In the worst of times, their knowledge and expertise becomes even more invaluable. Many of 2024’s Arizona Corporate Counsel Awards finalists shared that some of their “worst times” included navigating COVID-19. But as you’ll see, while some expressed the pandemic’s onslaught of challenges, successfully enduring — and overcoming them — often turned into some of these finalists’ most gratifying accomplishments.

“COVID hit less than six months after I became general counsel,” says Douglas Currault, senior vice president and general counsel for Freeport-McMoRan. “Leading our legal department by working virtually and now working in a flexible/hybrid environment has been challenging yet exciting because we are not bound by the ‘old rules’ of working.” 

Adds Ashley A. Petefish, senior counsel, litigation and southwest division counsel for Albertsons Companies, “As corporate counsel my biggest challenge was navigating the COVID-19 pandemic working as counsel in grocery retail. With employees on the front line, grocery was at the forefront of every mandate, social distancing rule or regulation.”

In addition to sharing their greatest challenges and accomplishments, this year’s ACC finalists will also provide you with a glimmer of what’s ahead when it comes to in-house counsel trends. For example, data management, privacy and security will remain top of mind, ranked No. 2 on the Association of Corporate Counsel’s (ACC) “Outlook for the Legal Department” Chief Legal Officers Survey. 

Front and center in corporate counsel trends: mergers and acquisitions, spinoffs and other types of prominent transactions. Additionally, in-house counsel will likely see an uptick in regulatory issues, compliance issues litigation/discovery matters, enterprise digital transformation and cross-border work/international law.

As for our finalists’ recognition, each year, Az Business magazine — in partnership with the Association of Corporate Counsel, the State Bar of Arizona and title sponsors Cresa and Ogletree Deakins — honors the important and critical role in-house counsel plays with the Arizona Corporate Counsel Awards. For more information about the awards event, which takes place March 28 at Chateau Luxe, click here.

Finalists represent the finest legal expertise in all industries in the private, public, government and nonprofit sectors. Winners will be celebrated at an awards dinner and reception on Thursday, March 28, at Chateau Luxe in Phoenix. Sponsors of the event include Cresa and Ogletree Deakins. Learn more at

Individual finalists

Here are the individual finalists for the 2024 Arizona Corporate Counsel Awards:

Katelin Anderbery

Vice president, legal and compliance // FlexiVan

Biggest challenge: “My greatest challenge has been allocating the FlexiVan legal department’s workload. Creating detailed task lists helps me to ensure that we are appropriately distributing tasks to ensure we best utilize the strengths of the amazingly talented members of the legal department while also allowing our attorneys to learn and grow.”

Most gratifying accomplishment: “In my 2.5 years with FlexiVan, I have been promoted twice. First, to associate general counsel, and late last year, to lead the legal department as vice president of legal and compliance. These promotions are meaningful because they reflect my dedication to FlexiVan and to producing a quality legal work product.”

Shirley Baum

Vice president, law // Pinnacle West Corporation and Arizona Public Service Company

Background: As vice president of law for Pinnacle West Capital Corporation and its primary subsidiary, Arizona Public Service Company (APS), Baum oversees operations and oversight of the external firms that bring additional expertise to the department. 

Most gratifying accomplishment: “Sharing what I have learned from peers, leaders, mentors and colleagues over the course of my career with members of my team is exceptionally rewarding. I have experienced this taking shape with individuals in the form of growth within a position, through expanded roles and promotions, and at times a shift out of the law department and into the business side of our company — or even upward trajectories through expanded roles outside of our company.” 

Peter Brown

Privacy counsel // Axon

Background: After Brown created Axon’s privacy counsel role, he shaped the position to focus on data management and AI while overseeing legal privacy globally for Axon’s 4,000 employees.

Most gratifying accomplishment: “Undoubtedly, my collaboration with Axon’s Vice President of Litigation Pam Petersen on strategy and drafting throughout Axon vs. FTC. Proceedings began two months after I started as an attorney and — from fact-gathering to depositions to appellate briefing to a successful certiorari petition to victory — the case and I grew up together.”

Kristine Campbell 

General counsel // U-Haul Holding Company

Biggest challenge: “The biggest challenge to the U-Haul legal team is the more than 750 lawsuits that we have ongoing at any given time. We are constantly playing defense and in the past two years we have started playing more of an offense position. Each in-house lawyer is assigned different legal topics and we use a legal online tool to track state and federal legislation and regulations. We also work with different organizations and law firms to challenge new SEC or other government regulations, stay on top of tort reform in different states that are more plaintiff-friendly, continue watching the evolving employment laws and make sure our HR department continually [improve] policies.”

Douglas Currault 

Senior vice president and general counsel // Freeport-McMoRan

Biggest challenge: “COVID hit less than six months after I became general counsel. Leading our legal department by working virtually and now working in a flexible/hybrid environment has been challenging yet exciting because we are not bound by the ‘old rules’ of working. Learning the new way to manage and work has been rewarding.”  

Most gratifying accomplishment: “My role is to foster an environment for continued success and I’m proud of advancing our culture of being highly collaborative, non-bureaucratic and informal. I believe establishing a legal operations team within the legal department has enhanced this culture while allowing us to continue to provide high-quality legal services. I’m blessed with a strong team.”   

Jason Dymbort

General counsel and secretary // First Solar

Background: Dymbort serves on First Solar’s executive leadership team and oversees the company’s legal department worldwide, including oversight of First Solar’s transactional, trade, intellectual property, compliance and corporate governance functions. In addition to his duties as general counsel and secretary, Dymbort directs the company’s advocacy strategies, defining its responses to challenges and opportunities in areas such as trade and industrial policy.

Most gratifying accomplishment: “There’s never a shortage of meaningful work at a purpose-led company like First Solar. To pick one [accomplishment], it would be the opportunity to provide meaningful input into President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act that is revitalizing domestic solar manufacturing, creating jobs, supporting America’s energy security and restoring balance in global solar supply chains.”

Lauren Elrod

General counsel and compliance officer // Mountain Park Health Center 

Background: Elrod has worked with some of Arizona’s largest employers and as outside legal counsel for Mountain Park Health Center before joining full-time in 2015. “While keeping the organization in compliance with all the applicable regulations is crucial in continuing our mission to provide quality, affordable, convenient healthcare to communities we serve,” she says. “I also get to have a hand in more direct patient care through our Medical Legal Partnership program. Our MLP program provides our patients free legal consultations, helping them overcome any legal barriers preventing them from reaching their health goals.”

Bobbie Fox

Vice president of compliance // CopperPoint Insurance Companies

Background: Fox is responsible for overseeing CopperPoint’s extensive corporate compliance programs and provides in-house legal advice with a focus on compliance, contracts, employment law and human resources areas. Her legal and compliance responsibilities have grown exponentially as CopperPoint completed two significant acquisitions and continues to expand into new states and new lines of business.

Most gratifying accomplishment: “My most gratifying accomplishment is in mentoring my team of professionals who have substantially increased their talents, skills and expertise to meet the company’s growing legal and regulatory needs. With CopperPoint’s growth into additional states and insurance lines, we have adapted and taken on new roles in regulatory compliance, information governance, investigations, tailored contract review and management, third-party risk management and regulatory audits.”

Michael Freedman

General counsel // Achieve 

Most gratifying accomplishment: “Achieve is a digital personal finance company helping everyday people move forward on the path to a better financial future. As the general counsel, I lead the legal, compliance and risk teams. I view our team itself as one of our greatest accomplishments. Every day we engage and collaborate to navigate the company through the complexities of operating in the heavily regulated financial services industry. We hold ourselves to a standard of unassailability and enable the business to do the same.”

Colleen Gautam

Senior vice president, general counsel and administration // Valley of the Sun United Way

Background: Over the past 8-plus years, Gautam has been integral at Valley of the Sun United Way (VSUW), starting as its attorney in 2015 and advancing to her current position as SVP, general counsel and administration. As part of her role, she oversees legal compliance, administration, corporate governance, risk management and facilities. Gautam also manages VSUW’s First Things First team, directing over $62 million to support childcare scholarships in Arizona. 

Most gratifying accomplishment: “Successfully transitioning from a large corporate law firm to becoming the sole attorney at a nonprofit has been my most gratifying accomplishment. Navigating this progression, I’ve honed the art of collaboration, drawing wisdom not only from outside counsel but also from diverse professional counterparts and mentors outside the legal field.”

Melissa Ho

Associate director – regulatory counsel and government partnerships // Microchip Technology Inc. 

Background: Ho is a lifelong Arizonan who, for 17 years, maintained a white-collar litigation practice addressing every manner of crisis and government scrutiny for private and public companies. Currently, she is in-house with Microchip Technologies Inc. Ho and her team manage a broad regulatory scope including environmental, antitrust, aerospace and defense contracting, data privacy/data security, trade (export controls) and government partnerships.

Biggest challenge: “The biggest challenge in my transition was changing my mindset from hired gun (litigator) tasked with identifying issues to adapting for long-term business success for a public company by solving for issues. I learned I needed to issue spot and provide an order of priority and understanding of risk. I went from basing my feelings of accomplishment on individual wins to focusing on the success of teams outside of legal, leading to stronger partnerships and the best environment for growing and protecting the business.”    

Rayna H. Jones

Associate general counsel, labor and employment, litigation, ethics and compliance // Avnet

Background: Joining Avnet in 2022, Jones supports the Americas region as the sole dedicated employment attorney assisting the human resources organization. Additionally, she handles litigation and ethics and compliance matters for the Americas. 

Most gratifying accomplishment: “In my first year at Avnet, I managed an antitrust lawsuit, participating in settlement negotiations, strategy sessions and serving as Avnet’s corporate representative at a two-week trial. I played a critical role in advising Avnet leadership on whether to take the case to a jury verdict. Our trial team was phenomenal and the jury awarded $89,244,000 (trebled to $267.7 million). My involvement gave me a deeper understanding of Avnet’s business and as a career employment attorney, it was a growth opportunity for me.”

Ashley Kasarjian

Vice president, associate general counsel, Employment Services // Republic Services

Background: In her role as vice president, associate general counsel of employment services at Republic Services, Kasarjian partners with human resources, talent management and operations to implement enterprise-wide solutions to mitigate risk and support the Republic’s highly ethical culture. She is a past recipient of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce’s ATHENA Award (Young Professional) and the Distinguished Alumni Award from Barrett, The Honors College at ASU. Before joining Republic, she was an employment attorney with Snell & Wilmer for more than 10 years and has served on multiple nonprofit boards within the community, including the Maricopa Community Colleges Foundation.

Most gratifying accomplishment: “I am exceptionally proud of the team my colleagues and I have built. Our entire Legal Department is top-tier, and the Employment Services team has phenomenally talented people who are kind and hard-working. We have continued to expand the support we provide companywide and are valued business partners.”

Kristen Lee

General counsel // SmartRent

Biggest challenge: “Transitioning from litigation to a corporate and strategic business role was a big challenge. Thankfully, I was given the trust of people who saw my ability and understood that litigation provides an excellent foundation and translatable skills for in-house. I apply the same client service and problem-solving to new areas of law but in a much less adversarial manner!”

Most gratifying accomplishment: “Many talented attorneys could do the technical part of my job, but I pride myself on creating a work culture that is collegial, supportive and empowering. Great work ethic comes first, but there is no reason that you can’t still be kind, demonstrate mutual respect and have fun while doing it.”

Max McCauley 

General counsel // Harkins Theatres

Background: McCauley serves as general counsel for Harkins Theatres where he provides guidance on all company legal matters, including contracts and compliance, litigation, real estate and employment. Before joining Harkins, he graduated from Harvard Law School and practiced law for the national firm Steptoe & Johnson and Washington, D.C.-based firm Wiley Rein.  

Most gratifying accomplishment: “Helping Harkins respond to the COVID pandemic by navigating the novel legal and risk landscape imposed on all aspects of our business. It was both the most challenging and rewarding experience of my career, particularly because I had the opportunity to work closely with an incredible cross-departmental team at Harkins.”

Nicole Ong Colyer

Associate general counsel // Arizona State University 

Background: Colyer was deputy general counsel to Gov. Ducey and general counsel of the Arizona Department of Administration. She practiced at DLA Piper and Snell & Wilmer and clerked for federal Judge McNamee. Colyer was a National Asian Pacific American Bar Association Best Under 40 and Southwest Super Lawyers Rising Star. She served on the boards of Phoenix IDA, Arizona Asian American Bar Association and University of Arizona Law College Association.

Most gratifying accomplishment: “As the sole ASU attorney on the project, completing ASU’s $270 million partnership with Applied Materials for an advanced semiconductor R&D center. Driving forward multiple agreements and resolving issues in a practical way is meaningful because of the tremendous impact it will have on the semiconductor industry and Arizona economy.” 

Zari Panosian

Corporate counsel // Spring Education Group

Background: Panosian is corporate counsel at Spring Education Group, a multi-brand network providing private education from infant care through high school. She received her B.A.s in History and English from Arizona State University and her Juris Doctor from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

Most gratifying accomplishment: “My most gratifying accomplishment has been facilitating legal training to our folks on the ground. Risk management starts with effective training; translating sophisticated concepts into engaging presentations and seeing the immediate effects of such training has been extremely satisfying and reassuring of the positive impacts of the corporate counsel role.”

Ashley A. Petefish

Senior counsel, litigation and Southwest Division counsel // Albertsons Companies

Background: Petefish oversees legal operations and employment law for Albertsons Southwest Division and manages corporate-wide class action commercial litigation, including false advertising and consumer product claims.

Biggest challenge: “As corporate counsel my biggest challenge was navigating the COVID-19 pandemic working as counsel in grocery retail. With employees on the front line, grocery was at the forefront of every mandate, social distancing rule or regulation. I overcame the challenge by being willing to stretch and learn about contact tracing, pivoting to how we interpreted leave policies, and time and attendance requirements for employees, and being willing to step in and help in every facet of the business.”

Matthew J. Pierce

General counsel // Suntec Concrete

Biggest challenge: “Installing compliance measures needed at a billion-dollar company without negatively disrupting forty years of culture. This is a work in progress. Essentially, being present among company leaders and gaining their trust assists in getting buy-in for policies that appear to run counter to the company culture.”

Most gratifying accomplishment: “Successfully, in most cases, negotiating fairer terms and reallocating risk in our contracts in a way that creates more of a partnering environment with our clients. Doing this has provided more control of our destiny when market conditions may decline — and actually — has improved trust between us.”

Melissa Sallee 

Senior corporate securities director // Align Technology

Biggest challenge: “Managing a team with the many unknowns of COVID and the impact it had on my team from every aspect of life has been the biggest challenge as a corporate counsel. I overcame this challenge by leaning into my team, leading with my heart and thinking outside the box.” 

Most gratifying accomplishment: “My most gratifying accomplishment as a corporate counsel was leading a team during COVID. I was able to lead a team that I felt bonded and connected to more than any other team I have been a part of and I felt my leadership style contributed to that bond.” 

Lindsay Schafer

Senior counsel, labor and employment // Axon

Background: Schafer is a Phoenix native who has been practicing law in the Valley for more than 12 years. Prior to joining Axon, she served as vice president of legal for Goodwill of Central and Northern Arizona. She has also served as head of Employee Relations Investigations at CVS Health. Before going in house, Schafer practiced labor employment law at Littler, Greenberg Traurig, Quarles and Clark Hill where she litigated employment claims, resolved agency investigations and advised clients in all aspects of labor and employment compliance. 

Most gratifying accomplishment: “Recently, an employee with whom I had worked to facilitate an amicable departure from the company that avoided risk wrote to thank me for my handling of what was a very difficult time in that person’s life. This was a meaningful reminder of why my work matters.”

Mona M. Stone

Executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary // Goodwill of Central and Northern Arizona 

Background: Stone leads two separate organizations: She serves as EVP, GC, chief compliance officer and corporate secretary of Goodwill of Central and Northern Arizona and as the COO/CLO for Thrive Services Group. By collaborating with communities and business partners, Thrive provides social innovation in housing, education and health services to eradicate poverty.

Biggest challenge: “Goodwill is limited in its ability to provide services by geographic restrictions. I was instrumental in launching Thrive, a national engine for social innovation that shares Goodwill’s approach of using operations to fund needed educational and housing offerings. Creating Thrive required significant legal and business gymnastics, but today Thrive delivers purpose and profit through real estate and hospitality subsidiaries.”

Leah Tinney

Managing senior counsel // McKesson

Biggest challenge: “My biggest challenge has been the transition from subject-matter specialist to comprehensive business counsel. While I have always understood that my clients’ questions do not exist in a vacuum, I am now confronted with the full gamut of their legal needs. These opportunities to self-learn and collaborate with a range of experts have resulted in substantial professional growth.”

Most gratifying accomplishment: “I am immensely proud of the work I do to support the provision of free medication to patients who cannot afford it. Among other functions, I provide contracting support and regulatory analysis to several businesses that dispense specialty oncology therapies to patients free of charge. The hand-written thank you notes are enough to keep me going on tough days.”   

Reed Willis

Senior lead counsel, litigation // Align

Biggest challenge: “My biggest challenge is the ‘in-house counsel mindset.’ At a firm, I was constrained by the law, facts and budget. At Align, I have more constraints to balance including global impact on the business. I have overcome this challenge by meeting people throughout the business to learn how they maximize Align’s success.”

Most gratifying accomplishment: “My most gratifying experience is representing in a series of lawsuits against a competitor across the globe. Not only did I help reverse the tide of the cases, but I helped establish the standard of care in our industry by holding the competitor accountable.”

Mac Woods

Interim general counsel, Office of General Counsel // ASU Enterprise Partners

Background: Woods is interim general counsel at ASU Enterprise Partners, a nonprofit charged with advancing the charter of Arizona State University. His career has focused on education and social impact, beginning as a teacher through Teach for America and then as a lawyer at BASIS Educational Group, Osborn Maledon and — most recently — the Office of General Counsel at ASU. He is most proud, though, of being a husband to Jessie and a father to a rambunctious toddler.

Most gratifying accomplishment: “I am most grateful for my relationships with colleagues within the ASU Enterprise. In moments of complexity, when you become a trusted adviser not just a lawyer, it’s a connection that helps us press on and accomplish unprecedented innovation.”

Legal team finalists

Here are the legal team finalists for the 2024 Arizona Corporate Counsel Awards:

Axon legal department

Biggest challenge: “Axon was in a dispute with the FTC over Axon’s $12 million acquisition of a failing body camera competitor, VieVu. While Axon disagreed with the FTC’s antitrust assessment, Axon was willing to negotiate a reasonable resolution. The FTC was not and demanded Axon license all of its own independently developed IP or face an internal administrative FTC legal process where the agency won 100% of its cases over the past 25 years. Axon saw what seemed like an impossible situation as an opportunity. Adopting the principle that ‘the obstacle is the way,’ Axon sued the FTC in federal court and took the jurisdictional question, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where it obtained a 9-0 victory. Shortly thereafter, the FTC dropped its underlying case against Axon in its entirety — which to our knowledge is unprecedented.”

First Solar legal department

Most gratifying accomplishment: “This team has developed what started as a department of one following First Solar’s 2006 IPO, into an organization of more than 30 legal and compliance professionals located across the globe, covering diverse practice areas and supporting the company’s growth to become the largest solar module manufacturer in the Western Hemisphere and the only U.S.-headquartered company among the world’s 10 largest module producers.”

Desert Financial Credit Union legal department

Background: Desert Financial legal comprises eight employees who support the credit union, its foundation and its subsidiaries that offer B2C and B2B products and services. The company accomplishes this while fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace; 87.5% of the group are women, people of color or both. The team serves on several nonprofit boards, and in 2023 they volunteered 450 hours with various nonprofits.

Biggest challenge: “Though the team now has three lawyers, from 9/22-8/23, we had one lawyer supporting the credit union, its 450,000 members, 1,200 employees, five subsidiaries and foundation. The team’s selfless commitment to learning new functions, fearlessness in taking on new roles and ingenuity in finding efficiencies allowed the organization to thrive despite being shorthanded.”

Freeport-McMoRan legal department

Biggest challenge: “In August 2023, we had a cybersecurity incident affecting our information systems. Our legal team worked closely with our IT team, third-party experts and law enforcement to navigate the incident. Consistent with our company’s team-oriented culture, our legal team assisted with board communication, investigative, data privacy, audit, litigation and disclosure matters.”

Most gratifying accomplishment: “We deal with numerous legacy environmental matters, one of which resulted in class litigation over seven years ago in New Jersey. The plaintiffs sought damages from historical smelter operations, including diminished property values, remediation and medical monitoring. During 2023, we successfully settled all claims for an amount not material to our company.”

Goodwill of Central and Northern Arizona legal department

Background: The award-winning Legal team from Goodwill of Central and Northern Arizona (GCNA) is best known for championing the important mission work of the organization and building meaningful relationships with internal and external partners. Led by Mona Stone, the department has grown into a dynamic legal bench of six professionals. Outside of the thrift retail space, GCNA’s legal team members participate in many community organizations and are active in groups promoting mentorship, professional development and DEI initiatives.

Biggest challenge: “Several hundred thousand adults in Arizona lack a high school diploma, limiting their job opportunities. Legal helped develop The Excel Center, a tuition-free high school for adults where services are provided free of charge, including childcare and transportation. This endeavor required entirely new state legislation, but legal’s determination remained steadfast.” 

McCarthy Building Companies Phoenix legal department

Background: Founded in 1864, McCarthy Building Companies is one of the country’s largest and most diversified commercial construction companies. Family-owned until becoming fully employee-owned in 2002, McCarthy is the oldest privately held national construction company in America. Beginning operations in Phoenix in 1975, it helps clients achieve their goals in the region in a variety of industries including healthcare, education, aviation, data centers, renewable energy, water/wastewater and many more.

Microchip Technology legal department

Biggest challenge: Microchip Technology’s legal department provides guidance and support on a wide range of matters including corporate governance, compliance, intellectual property, business contracts, technology licensing, litigation, M&A and post-acquisition integration activities.

Most gratifying accomplishment: “We’re proud of being part of Microchip’s unique culture and are especially proud of our ability to deploy the right talent at the right time to critical matters, including AI and business scaling initiatives, government funding opportunities (like the CHIPS Act), as well as corporate, ESG, government contracting, IP, technology transactions, litigation, M&A and regulatory matters. Fostering and maintaining a talented team with a strong commitment to providing business and results-oriented support is one of our most gratifying accomplishments.”

WillScot Mobile Mini legal department

Background: WillScot’s knowledgeable, efficient and pragmatic legal professionals partner every day with internal and external stakeholders to identify and execute commercially-minded, innovative and flexible legal solutions. Whether it involves one of their 250 locations, thousands of commercial contracts, dozens of corporate transactions or even our board, WillScot’s legal team has established itself as a trusted and valued advisor.

Most gratifying accomplishment: “Over the past few years, WillScot has experienced exponential growth, both in size and product offering, and that commercial momentum shows no signs of slowing. We have successfully executed more than 30 corporate transactions in the last two years, some of which represented shifts in our jurisdictional, compliance and commercial footprints. To address this constant state of change, we have focused on building trust within our organization through providing responsive, engaged and strategic support.”