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The benefits of creating a family-friendly legal workplace

The founder of a Newcastle-headquartered law firm has shared her insights on the importance of providing support to lawyers who are also working parents.

user iconEmma Musgrave 23 November 2023 SME Law
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Justine Aubin, the founder of August & Claire Lawyers, recently appeared on The Boutique Lawyer Show to highlight how critical creating family-friendly workplaces has become.

Ms Aubin’s firm, based in Newcastle with an office in Sydney, stands as a testament to her commitment to creating a supportive environment where professionals can balance their legal careers and family life without compromise.

The motivation to establish her firm stemmed from her observations of the profession, where the conventional nine-to-five business model often left working parents with little flexibility.


“I really wanted to create an environment where women could feel that they could have a career and could have a family and didn’t have to be scared of taking a step back, which is something I had seen happening in the law industry,” she explained.

“I wanted to move away from your typical sort of law firms and that nine-to-five business model, which didn’t work for me. I couldn’t see that working for other working parents either, and so I wanted to create a flexible work environment where people can have a family and can also have a career – really give people the option to have it all and not have to choose between their career and your family.”

As Ms Aubin’s journey to establish her firm coincided with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, one would think she had a suite of obstacles to overcome. However, she found that the pandemic catalysed positive changes in the legal sector, especially in the realm of remote work.

Many legal proceedings, including mediations, shifted to online platforms, allowing for greater flexibility in how legal professionals manage their work, she explained.

“I actually think [the pandemic] been quite a positive on the legal industry because it’s, at least in my area, in wills and estates and particularly in contested estates, when I started, everything was done in person, whereas for a period of the time, directions, hearings and mediations could be done via phone, via Zoom.

“I feel like it has changed things. Directions, hearings are back in person at the moment, but mediations are often done now via Zoom, via Teams. That also allowed me to create this flexible working environment where I don’t need the whole team to be in the office.”

Greater flexibility hasn’t seen a decrease in the quality of work being done either, Ms Aubin noted.

“Like everybody else, I worked from home the whole of the pandemic, and it didn’t impact my work,” she explained.

“A lot of my clients are actually happy dealing with us over the phone, via Zoom, by email. A lot of them prefer it; they don’t really want to travel if they don’t need to.”

The August & Claire team is also happy with the flexible arrangement, with Ms Aubin noting this leads to greater productivity and a better office culture.

“I’m finding that it’s actually making my employees more productive. They are happier so our office culture is better.

“I’ve tried to integrate my personal values into the workplace. I’m constantly on double duty, trying to run a business, and I’ve also got a six-month-old. So, by integrating my own values, I let my employees do the same. Most of my employees have children. There are school drop-offs and pick-ups. It makes everybody’s lives easier. And then I find that they’re happy coming into the office; they’re happy coming to work.”

The key to this arrangement working practically comes back to instilling open communication, Ms Aubin noted.

She said that while they have a designated office day to promote social interaction, the team’s schedule during the rest of the week is designed to accommodate individual needs and personal responsibilities. Team members are encouraged to overlap their office presence to maintain a balance between in-person collaboration and remote work.

“I’m very big on communication. There’s no policy per se around school drop-offs. As long as everybody works their hours, essentially, it’s up to them: If they want to start early, they want to finish early,” Ms Aubin said.

“They all know that over the course of the week, as long as they get the work done, there are absolutely no issues around whatever they need to do in their personal life. Of course, as long as clients are catered, which has not been an issue, we’re really working as a team.

“If somebody has a personal issue that they need to deal with or they need to be there for their family, the rest of the team steps up.”

NB: This transcript has been edited slightly for publishing purposes. You can listen to the full episode here:

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