Jim Schroeder

Jim_Family

When Jim Schroeder left Gray Plant Mooty in 2008, somehow life just didn’t seem the same.

He had joined the firm a decade earlier, but left the firm to pursue an attractive opportunity with a Twin Cities-based accounting firm that would allow him to manage more people in various departments. He didn’t stay away long.

“I think there is a sense and appreciation of culture and people at Gray Plant that differentiates it from anywhere else,” said Schroeder, who returned to the firm in 2009 after being away just one year.

Path to Gray Plant Mooty

Growing up in St. Louis Park, Jim enjoyed what many would consider a typical Minnesota upbringing. St. Louis Park was a relatively small city at the time, and as a boy he’d roam the streets and backyards with friends, escaping to nearby Lake Calhoun during the heat of summer.

In 1982, after graduating from St. Louis Park High (“home of the Orioles”), the 18-year-old crossed the Mississippi to attend the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he studied business. Later, in the mid 1980s, he took a job with Sentry Insurance, where he quickly began to ascend the corporate ladder. But when the company relocated its headquarters to central Wisconsin, Jim’s career took a turn.

With Jim and his wife Leslie just weeks in a new home and expecting their first child, the couple decided not to accept an offer to move with the company to Wisconsin. Instead, Jim took a position with Popham Haik Schnobrich & Kaufman, a Minneapolis-based law firm. He’d stay at  Popham Haik for eight years, the last of which involved helping the firm wind down its offices in D.C., Colorado, and Minneapolis when the firm ran into financial trouble.

In April 1998, not long after the collapse of Popham Haik, Jim accepted a position with Gray Plant Mooty. Starting as Facilities Manager, he soon rose to the position of Director of Office Services, placing him in charge of various departments: facilities, records-keeping, and hospitality.

It also gave him insights into the inner workings of the firm. “Being in the Minneapolis office for 10 years gave me a great foundation,” said Schroeder. “I have a lot of great relationships there.”

Among the projects he worked on was the relocation of the firm from the Minneapolis City Center to the IDS Center in 2004, a project spearheaded by the firm’s new managing officer, Bruce Mooty.

“I worked side by side with Bruce throughout that project, and it’s an experience I’ll always treasure,” said Schroeder. “His dedication to the firm was something amazing to witness. And some of that rubbed off on me.”

Returning to Gray Plant Mooty

After returning to the firm, he was soon tapped to head-up office operations in the firm’s St. Cloud office, which was in need of new administrative leadership. It was a role he was eager to tackle, one that would test and sharpen his abilities as a leader.

So what does it take to run a legal office?

“You have to have a strong work ethic, you have to have people skills, you have to know how to solve problems,” said Schroeder. “You have to work with a sense of urgency, lead by example, and manage to people’s strengths.”

In 2015, when the firm merged with Sandin Law, a law office based in Fargo, North Dakota, it tapped Jim to lead office operations. He said his experience in Minneapolis and St. Cloud prepared him for the job, but he admitted it brought unique challenges.

“Just establishing an office in a new state poses many issues,” said Jim. “What’s exciting about Fargo is working at the ground level with a very successful firm and this group of talented people, and introducing them to the Gray Plant structure and culture.”

The firm’s commitment to work-life balance, he said, allowed him and wife Leslie, a 30-year employee of Carlson, to balance other key priorities in their lives, notably their two children: Emma, 26 and Bennett, 22. Today, with the children grown, the couple finds more time to pursue some of their favorite activities: traveling, gopher football games, and working on various home projects.

The Gray Plant Mooty culture is one that Jim said he has grown comfortable in, and one that he is thankful for.

“Our culture is so important to us,” said Jim. “You hear it all the time and it’s really true.”