Tom Grella is a shareholder of McGuire, Wood & Bissette, PA of Asheville, North Carolina, a general business law firm which focuses on providing exemplary service to its many clients.
McGuire, Wood & Bissette, PA is made up of 20 full-time practicing attorneys, each of whom has come to the firm through different paths and experiences. Many of our attorneys came to the Firm from a prior larger firm experience which they found lacking for different reasons. Tom has been a member of the Firm for over 25 years. After graduation from Wake Forest University Law School, Tom spent a very short period working on discovery in one civil action for Womble, Carlyle Sandridge & Rice of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Leaving Winston-Salem in 1986, Tom joined the small law firm of Stephen T Daniels & Associates of Morganton, North Carolina, where he had a general practice alongside Mr. Daniel. Mr. Daniel encouraged him to become actively involved in volunteer professional work for the North Carolina Bar Association, where he was quite active in the leadership of its Young Lawyers Division. In January 1988, Tom left Morganton for Asheville, North Carolina and his present firm McGuire, Wood & Bissette, PA. In May 2001 he became the chair of the Firm’s Management Committee (a position commonly referred to as Managing Partner).
At that time, the two senior-most members of the Firm, Dick Wood and Lou Bissette, approached Tom with this opportunity to lead, and indicated that they recognized that he had become knowledgeable in the key areas of law practice management (finance, management marketing and technology) through his years of service to the Law Practice Management Section of the American Bar Association. Given the knowledge attained, Tom was their logical choice to take this important management position. That was all well and good; however there was just one problem. Though the title of the job was technically Chair of the Management Committee, and normally referred to as Managing Partner, practically it was a leadership position, and frankly, Tom had much to learn about leadership.
What followed was a stretch of twelve years, in large part “managing” the law firm. He came to discover that lawyers are not only difficult to manage, but they are even more difficult to lead. In many firms lawyers are much more willing to be managed, than they are to be led. Through the many years since, Tom has become a student of leadership. He has experienced many management and leadership failures, as well as some very important successes. Tom served in that position for 12 years, and presently serves as a regular elected member of that same committee. Through the years he has helped his own firm work through several different kinds of strategic planning processes, leadership and succession planning, compensation system changes (and sometime contentious negotiations) and business development initiatives (including development of individual brand planning). He also has experience with new technology implementation, such as document management systems (through leadership of administrative and technology staff), and most recently the effective implementation and training of tablets and handheld device by use by all firm lawyers. Tom has also had the opportunity to help other managing and leading lawyers, serving in similar positions at other firms throughout the country, navigate leadership roles in their own law firms.
Tom Grella has a JD from Wake Forest University Law School of Winston-Salem, NC and has been licensed as an attorney in North Carolina since 1985. He is a past Chair of the ABA Law Practice Management Section (now known as the ABA Law Practice Division), and presently sits on its Executive Committee. Grella has served in many positions within the ABA Law Practice Division, including being a member of its Council, Chair of its Core Groups, a member of its Publications Board and Chair of its Diversity Committee. Grella co-authored The Lawyer’s Guide to Strategic Planning in 2005, and is author of the 2013 released Lessons in Leadership: Essential Skills for Lawyers, both publications of the ABA Law Practice Division. He is currently an ABA Law Practice Division Delegate serving his second 3 year term in the ABA House of Delegates; and is Immediate Past Chair, and a current Member of the ABA House of Delegates Technology and Communications Committee. He is currently on the Law Practice Magazine Board, Columns Editor of the Law Practice Magazine, and is co-author of the Managing column in that publication. He is also the liaison to the ABA Journal from the ABA Law Practice Division. Tom was the 2012 recipient of the Sam Smith Award, presented annually by the ABA Law Practice Division to one individual who has demonstrated excellence in the field of law practice management. He is also a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management, a Fellow of the National Institute for the Teaching of Ethics and Professionalism, and a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation. He is a frequent speaker on law practice management topics such as strategic planning, law firm leadership and management, and the future of the profession. Grella is a member of the Corporate Practice Group of his law firm and his practice focuses primarily on business entity formation and acquisitions, commercial transactions, commercial leasing, and condominium law.
Tom’s interests outside of the practice of law include running, following Wake Forest sports, and cooking, having traveled to Italy numerous times to take cooking classes in different regions of that country. Tom is married to Elaine, a public school teacher, and they have one daughter, 23 year old Rebekah.