Wordnik.com shows how English words are actually used in books and other publications. I searched for “law department” and found most of the references were to the law programs at universities, but with one charming exception. “After he took her picture, just as a lark, and displayed it in his shop, it was seen by an errand boy who worked in the law department of Loews, Inc.” The quote comes from J. Randy Taraborrelli’s, Sinatra, The Man Behind the Myth.
For “legal department,” there were quite a few more references in works of fiction. The one that made me smile was from a science fiction work called Moonwar by Ben Bova. “As I understand it,’ the head of the legal department tried to explain, ‘Edie Elgin beamed her report here from Moonbase.” Beats faxing.
Finally, in Dan Fogelman and Tom Clancy’s thriller, The Sum of All Fears, Wordnik salvaged this commonplace: “Nancy, could you tell the general counsel that I need to see him?”