Brett Tarr – Caesars Entertainment Corporation
Employing 70,000 people and operating 55 casinos around the world, along with dozens of accompanying hotels and restaurants, the name of this behemoth is synonymous with nightlife and weekend getaways, as well as a growing presence in interactive virtual reality.
Taken together, the legal landscape of Caesars Entertainment Corporation (CEC)—a $4.5 billon enterprise so dynamic federal regulators treat it like a bank—is one most in-house counsels would avoid. In other words, just the challenge Brett Tarr was born for.
“I’d never worked in an organization this large, that’s for sure—and that was part of the appeal,” Tarr says about arriving at the Las Vegas headquarters in 2012. “But the fundamentals were the same. And it was a role where I could really bring my expertise to bear,” he says, referring to his years of experience digging up electronic information for use in litigation and investigations.
Now, as CEC’s chief counsel for e-discovery and information governance, Tarr occupies one of the company’s most critical legal posts—and one of its most involved.
Eyes and ears
Tarr spent much of his first year talking to people at all levels of the company with an eye on finding ways to make data and information management easier.
“I liken it to a basketball coach that takes over a team,” Tarr illustrates. “You don’t want to institute your system irrespective of personnel. But you also don’t want to let the players dictate the system themselves. Communication is key to finding that middle ground.”
One of Tarr’s first moves was to transfer the electronic record review process from outside counsel to a group of expert e-discovery vendors.
In the past, when a judge or opposing counsel made a discovery request—say, for a case involving an alleged breach of contract between a Caesars casino and a business partner—the company’s outside counsel would be forced to fish for data with as wide a net as possible: needlessly broad date ranges, searches that captured tens of thousands of superfluous emails, and so on.
In partnership with the e-discovery vendors and internal staff, Tarr created terms and concepts for every potential e-discovery request—everything from contract disputes with strategic business partners or technology companies to wrongful termination suits of restaurant employees—eliminating scores of useless search criteria.
Now, keyword and date-range searches that once produced 3 million email results might yield 150,000—or fewer. This is where Tarr’s pivot away from using outside counsel looms large: If a law firm charges anywhere from $250 to $1,000 an hour for its attorneys to review documents, at a review pace of 45-60 documents an hour, Caesars might be paying as much as $20 for every document reviewed. Using the company’s e-discovery vendor, that figure is closer to $1 per document.
“You do the math,” Tarr quips, adding that the resulting savings have been in the nine figures.
Minding the bottom line
Tarr’s approach required more than just new keywords, however. Working closely with representatives from the IT and other business units, Tarr devised a strategy for consolidating Caesars’ vast data troves—structured data around financials and operations for its portfolio of hotels and casinos, employee personnel files, general documents and presentations, and all manner of contracts—into more structured, cohesive groupings.
According to Tarr, the core principles of this process—digitizing documents, consolidating applications, and centralizing data storage—have resulted in decreased storage costs, reduced security vulnerabilities and better managed customer and employee privacy.
What’s more, there’s been a tangible improvement in the ability of those in the organization—people Tarr calls “knowledge workers”—to quickly locate and access the required documents. That, in turn, allows employees to spend “less time searching for data and more time working with the data.”
Even by conservative estimates, having five minutes in reduced time per knowledge worker across the company each day adds up to approximately $10 million in labor cost savings per year.
“We’re not just making our systems and processes more efficient, we’re making people more efficient,” Tarr says. “That’s good for the bottom line, but it’s also good for morale, in that you don’t have people searching four different places for one document; they know exactly where to go.”
According to Tarr, Caesars’ IT leadership has played a critical role in these strategic goals, primarily by championing the move to centralized, cloud-based applications, including Oracle for finance and human resources, Salesforce for customer relationship management, and Microsoft Office 365 for enterprise productivity, among others.
In addition to information governance, Tarr must also know when statutes of limitation allow for information to be deleted—given the threat of cybersecurity breaches—and ensure no data is kept longer than necessary. These regulatory and risk elements must also be balanced against the needs of enterprise employees to avoid deleting data that may still have business value past minimum required retention.
In short, it’s the kind of role that puts Tarr’s abiding passion for business squarely in the spotlight.
His love of law, on the other hand, took a bit longer to cultivate.
Back to business
The son of a serial entrepreneur, Tarr developed an early-in-life proclivity for the creative side of business.
“I was always entranced by this idea of taking an idea and bringing it to full fruition,” Tarr recalls. “I recognized law as a role that could help facilitate that process, but I had no interest in being a litigator crafting opening and closing arguments in a courtroom or being a transactional lawyer dealing with 10,000-page contracts. I wanted something more well-rounded.”
It was during his junior year at the University of California, Los Angeles—where the native New Englander earned a scholarship to play soccer—that Tarr seriously considered a career in business law. After earning his B.A. in history and psychology in 1994, Tarr moved back East to attend the prestigious Duke University School of Law.
J.D. in hand, Tarr’s business journey began in earnest when he joined online retailer The Clothing Man as VP of operations and corporate counsel in 1997. Three years later, after shepherding technologies, including a user-friendly, kiosk-based delivery system, Tarr helped negotiate a merger with two competitors to form Purchasing Power LLC.
Heeding the call
In 2002, while in the midst of a two-year master’s program at Georgia State University, Tarr earned his first C-suite title: chief marketing officer (CMO) for Lifestyle Products, LLC. Here, he oversaw every aspect of the company’s lifecycle strategy, from formulation and packaging to retail placement and contract agreements.
Eager to sharpen his legal skills, Tarr supplemented his CMO duties with a three-year run at the Atlanta-based firm of King & Spalding, where he supported complex business litigation and environmental/mass tort litigation, including high profile tobacco and pharmaceutical matters, while cultivating relationships with the firm’s burgeoning in-house litigation support and e-discovery functions.
From 2006 to 2009, Tarr served as director of marketing and general counsel for eMag Solutions, a global tape restoration and data services provider specializing in e-discovery—a calling Tarr quickly heeded.
“It put a whole new spin on how the legal and business side could be melded,” Tarr recalls.
In 2009, Tarr launched Discovery Advisors, an independent e-discovery and marketing consultancy. Over the next three years, he authored multiple articles for legal service providers, generated RFP proposals for a $3 million government contract and garnered millions more in service accounts.
Nine years later, Discovery Advisors continues, but it’s his duties at Caesars that use most of his bandwidth.
To be sure, it’s a role in which efficiency is king. Save, perhaps, for that two-line title of his.
“It’s a lot of jargon, I know,” Tarr says with a laugh. “And it’s a lot of work. But it’s the kind of work I love: creative, collaborative, business-facing. And it’s a pretty fun business besides.”
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