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A barebones, outside-counsel cost database in Excel

A down-and-dirty tracking system for outside counsel costs would enable a general counsel in a small department to track and report on fundamental information using nothing more than Excel. The data to be tracked would be law firm, matter type, internal client, invoice amount, and date of service.

Five or six fields of information, that’s all it would take. In a spreadsheet that tracks law firms down the left-most column and the other fields across the top, you would have at very low cost a basic picture of what is spent on outside counsel. Some law departments might want to elaborate and track corporate cost centers and responsible in-house attorney.

Pivot tables and sorting can handle as much reporting as is needed, and graphics capabilities are plentiful. A home-grown database can’t compare with the fine matter management systems out there, but for some limited purposes, this simple spreadsheet will do.