In the noise about Pfizer’s massive fixed-fee arrangement, a whispered question

Some general counsel might conclude that if they undertake an innovative, daring, and massive restructuring of their economic relationship with outside counsel, they should keep it quiet. One reason might be that a competitive advantage should not be bruited about. Another reason could be caution; new ideas often go blooie, so why advertise a potential misstep?

Not so with Amy Schulman, the general counsel of Pfizer, who seems to have held back nothing in Corp. Counsel, Vol. 17, Jan. 2010 at 66. The article pours out facts, dates, and specifics. It is a recipe for one technique to “slash its domestic legal spending by 15-20 percent.

Here is the whispered question. Is Pfizer altruistically becoming the poster child for change? Is Schulman courageously trying to drive industry-wide change?

More pragmatically, massive publicity serves to increase the odds of success, since the company and its law firms are on record, wide open for scrutiny and therefore everyone will try harder? Like Coronado burning his ships upon landing, you shout out your claim and then strive harder to accomplish it. Perhaps with word out Pfizer hopes to hear from other general counsel and keep learning. Perhaps the external praise for innovation and boldness helps counter internal sniping and power grabs?

Whenever a general counsel encourages wide-spread awareness in the legal media about an initiative, it reflects a mixture of pride, desire to effect change broadly, and a hope for tangible benefits to the department (See my post of Jan. 30, 2008: publicity by law departments with 12 references; and June 11, 2007: publicity with 12 references.).

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