For decades ‘wellbeing’ and ‘being a lawyer’ were concepts that rarely, if ever, appeared in the same sentence. Many of the older generation of lawyers felt that wellbeing was something you achieved, or at least aimed for, once you burned yourself out and retired. There was also a view that you weren’t paid to be happy, but the more you got paid the happier you would become.
But studies have debunked that theory. We now know that money only goes so far as a motivator. We need something else to give us a sense of fulfilment and engagement at work. One of those things is forging healthy relationships and interacting with, being connected to, and experiencing caring for others.
This is why 11KBW signed up to Tour de Law. Getting together for a common cause and cheering each other on can help to break down some of the social and emotional barriers that can develop when working closely together, often under significant pressure.
"Tour de Law brought us together in a way that we didn’t foresee, with junior clerks and receptionists cycling next to senior barristers and QCs"
For two days in October the main conference room in chambers was the scene of an intense and relentless charity bicycle race from London to Paris and back again. Organised meticulously by our Director of Operations and Finance, Claire Halas, and barrister Heather Emmerson, the ‘race’ was, in fact, virtual, comprising two static exercise cycles provided by, and in aid of raising funds for, Breast Cancer Care. Each year, law firms and chambers are invited to take part, competing against each other to win the prestigious title of ‘Fastest Firm/Chambers’ while raising money to support people affected by breast cancer. A leaderboard of the participants, updated every hour, is projected in front of the cyclists to spur them on.
Racing to cover 1,000km, we battled it out for the following coveted titles:
- Tour de Law Champion (firms got points for both speed and their fundraising total; the highest points won the title);
- Tour de Law Fastest Firm/Chambers;
- Tour de Law Pink Jersey (fastest cyclist); and
- Tour de Law King & Queen of the Mountain (fastest cyclist on a high resistance).
Members of chambers and staff signed up to cycle in 15 minute intervals. Claire laid on energy drinks, snacks, health bars and playlists to keep the riders fed, watered and motivated. In the end we did really well: we finished sixth in the furthest distance cycled; we were ninth fastest overall; Holly Stout, one of our barristers, was the ninth fastest female cyclist; and Chris Smith, one of our clerks and a mean, green, vegan machine was the second fastest male.
But behind the stats lay another story: the laughter and chat that filled Con Room 1 for two days was a welcome break from the daily grind of a busy practice. Tour de Law brought us together in a way that we didn’t foresee, with junior clerks and receptionists cycling next to senior barristers and QCs. Believe me, there is no greater levelling experience than seeing your colleagues in Day-Glo lycra!
It also had a big impact on our sense of connectedness. We take wellbeing seriously in chambers, with a dedicated sub-committee, and it now forms part of each barrister’s practice review. Other annual events include our pub quiz, the London Legal Walk and the Great Barrister Bake-Off (open to all). We also have ping-pong evenings, karaoke nights and football competitions.
Tour de Law was a great success, on so many levels, and we are already planning our strategy for next year’s challenge!
Andrea Kennedy is Director of Business Development, and Claire Halas is Director of Operations & Finance and a member of chambers’ wellbeing committee, at 11KBW. The 2018 challenge has so far raised over £82,000 for Breast Cancer Care. Sign up for 2019 at www.tourdelaw.com