A sold-out crowd filled the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa on Thursday as Az Business magazine recognized the important and vital role that in-house counsel plays in the success of a business at the Arizona Corporate Counsel Awards.

“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.”

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Photos by Bruce Anderson and Mike Mertes for AZ BIG Media

Sponsors for the Arizona Corporate Counsel Awards were State Bar of Arizona, Association of Corporate Counsel, Cresa, Squire Patton Boggs, Ogletree Deakins, D French Advisors, Littler, Grant Thornton 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. Here are the winners of the Arizona Corporate Counsel Awards for 2018:

Up-and-Comer: Anne Kaufman, vice president and senior corporate counsel, Troon Golf

Kaufman graduated cum laude from Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. After graduation, she practiced civil litigation. In December 2013, Kaufman began her in-house career as the associate general counsel of Redflex Traffic Systems. Kaufman started her current position for Troon in May 2016.

Source of pride: “Any time you start a new job, you have the challenge of getting your co-workers, clients, etc. to trust your competency and your judgment, particularly when you are early in your career.  I get the most pride when someone reaches out to me with their legal problems and trusts my judgment.”

Nonprofit: Bhavi Shah, executive vice president and general counsel, Blood Systems

Shah provides strategic guidance and legal counsel to the executives and multiple governing boards of this $1.3 billion company, the largest independent blood service provider in the United States.

Greatest challenge: “Managing Blood System’s unprecedented strategic growth — including oversight of 17 complex corporate transactions, nearly doubling the company’s size — has been my greatest professional challenge and achievement. It would not have been possible without the visionary leadership of my executive team, great mentorship throughout my career, the diligence and dedication of my legal team and the support and encouragement of my husband.”

Government/Municipal/Public Sector: Andy Kvesic, legal division chief counsel, Arizona Corporation Commission

Kvesic is the chief counsel for the Arizona Corporation Commission, whose mission includes ensuring safe, reliable, and affordable utilities services; growing Arizona’s economy by helping local entrepreneurs; and protecting Arizona citizens by enforcing an ethical securities marketplace.

Source of pride: “I am most proud of the courage it took to leave a lucrative career in private practice to devote my career to public service. It has been incredibly rewarding and inspiring to represent the State of Arizona in various capacities, and in doing so improving our communities and the livelihood of our citizens.”

Medium Private Company: Stephen Beaver, senior vice president and general counsel, Aspect Software

Greatest challenge: “Corporate lawyers have moved far beyond just strictly law-related duties and are required to expand our scope of influence to overall business affairs. This is important because effective lawyers must really learn the product and contribute to the dialogue our sales teams are having with the customers and their internal stakeholders. I recognize that in my role as general counsel, my job is not just to protect the company’s brand, but to enhance its value. The need has never been greater for nimble, business-minded lawyers to serve in-house clients in achieving their business objectives with minimal risk.”

Large Private Company: Tracy Cheney, general counsel, Early Warning Services

Cheney oversees all legal, regulatory and corporate governance matters.

Greatest challenge: “Upon being named Early Warning’s general counsel following a spin-off, I had to inspire the confidence of my board and executive team that I had what it takes to lead the legal strategy of a fast-growing company, while navigating an increasingly complex regulatory environment. More than 11 years, five staff attorneys, 700 employees, three acquisitions and multiple product launches later, I approach each new challenge with the same mindset of being a valued partner to progress the company’s business goals.”

Community: PetSmart legal department

Not only has this legal team helped its company implement a multi-million-dollar philanthropic campaign, they are active is Wills for Heroes, a program that provides wills and other estate planning legal documents free of charge to the Valley’s first responders. They also participate in Street Law, a program where attorneys from the legal team partner with South Mountain High School to provide legal courses for the students in the law program.

Medium Public Company: Todd Carlson, general counsel, Knight-Swift Transportation

Greatest challenge: “I was the first in-house lawyer at both Swift and Knight. The challenge was moving from a legal adviser to a strategic business advisor.  I had to learn the business of transporting truckloads of cargo throughout the United States. After that, the challenge was to persuade the company’s decision makers that the legal department should not be viewed as a roadblock, but as a department that can assist the company in achieving its business objectives. I overcame those challenges by learning the transportation business and developing legal solutions that achieved the company’s objectives.”

Large Public Company: Steven Fishbach, general counsel, TPI Composites

Fishbach has been in his current role since January 2015. Prior to joining TPI, Fishbach served as senior vice president and deputy general counsel of Global Cash Access Holdings. Earlier in his career, Fishbach practiced corporate and securities law at Squire Sanders. Fishbach holds a bachelor’s degree in American studies from Georgetown University and a JD from William & Mary.

Source of pride: “I was very proud to help TPI complete its initial public offering as it was a transformative event for the company because it significantly strengthened its balance sheet and positioned it well for further growth.”

Legal Department of the Year: Intel Corporation

This legal team leads its company’s legal efforts in the rapidly-emerging areas of artificial intelligence, privacy and the Internet of Things. This legal team also oversees its company’s patent portfolio, which is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s largest and most valuable. This legal team also has made significant contributions to the community through its award-winning pro bono work. And on on lighter note, this legal team helped its company get into the reality television business, helping to launch a show about America’s greatest innovators.