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Interim office manager more involved than consultant: Moffitt

By Tony Poland, Associate Editor

An interim office manager can bring more to the table than a consultant for law firms seeking help with daily operations, says Catherine Moffitt, an associate with legal practice management specialists Cosgrove Associates.

While consultants tend to go into situations with a “cookie-cutter” approach, an interim office manager is more actively involved in the firm's operations, Moffitt tells

Cosgrove Associates has been providing management systems and profitability plans to the legal industry for more than 25 years, assisting with human resources, law office administration, facilities management, marketing co-ordination, and financial management.

Moffitt points out that consultants are generally only hired to make assessments and file reports. They don’t typically implement plans, are not as hands-on and are there to provide more of an advisory role, she says.

Interim office managers contribute toward the routine operational management of the firm, allowing partners and business owners to focus on client work, she says.

“I think the difference for us is we're on the ground in the offices getting to know people,” Moffitt says.

In their role, they become part of the management team, often leading initiatives, bringing new ideas and solutions to move the firm forward, she says.

“We're on the ground and facilitating the change. Because of this, people tend to listen to us rather than saying ‘oh, here somebody who's just going to throw all these changes at us then they're going to disappear,’” Moffitt says.

She says when they are hired, Cosgrove will assess the office and its needs.

"An interim manager will go in to see what the firm has in play, how it affects their space and their culture,” Moffitt says. "Sometimes we have to sort out and correct previous errors first before we can move forward with a plan."

She says the scope of their job changes to handle the needs of small to mid-sized firms that lack the budget for in-house staff and could include short-term projects such as dealing with employee manuals or ongoing assignments such as assisting with day-to-day operations.

“Some of the projects are monthly, where the firm just wants someone to come in and deal with their accounting system or make sure reports are accurate,” Moffitt says.

She says Cosgrove has worked with a number of law firms over the years and is able to tailor programs to each situation “because what might work for one office doesn't work for another.”

“We can bring in our knowledge and experience from other firms so we might have some fresh ideas,” Moffitt says. “We guide them, and because part of our process is to meet monthly with the partners, we go over all the items that we think are critical for making things more efficient. And in the meantime, during the month we may see issues come up that the partners aren't aware of, so we can consult on a better approach.”

She says bringing in an interim manager works well for firms going through change or those trying to improve their business but lack the manpower.

“We’re results-oriented, we're hands-on, and because we're flexible, we can be more cost-effective,” Moffitt says.

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