Commerce Bancshares, Inc.
J. Chrissy Teske’s professional life began not in law but in medicine.
As the child of first-generation American immigrants from Guyana, she said her family instilled an expectation of completing higher education. She studied biology at Truman State University, anticipating that she would become a doctor.
Ultimately, Teske decided that practicing medicine wasn’t for her. After graduating in 1999, she joined Eli Lilly and Company as a pharmaceutical sales rep.
It wasn’t long, however, before she started to mull over the idea of a different career. Without telling her parents, she took the LSAT and started applying to law school. She said they didn’t know anything about her legal plans until it was time to start touring campuses.
In 2002 Teske began her studies at The University of Tulsa College of Law. By the time she graduated in 2004, she found the idea of working in-house more appealing than litigation.
Teske served as legal counsel for U.S. Title Guaranty from 2005 to 2007, drawing on a background in real estate law she’d gained during an internship. Her practice focused primarily on commercial and residential real estate transactions, including insurance-underwriting regulations, title-examination procedures, bankruptcy, foreclosures, short sales and probate matters.
She then took on a very different role, as an e-discovery attorney at Bryan Cave in St. Louis. In this position she provided e-discovery management and developed strategies for litigation holds, data collection and best practices for research and production protocols.
Teske later returned to a real estate-focused practice at Witzel & Kanzler in Richmond Heights. She negotiated and drafted leases, construction contracts, purchase and sale agreements, and other real estate matters, as well as advising clients on contract and business matters.
She stepped back in-house in 2010, this time with St. Louis food and agribusiness company Rabo AgriFinance. Her areas of practice ranged from finance and labor and employment, to commercial and regulatory compliance.
After six years at Rabo AgriFinance, Teske accepted a position with Commerce Bank. Now as an in-house corporate generalist, she provides counsel on a range of issues, but she focuses primarily on commercial lending. She also reviews and negotiates commercial contracts and real estate purchase and sale agreements, and she provides advice and counsel on regulatory compliance.
Teske also is active with the Association of Corporate Counsel, an organization for in-house attorneys. She has been a member of the St. Louis chapter board of directors since 2015, and she is currently serving as its vice president/president-elect. She recommends that young attorneys who may want to become general counsel become involved with their local ACC organization, as that affiliation may be helpful when starting that kind of career.
Outside of the legal profession, Teske emphasizes volunteerism. She said she is fortunate to have been given opportunities, “and if I can find ways to give back, I will.”
To do so, she volunteers with Habitat for Humanity and United Cerebral Palsy, an organization that helps to support people with a spectrum of disabilities.
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