Here are the finalists for the 2023 Arizona Corporate Counsel Awards
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 — recognizes the important and vital role in-house counsel plays with the Arizona Corporate Counsel Awards.
Finalists for the Arizona Corporate Counsel Awards represent the finest legal expertise across all industries in the private, public and nonprofit sectors.
READ ALSO: The Top 100 Lawyers in Arizona for 2023
Winners and finalists will be celebrated at an in-person awards dinner on March 30, 2023 at Chateau Luxe. For details, click here.
Finalists for the 2023 Arizona Corporate Counsel Awards
Here are the finalists for the 2023 Arizona Corporate Counsel Awards, in alphabetical order:
Senior vice president, general counsel and chief legal officer // Benchmark Electronics
Source of pride: “When I think about what has been the most rewarding experience throughout my career, I would have to say it has been my role as a servant leader over the legal function. Leadership is a gift and I have my team members, both past and present, to thank for where I am today. Several lawyers who have worked with me over the years have also gone on to become a general counsel in other organizations. While many don’t see it as a good thing when members of their team attrite to take on greater roles, I view it as an accomplishment in its own right if it is someone you have mentored and developed.”
Avnet legal department
Background: The Avnet legal department is a global organization that supports approximately $25 billion in annual sales and a business that operates in more than 140 countries. The department includes 85 professionals across the globe. These professionals have expertise in trade compliance; contracts management; litigation and dispute resolution; corporate security; ethics and compliance; mergers and acquisitions; public company reporting and capital markets; and legal entity management.
Source of pride: “During the year, we managed through significant business, geopolitical and regulatory challenges while maintaining deep and positive relations with each of our internal clients,” says Michael McCoy (photo), senior vice president, general counsel and chief legal officer. “The best compliment we get is from our CEO who says, ‘Legal is IN the business, not ON the business.’”
Vice president and general counsel // VanTrust Real Estate
Background: With more than 28 years of expertise in commercial real estate development, Broadfoot oversees legal services for VanTrust Real Estate nationwide. During his tenure at VanTrust, the firm has developed more than $5 billion of industrial, office, multifamily and mixed-use projects across the U.S. Prior to joining VanTrust in 2015, Broadfoot was a shareholder at Gallagher & Kennedy.
Source of pride: “My greatest professional accomplishment is establishing a reputation in the Phoenix commercial real estate community as a pragmatic legal dealmaker. This reputation contributed to my success as outside counsel for some of the market’s largest real estate developers and to my invitation to join VanTrust by one of the Valley’s most accomplished real estate development professionals.”
General counsel // Insight
Background: Cowley joined Insight as senior vice president, general counsel and secretary in 2016. He has extensive experience working in executive management with a variety of legal issues over his 30-plus year career, including mergers and acquisitions, SEC and other governmental regulatory matters, contract negotiation, litigation and advising boards of directors. From 2012 to 2016, Cowley served as general counsel and vice president, business development of Prestige Brands Holdings, Inc. Prior to that, he served as executive vice president, business development and general counsel of Matrixx Initiatives, Inc., and executive vice president and general counsel of Swift Transportation. Previously, for almost 20 years, he practiced law in the business and finance groups with law firms Snell & Wilmer and Reid & Priest.
Vice president and regional counsel // Meritage Homes
Background: Clements is an Arizona native who attended the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU. After law school, Clements spent 12 years as a real estate attorney at local and national law firms. In 2016, Clements joined the in-house legal team at Scottsdale-based Meritage Homes, where he is responsible for all transactional legal matters across the Arizona, Colorado, and Utah divisions.
Source of pride: “Being awarded an AV-Preeminent rating by Martindale-Hubbell is something I’m very proud of, as it’s a rating from my peers in the legal profession, and it’s the highest level of peer rating that you can achieve in the areas of legal knowledge, communication skills and ethical standards.”
Vice president of legal and compliance // CopperPoint Insurance Companies
Background: Fox has been with CopperPoint Insurance Companies for 18 years and is responsible for overseeing CopperPoint’s extensive corporate compliance programs. Known at Copperpoint as the consummate team player, Fox’s legal and compliance responsibilities have grown exponentially as CopperPoint completed two significant acquisitions and is expanding into new states and new lines of business. Fox, and her small-but-mighty team of two, absorbed all of the contract review and administration work of the two acquired companies, achieving one of the early integration successes. Fox is frequently praised by CopperPoint business leaders for the way she partners with them throughout the contracting process to ensure their needs are met and the company is protected.
Chad A. Freed
General counsel, executive vice president and secretary // STORE Capital
Background: As a senior legal and business executive with comprehensive experience in delivering business-oriented solutions to complex legal, real estate, corporate development and compliance matters, Freed serves as STORE Capital general counsel, executive vice president and secretary. Throughout his corporate legal experiences, Freed has overseen SEC compliance, corporate governance, risk mitigation, and corporate contractual lease relationships with institutional real estate landlords. Before joining STORE, Freed worked with Universal Technical Institute since 2004, a publicly traded provider of transportation technician training, where he most recently served as general counsel and executive vice president of corporate development. Prior to that, he held positions with Bryan Cave, including senior associate.
Matthew R. Henriksen
Chief legal officer // Vanta Global
Background: Henriksen is a general counsel and strategic business executive with a broad record of M&A and transaction experience and value creation at public and private companies. Henriksen currently serves as chief legal officer of Vanta Global, a private equity firm focused on the human capital development industry. He was formerly general counsel for Vanta Education, an international education conglomerate, and served in various capacities at Apollo Education Group. Before moving in house, he worked in private practice at a large, national law firm and another regional law firm.
Source of pride: “I am most proud of our work as an executive team at Vanta Education helping businesses educate a diverse group of learners — from correspondence students in the Amazon rainforest to aspiring professionals in London — and then selling those businesses to return value to our stakeholders. I am especially proud of the way we treated our people along the way, keeping them engaged until the last business was sold and then helping them transition to the next stage of their careers.”
Christie L. Kriegsfeld
Senior attorney – labor and employment // SRP
Background: Prior to joining SRP, Kriegsfeld was a shareholder at Littler’s Phoenix office, where she represented employers in various industries in all aspects of labor and employment law in federal and state court as well as governmental agencies. As part of her practice, she advised and counseled employers on a full range of workplace issues to help develop and drive process improvement and ensure legal compliance.
Source of pride: “I’m proud to work with incredibly talented and dedicated individuals and contribute to our organization’s goals and objectives while navigating and responding to uncertain and difficult legal issues presented in the workplace due to the pandemic, including the issuance of new rules and regulations and their impact on employment.”
Chief legal officer and corporate secretary // GoDaddy
Background: Lau is responsible for GoDaddy’s legal, compliance, corporate sustainability/ESG, internal audit, and government and industry affairs functions. Prior to joining GoDaddy, she was senior vice president, corporate secretary and associate general counsel at McKesson, where she served as an advisor to McKesson’s board of directors and partnered with senior management.
Source of pride: “I’m proud to have played a role in the Empower by GoDaddy program — GoDaddy’s social impact program equipping entrepreneurs from underserved communities with training, tools and networks to accelerate their journeys — which recently celebrated its five-year anniversary. Through local partnerships, we’ve served thousands of global entrepreneurs in navigating their unique challenges and live out our mission of making opportunity more inclusive for all.”
Senior vice president and general counsel // Arizona State University
Background: Loo is an elected member of the American Law institute. She is the first woman of color to serve as president of the State Bar of Arizona. She also served on the executive council of the National Conference of Bar Presidents. Loo is a founding board member of the Arizona Asian American Bar Association and served as vice president of Victory Together, the primary group that advocated for the voter-approved Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.
Source of pride: “I am proud to be a part of ASU’s team that continues to demonstrate inclusive excellence as part of our charter. A commitment to being excellent, while including broad perspectives and innovative advances to solving challenges facing our planet, our communities, and our lives.”
Senior vice president and chief legal officer // TruWest Credit Union
Background: Medina is currently chief legal officer at TruWest Credit Union, a $1.5 billion credit union based in Arizona and Texas. She has been with TruWest since 2017, managing AML/BSA, compliance, ERM, legal, fraud, risk management and vendor management.
Source of pride: “Professionally, I am most proud to be the first woman, and the first person of Hispanic heritage, to fill an executive role at TruWest Credit Union. This has offered me a platform to introduce into the organization a diverse perspective of legal and executive knowledge. Achieving this position has ultimately been the catalyst for what brings me the most professional pride; that of working consistently with various team members to help increase their legal knowledge and utilizing that knowledge for the betterment of the credit union.”
Associate general manager and chief legal executive // SRP
Background: O’Connor joined SRP in 2011 as associate general manager and chief legal executive, managing SRP’s legal, human resources, land and risk management departments. He is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and has served on numerous nonprofit boards, including the St. Joseph’s Hospital Foundation, the Rodel Foundation, Habitat for Humanity and The Arizona Theater Company.
Source of pride: “I’m proud to have the opportunity to work with the brightest minds at SRP to address critical issues facing Arizona today. This includes securing our water supplies with projects like the Bartlett Dam proposal and transforming our energy infrastructure with new contracted utility scale solar and battery storage projects, which help us be more sustainable without jeopardizing reliability.”
Associate general counsel // Early Warning Services
Background: Oppenheim has more than 20 years of legal and executive leadership experience in the financial services industry. He is currently the associate general counsel for Early Warning Services, where he oversees litigation, government relations, regulatory advisory and legal operations. Oppenheim has served for more than 28 years in the U.S. Navy Reserve Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
Source of pride: “I am most proud of the following accomplishments: My four amazing children; leading a team responsible for recovering $2.75 billion for my company in the third largest settlement in an anti-trust case in U.S. history; and leading a joint force military legal team responsible for establishing the rule of law in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Noble Eagle.”
Plexus Worldwide Legal Department
Background: Under General Counsel Chris Reid’s leadership, the members of Plexus’ in-house law department do something more than other legal teams, something unusual. As legal advisors, they bring a moral dimension to their work. They are not just committed to doing what the law permits, they also are committed to doing what’s right. And they believe that those two objectives are not mutually exclusive, and that their simultaneous pursuit both enriches the practice of law and ultimately redounds to the benefit of their client. While there is no way of quantifying the impact on Plexus of their work, the efficacy of their approach is no doubt reflected, at least in part, in the spectacular growth and success of the company.
General counsel // Arizona Department of Revenue
Background: Pai has served as general counsel at ADOR since the spring of 2021. Prior to this position, he served in various capacities for the agency since 2002, including as chief tobacco counsel, sales and use tax lead, and transaction privilege tax counsel. Pai has also been an attorney with Snell & Wilmer, representing clients on state and local tax matters in contracting, real estate development, telecommunications, and Indian law. He is a member at large for the State Bar’s Tax Law Section and former member of the board of directors for the Arizona Tax Research Association. Pai got a degree in public policy and economics from the University of Chicago and JD from ASU.
Executive vice president and general counsel // Forever Living Products
Source of pride: “I derive the most satisfaction and pride by working in a collaborative manner with people from all over the world to overcome obstacles and implement solutions that deliver results others believe could not be accomplished. People are what matter most. Negotiating and finalizing a project on time and within budget is satisfying, but a true sense of pride comes when we are able to also take care of the people or make it better for the people subject to the transaction. This past year we accomplished the purchase and sell of Forever Resorts, while ensuring that all of our company employees also received job opportunities with the purchasing company.”
Sara K. Regan
Senior vice president of enterprise risk and general counsel // Desert Financial Credit Union
Background: Regan oversees legal, risk, compliance, audit and vendor management. Prior to Desert Financial, she was a partner and trial lawyer at an international law firm. Regan serves on several boards, including two nonprofit boards and the Audit Committee at the Scottsdale Unified School District. She recently earned an MBA from ASU and remains a proud Arizona Wildcat (undergraduate) and Cal Bear (law school).
Source of pride: “I’m proud I won the first case I tried (and the rest). I’m proud I made partner. I’m proud I earned an MBA as a single mother. I’m proud to be a general counsel. But I am most proud of the friends I’ve made and kept throughout my career.”
General counsel // Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise
Background: Ruggieri graduated from the University of Arizona College of Law in 2000 and is licensed in Arizona, New York and the Tohono O’odham Nation. He joined the Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise (which operates the Desert Diamond Casinos) in 2007 and was named general counsel in 2021. In addition to his practice, Ruggieri taught Indian Gaming Law at the UArizona College of Law and earned the Professor of Practice of the Year award in 2017.
Source of pride: “Knowing that I have earned the trust and respect of my client each day by providing effective and accessible legal counsel. It is an honor to represent the Gaming Enterprise knowing that our efforts have a direct positive impact for the people of the Tohono O’odham Nation.”
General counsel and corporate secretary // Shamrock Foods Company
Background: Ryerson is responsible for leading all legal, compliance, risk management and government relations functions at Shamrock. She joined Shamrock in 2017 as an employment attorney, before becoming the first general counsel, ultimately being charged with building the company’s legal department.
Source of pride: “As Shamrock’s first general counsel since the company began 100 years ago, I’m incredibly proud of building our legal department from the ground up with an emphasis on being just as responsive and flexible in meeting the business’s needs as the company is in meeting our customer’s needs. Our legal team is considered a critical contributor to Shamrock’s continued growth and success.”
Executive vice president, secretary, and general counsel // DriveTime
Source of pride: “I volunteered at the local bar association’s immigration clinic … In one case in particular, I handled a contested matter in court where we secured the residency status of a single mother who was facing deportation. We were able to successfully petition the court to get her residency to work and care for her daughter. The tears coming out of that courtroom that a mother and her daughter could live together in this country and pursue the American Dream was without a doubt one of the best feelings ever (we were also rewarded with some of the best tamales ever). Lawyers get to help people every day. That is what this profession is about. I cherish that experience that reminds me of that truth.”
Senior vice president and general counsel // Standard Aero
Background: Sinquefield is responsible for leading all contracts and legal functions and strategies for StandardAero, one of the world’s largest independent providers of services including engine and airframe maintenance, repair and overhaul, engine component repair, engineering services, interior completions and paint applications. He is a member of the company’s executive leadership team. He has more than 25 years of domestic and international legal experience as a Fortune 100 general counsel, having worked for some of the top industry leaders, including L-3 Communications, Vertex Aerospace, Raytheon and Beechcraft. Sinquefield also has prior litigation law experience with Taylor & Whitwell. His legal expertise includes complex litigation management, employee relations, contract negotiations, mergers and acquisitions and international strategic alliances.
Executive vice president, general counsel and chief development officer // Pinnacle West Capital Corporation and APS
Background: Smith is responsible for overseeing all facets of the company’s legal affairs, corporate secretary function and the company’s growth plans and strategies. He has more than 25 years of legal experience, including over 20 years in the energy industry, most recently with Columbia Pipeline Group as senior vice president and general counsel. At Columbia, Smith led the company’s merger with TransCanada Corporation, which was completed in 2016. He currently serves as chair of the board of directors for Global Action, an international compassion and leader training organization. He also serves on the board of trustees of the El Faro Ephraim Foundation, which supports training and compassion efforts in Guatemala as well as the finance committee and advisory board of the Musical Instrument Museum located in Phoenix, AZ.
General counsel and chair of Governor’s Regulatory Review Council // Arizona Department of Administration
Background: Before joining ADOA, Sornsin served as chief legal counsel and head of the legal department and Recovery Fund at the Arizona Registrar of Contractors.
Source of pride: “Guiding ADOA and the agencies it supports through an unprecedented pandemic. Within days in March 2020, I assisted ADOA, which assisted the State in being able to send its employees home while efficiently and safely continuing State operations with little less than a hiccup. While working almost exclusively from home, I worked to assist the State in procuring and distributing cloth face coverings and other personal protective equipment when needed most, and quickly set up and prioritized COVID-19 testing and vaccine sites for interested state employees.”
SRP Legal Department
Background: SRP’s Legal Department provides legal support on the broad range of issues that impact SRP’s mission to provide sustainable, affordable, and reliable water and power to its customers. SRP’s dedicated legal professionals work closely with SRP’s Board of Directors, business groups and outside counsel on issues including water rights, environmental matters, renewable power purchase agreements, land acquisitions and litigated matters. SRP’s attorneys strive to find creative and innovative solutions to these critical infrastructure issues that will allow SRP and the State of Arizona to be successful now, and well into the future.
Senior employment counsel // Achieve
Background: Thielen’s background is firmly grounded in traditional labor and employment law, having worked for the National Labor Relations Board, Ogletree Deakins and in-house at various companies.
Source of pride: “My greatest professional accomplishment has been my ability to find a balance between being a mom and being a lawyer, which I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do. Sure, I have days where I feel like I’m spread too thinly to be good at either parenthood or the practice of law, but most of the time I’ve managed to cheer at my daughter’s soccer games and also get that contract review complete. Ultimately, I’m proud to have the career and family I’ve always wanted.”
General counsel // Bashas’ Family of Stores, a division of The Raley’s Companies
Source of pride: “Something that has given me pride over the years was a solo trial before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Las Vegas alleging unfair labor practices, including threats, intimidation, discriminatory termination, a strike, strike violence, etc., which also involved bilingual witnesses. The client was a small concrete finishing contractor and the union was represented by union counsel and the NLRB. Ultimately, the case was appealed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and ultimately dismissed based on the trial record I created. The client was also awarded the unusual remedy of recoupment of attorneys’ fees and costs under the Equal Access to Justice Act from the NLRB.”
Chief operating officer and general counsel // Sandor
Background: Ziff serves as the chief operating officer and general counsel for Sandor and Sand Capital. Prior to joining Sandor, Ziff was an equity partner in and led the litigation practice group of a national law firm. He is admitted to practice law in Arizona, Illinois and Michigan. He earned a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree with honors from Chicago-Kent College of Law in 1996.
Source of pride: “Until I joined Sandor, my proudest achievements were winning jury trials for my clients. Since joining Sandor more than 10 years ago, I am most proud of learning an entirely new area of law (commercial real estate) while becoming a trusted advisor for Sandor’s owners and my teammates.”
Vitalant’s office of general counsel
Background: Vitalant is the nation’s largest independent, nonprofit organization focused exclusively on providing lifesaving blood services. Vitalant has a network of about 120 donation centers across the U.S. and host approximately 60,000 blood drives annually. Led by Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer, General Counsel and Assistant Secretary Bhavi Shah, Vitalant’s office of general counsel has managed unprecedented strategic growth, including oversight of complex corporate transactions that nearly doubled the company’s size and expanded Vitalant’s ability to save lives in more than 900 hospitals in 28 states; supported the growth of affiliate Creative Testing Solutions, which now tests more than 70% of the nation’s blood supply and has expanded its capabilities of testing source plasma; and provided strategic guidance and legal counsel to company executives and governing boards.