The shareholder spring, which has seen a number of investor rebellions over pay, has focused attention on whether company owners are paying rich rewards to executives who are not delivering and whether those who are axed are given excessively generous exit payments.
Ms Pattullo, partner and head of employment at Edinburgh-based HBJ Gateley, said negotiations before a top-level appointment should cover exit provisions, clarity on bonuses and share options and restrictive covenants.
She said: "If a business is looking to a new senior hire to take them in a particular direction, it might seem slightly defeatist to consider what happens if things don't work out.
"But being too overcome by the rosy glow of a new appointment can prevent businesses from putting in place proper provisions which makes it more complicated to work things out if the shine fades."
Severance pay has been a particularly controversial feature of compensation in the financial crisis.
Many executives are on long contracts and a number have exited with compensation for lost share options and bonuses.
There was controversy over an enhanced pension deal for former Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive Fred Goodwin when he quit in 2009 although he later agreed to scale back his package.
There can also be issues at the opposite end of the corporate scale.
Ms Pattullo said many smaller businesses are "squeamish" about replacing directors who have been successful but are not the right people to take the organisation on.
She added: "They may have been instrumental in getting a particular product to market, but don't have the skills to take the business to a stock market listing or lead a major programme of cost-cutting required to attract investment.
"Getting the right contracts in place at the start might seem ruthless and doesn't make difficult conversations any easier, but if a new senior person is required you need to make sure you hope for the best but plan ahead just in case."