Home > Case Studies > Reconnecting with Alumni: Elise Puma, Global Director of Litigation & Regulation, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Anheuser-Busch InBev

Reconnecting with Alumni: Elise Puma, Global Director of Litigation & Regulation, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Anheuser-Busch InBev

Thompson Coburn (TC):  When were you at Thompson Coburn, and with which group did you practice? 

Elise Puma (EP): I started at Thompson Coburn as a summer associate in 2014. That was a time when I got to try out a little bit of many practices, but I knew I wanted to be a litigator, so I spent more time with that group. After graduating law school, I was at the firm from 2015-2021 in the business litigation group. During that time, I also got to work with other groups such as health care, real estate, and environmental.

TC: What stands out about your time at Thompson Coburn?

EP:  What stood out about my time at Thompson Coburn is (easily) the people! I made a lot of great connections and loved working with the people at the firm. In fact, I chose to move to St. Louis from Oklahoma because of the people I worked with! Of course, also because I got to handle really exciting legal work. The partners really trusted me to interact with clients early on in my career, and I really appreciated that a lot.

TC: Is there anyone from your time at Thompson Coburn who was a mentor to you (informally or formally)? If so, how did they positively impact your career approach?

EP: I had many mentors at Thompson Coburn, some formal and others less so. My mentors were invaluable resources for me, especially as a younger attorney. The opportunity to ask experienced lawyers questions was extremely helpful.

One of my formal mentors was Jeff Brown in the firm’s LA office. During Covid we had regular touchpoints, navigating building a career while working remotely. We developed a great relationship, including parenting tips like getting my then dino-obsessed 3-year-old some dinosaur puppets—they were a huge hit, by the way! I think it’s human touches where Thompson Coburn is consistently fantastic.

There are so many other great people, but a few other shoutouts to Dan Cox, Gordon Ankney, Amanda Hettinger, and Brian Lamping. They were all incredibly helpful for me in getting hands-on client interaction and courtroom experience early in my career. In particular, Gordon let me take my first all-day corporate representative deposition and had me argue some of my first major motions. Those were big turning points for me—giving me a lot of confidence and a skillset that I could rely on.  Of course I can’t leave out Amanda, who is fantastic with organizational and client relations skills that I use today. I like to model myself after her, still! I also want to mention Evan Goldfarb of the health care group, who was an informal mentor and became a more formal mentor. She is a great example of how you can be warm and friendly while still being a hugely successful attorney. I can’t leave out that she also convinced me to take a digital leap to using One Note, a tool I still use every day. 

TC: Tell me about your current role.

EP:  I am the Global Director of Litigation and Regulation for Anheuser-Busch’s parent company ABInBev. I came over as the manager of litigation in November 2021, but about a year later was promoted to a director role, taking on the regulatory work as well. I now manage a team that does all the litigation for the parent company. We also handle regulatory topics surrounding tax, sustainability, product innovation, and a variety of global regulatory topics.  Much of my daily work is less traditional litigation and more partnering with teams across the entire business. I have a really unique in-house role because most of the people I work with are not in St. Louis, but rather in New York or around the globe including Belgium, South Africa, Peru, and more. I really love being able to work with the business so broadly and in proactive ways.

TC: How did you get into your current position?

EP: I was on a maternity leave in the summer of 2021 and got a recruiter call. A little backstory is that I was supposed to go to trial that had been years in the making. In fact, I split my maternity leave into two segments because I didn’t want to miss the trial, which happened to be in the alcohol beverage industry.  Feeling it had to be fate given the industry overlap with my trial, I took the call and ended up making the difficult decision to leap into my in-house position with the brewery. I really loved the work and the people at Thompson Coburn, but this was one of those opportunities you just can’t pass up.

TC: What do you most appreciate about your path to your current role and how did your time at Thompson Coburn prepare you?

EP:  Thompson Coburn provided me with incredible food & beverage industry experience.  The type of hands-on experience and the ability to interact with clients as a young associate just isn’t common in law firms. This exposure was not only useful in my ability to land the role, but to move into the role and excel. It’s the practical client experience—something that so many of the partners and mentors provided—that helped me build a critical foundation for what I do today. The business-savvy understanding for what the client needs is so important. The ability to talk business and bring a mindset that balances the client needs with the job at hand makes a difference. Thompson Coburn is a firm that really understands the client service piece.

What is your favorite charitable organization and why?

I volunteer on young professional boards for the Missouri Botanical Garden and The Magic House, our local children’s museum. Both are passion projects for me. The Garden was one of the first places we fell in love with when we moved to St. Louis. In fact, an informal mentor at Thompson Coburn got me involved with the council. She was rotating off the council, told me all about it, recommended me, and now I sit on the council.

I also volunteer for the Magic House, which my daughters just love! It is a really great place for kids to learn and engage. I am proud to be involved in their mission.

Finally, I am also a volunteer with Operation Food Search, an organization that feeds local people in need and provides nutritional education. What’s really nice is that this group is a partner with Anheuser-Busch and so there is a personal connection.

TC: Let’s shift to something fun. If you had to choose one place to visit, where would it be and why?

EP: Italy! We were supposed to go in 2020 for our 10th wedding anniversary, but it didn’t happen for obvious reasons. I had so many recommendations from people at Thompson Coburn, and so I have to go!

TC: If you were not a lawyer, what would you be?

EP: I would be a Disney vacation planner, or just a vacation planner generally. I have these ridiculously detailed spreadsheets that even borrow from some of Amanda’s color-coding skills!

TC: What advice would you give younger lawyers as they build their practice and careers?

EP: Being right is only one piece of a legal strategy. You have to think about how you present yourself and your argument, balancing client needs, building relationships, and being practical.  The goal isn’t always just to win. There are a lot of business realities and other things to think about along the way. I think about this a lot from my current business perspective, and it is so important for young lawyers to develop this understanding.