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Duplicate payments of law firm invoices

A short item by Ed Charlton, published in Law Practice, April 2007, argues that law departments that keep track of their outside-counsel invoices electronically can assure themselves that they pay each invoice only one time. That advantage makes sense, but Charlton makes too big a deal of it. “Storing the invoices in a central database eliminates duplicate payments, which is a common occurrence with outside attorneys who send monthly statements.”

Two points about the quote. No system can eliminate duplicate payments; gremlins, mistakes and novel circumstances will always bedevil us. It is the second point, however, that troubles me. Most law firms send monthly statements, so do law departments commonly pay the same invoice twice? It’s not a mistake, let alone a chronic problem, that I have heard about.