How to manage your small legal department successfully

published on Legal Risk Management
One thing they don’t teach you in law school is how to successfully run a business. Law firms have struggled with bridging the gap between the business of law with the practice of law. Less commonly known, is that in-house legal departments struggle with the same problem of integrating their unit with the rest of the business. Here are some key ways to help you manage your small legal department:

Focus on efficiency and streamlining:

Efficiency and streamlining become paramount because small legal departments are faced with the challenge of doing the same work as their larger counterparts, but with fewer resources, and often less manpower. Evaluate which of your corporate processes are costing you too much time and money and prevent the department from keeping up with the pace of the workload.

Know your role:

Having an in-depth knowledge of your business helps you to give informed legal advice. Knowing the company’s business is critical to performing legal functions successfully and encourages a more proactive approach to risk assessment. It’s important to distinguish between which decisions are about legal and which are about business.

Rely on support staff:

Paralegals are going to be your new best friend. However, in a small legal department, support staff have a tendency to take on too much workload, perhaps by giving legal advice without consulting the general counsel. Make sure the support staff understand their roles, attitude towards risk, and preferred sources of information.

Assess the appetite for risk:

Smaller companies tend to operate in a more entrepreneurial environment, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the directors are more risk averse than a large company. Make sure you speak to them to gain insight into their perception on risk. Most decisions don’t come down to whether something is illegal, but the type of risk involved. General counsel in small legal departments are assigned the task of assessing decisions based on the risks involved.

Leverage legal technology:

The legal profession isn’t known for being early adopters, but legal technology has entered every nook and cranny of the business. Legal management software such as Legisway can help the company’s bottom line by helping small to-mid sized corporate legal departments organize all their legal information in a central database, manage workload, and process contracts.


Legal departments come in all shapes and sizes, but smaller departments face significantly different challenges. The ability to balance managing operations, while improving efficiency and controlling costs is what distinguishes leading small legal departments from their peers.