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‘I want people to like their workplace’

While some boutique law firms remain adamant about bringing staff to return to the office full-time, others maintain that continued flexibility is a must. For this firm owner, creating an environment that is more than just a workplace is essential.

user iconEmma Musgrave 28 December 2023 SME Law
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In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the legal industry, like many others, faced unprecedented challenges and changes in the way it operated.

As remote work became the new norm, the legal profession saw a shift towards flexible work arrangements. However, some law firm founders have chosen to reverse that trend, insisting that their employees return to the traditional office setting.

Justine Aubin, the founder of boutique law firm August & Claire Lawyers, based in Newcastle, is one of the voices advocating for maintaining a flexible work culture.


Speaking on a recent episode of The Boutique Lawyer Show, Ms Aubin emphasised the importance of nurturing a supportive work environment that aligns with the changing needs of employees and having family-friendly workplaces.

“I generally want people to like their workplace, and I guess I wanted to create a working environment that wasn’t just a workplace … I want people to enjoy their work, and I want them to know that I do care. I really genuinely do care about my employees and they are my absolute priority.

“I really do believe that if you look after your employees, they will look after your clients,” she said.

Ms Aubin’s perspective on work/life integration, as opposed to the traditional work/life balance, highlights the importance of ensuring employees can harmonise their professional and personal lives effectively. She believes this approach has worked well for her team, thanks to a strong foundation of trust and communication.

Regarding the law firms that insist on forcing employees back into the office, Ms Aubin expressed her disappointment.

“I still do hear of quite a lot of law firms that are actually making their employees come back to work and really sort of forcing people to be back into the office.

“That’s a bit disappointing after the pandemic, to see some firms going back [to that]. To me, that’s a step back,” Ms Aubin said, noting that if employees can be productive from home and their work can be effectively accomplished remotely, it doesn’t make sense to force them back into the office.

“If your employees want to be back into the office, that’s fine; there’s absolutely no issues. But if your employees are productive from home and the work can be done at home, in law, you don’t need to be in the office to perform your job,” she said.

“I don’t think that that is good for employee morale and for the office culture. It doesn’t make employees happy.”

Looking ahead to the new year, Ms Aubin hopes to see more firms adopting flexible work arrangements, and she anticipates it becoming a growing trend.

“I’m hoping to see more and more firms implementing flexible work arrangements for their employees, and I think we are seeing more and more firms doing that. I like to think that that will be a trend that we will see more of in 2024,” she said.

“I’ve always been of the view that as a leader, you have to lead by example. That’s why I’ve integrated my own personal values into the workplace, and I let my employees do the same. If I can leave work early to look after my child, then I want all of my employees to have the same option.

“I think you’ve got to lead by example, and I think you have to be there to support your employees, and they have to know that they are [valued].”

Ms Aubin has also written about how working parents are an asset, not a liability, in legal workplaces.

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

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