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Is ‘loud leaving’ the newest wellness trend for law firms?

As employee wellbeing and work/life balance emerge as the norm for modern workplaces, “loud leaving” is a trend that may be witnessed more and more.

user iconLauren Croft 31 March 2023 Big Law
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“Loud leaving” is an emerging trend, wherein managers and other leaders within organisations announce they are leaving the office — whether that be to go home, to go to the gym or to pick up their kids — in a “loud” way, making it clear others can do the same.

This, in theory, promotes good mental health and better work/life balance and sustainable working practices — by encouraging employees not to stay late at the office or do more hours than paid for.

LinkedIn research has recently revealed that 46 per cent of Australian professionals have experienced this trend, with Gen Z being most attuned to it.


The research also found that over 53 per cent of workers feel better about working in the office than they did at the peak of COVID-19, as reported by the AFR.

Additionally, LinkedIn Research conducted a poll — where, out of over 1,300 respondents, 70 per cent said they feel confident about “loud leaving”, and only 9 per cent said they work long hours.

Edelman Asia-Pacific vice-chair of health Will Collie said this trend “really speaks” to him.

“Since the end of the pandemic, I’ve made a habit of telling my teams how proud I’ve been to take the time to get up and away from my desk to focus on things that matter to me at home. Most notably, I’ve taken up coaching my kids and their teams in soccer, athletics and OzTag. Coaching kids and demonstrating diplomacy with sporting parents is now a part of my professional story,” he posted on LinkedIn in reference to the research.

“The skills I’m employing — patience, empathy, humour — by herding a group of six-year-olds around a soccer pitch are up there with the best professional workplace coaching I’ve ever had. It’s great to know that others are doing the same to create a safe and inclusive workspace that allows for both personal and professional development. I’d love to challenge more leaders to do the same.

Many law firm leaders have emphasised the importance of flexibility, particularly for working parents, as well as why mastering hybrid working will be key moving forward, especially in a candidate-driven market.

This is especially true as COVID-19 case numbers fluctuate; the Governance Institute of Australia Ethics Index, released in November last year, revealed that employers who fail to make flexible working part of their culture are considered more unethical in the face of COVID-19.

Crossover Law Group founder and principal solicitor Marial Lewis confirmed that this is a trend she has noticed gaining popularity post-pandemic.

The concept of ‘loud leaving’ has been gaining popularity, especially among NewLaw firms, and other firms have adopted more flexibility following the pandemic. This practice is mostly observed in firms that prioritise work/life balance and adopt an output-driven approach, focusing on the overall wellbeing of their employees both in and out of the office,” she told Lawyers Weekly.  

“However, in many traditional firms, there is still an expectation for lawyers to work long hours and remain in the office, even if senior leaders leave early or set their own schedules.

UK firm Stephenson Harwood in May also told its staff they could work from home permanently — provided they take a 20 per cent pay cut. In contrast, Australian boutique FAL Lawyers encourages remote working on a more permanent basis, after consulting with staff and key industry stakeholders about what the future of work looks like to them. Hive Legal’s commercial team, which won Commercial Team of the Year at last year’s Australian Law Awards, also supports a “truly flexible” workplace.

Shine Lawyers also unveiled a new nine-day fortnight option for staff in August last year, following the news that Coutts Lawyers & Conveyancers had done the same.

And despite the fact that multiple partners have expressed concerns regarding missed mentoring and learning opportunities in the face of flexible working, many BigLaw firms, including MinterEllison, Clayton Utz and Mills Oakley, are not — and will not — mandate in-office work moving forward.  

Similarly, when contacted for commentary for this article, Lander & Rogers chief executive partner Genevieve Collins said that “loud leaving” is not something that is practised at the firm.

"We have embraced fully hybrid working, with no mandated days or number of days. This provides our people with the flexibility to structure their working day in a way that suits them, while respecting client and team needs," she said.   

"Trust and respect are part of Lander & Rogers' culture, so 'loud leaving' isn't a practice we have observed or consider to be necessary for setting an example within teams."

However, while loud leaving can be a positive practice, expectations and workplace cultures need to be clearly communicated throughout the firm.

“Without this clarity, it can lead to confusion and ambiguity, creating an impression that only the bosses are allowed to leave and have a life outside of the office, while everyone else is expected to work late

“Loud leaving can also lead to a dilemma: if leaders allow themselves to leave early and delegate the workload to their juniors, they risk setting a bad example and creating resentment among their team who has to stay back to the heavy lifting. On the other hand, if they consistently work late and let their team members log off early, leaders may burn out themselves and resent their teams in the long run, leading to a toxic environment,” Ms Lewis added.

“Team members should still support each other during high-pressure periods which may require working longer than usual, such as when facing tight deadlines, which is quite common in law. However, working late should be the exception rather than the norm. Utilising technology and various tools can also aid in managing workloads and promote a ‘work smarter’ efficient approach in demanding roles allowing for time to do other things in life.”

Burnout, an issue the legal profession is all too familiar with, can also be combated by loud leaving — and by removing the expectation of long hours in the office.

A recent poll conducted by Lawyers Weekly found that lawyers are “very exhausted”, with exhaustion and burnout in the profession being an issue flagged by a recent panel discussion held by the Law Society of NSW.

This is a notion that a number of legal recruiters and legal professionals have agreed with; in July last year, Travis Schultz & Partners associate James Leggo said that “modern Australian work culture is not something to be envied” and that he has already seen many practitioners leave the legal sphere entirely, in search of greater work/life balance. Burnout was also revealed to be of top concern to in-house legal teams, too.

This, Ms Lewis opined, can be changed by firm leaders, who she said can shape the workplace culture and drive change in the legal profession by fostering an approach that prioritises the wellbeing of their employees — which, as of recent years, is a legal obligation under WHS regulations.

“Establishing a positive and healthy workplace culture can empower team members and juniors while also enhancing the overall performance and quality we offer our clients. Effective managers should actively encourage their team members and themselves to engage in activities that bring them joy, fulfilment, and energy. Leaders should promote work/life balance and avoid expecting their team members to lead a double life, balancing work hours and hiding family and other personal obligations,” she explained. 

“By modelling a healthy lifestyle both in and out of work, managers can promote greater satisfaction and productivity within the legal profession. The legal profession has an opportunity to establish a positive work culture, and throughout the pandemic and across all age groups, workers are increasingly seeking more fulfilling and meaningful lives. 

“However, there is a potential risk associated with the recent trend of returning to the office and expecting lawyers to revert to pre-pandemic norms. It is my hope that the legal industry will embrace new ways of working that reflect the changes brought about by the pandemic rather than simply reverting to the old ways.”