Purchase orders: do they PO law departments?

It is common for large companies to require employees who want to buy a good or service to submit a purchase order (PO) for prior approval. Sometimes, the finance department – usually the force behind the PO process – tries to rope the law department into compliance with the regimen, but the effort usually founders.

According to Paul Roy, the administrator of the law department of TimeWarner Cable, “We in the law department do not have to fill out purchase orders, since we can’t be definitive regarding the costs of outside counsel.” That department has other tools for managing the costs of outside counsel.

A law department I have helped must fill out purchase orders after they have received the bill of a law firm, which strikes me as make work. In Roy’s department of 20+ lawyers, much that it buys, like supplies, is done internally by a purchasing group. Very unusually the law department buys something sizeable, like a fax machine or shredder. But even then they don’t have to complete a PO.

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