Tara Mackey may be AZZ’s chief legal officer and corporate secretary, but her influence stretches far beyond the purview of her title. She considers herself a strategic business partner first and a legal liaison second. Her track record since joining the company in 2014 more than backs up that assertion.
Under Mackey’s guidance, she’s brought several changes to AZZ, a global provider of metal coating services, welding solutions, specialty electrical equipment, and highly engineered services. That includes expanding AZZ’s corporate governance best practices, embarking upon new risk mitigation initiatives, instituting a new corporate culture, multiple training programs, and dramatically reducing legal department costs.
Much of the credit can be attributed to Mackey’s impact and scope with the breadth of her experience. After beginning her career as a banker, she went to law school and subsequently worked to reshape a number of companies, whether that was by building a legal department from the ground up, listing companies on national stock exchanges, implementing national ad campaigns, or by ushering organizations through financial restatements and bankruptcy.
After years in the industry, Mackey is now able to articulate the seven areas of guaranteed value she brings to the table.
1. Significant Cost Savings
“Nearly everywhere I’ve worked there was only one or two people in the legal department, and the legal bills were just paid without question,” Mackey says.
Mackey, on the other hand, asks several questions. She begins any new role by politely inquiring to each firm what value they brought to the organization in the past and what new value they will offer in the future.
“I’d say 80 percent of the time those vendors were on autopilot and just charging a monthly rate for services rendered,” she explains. “I make sure that every external attorney I hire is already a subject matter expert, and junior attorneys are not learning on the company’s nickel. If your firms know you’re cost conscious and you are not afraid to hold them accountable, then they will go out of their way to minimize billable hours.”
2. In-Depth Professional Training
“We definitely do not lack for training,” Mackey says. In fact, most of her training is done in-house, and it encompasses not only attorneys, but also paralegals and assistants.
Training takes the form of live presentations, online programs, and monthly webinars. Mackey adds that when a team member attends an external training session, that person provides their own presentation to the team outlining what they have learned.
“Our biggest challenge is getting away from work to attend training,” Mackey says. In these instances, she and her team will step up to cover for that employee.
3. M&A Transactions, Strategic Market Expansion
On any given day, Mackey is handling multiple M&A transactions and negotiating a number of strategic business partnerships at AZZ. When venturing into either, she and her team undergo a rigorous due diligence process that involves on-site meetings with the target companies and regular cross functional team meetings.
She also creates distinct work streams by having one attorney and one paralegal assigned to each individual acquisition.
“We’re always buying and expanding our markets, and that’s a good place to be in,” Mackey says about M&A at AZZ.
4. Business Enterprise Risk Mitigation
There’s a variety of risks particular to AZZ’s industry, among them the decline in the nuclear power industry, potential tariff increases, and the rising cost of zinc—an integral part of AZZ’s metal coating process.
One area where Mackey has been able to make notable progress in risk mitigation is by enhancing AZZ’s overall trade compliance, which includes changes to AZZ’s third-party screening processes for sales representatives, an expanded code of conduct, and ongoing training and monitoring.
5. Corporate Governance Best Practices
Mackey counts her work in corporate governance at AZZ among her most notable successes. Previously, she says, only a few individuals at the company were subject to stock ownership guidelines and the insider trading policy. She has expanded these policies to now encompass the entire leadership and management team.
She has also made advances in refreshing more than half of AZZ’s board of directors, as well as adding diversity to the board and other key management roles. As a result, AZZ’s corporate governance risk score has gone from a seven to a one, with one being the best score obtainable on the ten-point scale.
“I’m very appreciative to AZZ’s board of directors, whom have graciously agreed to adopt all of the corporate best practices I’ve proposed over the past four years,” she says.
6. a Faith-Based Work Environment
Mackey believes that faith, in any manifestation, directly correlates with engagement. As such, she’s sought to create an environment that welcomes displays of faith in a
This includes weekly visits by workplace chaplains who provide guidance and positive support for AZZ’s employees. She notes that the CEO also has a voluntary weekly Bible study that Mackey says serves to bring together different corporate functions and titles that normally wouldn’t interact on a day-to-day basis. “It’s just a wonderful extension of the corporate culture that we’re trying to build here at AZZ,” Mackey says. “Our employees put in a lot of hours and energy at AZZ, and we care about celebrating their victories and also supporting them during their personal trials and tribulations.”
7. Concurrent Corporate Projects
Mackey’s inclusive management style and thoughtful approach to assembling a creative, multitasking legal team has also been key in her ability to juggle numerous projects.
“Every single person I’ve hired has one or two skill sets in a specialization area,” she says, adding that, while this is helpful in tackling a diverse workflow, this doesn’t mean these employees are siloed off by those specializations. Everyone learns from each other.
“One of my selling points is that once we’re finished working together, your résumé is going to be incredible,” she says. “The level and the depth of the work will make you an exponentially better legal professional. That has truly happened at every place I’ve been, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to invest in other careers.”
Photo: Mike Krause
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