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.
I was drawn to the Environmental practice by the varied subject matter and by the one thing that all of the cases on which I work have in common: they are highly technical. The technical nature of the cases allows me the opportunity to use my science and public health backgrounds in understanding the issues and, ultimately, in advancing successful arguments on behalf of my clients.
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. In terms of specifics, we defended a client in several government investigations that — we believe — were precipitated by claims made by company whistleblowers. After years of hard work and regular engagement with the government agencies, most of the agencies have indicated that they will not pursue criminal or other charges against our client — and the remaining agency has expressed a similar view, although its decision is not yet final.
You also maintain an active pro bono practice, correct?
Yes, I represent a class of veterans unlawfully denied certain combat-related special compensation. We were able to obtain certification of the class and prevailed on a motion that decided the sole legal issue in the case. The litigation is ongoing but, if we ultimately prevail, thousands of veterans — men and women who have served the country — will obtain the compensation denied to this point. This case has special meaning to me because my dad, who passed away in 2017, was a Vietnam veteran. He was devoted to helping his fellow veterans, and I feel that I am following in his steps and honoring his legacy by litigating this case on behalf of my veteran clients.
In addition to success in your practice area, you help lead an important and successful D&I initiative – Sidley’s Women of Color Initiative.
Yes, I lead the Women of Color (WOC) Initiative in the Washington, D.C. office. The WOC Initiative began several years ago as a pilot program in our New York office to provide Sidley’s women of color lawyers with more valuable networking and mentorship opportunities with firm leadership. It was so successful under the leadership of co-founders Teri Peeples and Toi Carrion, the Initiative will be expanded to our Boston, Chicago, Greater Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. offices.
My overall priority for the WOC Initiative in the Washington, D.C. office is to build an inclusive community of women of color lawyers — one where the members empower, uplift, support, and encourage one another. I started a similar group in Sidley’s Chicago office, although informally so. The group brought together Black associates from various practice groups. We grew to know and trust one another, and we now are each other’s biggest fans, gathering — now virtually — to celebrate each other’s successes and encouraging one another in the hard times. I’m working to replicate this same experience with the WOC Initiative. Outside Sidley, I co-founded Environmental Women of Color, a group created to support diverse female environmental law and policy professionals.
What are your goals for the Women of Color Initiative in Washington, D.C. in 2021?
Initially, I hope to create an office-wide community of women of color that grows together and supports one another. While the Initiative will begin in the Washington, D.C. office, I envision Teri, Toi, and I bringing together women of color lawyers across all offices, particularly in this virtual environment.
More than anything, my goal is for this Initiative to be whatever our individual women of color lawyers need the Initiative to be, whether by helping a member connect with a partner to work on a specific matter or by assisting a member with an appointment to a board of directors. Although we face similar challenges as women of color lawyers in a large law firm, we are unique and have different needs. I want the WOC Initiative to address all of these needs to the extent possible.