Five Questions with 2021 NJBIZ Leader in Law, Michelle A. Schaap
CSG’s Michelle A. Schaap has been recognized in NJBIZ’s inaugural Leaders in Law program, which was created to honor legal professionals in various sectors and disciplines who bring an outstanding dedication to their occupation and their communities.
Michelle, Team Leader of CSG’s Privacy and Data Security practice, is often the first call clients make when faced with a cybersecurity incident – serving as a “quarterback” to the response team and working closely with executives, forensics professionals, law enforcement and other critical stakeholders to help her clients respond and recover..
Following her selection in the “Privacy” category by NJBIZ, we sat with her for a broad-ranging discussion covering topics ranging from the support she has received from CSG towards propelling her practice and knowledge base, her commitment to community service and the measures she personally took on to ensure that her clients and the State’s greater business community were informed and minimized cybersecurity risk over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Q: In what ways have you seen your role as a “leader in law” evolve over the years?
A: The exponential momentum and broadening the scope of cyber threats, and thus security and data protection-related regulations, has created a natural course of progression for cybersecurity practitioners. To remain in lockstep with this fast-moving pace, one must always be learning and broadening her knowledge base. Fortunately, CSG has always been incredibly supportive in helping me stay on top of the latest developments in this rapidly evolving field. I have shared and continue to share my knowledge and experience with my clients, with my audience in speaking engagements, and in thought, pieces shared through various media outlets.
Q: What is something about yourself that would surprise others?
A: I am a volunteer snowboard instructor working with people with challenges, whether physical, developmental, or otherwise. I love that at my age (pushing 60), I continue to explore new adventures – both in my legal career and in my charitable endeavors.
Q: What do you consider to be your greatest contribution to your company’s/client’s success?
A: In my long-standing role as Chair of CSG’s Cybersecurity & Privacy Committee, I am committed to ardently protecting our firm, its technology infrastructure, and employees. This dedication became that much more important when CSG went fully remote at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 and, since then, I have led multiple training sessions and spearheaded the review and implementation of policies to ensure that this transition was successful, seamless and secure.
In 2015, I was fortunate to be empowered to leverage my internal leadership role and the practical knowledge gleaned in that capacity to launch an external-facing, revenue-generating practice. With my emphasis on cybersecurity preparedness and education, I have developed an excellent, trusting reputation among the region’s business community and am often the first call executives make when faced with a cybersecurity incident as they embark on the path towards responding and recovering.
Q: Describe a career challenge you overcame and the outcome
A: My father passed away not long after I joined CSG, which resulted in a mental fog and admittedly mild depression that persisted in all aspects of my life. A testament to the caring workplace culture that has been nurtured at the firm since its founding, senior partners took notice and invited me to lunch, where we had a long, encouraging discussion that helped me reenergize, refocus and lift the haze.
Two decades removed from my dad’s passing, I am still as in awe and grateful as I was then of the support system that the highest levels of firm leadership are to CSG employees whether with personal or professional matters. The firm has continued to support me as I have honed my cybersecurity practice by funding my post-graduate certifications from the Mitchell Hamline School of Law and Harvard University.
Q: What types of charities, community involvement, or pro bono work are you a part of?
A: I am the Vice-Chair of CSG’s Women’s Initiative, which plays a critical role in the delivery of programs providing women attorneys with opportunities for personal and professional development and fostering rewarding relationships both within the firm and externally. A further testament to my dedication to the advancement and retention of women in law, I have also served the New Jersey Women Lawyers Association in a variety of capacities since 2013, including as President and currently as its Nominations Co-Director.
Within the broader community, I have maintained an ongoing commitment to the Adaptive Sports Foundation, where I volunteer as a snowboard instructor to students with physical and cognitive disabilities. I also spend a weekend every year taking part in the organization’s Warriors in Motion program – which provides participating injured United States servicemen and women with an understanding of wellness and the importance of lifelong healthy living.
Further, I have been a mentor and friend to underserved high school students for nearly a decade through my involvement in NJ LEEP.
To view the full 2021 NJBIZ Leaders in Law list, please click here.