For matter management systems, accounting may dictate when to create some matters

The customary definition of a “matter,” for purposes of creating them in a matter management system, relies mostly on whether a project or activity will use outside counsel, be important, or require law-department hours (See my posts of Sept. 14, 2005 generally and Nov. 11, 2005 on CEO involvement.). A different perspective on that definition comes from accounting.

The difference depends on how finely the accounting system of a company that determines chargebacks defines levels of business units. In a typical general-ledger account structure, there are operating units, then departments, then smaller entities such as responsibility centers or plants. If fees paid to outside counsel have to be routed to the third level – or whatever is farther down the accounting scheme – of accounting detail, for example, that requirement may force law departments to define more matters. The reason for this is that if a matter must be identified to the ultimate accounting unit responsible for its costs, you need to separate out more matters.

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