In honor of Black History Month 2021, featured on this page is a profile series highlighting the successful careers and contributions of current Sidley partners Byron F. Taylor and Deeona R. Gaskin, and Sidley associates Toi K. Carrion, J. Simone Jones, and Teri H. Peeples.
Byron Taylor is a partner and a member of the firm’s Environmental practice group. He joined the firm as an associate in 1990 and became a partner in 1998. Byron is also a long-serving member on Sidley’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee in Chicago.
“This was exactly what I was looking for at the time, a combination of litigation, policy work, negotiations with regulators, and even the occasional conversation with the local sheriff as an added bonus.”
You have been a leading and well-regarded practitioner in the Environmental practice group for almost 30 years. What are some of the most memorable matters that you have worked on?
There have been so many over the years, but I’ll never forget the first significant matter I worked on with our retired partner, Jim Cahan. As a young associate, the issues presented were fascinating to me. We represented a former owner of what was then an abandoned industrial site. The buyer of the site had gone bankrupt and dissolved, the site contained a small mountain of radioactive waste, surrounded by open ponds of acid runoff, the state refused to take title to the property, and scavengers were constantly trespassing onto the site to take scrap steel and anything else of value. This was exactly what I was looking for at the time, a combination of litigation, policy work, negotiations with regulators, and even the occasional conversation with the local sheriff, as an added bonus.
Deeona R. Gaskin is a partner in Sidley's Food, Drug and Medical Device Compliance and Enforcement group in the firm’s office in Washington, D.C.
To begin with—congratulations are in order! You were elected to Sidley’s 2021 new partnership class a few weeks ago. What does it feel like to reach this career milestone? Who is the first person you called immediately after you learned you were elected partner?
It feels great to reach this goal and milestone. I have been fortunate to receive amazing support and mentorship, not only from the partners in the FDA group, but broadly across the firm as well. Over the years, partners have provided me with numerous opportunities to counsel on significant matters. I’m excited to continue to help our clients innovate for patients and the public health.
The first person I called was my mom! She was very excited.
Toi K. Carrion is an associate in Sidley’s Investment Funds group in New York. She is the co-founder and co-chair of Sidley’s Women of Color Initiative in New York.
“I spent eight months with the client learning about collective investment funds, and it was honestly a highlight of my career.”
You’re a very successful senior associate in the Investment Funds practice group. What drew you to your practice, and what are some of the most impactful deals or matters you have worked on while at Sidley?
Prior to law school, I worked as a paralegal in the Global Finance group at a large white shoe law firm in the New York. While there, I received a couple of pieces of guidance (albeit biased) from the lawyers in my group in choosing a practice area that I held with me thereafter. The first was that the transactional practice was essentially managing a deal from beginning to end – using our expertise, experience and resources to guide parties who are already in alignment on the end goal get there as seamlessly as possible. The second piece was that in litigation, lawyers are often arguing about the documents that transactional attorneys are drafting. Preparing well thought out and considered documents is essential to avoiding litigation (if you can), and protecting our clients in litigation, if it comes. I had always leaned toward problem solving, project management, and attention to detail in my academic and professional careers prior to law school, so I thought marrying my new legal knowledge with my existing skill sets would be perfect for me.
J. Simone Jones is an associate in Sidley’s Environmental practice group in the firm’s office in Washington, D.C. She also leads the Washington, D.C. chapter of Sidley’s Women of Color Initiative.
“At a high-level, my most impactful investigations and litigations are those where I am able to achieve the clients’ desired outcomes. Clients place a lot of trust in us to handle their largest and most important matters, and when we deliver the results that clients want, it feels good.”
You are a successful senior associate in the Environmental practice group. What drew you to the Environmental practice, and what are some of the most impactful deals or matters you have worked on while at Sidley?
I began my career as a White Collar and General Litigation associate. My White Collar practice consisted of defending against and investigating claims of bribery and alleged violations of criminal RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act), the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and other federal statutes; conducting internal investigations; and responding to government subpoenas. My Litigation practice, on the other hand, primarily consisted of defending automobile manufacturers in consumer class actions and representing clients in other complex commercial litigations. After working for years on several large environmental investigations and other environmental matters, I transitioned to the Environmental practice group where I continue to lead investigations and litigations, but primarily in cases with an environmental focus.