Building industry connections

Phillip Greenham is Melbourne Law School’s first Enterprise Fellow – an appointment aimed at connecting industry leaders with the University of Melbourne to enrich teaching, research and engagement.

Phillip Greenham
Phillip Greenham is an Enterprise Fellow at MLS. Image supplied.

By Rachel Hewitt

Phillip Greenham is Melbourne Law School’s first Enterprise Fellow – an appointment aimed at connecting industry leaders with the University of Melbourne to enrich teaching, research and engagement.

From the Eureka Tower to AAMI Park, leading construction lawyer Phillip Greenham has played a pivotal role in some of Melbourne’s most significant modern landmarks. He will now help build key links between Melbourne Law School, the industry and regulatory bodies in his new role as a Melbourne Enterprise Fellow.

The highly-selective Enterprise Fellow appointments allow the University of Melbourne to recruit industry leaders who can enrich teaching, research and engagement through distinctive knowledge and skills that would otherwise be unavailable to it.

Greenham, the Law School’s first Enterprise Fellow, brings a wealth of knowledge to the role, gained through 35 years in the construction law sector. This includes more than three decades working in Australia’s largest infrastructure and construction practice at MinterEllison.

Greenham’s career began somewhat fortuitously when he joined Ellison, Hewison and Whitehead, as it was then known, in 1983 after completing law and science degrees at Monash University.

The plan was to rotate me through four areas [of the firm] on three-month intervals.

I spent my first three months doing workers’ compensation and I spent my second three months doing construction law. No one ever came and told me where I was going to spend my third and fourth three months.

Greenham was “very, very happily stuck”.

He retired from MinterEllison a Senior Partner in 2016, and names MONA in Hobart and the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre as among his career highlights.

Even now when I’m driving around the city and the family is in the car, I’ll say ‘Oh, I did the construction contract for that building’.

Greenham is now an arbitrator and the principal of JBM Advisory. He teaches in the MLS construction law program.

He attributes his long-time interest in construction law to three factors.

The first is that it is a “fertile ground” for the development of the law, with a large number of decisions in construction law cases “exploring the frontiers of the evolution of the law”, such as liquidated damages and penalties.

Another factor, he says, is that it’s “tremendously fascinating” helping to build physical assets with “high social utility”.

It’s one of the few areas of the law where it has a very strong industry focus. As a property, commercial or banking and finance lawyer you could be dealing with many industry segments, but as a construction lawyer you’re dealing cradle to grave with issues affecting the one industry.

The final reason is the “enormous” camaraderie between construction industry professionals worldwide, including lawyers, architects, engineers and other consultants.

“It’s a camaraderie which I haven’t observed in any other legal discipline.”

Greenham has been instrumental in fostering an international network of construction lawyers. He co-founded the Australian chapter of the Society of Construction Law and has been active in the International Bar Association’s International Construction Projects Committee.

As an Enterprise Fellow, Greenham is most looking forward to developing connections between MLS, other parts of the University and the wider industry.

“The development and nurturing of those connections, and the identification of projects that come from those connections, is something I’ve really been doing for 10 years in various capacities,” he says.

“This [role] gives me an opportunity to do it in a more structured, formal way, and also with the added benefit of having the University of Melbourne involved in that activity."

This article originally appeared in MLS News, Issue 21, June 2019