Morgan Lewis adds ex-Aramark counsel

Posted: July 15, 2010

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius L.L.P. is set to announce the hiring of Bart J. Colli, the former general counsel of Aramark Corp., one of Philadelphia's largest employers, as a partner in its business and finance practice.

The firm said it anticipated that Colli would provide key insights and tactics as the firm sought to work with financially pressed legal departments of clients seeking to cut costs.

"Having overseen the legal department of a Fortune 250 company operating in 20 countries with 260,000 employees for over a decade gives Bart tremendous insight into the issues keeping in-house counsel up at night," said firm chairman Francis Milone.

Colli, 62, had been general counsel and executive vice president at Center City-based Aramark, a sprawling, $13 billion food, facilities-management, and service company, where he headed a corporate legal department with 45 lawyers in the United States and abroad.

He retired last year from that job but has been consulting with Aramark since then.

With the legal market still down from its highs of a few years ago, law firms large and small spend considerable time trying to divine what corporate counsel want most from their outside law firms.

Colli says it is not so hard.

Cost is a factor, but it is not the only thing that matters.

"The real factor is value; getting advice that is not productive and helpful" can create problems, he said.

Big companies also need firms with wide geographic reach, a structure that creates stability for the corporate client.

"If you just parachute in with a problem in some corner of the world or the U.S. where you are not a steady client of the firm, it is difficult to validate the experience of the lawyer that you are getting, so you are not sure you are getting the 'A' team," he said.

Colli, of West Conshohocken, said he planned to focus on mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance, internal investigations, compliance, and other matters.

Steven Wall, a member of the 1,256-lawyer firm's management committee, said corporate legal departments had been under significant cost pressure, and he expected that Colli would have some tips for partners and associates at the firm about how to cope with that.

"The most significant change over the last several years has been assisting in-house legal departments in addressing the pressure they face from their internal clients [corporate CEOs] to keep costs down," Wall said. "Outside lawyers who understand that pressure will be more successful."

Contact staff writer Chris Mondics at 215-854-5957 or