‘Everyone is neurodivergent now.’ That is the sort of comment I received, along with more positive ones, when I was finally diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in 2022 after long suspecting that I had the condition.

Of course, not everyone is neurodivergent. While neurodiversity is a broad umbrella term, what is common is that those who are neurodivergent have a range of different brain functions and behavioural traits to those who are neurotypical. The clue is in the name.

The stigma around neurodivergence remains and the competitive nature of our profession can make being open very daunting. But change doesn’t happen without taking a leap of faith. To receive help and support we often must ask for it. The purpose of this article is to encourage neurodivergent barristers to do just that, and a good place to start is with your clerks.

One size will never fit all. However, there are things that have helped me that I’d like to share:

  • R – Recognition
  • E – Engaged communication
  • A – Anticipation
  • D – Delegation


The first step is recognising what your neurodivergence means to you. This requires thinking about how you work and the areas in which you may require support. For example, I know that I work best in highly concentrated bursts of hyperfocus with breaks in between. I respond well under pressure; I need to be busy. If I have a quieter period, or holiday, my ADHD symptoms are more apparent and I find it more difficult to focus. At the same time, I need sufficient rest to avoid burnout as, unchecked, I would take on more commitments and never get downtime with my family. I struggle with administrative tasks which do not feel urgent or as interesting as the ‘doing’ part of the job. I find networking difficult. If you saw me at an event, you would likely think me outgoing and confident due to my ability to mask; but masking is draining. I may need time to regulate after events and need to be more selective.

Engaged communication

Communication really is key. Your clerks are not mind readers and, though they should be encouraged to learn about neurodivergence, there are many individual quirks that they can only appreciate apply to you if you tell them. We are masters of masking, most of the time.

It depends on the relationship that you have with your clerks as to how you approach speaking to them about your neurodivergence, but I recommend starting with your most trusted clerk in a manner most comfortable to you. You do not need to disclose everything at once; you may want to initially disclose your diagnosis to gauge the reaction. It is a matter for you whether you then extend this to the whole clerking team and colleagues. You have control over what you disclose and when. If you want it to be kept confidential, say. However, it is my view that the more open that you can be the easier it will be for your clerks to support you. That initial conversation, and any follow ups, can take whatever form you feel comfortable with; an email, a coffee shop chat or something else. Take time to think about what you are going to say before you say it and what you want to achieve from the conversation. You might find it helpful to make a note beforehand.

However you first broach the subject you will, at some stage, need to explain any reasonable adjustments you would like made to help you with your practice. This requires you to have gone through the first step of recognition. What is sought may be different for everyone. Personally, I have explained to my clerks how my ADHD can impact how I communicate. I speak quickly on the telephone, may inadvertently interrupt and sometimes send detailed emails. I overcompensate for my ADHD by keeping detailed spreadsheets of work with colour coding for when it has been billed etc. We have chambers management software in chambers, which I use, but I need my spreadsheet security blanket – a tool from my teenage years. My clerks know this and that I will ask for information. They also know that I like to have extra reminders in my diary for deadlines, which I often request.


It is difficult to always anticipate when you might need more help; but if you can try to flag to your clerks when you think you might, or when you are experiencing an uptake in symptoms they can help and will inevitably learn how to spot it too.

With my ADHD, my working week comprises a series of periods of serious hyperfocus – hours uninterrupted which feels like five minutes – interspersed with periods of little focus. The latter is luckily less frequent given that work is one of my special interests and the more difficult symptoms of my ADHD tend to become more pronounced when I am not under pressure and the fear of deadlines. I know that if I have a quieter week, I struggle to complete tasks and I have informed my clerks so that they know to expect it. The flip side is that I have to be mindful of possible burnout, not just due to work and my tendency to take on too much to create the pressure-cooker environment I crave, but because I have two small children who take a lot of my time (and sleep). Because of this, I book out time for breaks.

I also recognise that I experience time and task blindness, struggling to ‘see’ anything that is not immediate and to plan my time. I am not late with work, but usually complete it by creating a high-pressure environment. I often request that preparation time is diarised so that I can clearly see when I need to work on specific cases to keep up a sense of urgency and be more continually productive. My clerks put reminders in my diary of pending deadlines so that I have prompts and I sometimes create ‘false’ earlier deadlines to create urgency ahead of the actual deadline, enabling me to work more effectively. I make it clear to my clerks when I need chaser emails.


Delegation can be tough, and there is only so much that can be delegated, but don’t be afraid of doing it where it assists. I find administrative tasks difficult as they are often too mundane to keep my attention generating little to no dopamine. My clerks really help by responding to emails where a response is not needed from me directly. For example, at the early stage of instruction, legal aid billing queries from third parties, and in relation to networking events or training. They call me for a quick answer which they relay resulting in faster responses.


I recognise that these tips will not be right for everyone; but hopefully they are a good start. If nothing else, I truly hope that this article has given the encouragement to approach your clerks for a friendly chat about things that could be put in place to help. Neurodivergent barristers have so much to give to the Bar; making reasonable adjustments to allow us to shine should be commonplace in all chambers.