If law departments lack software to track external expenses, they may rely on accounts payable to generate whatever figures they need. This point struck me after I read astute blogger Ron Friedmann and his lament about the lack of technology in many law departments. On that point, he heard from Rob Thomas, the sage of Serengeti.
“In our most recent annual survey of ACC members (about 80% of which [law departments] have fewer than 10 lawyers), only 29% have a matter management and/or e-billing system. Another 36% manage by manually keying information into spreadsheets. So one-third have no system at all, not even spreadsheets. … Law departments can’t manage what they can’t see. “
They can see figures, however, from at least one other source. Many general counsel rely on the accounts payable system for all the spending data they think they need. The finance department will tell you how much you paid year to date to each law firm and for each special project tracked in the general ledger. If you can export the finance data, you can analyze the data further with additional breakouts.
A few small departments might even turn to their major law firms for quarterly summaries of spending. Bear in mind that if you are one of only two or three lawyers, tracking doesn’t yield much. You know first-hand what your firms are doing and roughly what you are spending.