Baltimore City Group Chair Jenna Schiappacasse did not start out to win an award when she took on her leadership role. But her excellent performance and commitment to growing the Baltimore City Group for Baltimore-area LMA members earned her this prestigious, peer-selected award. In fact, she says, “I was completely blindsided by receiving the award. I thought there were so many people in the chapter that do such wonderful things that I was completely humbled and surprised by winning.”
Clearly, however, her LMA peers believe the award is well-deserved for Schiappacasse, Director of Marketing and Business Development, Rosenberg Martin Greenberg, LLP, a 40-lawyer firm in Baltimore. She took the reins of her current role from Denise Dewling, whom she sees as a mentor and role model who helped her develop her career in legal marketing, which began in 2010.
In fact, Schiappacasse says her journey to legal marketer was rather circuitous. She started at Rosenberg Martin Greenberg as a legal assistant with the intent of taking the LSAT, applying to law school and becoming a lawyer. “I took the test, applied to the schools then woke up one day and said, ‘I don’t want to do this,’” explains Schiappacasse. “But, I really love this industry and made it clear to the firm that I was interested in marketing and business development.” At that point, the firm created a its first marketing in-house marketing position for her and she built the role from there.
She immediately joined LMA she says because, “I was feeling my way through how I was going to develop this new role.” At that point, her firm administrator introduced her to Denise Dewling, who is the Marketing Director at Tydings & Rosenberg LLP and was the Chair of the Baltimore City LMA Group. “We became fast friends,” says Schiappacasse. “She took me under her wing and taught me what she was willing to share,” she adds. She also says from the first time she attended a program, her passion for LMA was immediate.
“I just fell in love with the camaraderie and willingness to share experiences and failures,” she remembers. “I could not believe that, in such a competitive industry, people were willing to share the inner workings of what they did in their jobs,” she continues. “I was so grateful for this wealth of knowledge I couldn’t find anywhere else,” Schiappacasse maintains. She says the organization was exactly what she needed both educationally and to grow her professional network. “You can find information on anything you need to know; any problem you have, there is somebody there to help you,” she enthuses.
Seeing the value of the organization, she wanted to get involved. She became a member of the Capital Chapter Communications Committee. Moreover, her experience in the local group was one she wanted to extend to other Baltimore area legal marketers so, she took on the some additional leadership responsibilities within the city group in late 2012.
Dewling recognized Schiappacasse’s commitment and saw her leadership abilities, so when she wanted to step down, she saw Schiappacasse as her natural successor. “I’d always wanted a leadership role in the organization so it a good jumping off point,” says Schiappacasse, who accepted the group leader role officially in January 2013.
She began to create programming and opportunities for members to grow in their roles and careers. She also focused on building on the great work she said Dewling had done to attract new members to grow the Baltimore City Group both in size and influence. “My objective has been to bridge the gap between the Capital Chapter and Baltimore City Group by fostering communications and using technology to bring some of the Capital Chapter’s programming to Baltimore area members,” Schiappacasse states.
She offers some guidance for those considering to taking on the challenging role as city group leader. “It’s important to make the time for the role because we’re all busy; we all have personal lives and work lives,” she says. “You have to take the time to talk to members, find out what their needs are and what kinds of programming would help them be better in their roles,” states Schiappacasse.
Similarly, she explains, it’s important to consider all of the different roles that people can have in law firms and create programming that meets those needs so there isn’t a dearth of programming for some roles. “You have to be there for the members, take their feedback – good or bad – learn from it and try to make the group the best it can be,” she adds.
Schiappacasse would like to expand the group’s reach and says she looks forward to regionalization for that reason. “I would like to grow the group beyond the Baltimore metropolitan area and further into Maryland,” she says. Schiappacasse also would like to continue growing interactions both within the group and between the Capital Chapter but loves what she’s doing with Baltimore City Group.
“I’m Charm City through and through and I love what this group has become: I love being a part of it and I love the comradery of the smaller metropolitan area within the larger chapter,” she states. But, she adds, “I also look forward to regionalization and growing our chapter into one big happy family.”
By Dahna M. Chandler, Principal, Audience First Communications, Inc. for the March/April 2016 Capital Ideas Newsletter.