Editor's Note: Freeport’s story is featured in an on-demand webinar series covering how the Relativity community has innovated to tackle challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. We encourage you to take a look at all of these fascinating and inspiring stories.
At the onset of the pandemic, many in-house teams were challenged with finding ways to curtail costs and drive efficiencies throughout their operations. This was true for Tony LaMacchia, director of global discovery and litigation at Freeport-McMoRan, a Phoenix-based producer of gold and copper that employs nearly 27,500 people.
Since starting with the company nearly a decade prior, Tony has continually found ways to invest in technology to drive efficiency throughout the organization and, ultimately, lower spend. With COVID-19, Tony and his team found a way to continue this strategy by leveraging their RelativityOne investment, which allowed their nimble team to work effectively and maintain operations.
Question: What were some challenges Freeport experienced in the face of the pandemic?
Tony LaMacchia: Our immediate challenge was the uncertainty of how the pandemic would impact our operations. If our mines were to be shuttered, deliveries would be delayed, and revenue would decrease. The budgetary impact on the legal department would be immediate, so we devised a plan to reduce expenses by utilizing our internal staff and resources in lieu of law firms and vendors (where practicable). This involved having Freeport attorneys, paralegals, and technology support staff manage some cases and data with the assistance of RelativityOne.
Q: When you conducted your analysis of moving to RelativityOne, what factors played a role in this decision? What are some criteria your team prioritizes in your technology investments?
TL: Initially, we issued a request for information for legal hold software in which Relativity Legal Hold was an option. Since Relativity has been our e-discovery platform of choice for over 10 years, Relativity Legal Hold seemed like a logical choice for us. During discussions with your team, RelativityOne was raised as a potential solution for streamlined e-discovery and legal hold. We conducted an analysis based on annual spend in areas such as data processing and hosting. We determined that moving to RelativityOne would save us several hundred thousand dollars per year. So, while our decision to move to RelativityOne was atypical at first, it was the right choice for us.
Q: Can you describe your e-discovery team at Freeport? What benefits do you find being a smaller team, and what challenges do you face in your day-to-day? How does RelativityOne play to these strengths and address these challenges?
TL: For a Fortune 500 Company, Freeport has a relativity small legal department. Our e-discovery team consists of five people. Being a small team, we are more agile and have grown accustomed to handling different day-to-day challenges. RelativityOne has become an extension of our team and allows us to manage matters more efficiently since we have immediate access to our data and don’t have to rely on third-party providers.
Q: What impact, if any, did COVID have on your work as a smaller team? Did you have to rethink your structure, or make any changes to address any challenges brought about by the pandemic?
TL: Simply put, COVID-19 forced us to become more efficient. Being a smaller team, we were immediately faced with the prospect of working smarter or risk being replaced. We regrouped, developed an internal litigation support team, moved data to RelativityOne, and signed a managed services agreement with a trusted e-discovery partner. This new structure ensured that our team would focus on efficiencies and best practices while joining forces with RelativityOne and our new partner of record.
Q: Looking forward, what e-discovery trends do you have on your radar? How can in-house e-discovery teams prepare for what’s coming down the pipeline?
TL: We are looking to integrate more technology-assisted review, active learning, and artificial intelligence to expand our use of technologies in support of our efforts to become more efficient. In-house e-discovery teams need to think out of the box in terms of using technologies that can support them. Take a chance, don’t rest on one’s laurels, and look to achieve a positive risk-reward balance for your department and company.