WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Amy W. Schulman, executive vice president and general counsel of Pfizer and president and general manager of Pfizer Nutrition in New York, is one of five leading women lawyers to be honored with the 2012 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award, given annually by the American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession.
“There are various things that derail women institutionally: unconscious bias, gender fatigue. [You get] nearly to the top and then you don’t get a sponsor over the finish line. I want to ensure that doesn’t happen to people in my organization.”
Schulman received her award on Aug. 5 at the 22nd Annual Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement luncheon during the 2012 ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago.
“Each year we recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of five outstanding women lawyers who excelled in their field and paved the way to success for other women in the profession,” said Mary B. Cranston, chair of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession. “Our five honorees come from a wide range of backgrounds, but they share tremendous achievements as lawyers and in their devotion to helping other women, and served as pioneers for those in the legal profession and beyond.”
Judge Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, Marcia Devins Greenberger, Joan M. Hall and Arlinda Locklear will also receive the 2012 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award.
Schulman was born into a family with multiple generations committed to the legal profession. Her grandfather was the first public-housing commissioner in New York and later served as a federal judge. Her father is a lawyer, and her mother became one after going to law school at the age of 45.
Watching her family make a positive impact on the lives of others, Schulman herself pursued law for a reason that she says may seem anachronistic — a desire to help people. She followed her passion of solving complicated issues and figuring out ways to address them.
Being a woman in the profession
Throughout her career, Schulman made a series of atypical decisions that led to her success. “I’ve come to realize that although I don’t think of myself in conventional terms as a risk taker, I actually am, at least professionally,” she said.
For example, two years shy of becoming partner at a law firm, she decided to join Piper Marbury, a relatively unknown firm, to help build its New York office — now the well-known international law firm DLA Piper.
At DLA Piper, Schulman led the firm’s mass tort litigation practice, which she built from the ground up, and was the first woman to serve on the firm’s global board and its U.S. executive committee.
Despite her success and years of helping to develop the firm, she took another professional risk by moving on at a high point in her career. She joined Pfizer Inc., the global pharmaceutical company, as the general counsel in 2008. In 2010, in addition to her role as general counsel, she became president and general manager of Pfizer Nutrition — a $2.1-billion global business. She successfully led the business to increased profitability and above-market performance and was instrumental in the sale of the business to Nestlé for $11.85 billion.
Another accomplishment she is proud of is the design and launch of the Pfizer Legal Alliance, which provides a groundbreaking approach to improve attorney-client relationships by taking the focus off the billable hour.
Dedication to women and young lawyers
Schulman is one of a small number of general counsels who hires lawyers directly out of law school. “The genuine passion and enthusiasm I feel about the general practice of law — I want to reignite that in younger colleagues,” she said.
Schulman also is the executive sponsor of Pfizer’s Global Women’s Council, which helps increase diversity and expand opportunities for both women and men across the company. She is passionate about the advancement of women and identifies creative ways to improve management and leadership opportunities for them.
“I am committed to spending some of my political capital and voice to ensure women have a seat at the table that we are entitled to,” Schulman said. “There are various things that derail women institutionally: unconscious bias, gender fatigue. [You get] nearly to the top and then you don’t get a sponsor over the finish line. I want to ensure that doesn’t happen to people in my organization.”
For media credentialing, please contact Rabiah Burks at Rabiah.Burks@Americanbar.org. This event is free and open to members of the press.
With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.