The Progressive Model for Law Firm/Client Partnering

Volume 38 Number 6


About the Author

Susan Saltonstall Duncan is the founder and president of RainMaking Oasis Inc., a consulting firm that helps law firms create and execute effective strategies in business, practice and client development, focusing on how firms can adjust to the “new normal.” 

Law Practice Magazine | November/December 2012 | The Client Service IssueThe Pfizer Legal Alliance: “Nineteen law firms, working together to advance the value of legal counseling to benefit all Alliance partners, their clients and the legal profession.”

Since its inception three years ago, the Pfizer Legal Alliance, an innovative partnering strategy, continues to be highly effective both for Pfizer and for the 19 law firms currently selected as members. At a recent roundtable hosted by Bucerius Law School’s  Center on the Legal Profession at the offices of Venable in New York City, Ellen Rosenthal, chief counsel, Pfizer Legal Alliance (PLA); Jeff Chasnow, chief counsel emerging markets; and John Dougherty, partner at DLA Piper, shared their observations of the program’s challenges and successes, as summarized below:

Key Features/Components of Pfizer Legal Alliance:

  • Annual fixed fees established for each firm paid as monthly retainers, no procurement or per-matter estimates, no hourly rates or time-keeping
  • 360-degree performance reviews of all in-house and outside team members, semi-annual reviews
  • Shared governance
  • Teams comprised of lawyers from multiple firms
  • Training and development of associates and joint recruitment of first-year lawyers, who are jointly trained
  • Long-term partnership
  • Each firm has a dedicated senior Pfizer lawyer for performance and portfolio management and built-in communication
  • Exchange knowledge sharing platform
  • Annual meetings, monthly calls, weekly Pfizer Legal Division Practice Group calls

Benefits to Pfizer:

  • Predictability of annual legal budget
  • Substantially reduced annual legal spending
  • Evaluation of firms based on how in-house team and other firms rate each other, get valuable input on how Pfizer lawyers are performing
  • Provided with the best combination of lawyers who share approaches and knowledge to come up with the best solution or result
  • Ability to regularly review and reprioritize work, approaches

Benefits to Alliance Law Firms:

  • Steady flow of work and more total work/revenue
  • Don’t have to pitch for every new matter
  • If efficient, matters are resolved quickly and are more profitable
  • Much deeper relationship with client and the opportunity for additional work
  • Better insight into company priorities, business and players
  • Law firms bond, share referrals for new business and learn from others’ best practices
  • Use as a model with other clients, use internally as a model for collaboration/team approach
  • Use as a driver of change in pricing and measurement of value away from hours, onto efficiency and results



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