Bill Marsillo – PrimeLine Utility Services
Having distinguished himself as a private litigator, Bill Marsillo acknowledges how he sometimes misses the courtroom when his employer of the past year is immersed in something contentious. That can be often, given that Marsillo’s employer, PrimeLine Utility Services, is a holding company for entities that design, construct and maintain infrastructure for utility and telecommunications clientele.
“Part of me wants to roll up my sleeves and get involved when we’re litigating,” he says. “But, quite frankly, that wouldn’t be a wise thing to do.”
How much more prudent Marsillo says it is to entrust litigation to capable outside counsel. Meanwhile, he enjoys handling a diverse set of matters well beyond litigation and tries to prevent issues from ever requiring PrimeLine to be a plaintiff or defendant in a proceeding. And there’ll always be some matter warranting his attention, including on the contracting front.
But he’s well-honed here, Marsillo having represented clients in various industries in high-stakes litigation, many involving contractual disputes, during his 23-year stretch at the Armonk, New York, headquarters of Boies Schiller Flexner before becoming PrimeLine’s general counsel in June 2022. Prior to the company inking any deal, Marsillo reviews every line, taking special note of indemnity, warranty and liability provisions. Much can ride on what responsibilities PrimeLine undertakes with vendors or clients, he says, and much back-and-forth is inevitable before reaching common ground.
“In any compromise you’ll never be 100 percent happy or unhappy,” Marsillo tells Vanguard in August while working from his office in Tarrytown, New York. “You just have to carefully manage the risks in light of the circumstances that might give rise to liability and the extent of your liability.”
Confidentiality prevents Marsillo from discussing litigation in progress but, as is the case with any big company, it runs the gamut from personnel matters and slip-and-falls to big-dollar commercial disputes. It’s a consequence of doing business, and as Marsillo begins his second year at PrimeLine, he says there’ll only be more scenarios to ponder and risks to manage as the company continues to grow.
Growing smart and steady
Smart growth is the mantra, Marsillo says, as PrimeLine grows from within and outside with him advising across the board. While there haven’t been mergers and acquisitions on his watch, he says the company evaluates opportunities that make sense, with him directly involved in documentation and due diligence, providing strategic advice and tapping into his experience to “look around the corner.”
While PrimeLine’s clientele includes traditional energy producers and distributors, he says the company has also seen growth in solar power and other renewables. Anything energy-related being regulated, Marsillo says he must keep tabs on state and federal case law, legislation and regulations that could affect PrimeLine or its clients.
It’s a most exciting time to be legal boss in the energy and telecommunications industries, he says, with so much evolving in both. Much as he relished private litigation, Marsillo says he had wanted a more strategic role helping to build something with a great team, hence his midcareer move in-house.
But how he says his nearly 23 years at Boies Schiller Flexner prepared him for this role, Marsillo having litigated high-stakes domestic and international disputes as well as the occasional criminal case.
He recalls representing a pharmaceutical company in a patent dispute over an insulin formulation and medical device. When a competitor challenged the validity of that company’s patents, Marsillo was instrumental in defending his client’s intellectual property under the Hatch-Waxman Act that establishes the legal and economic foundation for the modern generic pharmaceutical industry.
Much earlier in his career, he was a junior associate to a defense team that exonerated a young man accused of burning horse stables in Brooklyn. Though the young man had confessed, Marsillo says the defense showed he had been coerced. An interesting case, to say the least, and one of many that showed Marsillo not everything is as it seems in a legal dispute.
He’d rather mean business
Marsillo’s spent the bulk of his career on the civil side, and since the summer of 2022 has tried to keep PrimeLine from being embroiled in disputes but says the company isn’t hesitant to enforce its rights if necessary. He’d rather help advance PrimeLine on its business expansion than have it be bogged down in court. It’s all part of being a general counsel, a role he’s taken quite a liking to.
“That first year here has been great,” he says. “We have an excellent team and each day brings something different and keeps things interesting.”
Time was when Marsillo might have been helping PrimeLine in other capacities, he having graduated the Stevens Institute of Technology in 1994 with a degree in materials engineering. The STEM curriculum—science, technology, engineering, math—always appealed to him, and Marsillo says his versatility in such subjects has aided his legal career immeasurably.
“The logical flow of problem-solving and rigor needed in engineering and science can be the same for your legal analysis,” he says. “My understanding of technology has helped me understand some very complicated cases.”
Upon graduating the Stevens Institute, Marsillo enrolled at Harvard Law School, graduating in 1997 and clerking the next two years in the federal courts of Massachusetts and New York before beginning his lengthy tenure at Boies Schiller Flexner and achieving partnership.
It’s different being in-house, he says, likening his role to that of a coach or manager who learned the game as a player and now is positioned to strategize and advise. Teamwork’s all important, he says, and that includes partnering with outside counsel.
And demanding as the role might be, he finds it refreshing to have internal clients. Working from the inside, he says he can help PrimeLine much more than as a private lawyer brought in to mitigate some crisis.
He also finds the role more conducive to personal life, and when Marsillo spoke with Vanguard, he had just returned from an Italian vacation with his wife and their two sons. His wife, Amy, has a demanding career of her own, she being federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of New York.
The two met while playing coed soccer as Harvard Law students. Each has much regard for the other’s work, Marsillo says, but they don’t discuss much in detail.
“We both take seriously our confidential responsibilities,” he says.
View this feature in the Vanguard Fall I 2023 Edition here.
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