Pfizer is notorious in the legal profession for chiseling down law firm fees, greedily exploiting the buyer's market in legal services, and throttling down the law firms it uses to the 15 who will take the least money.
What has it gotten them?
These 15 neutered law firms accepted annual fixed fees for all their work -- all expenses included. The firms provided free "secondee" lawyers to the company, were dominated by a Pfizer steering committee, were forced to do free legal work, were graded on a "balanced score card" and suffered other humiliations.
And here is what these "legal alliance" law firms have brought Pfizer:
Of course the law firms would never admit that they gave the low-paying Pfizer work to untrained associates or took other shortcuts.
But when a company that relentlessly promoted "The Pfizer Model" for chiseling down legal fees gets spectacularly bad legal results -- you have to consider the circumstantial evidence.
It's like when you wake up and see snow on the ground in the morning. You have circumstantial evidence that it snowed.
The shake-up in the Pfizer Inc. law department continues under new general counsel Douglas Lankler, with this week's removal of Ellen Rosenthal.
For four years, she served as chief counsel for the Pfizer Legal Alliance (PLA), a select group of 15 law firms that represent the company.
Lankler purportedly sent out an email Monday to the member law firms. It said Rosenthal “will discontinue her PLA chief counsel responsibilities, effective immediately.”
In an interview Tuesday with CorpCounsel.com, Rosenthal confirmed to that she was leaving Pfizer and the alliance, but referred questions to Pfizer media relations.
The alliance, a collaborative partnership between Pfizer and the law firms, was formed five years ago by then–GC Amy Schulman, who was suddenly ousted in December. Schulman brought Rosenthal to Pfizer and handpicked her to lead the PLA.
The alliance was hailed as a model in cost-cutting and law firm management for in-house counsel. Besides handling cases, the PLA's work included a large number of pro bono and public interest efforts in which the outside firms were pushed to participate along with Pfizer.
Now, the question is: What will happen to the PLA and those efforts? At least one source has said Lankler told his legal team members that they could hire firms outside the alliance if they want.
In his letter, a copy of which was obtained by CorpCounsel.com, Lankler praised the alliance but said his team at Pfizer was “assessing,” “streamlining” and “reviewing where the alliance is and how it should continue to evolve.”
He wrote that the changes “will entail reducing some of the associated efforts and programs that are connected to the PLA, such as the PLA Roundtable, 30-minute practice area calls and the PLA annual report.”