When a Prudential Financial cybersecurity counsel left the company in recent years, General Counsel Ann Kappler said her law department hoped it could internally fill the position in its data and privacy law unit.
A transactional attorney who provided legal counsel in support of the company’s Chief Investment Office sought and was appointed to the role last year, and Kappler said the lawyer has done a fabulous job.
Kappler highlighted the story as one example of how Prudential’s law department actively supports its employees pursuing a mix of opportunities within the company so they can learn about new areas of the law and different parts of the Fortune 500 business.
She said these varied experiences typically set up attorneys and other legal department personnel for professional advancement and personal satisfaction at Prudential.
“The most successful people in the department in terms of their leadership have been willing to move to different areas,” Kappler told Legal Dive.
Being intentional about rotations
Kappler, a Prudential executive vice president, heads the law, compliance, business ethics and external affairs departments, which combined feature more than 1,000 employees globally.
Kappler said she regularly meets with her leadership team to discuss the talent under their purview, and the conversations feature efforts to determine who would professionally benefit from trying new roles. This could include a lawyer switching to working for a different part of Prudential’s business or moving from one of its domestic units to an international unit.
Kappler said being intentional about providing “internal mobility opportunities” helps develop leaders, which is important for departmental succession planning and employees’ professional development. Employees are also encouraged to pitch their own ideas for different roles they would like to try.
“It's the breadth of your experience that makes you stronger, so finding ways in which you can go laterally to learn a different business, to be in a different geographic area, to be in a wholly different area of the law, I think is the best way to get yourself in a position where you're strongly on the succession planning route,” Kappler said.
New areas of interest
A very recent example she cited of the internal mobility approach in action was a Prudential M&A attorney with prior experience in asset management moving to a position supporting the company’s Chief Investment Office.
Kappler also said it’s not uncommon for members of Prudential’s 300-plus employee law department to move into roles in the company’s compliance department and vice versa.
“That's another avenue by which people are broadening their experience in a way that's getting exposure to different parts of the business and different ways of thinking about legal and regulatory issues,” she said.
These new opportunities can also help employees find greater personal satisfaction and fulfillment in their work.
“The whole idea is to let people get that experience,” Kappler said. “Once they're experienced, they may find, ‘Gee, I'm really interested in this area.’”
Company-wide gig initiative
Prudential as a whole has also embraced giving employees varied experiences that promote on-the-job learning and pursuit of new interests.
In 2021, the company launched an internal Gig pilot program that gives employees the chance to try new projects outside of their current roles and responsibilities for short periods of time.
These opportunities, which are tied to specific deliverables and are in addition to an employee’s normal job responsibilities, can be within the employee’s department or in an entirely different department.
Kappler said the legal department has been an early adopter of the Gig program.
“We definitely saw the value, not just in terms of the value for our lawyers, but the value in terms of our connection with the business and some of our clients in the other functions we work with,” she said.
“Each opportunity offers employees the chance to develop new skills, build enterprise connections, and improve their business acumen,” Kappler added.
Though it has traditionally been uncommon for members of the law department to leave for roles within the company at totally different units, Kappler she has supported such transitions in the past and will continue to do so moving forward.
“It's always a good thing to have a person who is used to wearing a legal hat being on the client side,” she said.
Kappler and her leadership’s team desire to create departments with well-rounded talent has also influenced the hiring process.
In recent years, the units under her purview have placed much more emphasis on determining whether potential hires embrace change and flexibility.
This shift has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which necessitated a rapid transition to remote work and upended the ways many industries have traditionally done business.
“Business is changing. The regulatory world is changing. Law is changing,” Kappler said. “You have to be willing to move and be able to adapt.”
Her team also looks for people who are intellectually curious, self-starters and have demonstrated leadership characteristics in their careers to date.
“We want people who we feel have a runway,” Kappler said.