As group legal director at support services company Enterprise, Lee Greenbury’s strategy to build a mini-law firm in-house is also receiving a lot of support.
An in-house legal team that operates like a law firm? That is the aim for Lee Greenbury, group legal director at support services company Enterprise, who insists on creating an in-house legal team of comparable experience to private practice.
With a company as diverse as Enterprise – a growing company that provides infrastructure maintenance services throughout the UK, primarily for local authorities and the utility industries – such a team is highly warranted.
Enterprise has undergone significant change over the past four years. Greenbury arrived at the company from Provalis, a heathcare company that went into voluntary liquidation shortly prior to Greenbury leaving.
Greenbury’s new company, by comparison, was engaged in a period of growth that has since taken it from a turnover of £100m in 2000 to £1.3bn in 2009.
Greenbury experienced the company’s entrepreneurial spirit from the moment he arrived, working on a management buy-in in 2007.
In September of that same year Enterprise acquired Accord, a provider of maintenance services for a number of social housing organisations, local authorities and the Highways Agency, and saw its turnover jump from £800m to around £1bn. In 2009 the company continued to grow and acquired Bethell Power.
As Enterprise has changed, so has the size of the legal team. When Greenbury joined he was one of three. Enterprise now has a team of six senior lawyers, with three focusing on property, minor litgation and M&A respectively while the rest focus on commercial and client contracts (which Greenbury also gets involved with).
Greenbury describes his reliance on senior, private practice lawyers as a strategy to build a talented legal department in the guise of a mini-law firm – something he picked up from his six-year stint at Boots.
Lawyers who have made the jump from private practice to in-house include Mark Sanderson, a former PFI partner at Walker Morris, and Anna Gregory, an eight year-qualified M&A lawyer from Pannone, while former Eversheds and Nabbaro lawyers also join the roster.
Greenbury places importance on the team’s M&A skills. “Tendering for contracts is a mini-acquisition in its own right,” he says. “The skills are quite transferable.”
When he does look outside for advice, Greenbury tries to use North West firms where possible, due to “strong connections” with local authorities near its Lancashire base.
The teams’ workload is roughly divided into 50 per cent contracts, 25 per cent property and 25 per cent small-level claims.
Small-level claims relate to either Enterprise seeking payment for services it has provided or paying entitlements to the company’s network of 800 subcontractors.
“Contracts run for seven, 14 and 21 years, so when we get to the end it can be quite complicated,” explains Greenbury.
One of the heaviest aspects of the team’s workload involves submitting the tenders for such contracts – often a lengthy bidding process. The work can be planned – contracts for utilities such as water go through a five-year cycle – while others rely on the incumbent’s contract running out. Some bids can reach 800 pages and involve the planning required to take over from an incumbent contractor, a process called ’mobilisation’.
“A lot of the things we do, like rubbish collection, are in the public eye,” explains Greenbury. “When we take over a contract, the local authority will finish on the Friday and the householders will expect it to carry on smoothly.”
In 2008 Enterprise was awarded a seven-year contract for waste collection in Manchester. The deal involved an asset transfer with previous contractors, setting up a joint venture with Manchester City Council and Tupe transfer with more than 100 workers. The bulk of the Tupe work was handled by the company’s “highly skilled” HR department, says Greenbury.
“Part of building a team is to get a credible legal department that has good quality and timing in its response,” he adds. “If there’s a need for legal advice I want to have the relevant experience in-house. I wouldn’t expect anyone externally to know more than we do about the areas we deal with day to day.”
Name: Lee Greenbury
Title: Group legal director
Industry: Support services
Number of employees:14,000
Total legal capability:Seven
1983-86: LLB (Hons) Business Law, University of Huddersfield
1986-87: Solicitor’s Finals, Wolverhampton
1987-89: Articled clerk, Wake Smith & Co, Sheffield
1989-92: Corporate and commercial associate, Hamlin Slowe, London
1992-98: Commercial legal adviser, The Boots Company
1998-2006: Company secretary and group legal counsel, Provalis
2006-present: Group legal director, Enterprise