Rachel Launders is General Counsel and Company Secretary at Nine Entertainment. She has worked with the Nine group for over 10 years, having been a key external legal adviser as a partner at Gilbert + Tobin. Launders shares her insights.
Tell us about your career?
Varied is the word I would apply. When I graduated, I worked as a research assistant for Justice Rogers in the Supreme Court for 18 months. Afterwards, I worked on a NSW government inquiry into a home loan scheme that had gone badly. I then went to the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) where I did a whole range of corporate transactions from the regulator’s point of view. That gave me a really interesting perspective on how lawyers make commercial deals happen. I then worked for Gilbert + Tobin for 16 years and became a partner in 2001. I did a diverse array of corporate and commercial work for a whole range of clients including Nine. In late 2014, Nine offered me position and I’ve worked there ever since.
Talk us through a typical day?
It’s very much driven by what’s going on in the business. In any day I could be dealing with our board if we’ve got meetings or other governance issues that we need to deal with. It might be working on sports programming or corporate activity. I also manage a team of lawyers across the business and provide guidance. There’s also a whole lot of regulatory things going on. Something I’ve been involved with is the digital platforms inquiry and their code process with the ACCC trying to get Google and Facebook to pay media businesses in Australia for the use of their content.
What do you like most about your job?
My favourite aspect of the job is working with people who are passionate about what they do. From the people who make our programming to the journalists and our clients. They are all enormously passionate and it’s inspiring to be around. I also got to attend a MAFS wedding a couple of years back. It was great to see how television gets made. Just to clarify, they are not legally married in the show, they just commit to participate in the experiment. The unscrambling if they were would keep me very busy!
What are you proud of?
In 2012, while I was working at Gilbert + Tobin, Nine was on the brink of insolvency. The business was fundamentally sound, but it had $3.2 billion dollars’ worth of debt that needed repaying. I worked really hard and closely with the Nine CEO, CFO, board members and General Counsel to restructure that debt. We were able to turn an awful situation into something which enabled Nine to be the profitable company that it is today.
Do you have any advice for people seeking to follow a similar career path?
I don’t think anyone would set out to follow a path as erratic as mine but my advice for someone looking for an in-house role is to spend some time working in a law firm to refine your skills and training. The next step is to find a business that you feel excited by and try find a role within that organisation.
What is a key take-away from the last 12 months?
I’ve looked at force majeure clauses more in the last 12 months than in the rest of my career. The experience has really underlined for me the importance of maintaining relationships with our contractual partners. Having come through the past 12 months, we’ve not engaged in major litigation with anyone about any of those sorts of issues and instead prioritised our relationships. That’s something I’m really proud of.