Don’t be afraid to speak up and give your independent advice in a frank and fearless way. The problem won’t always be presented to you with a nice bow on it.
Connie Carnabuci, General Counsel at the ABC, was looking for a challenge when she made the jump in-house after 28 years of private practice. She is now supporting the public broadcaster through a pandemic and redundancies stemming from recent budget cuts.
Eager for a new challenge, Carnabuci quit her job in Hong Kong and returned to Australia. She later took up the position at the ABC in 2017. Since starting in the role, she has navigated her team through COVID-19 and the recent budget cuts.
“What really attracted me to the role was the fact the ABC was going through a period of major digital transformation,” says Carnabuci.
“In terms of business, when COVID-19 hit, we had to quickly assess the impact it had on our contractual obligations and rights. We took the view that these were long-term partners of ours, so we didn’t necessarily want a very legal approach.
“Instead, we wanted to vary our arrangements so that we all came out on a win-win basis.”
When asked about the recent budget cuts, Carnabuci acknowledges the difficulty of losing valued staff members and the sensitivities this kind of restructure presents.
“At the heart of it all is treating people with respect. Some of the people who are leaving are very valued colleagues,” says Carnabuci.
“It’s through no fault of their own, but we’ve had to make choices to ensure we are using public resources optimally.”
Passionate about in-house roles, Carnabuci encourages lawyers in private practice to consider making the jump.
“The technical legal skills and personal skills you acquire from private practice will serve you brilliantly in-house,” says Carnabuci.
Carnabuci notes one of the key points of difference is that in-house lawyers are required to make business decisions in a more immediate and intimate way.
Carnabuci encourages her team to see themselves as business partners rather than separate from the business.
“It is important that we are at the table when new ideas are coming through and that we work with our clients directly through their projects,” she says.
Her underlying motto is that “no one has a monopoly on good ideas”; a phrase she lives by as she frequently invites junior members to contribute ideas.
“If you can create a space where everyone’s opinion is listened to, I think you start to get a really strong culture of collaboration,” says Carnabuci.
“Diversity of thinking is really important. Even the most junior person on your team might have an idea that you as a more senior person haven’t thought of due to your different exposures and experiences.”
Beyond championing her own team, Carnabuci is passionate about the promotion of creative talent in Australia.
As the largest employer of creative talent in the southern hemisphere, the ABC continues to nurture and develop the industry for the benefit of all Australians.
“The work hasn’t stopped; the show goes on.”