Project code



Department of Psychology

Start dates

October, February and April

Application deadline

Applications accepted all year round

Applications are invited for a self-funded, 3 year full-time or 6 year part-time PhD project.

The PhD will be based in the Department of Psychology and will be supervised by Dr Darren Van Laar and by Professor Caroline Strevens (School of Law).

The work on this project will:

  • Review and evaluate the likely sources of stress and wellbeing experienced by Barristers 
  • Interview a representative sample of Barristers to understand the pressures and support available to them 
  • Build upon existing data and literature to develop a theory of Barrister Wellbeing and Resilience
  • To conduct surveys of Barristers in the UK and in other relevant countries to develop a reliable and valid Barrister Wellbeing psychometric scale.

In many countries around the world Barristers are lawyers who specialise in representing clients in Court.  Although Barristers have been operating effectively in some countries for hundreds of years, the profession does have many unique features and the role can be more challenging and require greater resilience than other professions.  In addition to this, Barristers in many countries such as in England and Wales have recently been experiencing a period of accelerating change in the profession, especially in areas such as the operating patterns of courts, how the profession is financed, and in the greater proportion of women and part-timers now working in the Profession.  

Recent surveys by University of Portsmouth researchers of Barrister Professional bodies in England and Wales, and in certain Australian states have found evidence that Barristers, especially those practicing Criminal Law, are experiencing greater stress and lower wellbeing compared to previous years.  However, many of the challenges affecting Barristers have not been widely measured, analysed or understood, and the initial stages of this PhD will set out to investigate this. 

Building on the existing good links between the University of Portsmouth Psychology Department with national and regional barrister organisations (e.g. the Bar Council of England and Wales), the postgraduate research student recruited to work on this project will establish contacts with, and then work with professional organisations to understand the sources of stress, wellbeing and resilience that affect Barristers. 

Although much previous work has been undertaken on developing reliable and valid measures of work satisfaction, stress and the quality of working life of general employees, it is not clear whether existing scales can adequately measure the specific and unique aspects underpinning the experience of working as a Barrister, especially those who are self-employed. This project will adopt a mixed methods approach to assess these existing measures and to combine these findings with a thorough literature review and the results of a qualitative investigation, to develop or adapt a psychometric scale to assess this.  

The outcomes of the project are likely to include an up-to-date review of the current pressures and sources of support available to Barristers in England and Wales; a qualitative analysis arising from interviews or similar data collection method to gather the comments and views of practising Barristers; and the development of a psychometric scale to provide a reliable and valid measure of the specific pressures and concerns currently affecting the wellbeing of Barristers.  

Fees and funding

Visit the research subject area page for fees and funding information for this project.

Funding availability: Self-funded PhD students only. 

PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK students only).

The Department of Psychology offers funding to attend conferences (currently £450).

Bench fees

Some PhD projects may include additional fees – known as bench fees – for equipment and other consumables, and these will be added to your standard tuition fee. Speak to the supervisory team during your interview about any additional fees you may have to pay. Please note, bench fees are not eligible for discounts and are non-refundable.

Entry requirements

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in a Social Science or a related area with a good mark in the final project utilising relevant research methods. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or Qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.


To undertake this PhD successfully the candidate should currently have a good understanding of both qualitative and quantitative research methods and if possible be someone with good experience of survey methods. Training will be provided on any specific or advanced skills required. Where possible, the candidate should be able to demonstrate a good understanding of the role and work of Barristers (in the UK or elsewhere) and / or of Occupational Psychology theories of staff satisfaction.


How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Darren Van Laar  ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, please follow the 'Apply now' link on the Psychology postgraduate research degrees and select the link for the relevant intake. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process. 

When applying please quote project code PSYC5230424.