negotiation skills which are among the many necessary attributes of the post-pandemic lawyer. More recently, my children’s book Where are you from? celebrating Black history became an Amazon bestseller, although perhaps not one for the book club! There are plenty more books on the reading list including Bill Clegg QC’s book, Under the Wig: a lawyer’s stories of murder, guilt and innocence.

As for the WITLUK theatre club, having got our ‘theatre confidence’ back, first on the list was Anton Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard at Theatre Royal Windsor starring Jenny Seagrove, Martin Shaw (aka Judge John Deed), Sir Ian McKellen and the brilliant Missy Malek, the young actress/film maker (and daughter of Gray’s Inn treasurer Ali Malek QC) who made We’re Too Good For This, the brilliant short film about disabled drug dealers showing at BFI London Film Festival.

We look forward to more book suggestions, forthcoming clubs and theatre visits. Definitely, a good escape from the pressures of the job.