Jenna Schiappacasse is Director of Client Development at Rosenberg Martin Greenberg, LLP (RMG). Since 2010, Jenna has held various marketing and business development roles at RMG. In her newest role, Jenna thrives on connecting the firm’s clients with RMG attorneys, driving new business to the firm, executing on the client feedback program and coaching the attorneys in their business development initiatives.
An active member of the Legal Marketing Association, she currently serves at the President of the Mid-Atlantic Region Board of Directors and as an adjunct member of the LMA Advocacy Advisory Council. A frequent LMA speaker, Jenna will present at the LMA Southeast in September in Birmingham, AL, the LMA Tech West in October in San Francisco, CA, and as a panelist at the LMA Annual Conference 2020 in Denver, CO.
What are a few tips for successfully engaging with clients?
First and foremost, I always prescribe to “listen more than you speak.” Ask open-ended questions and be prepared to pivot on the other person’s responses to dig deeper. Find your own best practices for retaining the information you glean from conversations with clients and prospects; whether your firm has a sophisticated solution to help you track your pipeline, or you are utilizing an Excel spreadsheet (or a good, old-fashioned legal pad), the important thing is not to let people fall through the cracks. Build your own database of information – keep track of details about your clients (whether they be internal or external), information about their businesses, their preferred modes of communication, and always think one step ahead in terms of your next touch point.
If you are not currently client-facing, use any opportunities to interact with clients and prospects – strike up a conversation while greeting guests at a firm-hosted seminar, offer to attend a networking event with a shy attorney to help him/her navigate the room, offer to help with some of the administrative portions of your firm’s client feedback program to learn more about its execution, or simply do some research on prospects in an industry your firm is looking to expand within and see where missed opportunities lie. Make every prospect and client feel appreciated; ensure that your firm’s client service efforts are paramount, from building brand awareness to client engagement, gaining trust and acquiring additional matters, and (hopefully) culminating in referrals to other clients. Each step of the process should be thoughtful and strategic. Don’t forget: these rules apply to your internal clients, as well as the clients of the firm.
What is a lesson learned that you’d love others to know?
Two lessons I live by are to “do first, apologize later,” and, “you don’t get what you don’t ask for.” If you take it upon yourself to do the legwork necessary to present a compelling argument, on your own time, you are much closer to carving out the role you want. Client-facing roles are gaining popularity in firms of all sizes, but they are still relatively new and many firms do not inherently see their value; clearly define that value, for your internal clients (the attorneys) and for the external clients of the firm. Don’t sit around and wait for people to notice how hard you work, or how great you are with people, or to offer you the role you want. Advocate for yourself, within your firm and within the industry, with sound and logical rationale.
In terms of engaging with clients, remember that most traditional corporate structures have external business development professionals, so it is not as unheard of to be in a client-facing role as it is in the legal industry; don’t expect your clients and prospects to be confused or surprised by your desire to learn more about their businesses and what keeps them up at night. Most are both willing and happy to speak to a business professional about key issues that affect the way their businesses run, and things that firms can do to provide added value that doesn’t show up on the bill.
Tell me about a big client service success.
Watching our client feedback program garner such positive reactions from our clients was a huge proponent in my desire to change the client service expectations at our firm. Our clients rarely have unexpected or negative issues to discuss, but the small tweaks and changes we find during the interviews allow us to react adeptly to their needs, and sometimes the conversations that happen as a result of the meetings are what solidify a relationship and the client’s loyalty to the firm. We learn about their strategic initiatives, dig into upcoming changes in leadership or technological advances that may affect the way in which we provide services to them, and sometimes find that the simplest things make the biggest impact.
In terms of my own client service efforts, I must admit that it feels like a jolt of adrenaline every time a client or prospect calls me directly to see if we can handle their matter. I love the process of forming the relationship, building trust, learning as much as possible about the individual or business, introducing the firm’s expertise and what sets us apart from the competition, and connecting the dots to the right attorney to fit the prospect’s personality and communication style. Being the point of contact throughout the engagement to make sure that our client service is on par, and that any needs (outside of the legal services themselves) are handled in a timely fashion helps me to stay connected with the client even after the attorney begins the work.
What recommendations do you have for great business reads?
I am an avid reader and find a lot of my favorite professional development advice in Harvard Business Review, or via one of their podcasts (Women at Work is a favorite; also love Adam Grant’s WorkLife). I spend an inordinate amount of time trolling Twitter for my curated #LMAMKT topics posted by industry leaders and friends, all of which help me stay on the cutting edge of our industry’s trends. I’m currently reading The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts, by Dr. Richard Susskind, which I recommend everyone pay homage to. I try to keep one professional development book in my bag for every work of fiction, so I am always learning and striving to find new and innovative ways to add value.
I also made a habit years ago of chasing my (first) cup of coffee each morning with a quick scan of our local business publications, industry newsletters relevant to our client base, and other curated emails via tools such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator and JD Supra. This practice helps me to identify clients of the firm or prospects who have been mentioned in the media, or topics and trends relevant to the industries we focus on, giving me a perfect excuse to reach out and touch base or to advise one of our attorneys to do so. This shows the client that we are trying to learn more about the issues that are important to them and showcases attention to detail and dedication to building relationships.
When you aren’t working, what do you enjoy doing?
Outside of the office, you can find me running long distances, devouring as many books as time allows, singing along to classic rock, frantically writing in Moleskines, ingesting too much caffeine, or pointing to a spot on the map for my next adventure. I live in Annapolis with my husband, Mario, and our 4-year old rescue pup, Afton.
Profile by Kim Trone, Marketing Director, Stock and Leader, Attorneys At Law