Effective corporate counsel has never been more important than it is in Arizona’s evolving knowledge-based economy.

Thursday night, before a sold-out crowd at The Camby/Autograph Collection Hotel (formerly the Ritz-Carlton), 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).

“The role of the corporate general counsel continues to evolve to include new, important areas of focus and responsibilities,” said AZ Big Media Publisher Cheryl Green. “While maintaining a firm handle on the traditional functions of the legal department, their role is expanding to handle complex issues such as regulation and compliance, data privacy and cybersecurity issues. It’s a difficult yet vital role that has a direct impact on a organization’s bottom line.”

Sponsors of the Arizona Corporate Counsel Awards were Squire Patton Boggs, Association of Corporate Counsel, State Bar of Arizona, Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Ogletree Deakins and Merestone.

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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 2016 Arizona Corporate Counsel Awards were:

Nonprofit sector: Maria Morales Spelleri, general counsel and executive vice president, Chicanos Por La Causa Inc. Spelleri joined Chicanos Por La Causa, Inc. in 2011 and serves as CPLC’s general counsel and executive vice president, overseeing all legal, compliance, internal audit, human resources, risk management and insurance matters. Spelleri has completely re-organized the oversight of the many complex programs run by Chicanos Por La Causa and its affiliates. The careful management of compliance issues has facilitated more effective community services by the organization. Previously, Spelleri was a partner at Lewis & Roca  for more than 13 years, counseling nonprofit organizations, public agencies, small manufacturers and affordable housing developers on their projects.

Government, municipal or public sector: Ken Lee, senior director of resource transactions, Salt River Project. Lee directs several groups within resource transactions, including fuels, power contracts and energy initiatives, and supply and trading. His role as a director is to oversee and negotiate critical transactions affecting SRP’s resource portfolio. In addition, Lee provides legal services to clients at SRP, including issues with respect to SRP’s acquisition of the the City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s interest in the Navajo Generating Station. During Lee’s career as an attorney at SRP, he has negotiated asset acquisition agreements, long-term renewable power purchase agreements, swap derivative agreements and credit support documents.

Intellectual property: Rob Tuttle, vice president, chief intellectual property counsel, ON Semiconductor. Tuttle combines expertise in semiconductor design with IP law. He has pursued and won patent infringement lawsuits, led due diligence in mergers and acquisitions, generated revenue from patent sales, successfully defended lawsuits from non-practicing entities and investigated trade secret and infringement claims. Tuttle has also become a strategic manager of a global patent portfolio of thousands of patents and a trusted resource for management on issues related to intellectual property. Tuttle has a solid reputation in the industry, attracts high quality players to his team and now has a team of 15 legal professionals.

Up-and-comer: Stacey Kelly, corporate counsel, Empire Southwest, LLC. Kelly has served as Empire’s corporate counsel for eight years. She thrives in managing the diverse legal issues associated with a 65-year-old heavy equipment dealer. In addition to managing day-to-day legal matters for the company, Kelly has overseen the legal aspects of high-dollar equipment transactions, negotiated international sales and service agreements, drafted large-scale solar installation agreements and implemented a variety of risk management initiatives. By simplifying contracts and streamlining processes, Kelly strives to ensure Empire’s legal issues are covered, so her internal clients can focus on meeting the equipment and product support needs of Empire’s clients.

Private company (medium): Nona Lee, senior vice president and general counsel, Arizona Diamondbacks. Lee recently completed her 16th season with the Arizona Diamondbacks and sixth as senior vice president and general counsel. Lee has served in the role of general counsel since 2005, overseeing all legal issues for the organization. Previously, she served as vice president and associate general counsel for the Phoenix Suns, D-backs, Phoenix Mercury, Arizona Rattlers, Chase Field, US Airways Center and the Dodge Theater. A dedicated member of the community, Lee has served on numerous local and national boards and has been named one of the Most Influential Women in Arizona by Az Business magazine.

Private company (large): Mary Alexander, executive vice president and general counsel, DMB Associates, Inc. Alexander is executive vice president and general counsel for Scottsdale-based DMB, where she serves on the company’s executive leadership team. In addition to becoming a Fellow in the American College of Real Estate Lawyers, she currently serves on the board of directors for the Association of Corporate Counsel, Arizona chapter, and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce Legal, Regulatory and Financial Services Committee. She is on the board of directors for Valley of the Sun United Way and chairs its Community Impact Committee, and is on the board of trustees for the Sonoran Institute.

Public company: Chris Miner, senior vice president and general counsel, Mobile Mini, Inc. Miner is responsible for all Mobile Mini’s legal strategy, compliance, litigation and regulatory matters. In the past 18 months, Miner has distinguished himself as general counsel by leading and managing more than $500 million in acquisitions of new assets and strategic purchases. Additionally, he has led the legal department to develop and roll out external affairs and government relations programs across North America and the United Kingdom. Lastly, in his role as corporate secretary under board leadership, he executed a successful amendment of the company’s certificate of incorporation to declassify the board, eliminating the staggered election of board members.

In-House Legal Department of the Year: 56th Fighter Wing JAG (Judge Advocate General), Luke Air Force Base. The 56th Fighter Wing JAG provides a wide variety of legal service to the more than 5,500 Airmen who serve at Luke Air Force Base in the West Valley. The top legal advisor is Lt. Col. Joel England, a graduate of the Air Force Academy in 1995 and the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law in 2002. He oversees a legal office of 12 attorneys, 10 paralegals and three civilians. The team provides legal advice to the Wing’s commander, Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, and his staff, as well as the base population. They also assist military retirees and their dependents who have served in any of the five branches of the armed services.

General Counsel of the Year: Daniel K. Christensen, global group counsel for IT, privacy and security, Intel Corporation. Christensen serves as global group counsel for IT, privacy and security at Intel, focusing on privacy, security, transactions, IP and mergers and acquisitions. Intel sent Christensen overseas for three years to lead an international legal team, and he recently returned from a South African project. Christensen helped Intel establish an Arizona pro bono debt clinic and serves on the Access To Justice board. Prior to Intel, Christensen was chief privacy officer and assistant general counsel for a consortium of private equity groups. He has an MBA (Oxford), a J.D. (Utah), double bachelor’s (BYU), and is IAPP CIPM, CIPT and CIPP/US certified.