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Mary Ann Mackey

Assistant General Counsel Bearrister, Build-A-Bear Workshop Inc.

As Mary Ann Mackey tells it, ending up at Build-A-Bear Workshop Inc. was “very random.”

The lifelong St. Louis resident was working in the real estate department at Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale in 2007, and she was sitting at the desk of the law firm’s in-house counsel when Build-A-Bear called to say the company was looking for an attorney to do leases for a real estate network.

Mary Ann Mackey“My daughter was really young at the time, so of course I knew the company,” Mackey said. “Everybody loves Build-A-Bear, and initially I thought he was trying to hire my law firm, not to hire me. But then we go to get coffee, and I realized they were trying to hire me.”

Before long, Mackey said, she had an opportunity to become assistant general counsel, and she couldn’t pass it up.

“At the time, I definitely wasn’t looking [to go in-house],” Mackey said. “I was in a big law firm environment, and I enjoyed it.”

At Build-A-Bear, the Saint Louis University School of Law graduate has handled contracts, licensing and much more for a company and job that she says leaves her “always excited.”

That enthusiasm is just part of what her nominator admires about Mackey’s career since law school. Aside from calling her “highly respected and dedicated in her work,” the nominator points to Mackey’s volunteer work with several charities, such as Caring for Kids.

Her nominator also lauded her dedication to her three children, writing that she “works hard to maintain a balance and can often be found picking up her children from school, and then after the children go to bed, work[ing] from home until late.”

Mackey, who said she treasures the work/life balance her job allows her, also sits on boards at Sheldon Art Galleries and Build-A-Bear Foundation in addition to involvement in her children’s schools. During any spare time, Mackey said she likes to do anything to be active and outside, whether that’s attending a St. Louis sporting event — especially college football — running or taking in her children’s sports events.

“I definitely think my family comes first,” she said. “Part of the benefits of my career is that I have flexibility so I can be there for my children and my husband as needed, but part of the job of a lawyer is being able to respond whenever you need to.”

The variety of activities meshes well with the variety of duties Mackey addresses in her work as in-house counsel, which seems to be consistently evolving as the retail landscape changes.

“I’ve really had to become a generalist because of so many different matters and subjects that come across my desk on a daily basis,” she said. “I’ve been able to adapt, build complex and unique projects, and if I was still at a big law firm, I wouldn’t be able to deal with complex matters with a team like I can here.”

It’s a far cry from when Mackey was young and first thought about becoming a lawyer while watching the movie “Legal Eagles.” The seeds of being an attorney may have been planted earlier; other family members also were lawyers.

“When I was a young girl, I was always a negotiator,” Mackey said. “Whenever I wanted a dog, I wrote a contract for my dad, and we both signed it.

“Things really haven’t changed,” she said with a laugh. “I can’t ever remember wanting to be anything else.”

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