Nothing was ordinary about the first civil trial stemming from Pfizer Inc.‘s controversial epilepsy treatment, Neurontin. Both sides loudly complained about witness intimidation. Colorful plaintiffs lawyer Mark Lanier opened to the jury one day, then settled the next after an anonymous donor deposited $50,000 into an account for the alleged victim’s daughter. And at the defense table, high-powered product liability specialists from three separate firms worked as though they were partners — and all on a flat fee basis. “It was,” says Pfizer general counsel Amy Schulman, “an extraordinary victory.”

It was also the first tangible dividend of a sweeping reform effort Schulman has put into place at Pfizer, a Fortune 50 company and one of the world’s leading consumers of big-firm legal work. Her goals are simple and familiar: lower fees, more collaboration, better value for both the customer and vendor. And with her characteristic drive and enthusiasm (plus a little help from the stumbling economy), she’s getting what she wants. Firms are so eager for a chunk of Pfizer’s huge legal docket that Schulman can make offers they can’t refuse.