The Exponential Law Department: an Oxymoron?

Jorge Dengo, Senior Counsel, Philip Morris International
Till Olbrich, VP & Associate General Counsel, Philip Morris International

Imagine you could fold a piece of paper as many times as you want. Every time you fold it, you make it thicker. The question is: how many times do you have to fold the paper so that its thickness can span the distance from the earth to the moon? The answer is: 42 times - yes, just 42. The distance from earth to moon is 384400 kilometers on average. Far away. A standard sheet of paper is 0.1 mm thick, and, initially, not much happens when you start to fold it, going from 0.1 mm to 0.2 mm, to 0.4 mm, to 0.8 mm, to 1.6 mm, to 3.2 mm, to 6.4 mm, to 1.28 cm, to 2.6 cm, to 5.2 cm. Ten steps in the folding process get you to just over 10 centimeters, but, soon after that, the exponential effect kicks in. At step twenty, you have already reached 105 meters, and, after ten more 107 kilometers. Most people guess thousands or millions. No one will estimate anything as low as 42 folding steps. Why? Because our minds are not made for exponential thinking. Human minds, including those of lawyers, think linearly. Yet, some claim that human beings can design exponential organizations.

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México USA Management Retail March 2017 Vol.10, No. 38, Winter 2017

Jorge Dengo


Jorge Dengo is Senior Counsel at Philip Morris International (PMI) for Mexico. Over the last eleven years, he has led legal matters for PMI in more than 15 Latin American countries. Before going in-house, Jorge was an associate at the firm of Vargas, Jimenez & Peralta in Costa Rica, specializing in mergers and acquisitions, corporate restructuring and tax strategy.

Till Olbrich


Till Olbrich is Vice President & Associate General Counsel for Latin America & Canada at PMI. Prior to joining the company twelve years ago, he worked as a litigator at the law firms of Hengeler Mueller in Germany and Wachtell Lipton in the United States.

Philip Morris International


Philip Morris International is the world’s leading international tobacco company, with a diverse workforce of over 80,000 people in over 180 different markets. In addition to the manufacture and sale of cigarettes, including Marlboro, the number one global cigarette brand, and other tobacco products, PMI is engaged in the development and commercialization of smoke-free, potentially reduced-risk products.

México USA Management Retail March 2017 Vol.10, No. 38, Winter 2017

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