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Law departments compared to tax departments on management

It seems plausible that those who lead law departments can pick up management ideas from those who lead tax departments. So when 98 major US-company’s senior tax executives offered views about their departments to KPMG in 2005, the five-page summary report held promise.

My hopes were disappointed, as it turned out, because the two professional groups have significantly different concerns. Still, despite the differences between the departments, four points stood out: process improvements, use of outside assistance, corporate technology support, and internal audits.

A majority of the tax departments planned to undertake process improvements in the following 12 months (at 2). Law departments would probably forecast a similar percentage, especially as the term “process improvement” was undefined. Second, the majority of the tax departments outsource some functions, whereas law departments all outsource some of their legal work. As a third commonality, nearly two thirds of the tax departments requested assistance from the company’s IT function in the previous 12 months. My sense is that a smaller percentage of law departments draw on IT for any substantial support in a given year. Finally, “a slight majority of respondents reported that their tax functions were subject to an internal audit in 2004, and that they had similar expectations for 2005.” It is an exceptional year, I believe, during which a law department undergoes an internal audit.

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