It’s been a big year for the accoladed General Counsel of the Year at the 2018 Women in Law Awards, Rachel Launders.
The general counsel and company secretary for Nine Entertainment Co has been hard at work negotiating Australian Open tennis rights, establishing subscription service Future Women, and responding to the ACCC’s Digital Platform Enquiry, all while working on the highly publicised merger of Nine with Fairfax Media.
“Completely surprised to be named as the winner,” Ms Launders admitted to Lawyers Weekly that she had not even told colleagues what she was going to Melbourne for when she attended the Women in Law Awards event.
Since picking up the award, she has been inundated with “so many wonderful comments from colleagues, friends and others on the night, on LinkedIn and in person – I’m quite amazed how news travels and how people have responded to me winning this award.”
Dealing with a wide range of matters day-to-day, Ms Launders’ position means that at any given time, she could be acquiring sports rights, dealing with employee issues, aiding in advertising sales, considering major property transactions or providing advice on joint venture arrangements.
In the in-house space, the board member and lawyer enjoys the level of engagement she has with the business, which is “so much closer than even the most trusted external adviser gets.”
And while it isn’t strictly legal, “you’re sitting in the business, so get involved in a lot of issues” that Ms Launders notes “are part of what makes the business tick.”
For the past six months, a majority of the general counsel’s time has been spent on what she has called “the biggest challenge in the last year”: the Fairfax Media merger.
For Ms Launders, this has involved “doing the deal which was announced in July and then all of the work that goes into preparing for completion and then integration of the businesses.”
“This was the first merger which took advantage of the changes to media control rules which were passed last year,” she explained, “so the level of scrutiny which the transaction received, including from the ACCC, was understandably high and thorough.”
Speaking about the experience, she remarked on the amount of engagement with the ACCC over a period of several months. Ms Launders also noted they had brought in “a number of experts from across the business to talk to the ACCC about how the business and industry operates and how it would operate after the merger.”
To help manage the challenge, she emphasised her good fortune “to have so many colleagues who gave generously of their time and expertise.”
Acknowledging the trials and tribulations of the Fairfax merger, Ms Launders is not dismissive of the “enormous opportunities for the business” as a result of the deal.
As the company works out “how the different parts of the Fairfax business fit with our existing business, and work out how to maximise all parts of the business,” Ms Launders said they would “contribute to Nine’s strategy to create great content, distribute it broadly and engage audiences and advertisers.”
Always looking at the negatives and the positives, Ms Launders also sees the constant change of technology as “both an opportunity and a challenge,” which “offers increasing ways to engage with audience, but also increasing competition for our content.”
While it could be of concern, “that’s an exciting space to be a part of,” she said.
And continuing with the positive talk, Ms Launders urged women lawyers to “celebrate all that we do and have achieved in a challenging profession,” despite a tendency “for women not to put themselves forward for awards because it looks like showing off or something.”
“It’s the least we can do to honour Ada Evans, Marie Byles, Greta Flos Greig and the other trailblazers who struggled for the right to study and practise law, which we take for granted.”
This follows prior coverage of the 2018 Women in Law's In-House Lawyer of the Year.
Follow the link to the Women in Law Awards' full list of 2018 winners.