PRIVATE COMPANY WITH ANNUAL REVENUES OVER $500M
Vice President, Associate General Counsel, Enterprise Holdings
Meredith Perkins is on a quest: Complete a half-marathon in all 50 states. Asked why she and her friends would strive to run 13 miles in so many locales, she corrects the record: “Thirteen point one. We always say the 0.1 is the worst part.”
Clearly, she appreciates variety and precision — both of which characterize her work at Enterprise Holdings, the $26 billion vehicle-rental company where she is vice president and associate general counsel. Perkins handles all legal matters arising out of the company’s North American rental and leasing operations. Her purview is vast. It includes litigation, acquisitions, contracts, antitrust, consumer protection, privacy, legislation, real estate, advertising, environmental, health and safety, and debt offerings.
In addition, Perkins advises the company on compliance issues and helps with strategic planning. She also manages and hires for the legal department.
“We’re so lean that, to me, the most exciting thing I do is the variety,” said Perkins. “I couldn’t imagine just handling one thing.”
Enterprise’s legal department is no longer as lean as it was when she arrived in 2004. Back then, she said, the company had only one attorney. It didn’t yet have a big presence at airports. It hadn’t yet acquired rival rental companies National and Alamo. Therefore, Perkins said, it didn’t have a big target on its back. Things have changed.
“We have disruptors in our market,” Perkins said, citing as just one example peer-to-peer rental apps, which can be thought of as AirBnB but for vehicles instead of homes. “We try to make sure there’s a level playing field.”
Long before joining Enterprise, Perkins knew she wanted to practice in-house. While earning her degree at Washington University School of Law, she spoke to the father of one of her friends, who happened to be the general counsel at Ralston Purina. He advised her to grind it out as a litigator at a top law firm, then look around for in-house positions.
She followed his advice. Upon graduating in 1996, she joined the litigation department at St. Louis-based Thompson Coburn. She appreciated the “safety net” of more seasoned lawyers looking over her work —something that’s generally impossible in-house because the workload is so big and fast-moving. For this reason, she rarely, if ever, hires an applicant right out of law school at Enterprise.
“You just have to hit the ground running,” Perkins said.
She herself did exactly that upon leaving Thompson Coburn in 2004 and going to American Water Company. Within a few years, American Water was sold to a German company, and Perkins found herself applying for her own job. A recruiter reached out and told her Enterprise wanted to build a legal department. Thus she made her move.
Outside of the office, Perkins serves on the board of the Churchill Center & School, which educates students with dyslexia, ADHD and other learning disabilities. Perkins’ daughter attended and achieved such great results that Perkins, to show her gratitude, has agreed to run Churchill’s capital campaign.
Meanwhile, she and her running friends are about a third of the way to their goal: As of early November, they will have pounded out half-marathons in 18 states. Sometimes they run fast, Perkins said; other times, less so. “We say it’s about the fun, not the run.”