Looking to save money on its $500 million-plus annual legal bills, Pfizer's top in-house lawyer, Amy Schulman, is changing the way the drugmaker pays the numerous law firms that handle patent, product liability and other litigation. Schulman, who joined Pfizer from DLA Piper in mid-2008 (see here), initiated a flat fee instead of billable hours and, so far, 19 firms have met the new standards. By the end of 2010, she wants three-fourths of her legal spending to be handled within the network and slash domestic legal spending by 15 percent to 20 percent.
Beyond cost cutting, Schulman wants to build better long-term relationships with her outside counsel. By liberating them from the billable hour, she believes the law firms can focus on the real value of their work for the drugmaker. Ultimately, Schulman says, she wants her outside lawyers to be more than legal troubleshooters. They can become "consiglieri," working as business partners with Pfizer—and each other. "I'm trying to project us into a world that doesn't yet exist," she tells Corporate Counsel.