Patti Groff: It's All in the Details

Groff should know. She's worked for both.

"I had been working in the accounting department of an advertising and public relations firm when I was made aware of the accounting coordinator position at a law firm in the same building in which I worked," said Groff. And because this go-getter pursues and thrives on challenges, she jumped at the opportunity.

"The legal management profession is ever-changing and certainly keeps me focused and challenged," said Groff, whose challenge-friendly attitude has lingered with her a long time. She is in her 12th year as director of administration for Butz.

Before the lawyers and the law firm, Groff graduated from Kelsey-Jenney Business College in San Diego and immediately went to work as a bookkeeper for a small management company. There, she met her first mentor and learned a valuable lesson: pay attention to details.

"He wouldn't settle for less than perfection—down to the last penny on a set of books," said Groff. "His attention to detail has followed me to this day."

Next, she moved to the accounting department at an advertising agency and then to her first law firm as accounting coordinator. The change, some might argue, seems like it would be tough. But "from an accounting perspective," explained Groff, "moving from the advertising industry to legal was a fairly easy transition—on the most basic level, both are professional service organizations and generate income via billing for time worked."

Currently Groff acts as the director of administration at Butz, Dunn & DeSantis, a complex litigation firm in downtown San Diego, CA, as well as the president of the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA), an international association with more than 10,000 members worldwide.

"This is proving to be an extremely rewarding and memorable experience," said Groff of her presidency.

But Groff's accomplishments do not end there. Her persistence to succeed in the legal field rewarded her with a certified legal manager designation in 2002, a certification from the ALA that "offers legal administrators the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of the body of knowledge necessary for successful performance in managing a law firm or office."

Q. What do you do for fun?
A. My husband and I try to go dancing at least once a week. I have two adult daughters who I love to spend time with (along with the rest of my family). Travel.
Q. What CD is in your CD player right now?
A. Blues—Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers.
Q. What is the last magazine you read?
A. It was either ALA's Legal Management or Fast Company, both of which I read last weekend.
Q. What is your favorite TV show?
A. News shows are probably what I most often watch, but I really enjoy the Food Network and some of the CSI series of TV shows.
Q. Who is your role model?
A. Hmmm...good question. I have a number of role models, depending on what role I am playing at the time! In my professional role—as legal administrator and ALA president—it is Patti Lane, CLM. My two daughters, now adults, have had a tremendous influence on my life and in many ways serve as role models as they now grow in their own careers and lives. From my mother, sister, colleagues, and friends, I am blessed to have amazing role models to look to for advice and counseling.

A master of detail Groff has become. Having traveled from her first job as a bookkeeper to her 12th year at a law firm, Groff now lives and breathes her mentor's mantra: "Pay attention to details." Because of this, she aims to imbue others with an eye for detail as well.

"We work for and with highly detailed individuals who think quickly on their feet," said Groff. "You need to pay attention and offer well-thought-out responses and solutions."

"Be confident," she added. "You must possess the confidence to sometimes challenge the process and manage the business of law, allowing the lawyers to practice law, which is what they do best. Know the business and have vision—nurture your strategic outlook, always looking to the future for new and innovative solutions to both the business and the practice of law."

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