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Avalon Health Care Group, a Salt Lake City-based senior care service provider, looks a lot different today than it did when Allison Griffiths joined as an associate general counsel (GC) in 2016 and even when she sat down with American Healthcare Leader two years later as a deputy GC.
At the start of her tenure, the company oversaw around thirty nursing facilities, a number that grew to fifty-five in the years that ensued. But, after an asset sale in early 2023, the company shrunk its portfolio to fourteen facilities, went from around five thousand to one thousand employees, and shifted to a much leaner management team. Those changes meant that Griffiths would take over as GC and chief compliance officer and would oversee a smaller legal department that consists of a paralegal and one other member.
For Griffiths, that evolution has required her to lean into a leadership style that she’s always had.
“I’m doing more of the day-to-day work versus managing others doing that, but part of my approach has always been one of care, compassion, and nurturing those who work with and for me,” says Griffiths, who has also served as vice president of legal since 2018.
“I’ve always worked to get the best out of them and in return, give them a high degree of job satisfaction. My approach to leadership hasn’t changed all that much since the sale but it’s more important now than ever since I have a smaller team and we’re all expected to have a pretty diverse set of responsibilities,” she describes. “It’s up to me to take care of the people on my team to make sure they have the resources they need.”
Griffiths approaches her colleagues outside of legal with the same level of concern and attention, a unique opportunity that’s come from the company’s downsize. She’s been able to be more involved with business decisions and work much more hands-on with other leaders. It’s deepened her understanding of the company’s challenges and the goals its operations teams have.
Those efforts have helped transform the way her department is viewed, she says.
“I’m proud of the fact that I’ve turned legal into a partner of our various groups rather than a necessary evil,” Griffiths jokes. “It starts with listening, asking for a seat at the table, and taking time to understand the departments we are serving and their operational goals. You need to identify the meetings you need to be at or the tables you need to sit at to get that information and it’ll help you make a business case and provide the most targeted counsel to those departments.”
There’s no shortage of exciting projects and initiatives that she’s helping to support, but one that she’s most proud of is her work with Avalon’s veteran services. Its veteran nursing home facilities offer post-acute care and rehabilitation services to those who’ve served and their spouses. Currently, the company is looking to expand those offerings.
“It’s such an honor to assist those folks who are providing direct care to our veterans and those are some of the facilities I really enjoy visiting,” Griffiths says. “There’s some really special veterans that reside there who’ve provided service to our country. So, getting to provide service back to them after their career and towards the end of their life is a real honor.”
Another focus for Griffiths has been helping to promote qualified female candidates in her field and empowering them to be leaders. She actively seeks out women who have talents that they may not even recognize themselves in order to mentor them and advance their careers. In them, she sees a younger version of herself who grappled with different kinds of internal and external challenges on her way to being a leader.
“As women, we tend to have more self-doubt and tend to be more self-critical than our male counterparts. I experienced that,” she says. “I want to help others navigate that and give them the confidence to raise their hands and to ask for a seat at the table. Even if you don’t have every experience, advocate for yourself.”
Griffiths’s mom always said, “You’re a lot stronger than you think you are.” That’s the VP’s advice for women attorneys combatting self-doubt and who want to be successful in their careers. “You’re stronger than you think, so rise to the occasion,” she adds. “Be prepared but take risks at the same time.”
On Coming to Avalon
“I loved the opportunity to work in-house at a healthcare company given my experience in healthcare law,” Allison Griffiths explains. “When I learned about Avalon, I saw a chance to work for a post-acute provider that offered needed services to people nearing the end of their lives. At the same time, I was interested because skill nursing care is highly regulated and complex. It drew me in.”
Hooper, Lundy & Bookman is proud to partner with Allison Griffiths and Avalon Health Care Group. Like Avalon, HLB strives to ensure that all people, especially the elderly, receive the care that recognizes their dignity. As the largest firm in the country representing health care clients, we help assisted living operators, post-acute care providers, and continuing care retirement communities to navigate the changes in their industry and provide high-quality care to their patients and residents.