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Lawyer’s Lantern


NICOLE JONES


Nicole Jones is the executive vice president and general counsel for Cigna Corp., a global health service and financial company headquartered in Bloomfield, Conn. She spoke with Diversity & the Bar about her career and dedication to diversity.


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Last time you were profiled in Diversity & the Bar you were senior vice president and general counsel for Lincoln Financial Group. What brought you back to Cigna? I had worked at Cigna for a few years before Lincoln, serving under Carol Ann Petren, who was general counsel at the time. I left for Lincoln because it was a great opportunity to get experience in a general counsel role. When the opportu- nity came to rejoin the team at Cigna, I couldn’t resist. I was drawn to the enterprise leadership team, to the company’s focus on their customers, and to the clear global business strategy that was guiding Cigna’s success. I also enjoyed get- ting back into health care, knowing how important this is in our lives. It’s an exciting time to be in this space.


In a recent interview with Profile magazine, you said you once considered going in-house “second-class lawyering” but later fell in love with it. Do you feel that is a common view of in-house lawyers? How has your opinion evolved as you change positions? Speaking for myself, I really learned to love the strategic responsibility that comes with being an in-house attorney. You get the opportunity to influence important business decisions and shape the direction of the company, no matter what level you’re at within an organization. I also enjoy the close relationships that form with business partners across the company. In many ways, it’s more intimate than if I were an outside counsel providing advice. I feel I can get


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more vested in Cigna’s strategy—its employees and our mission—by being a member of the team.


In the same story, you mention the close relationship you had with your predecessor, Carol Ann Petren. Was she one of your mentors? How important is it to stay in contact with former colleagues? Yes, Carol was an outstanding mentor. Trough her, I got a taste for the responsibilities that come with being general counsel for a large, growing global company. And as with any career in any field, staying in touch with former col- leagues is a fundamental part of networking. It’s not just about finding new jobs; it’s a great way to stay fresh with industry trends, learn what other companies are doing, and maintain relationships that can last a lifetime.


You have mentioned becoming more involved in the business side of things. Aside from getting an MBA or religiously reading the Wall Street Journal, what advice do you have for young lawyers looking to expand their business knowledge? I mentioned networking earlier; that’s a wonderful way to learn more about business and industry. Attend confer- ences and events, either national conventions or local get-togethers. Volunteer your time; pro bono legal work is one way you can hone your skills while gaining exposure to new experiences. And consider an in-house position at some point in your career. You’ll gain insights and experiences


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