Don’t stand still. Don’t blend in. Don’t be a passenger.
Brookfield Property Partners’ Senior Vice President & General Counsel, Claire Bibby, originally hails from England, migrating to Australia as a young girl. Her grandfather and brother were both police officers, and she dreamed of being a lawyer. At 16 years old she was a witness to a crime and gave evidence in court. The whole experience shattered her childhood dream of being a lawyer: “Giving evidence in court was overwhelming. The defence attorney attacked me on the stand in a way I had never been treated before. Whilst the Judge chastised the counsel for the way I was cross examined as a child, it left me with a very sour taste in my mouth about the law.”
Three years later, an opportunity to study law “fell into her lap”. After winning a commerce scholarship to attend Bond University in Queensland and having finished one semester, the Bond Law School offered her a second academic scholarship to study a law degree.
“I hadn’t forgotten my experience of giving evidence, but as Richard Branson says ‘If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes - then learn how to do it later’,” says Claire, who became a commercial litigator for eight years before moving in-house, which she’s been doing now for more than 16 years.
“Being a litigator taught me the art of negotiation. It gave me a great understanding of the court system and the desire to not leave your destiny in the hands of someone else. But I wanted to work within a company and be in the middle of deal-making. Moving into my first General Counsel role after a few years in-house gave me a taste of what it was like to be embedded in a business and to be in the thick of it. I love the art and science of negotiating and deal-making,” she admits.
Brookfield is a global alternative asset manager. She advises almost 4000 internal clients with a team of seven people, and is kept “gloriously busy”.
“The best word to describe my practice is that it’s like a kaleidoscope. The colourful nature and variety of legal issues that I deal with - set against a backdrop of the strength and processes of working in a global business like Brookfield – are such that no one day is ever the same,” she says.
Brookfield has also provided a stage to use her position to advance causes of personal importance, both inside and outside of the company, including various initiatives to support Brookfield women, working families and philanthropic causes. Claire is currently working on establishing “Brookfield Giving”, a partnership with Brookfield’s major service providers to donate a proportion of their fees or time to charity, which Brookfield then matches. Brookfield has also joined the Diversity Council of Australia as part of its ongoing commitment to supporting diversity and inclusion.
Claire’s recent Stevie Award took things to a new level.
The Stevie Awards were created in 2002 to recognise accomplishments and contributions of companies and business people worldwide. The awards were described by the New York Post as a way to "distinguish the good guys from the scoundrels" during a period of heightened scrutiny and distrust of managers and CEOs after the Enron scandal. Awards are judged each year by figures in business worldwide. This year the Judges received entries from 31 nations and territories and more than 1400 nominations from organisations and individuals.
Armed now with this recognition, Claire wants to use it to encourage young women to step up and, just as she has, be proactive in seeking career advancement. One of Claire’s favourite quotes is that of Carla Zampatti in the Australian Institute of Management Manifesto where she said: “Don’t stand still. Don’t blend in. Don’t be a passenger.”
Coming from a property background, mentoring to Claire is a form of sustainability – it helps ensure a stream of young individuals coming up the ranks.
“It is not all one way though,” she says.
“I find that through mentoring I learn more about myself and develop my own skills. I often feel reinvigorated after mentoring and at times leave a meeting with a sense of satisfaction that I have contributed to a legacy of developing the next generation.”
Her number one tip for career is: “Dream big and write down a plan on how you can achieve your dreams; seek to make a meaningful impact in what you do, both for yourself and for others. And remember to say thanks – in the long run others may not remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.”