Beyond her impressive product liability litigation work in the pharmaceutical industry, Teri Peeples has been an agent of change throughout her career, having earned a reputation as a tireless proponent of diversity within the legal profession. Now at Organon, a global healthcare company focused on women’s health, she leverages her legal talent, advocacy skills, and passion to advance the company’s commitment to delivering vital medicines and treatment to women across 140 markets.
“I have always been interested in women’s health — in particular, with the racial disparities within the healthcare system,” says Peeples, who joined Organon in its Jersey City, NJ, office as director of litigation in May 2021. “From the top down, our purpose here is to prioritize women in this space, as well as to address some of these disparities in ways that haven’t been done before.”
In her current role, Peeples manages litigation for Organon globally, with a focus on product liability, employment, and commercial disputes. This work encompasses providing litigation-related advice and assessing potential litigation risk. She also selects outside counsel for Organon, seeking ways for the company to expand business and legal opportunities for women and people of color at partner law firms.
As a successful lawyer at Sidley who was not actively looking for a new job when the Organon opportunity presented itself, Peeples says several factors led her to leave private practice for an in-house role. Working for a mission-driven company with a majority female board and a Black female general counsel was the most persuasive determinant.
“Organon checked off a lot of boxes for me in my personal and professional life,” Peeples recalls. “Few people have the opportunity to work under a Black female leader such as General Counsel Deborah Telman, the company’s senior legal advisor. Her dedication to diversity and the advancement of women is inspiring. When we first met, something clicked, and I realized immediately that I needed to pursue the director of litigation position.”
Before joining Organon, Peeples served for five years as a senior associate in the product liability litigation group in Sidley’s New York office, and as an associate prior to that at another large, New York-based global law firm. She pursued the position at the behest of Heidi Levine, who had joined the firm as a partner a few months earlier in 2016. Peeples immediately immersed herself in helping Levine expand the firm’s product liability, mass tort, and life sciences litigation presence in New York. When she interviewed, she recalls Sidley as having a great work environment. “Every partner and associate I met was genuinely happy and collegial. I thought, ‘Nobody can be this nice, right?’ They were — and I actually still feel this way.”
While at Sidley, Peeples represented pharmaceutical clients in litigation, learning their business, crafting defense strategies, and developing expert witnesses. With time, she took on more management responsibilities, ensuring that the project teams ran smoothly, the junior associates received proper training and mentoring, and the clients were happy.
She attributes Levine’s trust and encouragement to setting her up for success in an in-house environment. “She acquainted me with all the various aspects of the client relationship and the business of practicing law. I learned a lot about client service, how to understand and anticipate client needs, and how to package information. This has helped me in-house with the people in my reporting chain and in communicating with my outside counsel.”
Peeples also mentored many colleagues at Sidley, as well as young students in underserved communities through her work with the New Jersey Law and Education Empowerment Project, a college access and success program in Newark. In 2019, she co-founded the Women of Color Initiative in the New York office to enhance the firm’s inclusive culture, and foster a greater sense of belonging among diverse women.
“Co-founding the Women of Color Initiative is one my proudest accomplishments. I wanted to create an informal space where we could make connections and feel comfortable asking questions to help support the pipeline of diverse female talent. That the firm supported me in that endeavor was special.”
Such leadership did not go unnoticed. Peeples was chosen as the recipient of the “Future Leader – Diversity & Inclusion” award at the 2020 Chambers Diversity & Inclusion Awards: North America, an honor bestowed on role models and trailblazers in pro bono, corporate social responsibility, and inclusion.
With law firm life and the bridge-and-tunnel commute behind her, Peeples enjoys spending her newfound time with her husband and 11-year-old daughter, as well as in contemplating what to do with the idle moments in the evenings and on weekends.
True to form, she says she’d like to help those in need in some way. “Whether it’s working with seniors or doing some sort of community project, I definitely feel compelled to use the free time that I now have in service of others.”
Published April 2022 - UPDATE Senior Director of Litigation, Stryker
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