Effective corporate counsel has never been more important than it is in today’s new and ever-evolving knowledge-based economy.
Thursday night, Az Business magazine recognized the important and vital role that in-house counsel plays in the success of a business with the Arizona Corporate Counsel Awards (ACC Awards).
Photos by Mike Mertes, Az Business magazine
“While maintaining a firm handle on the traditional functions of the legal department, (in-house counsel’s) role is expanding to handle complex issues,” said Cheryl Green, AZ BIG Media publisher. “Tonight, we honor attorneys who truly make a difference in private, public and, for not-for-profit organizations across our state.”
Sponsors for the Arizona Corporate Counsel Awards were Squire Patton Boggs, Cresa, State Bar of Arizona, Association of Corporate Counsel, Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Ogletree Deakins, Grant Thornton, Gordon & Rees Scully Mansukhani Women’s Initiative, Littler and Merestone.
Candidates in several categories were recognized for extraordinary legal skill and achievement across a full range of in-house responsibility, exemplary leadership and for contributions to Arizona’s communities.
The winners of 2017 Arizona Corporate Counsel Awards were:
Nonprofit sector: Paul Holma, senior counsel for real estate and construction at Dignity Health. Holma created and oversees the Real Estate Center of Excellence within the Dignity Health Legal Department, which serves the real estate, leasing and construction legal needs of the organization, including acute care hospitals, clinics and other owned and leased real estate assets. Hola is also the client service leader to Dignity Health’s Corporate Real Estate Department. Holma’s undergraduate degree is in civil engineering and he worked as a project engineer for four years before attending law school. He practiced construction and design law for 14 years prior to joining Dignity.
Government, municipal or public sector: Michael T. Liburdi, general counsel of the office of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey. Liburdi is general counsel for Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey. Prior to joining the governor’s office, Liburdi was a partner at Snell & Wilmer. His law practice focused on commercial litigation, government relations and political law. He advised clients on all aspects of campaign finance law, assisted with drafting legislation and initiatives, assisted with referendum campaigns and litigated cases involving constitutional disputes, ballot access requirements and the separate amendment rule for constitutional amendments. Liburdi speaks to local groups and organizations on political law topics such as campaign finance law and impeachment.
Up-and-Comer: Ahron Cohen, general counsel of the Arizona Coyotes. Cohen serves as the general counsel and corporate secretary for the Coyotes and its related entities, including the Tucson Roadrunners and the Arizona Coyotes Foundation. He joined the organization in August of 2015. In this role, he oversees and advises on all legal and business aspects affecting the organization, including ownership and corporate governance matters, new arena strategic planning, Collective Bargaining Agreement analysis, employment issues, player safety compliance, litigation management, significant corporate transactions, and government relations. Cohen is an advisory board member to the American Bar Association’s Forum on Entertainment & Sports.
Up-and-Comer: Helena Varnavas Gorman, senior legal counsel at ASML US Inc. Gorman counsels ASML, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of chip-making equipment, assisting with a broad range of corporate and transactional matters. Gorman is involved in drafting and negotiating complex commercial contracts, as well as employment, corporate, compliance and litigation matters for the company’s U.S. operations. Gorman and the legal team work hard to make ASML an even greater place to work, all while pursuing the company’s mission to invent, develop, manufacture and service advanced technology for high-tech lithography, metrology and software solutions for the semiconductor industry.
Private company (medium): Justin Steltenpohl, vice president and general counsel of PB Bell & Associates Inc. Steltenpohl is responsible for all legal matters involving P.B. Bell, including corporate governance matters and negotiating joint venture agreements, purchase and sale agreements and financing transactions. Prior to joining P.B. Bell, Steltenpohl was a partner with Squire Patton Boggs, where he focused on financings related to the acquisition and development of commercial real estate, and in advising clients on corporate and real estate finance matters including asset-backed financings, securitizations, construction financings, contingent interests, mezzanine financings, subordinate financing, conduit warehouse and repurchase facilities and restructurings.
Private company (large): Ronald R. Stuff, senior vice president, general counsel and chief compliance officer at Sundt Construction Inc. Stuff is responsible for all corporate legal matters pertaining to Sundt’s operations, advising management and overseeing all aspects of the company’s law department. Stuff assists all of Sundt’s employee-owners in meeting their commitments to know and comply with the laws, regulations and contract provisions that apply to their performance on Sundt projects. Stuff also is a member of Sundt’s board of directors and advises the board on matters relating to legal and ethical compliance in the Company’s business operations.
Public company (medium): Michael Bennett, executive vice president and general counsel STORE Capital. Bennett is responsible for negotiating, documenting and closing all sale-leaseback and mortgage-related transactions for STORE, one of the fastest-growing net lease real estate investment trusts (REITs) in the U.S., with assets of almost $5 billion. He is also responsible for negotiating and closing all debt transactions that underlie STORE’s sale-leaseback transactions. Bennett is a legal expert whose considerable experience in negotiating and documenting real estate and financing transactions ensures STORE’s customers receive documents tailored to their specific needs.
Public company (large): Sharon Koath, senior IP transaction counsel at Microchip Technology. Koath has since spent her 22-plus year legal career in Arizona supporting national, international, and Arizona based or tied businesses and clients, including Microchip Technology, Arizona State University and Motorola, Inc. Koath has served Microchip as managing counsel, technical transactions since August 2015, supporting licensing and mergers and acquisitions. Prior to Microchip, Koath served ASU in various roles, including associate general counsel with ASU’s Office of General Counsel. At ASU, Koath helped establish and managed ASU’s Office of Industry Research and Collaborations. Koath is an electrical engineer and registered patent attorney.
Legal Department of the Year: Pinnacle West Capital Corporation legal department. Members of the APS law department are highly respected by their clients, outside counsel and peers. The attorneys and support staff lead by example in promoting teamwork, taking time to learn how the business operates and the issues it faces and partnering with the business to achieve desired results. In recent years the law department has launched a very successful summer intern program geared to first-year law students from our Arizona law schools and has pursued an active pro bono program to help Arizona veterans and others with legal problems.