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2021 In-House Counsel Awards: Jovita Foster

Drury Hotels Company

Jovita FosterJovita Foster knows precisely why she enjoys the role of a general counsel.

“I think it is definitely more rewarding because I get to see the impact my advice has on the overall decision-making process,” said the 46-year-old native St. Louisan, “whereas in private practice, I’d give advice and sometimes I wouldn’t know whether it was taken or what happened as a result of the feedback I provided.”

After earning her law degree from Washington University, where she won both the Milton F. Napier Award and the American College of Trial Lawyers Medal for her excellence in trial advocacy, Foster would represent clients ranging from public utilities to Fortune 100 companies. She dispensed sage advice on everything from vendor disputes to regulatory concerns over the better part of two decades at Armstrong Teasdale, where she not only became the first woman of color to be named a partner but garnered a spot on the firm’s executive committee.

She took her talents in-house at Drury Hotels where, since 2019, she has served as general counsel and corporate secretary for an organization that employs more than 5,000 people across 25 states.

“I thought it would be really exciting and fulfilling to work in close partnership with my client,” she said of her in-house role. “When I was in private practice, I had the opportunity to support but it wasn’t as closely knit a relationship as actually being inside.”

Foster says the ability to work as a business partner and find creative solutions to challenges makes someone a good general counsel.

“I think that all of the work lawyers do is challenging,” said Foster who has been honored by her alma mater as a distinguished young alumnus and by the YWCA of Greater St. Louis as a leader of distinction. “I think a unique dynamic to being in-house is that the work is definitely more personal and the outcomes are personal. The opportunities and challenges, all of it, I feel much closer to now than I did when I was in private practice.”

She said that a good general counsel must be creative and flexible but also able to understand a wide variety of legal disciplines. Foster said that the hospitality industry touches on everything from liquor laws and commercial contracts to data privacy matters and personal injury litigation.

“You need to be nimble,” she said.

Over the years, Foster also has served as director of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis and Junior Achievement of Greater St. Louis, Inc. as well as co-chair of the Webster University Board of Trustees.

Foster’s nominator particularly praised her work during the COVID crisis.

“Throughout the pandemic, she advised her client with strength and grace,” they wrote. “She never faltered, never wavered and was the true embodiment of the term ‘zealous advocate’.”