How to Successfully Manage Legal Projects as Your Small Business Grows

Juggling regular operations and legal project management for small businesses can be a challenge. Read our tips for staying on top of it all.

Legal Project Management for Small Businesses

So, your business is experiencing steady growth – that’s great! But are you growing sustainably?

While growth is a positive indicator for any business, your business may also face “growing pains” when growth outpaces the business’ ability to adapt. Where these growing pains relate to your business’ legal matters, it is hard to address these issues when your growth is piling up other priorities on your plate.

How do you address these legal concerns efficiently without encroaching on the success of your other business objectives?

Agile Legal has collated the following tips so that you can find efficient solutions for your small business’ legal needs as you grow.

1. Organize Legal Expenses Using Budget Codes

It’s important for your business to understand its financial needs and know what is being spent across different areas of the business. Budget codes are useful tools housed in accounting software that can track this information.

If you anticipate being billed for legal costs across multiple sources, setting up budget codes will allow you to easily monitor how your budget is being spent and if any funds should be reallocated to other legal expenses. The process of reviewing your business’ operations, the legal projects that may arise, and the expenses that may be incurred is an incredibly valuable exercise that will help you plan future changes to business operations and forecast expenditure.

2. Allocate Funds to a Budget in Advance

It’s painful to decide not to utilize a service provider because you aren’t sure whether it’s within your budget or not.  Plan your expenditure ahead of the year and consider what legal services your business might need due to the nature of its operations. Once you have forecasted those potential needs, you can estimate the costs and weigh those options in relation to the budget you have available. In this process you can also consider the estimated return on your expenditure and the benefits your company can gain from that financial investment.

3. Find a Good Attorney

Navigating regulatory frameworks and legal matters on your own can be difficult – and sometimes virtually impossible. As a small business owner, you may find yourself facing a legal matter and think, “Well, now what?” Lean on the expertise of professionals and seek out a reputable attorney that you can trust. Word of mouth referrals are useful, but your state bar association is a good place to start too. However, make sure to research and analyze your legal needs thoroughly as the best solution for your company could be drawing on other types of legal solutions. Attorneys are invaluable if you need legal advice, but some legal needs benefit from a different approach, some of which we will address in the following tips.

Calling for Flexible Legal Project Management Support

4. Obtain Flexible Legal Support

Apart from traditional law firms and attorneys, there are other, more flexible ways to obtain legal support. Each option works well in different contexts, and some may solve the same problems as others but in different ways. Research each type of support and evaluate which works best for your needs.

Part-Time Legal Hire(s)

A part-time legal hire can provide your business with extra capacity without incurring the expense of a full-time employee. A part-time legal professional can be an effective option for businesses that heavily rely on legal support for their regular business operations. You should also consider whether your business needs demand an in-house or remote hire. Thankfully, there are many types of part-time legal professionals, such as legal assistants, legal project managers, paralegals, or even fractional attorneys.  However, part-time assistance may be harder to come by as fewer legal professionals pursue part-time work.

Freelance Paralegal

Freelance paralegals are a more flexible solution in comparison to a part-time employee. Part-time hires require a regular workflow while freelance paralegals allow you to hire someone for the duration of a project, or as little as needed. Hiring a freelance paralegal removes you from the commitment of part-time hires, keeping your staff numbers and labor expenses lean. However, this convenience does come at the expense of time spent searching for talent, training new hires, writing employment contracts, and managing capacity.

Alternative Legal Service Provider (ALSP)

For small businesses that need assistance with legal project management, Alternative Legal Service Providers (ALSPs) may be a cost-effective and flexible solution (and our favorite option, of course!).

Many ALSPs, though not all, are technology oriented. In contrast to traditional law firms, these companies offer alternative delivery and pricing models that can be more attractive than hourly rates. The vast majority of ALSPs (aside from some in Arizona and Utah) do not provide legal advice but offer specialized expertise that in-house legal teams may not have readily available. This expertise allows you to consolidate legal support without managing relations with multiple vendors or firms simultaneously.

5. Utilize Appropriate Technology Solutions

Some small business’ legal projects (and sometimes general operations too) can gain significant benefits from using technology in some way, maybe to improve your efficiency, accuracy, or capability. We’re not talking about engaging a technology ALSP that utilizes technology to provide a service, but rather internally leveraging technology solutions directly. Companies offering these technology solutions operate from a model called Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). Once obtained, your business will be responsible for implementing the technology successfully, with whatever onboarding and assistance the software company provides.

Because technologies serve such a wide range of purposes, you’ll want to complete an audit of your company’s needs. Pay attention to inefficiencies that may be slowing down your progress. Platforms such as Capterra and G2 provide customer reviews of various software options that you can browse to inform your choice. G2 specifically denotes whether reviews are from verified purchasers and active users, increasing transparency and helping you consider reviews of most use to you.

Project Management Software

When managing legal projects internally, investing in project management software can greatly improve in-house efficiency and accountability. Providers such as Asana and Clickup offer free plans that provide a good starting point for small businesses. These free plans are also scalable as you can upgrade your subscription once your business needs grow. You can check out articles that compare free project management tools, such as this one from Zapier.

There are project management software options tailored specifically to legal projects, but they often don’t translate well outside of law firm operational contexts. This is why, at Agile Legal, we developed our own proprietary legal project management software so we could manage our own projects effectively.

Electronic Signature Platforms

Electronic signature platforms like DocuSign, Adobe Acrobat Sign, and DropBox Sign (formerly HelloSign) enable you to digitally sign your documents without needing to be in person. With an electronic signature platform, you can say goodbye to constantly scanning and faxing copies to signatories, and instead, documents can be stored electronically in a single place. Electronic signature platforms also provide you with an audit trail that certifies who has signed the documents.

Contract Management Software

Contract management software can be a game-changer for businesses needing to draft, negotiate, sign, and manage contracts. This type of software enables businesses to scale contract management workflows without increasing headcount or labor costs. While these tools can help businesses keep track of their contracts, using this software still requires time from someone, such as a contracts paralegal, who has a sufficient understanding of contracts law and the software itself.

Cloud-based Document Storage

Imagine you’re just hours away from completing the acquisition of your company by the leading company in your market and you discover you can’t find a crucial document. Cue mild panic.

As your business grows, ensure that employees can access their work anytime, anywhere. Implementing cloud-based document storage tools is relatively inexpensive and allows for greater collaboration between your company’s internal staff and external parties. These storage technologies also provide employees greater with their work environments, access across numerous devices, and the ability to organize documents efficiently. With the help of providers like Google, Microsoft SharePoint, or DropBox, you can avoid accessibility headaches.

Find Relief with Legal Project Management Providers

The pursuit of growth is not for the faint of heart. It’s natural for businesses to outgrow systems and processes and seek new ways to deliver effective operations. Luckily, there is no shortage of options to help you manage the difficulties that come with growth and subsequent change.

If your business is growing and you are interested in getting help with your legal projects, Agile Legal provides legal project management services across a variety of practice areas. From contract management and corporate governance to supporting mergers and acquisitions, we’re here to help you navigate your business’ ever-changing legal needs.

Order a legal service today and get help managing your growing legal responsibilities.

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Meet the Authors

Lauren Brooks

Marketing Coordinator

Timothy Sands

Timothy Sands

Sales and Marketing Director

This blog provides general information and materials regarding the legal sector. The contents of this blog do not constitute legal advice. VPS Services, LLC d/b/a Agile Legal is not a law firm nor does it provide legal advice or practice law. You should contact an attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal issues or questions.