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Utah Business

Meet our 2020 Corporate Counsel Honorees. They are driving companies across the state to a continued level of greatness.

Meet Utah’s top corporate counsel attorneys

Meet the 2020 Corporate Counsel honorees who are continuing to guide our companies to a continued standard of excellence.

Elizabeth Benegas

General Counsel | NetDocuments Software, Inc.

Meet our 2020 Corporate Counsel Honorees. They are driving companies across the state to a continued level of greatness.
What is the most interesting thing you’ve done as a corporate counselor?

“Building a legal function from the ground up is, by far, the most interesting thing I have done in my career. I expected that it would be hard work, but I did not expect it would fundamentally change the way I practice law.

As the first counsel inside the company, there was no precedent for how I would, or should, participate in existing processes. There was nobody to teach me how to do my job, so I started with the absolute basics—understanding the company, its history, its employees, services, and customers. If the last two years have taught me anything, it is that the best attribute a legal team has is the ability to adapt and be flexible to the client’s needs. In order to react quickly, and seamlessly, and to give my client the best possible advice, I have to know much more than just the law; I need to know the company inside and out.”

Eddie W. Christensen

VP II, Legal & General Counsel | CHG Healthcare

Meet our 2020 Corporate Counsel Honorees. They are driving companies across the state to a continued level of greatness.
What do you most enjoy about in-house work?

“I love exploring how and why a business works. As in-house counsel, I get to immerse myself in the underbelly of the business, which helps me provide better, more tailored advice. This tight integration permits me to comprehensively anticipate future legal problems, resulting in problem avoidance rather than problem fixing. 

I especially enjoy working at CHG Healthcare. CHG Healthcare has developed an extraordinary culture based on respect, integration, inspiration, and success. I’m fortunate and proud to be part of a company that cares equally about the success of its people as much as it does about its own. It’s rewarding to feel appreciated for the value I bring and cared for as a person.”

Scott Degraffenried

VP, General Counsel | Jacobsen Construction Company

Meet our 2020 Corporate Counsel Honorees. They are driving companies across the state to a continued level of greatness.
What is the most interesting thing you’ve done as a corporate counselor?

“It’s difficult to describe one thing as the most interesting when in reality, every day presents new challenges. There is certainly no monotony in my job, and that’s what I love. That said, experiences that are particularly rewarding for me are being involved in extensive contract negotiations for complicated projects that come to fruition. Even though I’m not participating in the physical construction of a project, I appreciate being involved in the contract formation and hopefully paving the way for a successful project.”

Neil R. Fellows

SVP, Legal & Regulatory Affairs, Chief Compliance Officer | EnerBank USA

Meet our 2020 Corporate Counsel Honorees. They are driving companies across the state to a continued level of greatness.
What advice do you have for companies seeking in-house counsel?

“The size and complexity of a particular organization will determine the type of attorney who would make a good addition to its legal department. In [any] case, it is important to hire team players for in-house counsel positions.

It’s also important to put in-house attorneys in a position to develop good working relationships with the non-attorneys they will be working closely with. This will help ensure that the attorney has all of the information needed to best manage legal risk and to get things done. It will also encourage clients to bring the attorney into new project development efforts earlier in the process which is far more efficient than asking for legal approval of something that has been developed without legal input.”

Cara Frisbie

VP & General Counsel | Lucid

Meet our 2020 Corporate Counsel Honorees. They are driving companies across the state to a continued level of greatness.
What advice do you have for companies seeking in-house counsel?

“For senior members of an in-house legal team, I would advise companies to look for people they believe will be strategic advisors to the business and will uphold the company’s values and culture. Working with legal doesn’t have to involve friction if everyone at the top is aligned to where the business is going and how it intends to get there. 

Lawyers are problem solvers and I often find myself the most fulfilled when I am given the opportunity to assist with a wide variety of problems, so I particularly value lawyers with a hands-on, proactive attitude. Experience is, of course, important but it’s easier to measure and therefore may be overemphasized in a selection process. Finding the right cultural fit can be just as impactful.”

Erin Goodsell

Managing Counsel | Qualtrics

Meet our 2020 Corporate Counsel Honorees. They are driving companies across the state to a continued level of greatness.
What is the most interesting thing you’ve done as a corporate counselor? 

“I’m the legal lead on incident response—which means that people call me when things go wrong. I’m never happy for the company when a crisis hits but professionally, I thrive in that environment and do well under pressure. I love evaluating an issue, outlining potential responses, and working with internal stakeholders on a strategy to minimize disruptions to our business and mitigate legal liability. Similarly, because my background is in litigation, I love handling litigation for Qualtrics. We don’t get sued very often—we do a pretty good job of avoiding that—but I love defending our interests and thinking strategically when we do.”

George A. Hunt

Counsel & Risk Manager | Cache Valley Electric Company & Affiliates

Meet our 2020 Corporate Counsel Honorees. They are driving companies across the state to a continued level of greatness.
What advice do you have for companies seeking in-house counsel?

“I am admittedly biased, but experience and accrued wisdom are very helpful attributes when choosing an in-house lawyer. My legal background and 42 years of experience in trial work is useful, but I also have a broad background in business, and all of that assists not only in making legal decisions but also in providing input for complex business decisions. Believe it or not, this experience is very helpful in the corporate decision-making process and in predicting the likely behavior of the players involved.

Also, I suggest that counsel be advised that, generally, their role is not to approve or disapprove business transactions. Rather, it’s to identify and assess risks and advise the decision-makers about those risks and their ramifications so that the effects can be priced into the deal to provide the company with a measure of cushion against adverse effects. In other words, don’t be a deal-killer, be a facilitator.”

Brooke Johnson

General Counsel | Ivanti

Meet our 2020 Corporate Counsel Honorees. They are driving companies across the state to a continued level of greatness.
What is the most interesting thing you’ve done as a corporate counselor?

“Getting to know and work with an incredibly talented pool of employees in dozens of countries is certainly the most interesting part of my job. From European privacy concerns to Chinese employment issues to managing our IP in ANZ, every day is packed with a variety of international problems that need solving. Importantly, on the other side of every problem is a dedicated coworker who is interested in identifying and resolving the issue quickly to help the business succeed. 

Since joining Ivanti nearly three years ago, I’ve learned to appreciate our geographically diverse workforce, understand cultural differences, and build bridges across regional lines. Having the opportunity to visit our global locations and build relationships with the domestic and international team is a great benefit of being General Counsel.”

Maribeth LeHoux

Associate General Counsel | 1-800 Contacts, Inc.

Meet our 2020 Corporate Counsel Honorees. They are driving companies across the state to a continued level of greatness.
What do you most enjoy about in-house work?

“Admittedly, I was a bit scared when I left big law firms that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to work on deals of the same size and complexity once I went in-house. When I was outside counsel, after a deal was done, we all said congratulations and were on our way. Now, when we do an acquisition, the closing is just the beginning.

That sort of follow-through and long-term thinking is what makes being in-house great. You never really close the book on anything. I’m always following up to see how something that was implemented is working out, or how things are going with a new vendor. And when you don’t bill in 1/10th of an hour increments, people are a lot more likely to come to you with questions. I love that people stop me in the cafeteria for a quick question or pop by my office to make sure a potential issue is on my radar.”

Rebecca Oldroyd

Senior Counsel | Deseret Mutual Benefit Administrators

Meet our 2020 Corporate Counsel Honorees. They are driving companies across the state to a continued level of greatness.
What is the most interesting thing you’ve done as a corporate counselor?

“I am an ERISA attorney and my background is mostly working with retirement plans. Since joining Deseret Mutual Benefit Administrators, I’ve had the chance to work on projects that improve our retirement plans for both the plan sponsors (employers) and plan participants. As corporate counsel, I am involved with project implementation from start to finish. Rather than just answering discrete legal questions, I get to work with our internal teams to design solutions and make changes to underlying documentation and business practices. It’s exciting to see how the law applies in a business setting and challenging to find solutions that are legally compliant and commercially practical. It’s very satisfying to know that what I do helps individuals and my corporate clients.”

Daniel Orenstein

General Counsel | Health Catalyst, Inc.

Meet our 2020 Corporate Counsel Honorees. They are driving companies across the state to a continued level of greatness.
What advice do you have for companies seeking in-house counsel?

“I suggest prioritizing the demonstrated ability to build high-performing and highly engaged teams. This is really important because legal training and practice often de-emphasize these skills in favor of technical legal skills. You should look for someone who is a leader of people, who can be a force multiplier rather than a narrow specialist, and someone who can think creatively and strategically.

Communication skills are critical, with an emphasis on the ability to communicate effectively with a broad range of individuals they will encounter in the organization, and to communicate expectations effectively. You are hiring this person because they have a legal license—let this person practice to the full extent of their license, which includes creative problem solving and balancing legal and business risks for the organization.”

Stephanie Wilkins Pugsley

Senior Corporate Counsel | Teleperformance USA

Meet our 2020 Corporate Counsel Honorees. They are driving companies across the state to a continued level of greatness.
What do you most enjoy about in-house work?

“When my law firm friends hear that I am in-house, they often say how jealous they are because of the proverbial ‘in-house lifestyle.’ I laugh because that is actually not what I enjoy most about being in-house, because I think I work just as hard as I ever did at a law firm. I thoroughly enjoy negotiating and closing complex deals that are worth millions of dollars all over the world with the biggest named clients every day. I don’t know where else I could have received this kind of legal training. I thoroughly love that I have an opportunity to be the responsible attorney for Teleperformance’s biggest enterprise-wide client from an office in Murray, Utah. 

In addition, my work is truly international. I have developed close professional and personal friendships with my business and legal counterparts who live in other parts of the country and world. I never dreamed these cultural experiences and personal relationships would be forged from a desk with a view of the Wasatch mountain range.”

Emelia J. Schinke

Director of Legal Affairs | Filevine, Inc.

Meet our 2020 Corporate Counsel Honorees. They are driving companies across the state to a continued level of greatness.
What is the most interesting thing you’ve done as a corporate counselor?

“Building a legal department from the ground up. Before joining Filevine, I had the luxury of working as a contributing member of a larger team. At Filevine, I started as the only attorney and have had the rewarding, yet challenging task of building the department and team over the past year.

I’ve established departmental and company-wide policies, processes, and procedures that have been equal parts interesting and challenging. Until you have to create your own policies, processes, and procedures, you tend to take them for granted. I’ve loved being able to design how I want to handle the constant stream of work, how to flag priorities, etc. Of course, it helps working for a company that provides case management software for lawyers which helps me define these processes more easily.”

Jeffrey D. Steed

Chief Legal Officer | Malouf

Meet our 2020 Corporate Counsel Honorees. They are driving companies across the state to a continued level of greatness.
What advice do you have for companies seeking in-house counsel?

“You need to know if the mission of your company and the personal mission of the attorney you are hiring are truly aligned. It is not enough to just be passionate about the law—you need to be passionate about the business organization and its stakeholders and be a cheerleader and champion for the employees. Law practice is a service-oriented profession and that does not change just because you go in-house. In fact, the service aspect of the profession becomes more germane to your role as a lawyer, where everyone within and without the organization needs to be seen as someone you are there to help.”

Adam D. Wardel

General Counsel & Data Privacy Officer | Simplus

Meet our 2020 Corporate Counsel Honorees. They are driving companies across the state to a continued level of greatness.
What is the most interesting thing you’ve done as a corporate counselor?

“Simplus completed two international acquisitions within a one-year period–one in Australia and one covering Great Britain and Ireland. I find it fascinating to learn not only the different laws but also the different business cultures and ideas. It has allowed me to become a more well-rounded attorney.”

Michael Wardle

SVP & General Counsel | YESCO

Meet our 2020 Corporate Counsel Honorees. They are driving companies across the state to a continued level of greatness.
What advice do you have for companies seeking in-house counsel?

“First and foremost, you need someone with farmer’s ingenuity. Corporate counselors must have the ability to solve problems inexpensively, quickly, and with limited resources. Other helpful characteristics include having a strong finance background, tolerance for taking risk, and an ability to simultaneously act as a drill sergeant and a social worker.

The credentials that are traditionally used to determine success in a law firm such as law school reputation, class ranking, law review membership, and the like don’t necessarily translate well to the world of corporate counsel. Rather, the credentials that are often considered markers of success for business leaders, such as entrepreneurship, decisiveness, creativity, a love for the industry, and endurance are better traits to seek when finding an in-house attorney.”

If you’d like to learn more about our honorees, take a look at the videos below:

Lindsay Bicknell is the project coordinator for Utah Business magazine. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, she graduated from Miami University of Oxford with a degree in communications. She has a background in television, print, and web media, as well as public relations and event planning. As a transplant to Salt Lake City, she can't get enough of the mountains and loves snowboarding.