Chris Lewis took the long way to get to St. Louis, starting in the Caribbean with a stopover in New York.
Lewis was born in Jamaica, before moving to Poughkeepsie, New York. He attended Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York, followed by Columbia University School of Law, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar.
Lewis originally wanted to pursue civil rights law, inspired by Thurgood Marshall and others. But then he discovered securities, and realized that it provided for an intellectual challenge while allowing him to pursue civil rights issues through pro bono work and nonprofit participation.
“It was complex work like the civil rights laws and I was able to follow both passions,” Lewis said.
After graduation, Lewis worked for the New York offices of law firms K&L Gates and Duane Morris. In private practice, Lewis represented financial services firms on regulatory and compliance issues. That’s where he developed relationships with attorneys who had in-house positions and developted an interest in the practice.
One challenge that intrigued him was the broader knowledge required by an in-house position.
“If you’re at a law firm and you’re in a practice group, the borders of your practice are kind of set,” Lewis said. “If you’re a tax lawyer, you give tax advice. If you’re in-house you may be working on a tax issue with implications that go far beyond tax, but your focus doesn’t stop at the tax issue.”
One colleague, Jim Tricarico, now the company’s chief legal officer, took a position with Edward Jones, and Lewis followed six months later. Lewis started as principal and deputy general counsel. Today, as general counsel, he leads all associates who provide legal services to the company. His interest in civil rights has also carried over to his work at Edward Jones.
“One of the things that I personally am focused on and really excited that the company is focused on as well is diversity and inclusion in our profession and from the company level in our industry,” Lewis said. “I’ve been really honored to work with folks who see that as a priority.”
Young attorneys interested in in-house positions should be prepared to work hard, Lewis said. They should understand the industry that the company is part of, and they should be able to make decisions quickly, and work collaboratively.
“Don’t think of in-house practice as being less intense than it is being outside counsel,” Lewis said. “But the opportunities are great and it’s a wonderful place to be.”
Despite the hefty workload, Lewis finds time to be involved in the community. He sits on numerous boards including Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri, St. Louis Children’s Hospital Foundation, and the Missouri Botanical Garden.
“St. Louis is great,” Lewis said. “It’s a wonderful place to raise a family. There’s a good business community and it’s a very civic-minded city.”
Outside of St. Louis, Lewis is on the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association General Counsel Committee and the board of trustees for Manhattanville College.