Managing Director Phil Beckett from our Disputes and Investigations team has recently been named Investigations Digital Forensic Expert of the Year by Who’s Who Legal.

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May 22, 2017

According to a Memorandum from Who’s Who Legal to Phil Beckett: “This award is a recognition of the exceptional calibre of your work as well as the skill and experience that you can bring to your practice. Following hundreds of interviews conducted and nominations received, our research has empirically identified you as standing apart from all other practitioners in the world this year.”

Award winners are decided based on research into the practice area in question, conducted by a team of dedicated researchers over several months each year. For individual practitioners, Who’s Who Legal looked at the number of nominations received, who they were recommended by and the specific feedback received about them.

A&M is proud to congratulate Phil Beckett on his meaningful award and the client recognition he has achieved. 

Our Global Marketing team sat down with Phil and asked him a number of questions to give us some insight into the world of a forensic expert, trends driving the industry and the work behind his impressive accolade.

Global Marketing (GM):  What are three qualities that you think an effective forensic expert should have?

Phil Beckett (PB):  Technical expertise, that almost goes without saying. You need to know the subject in which you are an expert inside and out, otherwise your lack of knowledge quickly becomes apparent. However, there is more to it: you need to be impartial and resilient in your view and be careful not to allow any sort of influence. That takes considerable strength and requires a factual approach.

Forensic experts also need to consider situations with a receptive and open mind, and examine different possibilities and theories without getting railroaded into one particular course. So, you need clarity of thinking.

Finally, practitioners need to ensure every statement can be verified by fact and can stand up robustly against cross examination.

GM: What does this award mean to you?

PB: It is reassuring and important to know our work is recognised by our clients — client satisfaction is the end goal.

GM: Can you share three activities that make up a day in the life of a forensic expert?

PB: Explaining complex theories, possibilities and hypotheses in a language that the layman can understand. It is one thing to know the knowledge but another to be able to communicate it.

Reviewing the minute details on the case to make sure nothing has been missed, and that what you have said can't be misunderstood or misinterpreted. To do that, it helps to test your own statements as thoroughly as you would someone else's statements.

Quietly thinking when you have a tricky problem or challenge to overcome. Sometimes you need to dedicate time to think. I find this easier to do free of distraction when I am focused on something totally different such as running.

GM: What trends are you seeing across the digital landscape that are contributing to the rise in forensic investigations?

PB: As people become more adept at using technology, they start to use it at work —including for nefarious purposes, so there is more evidence to be found on their computers.

Increasingly, we are looking at smartphones and tablets as well as computers, as these are being used more and more. It is especially relevant for companies to have solid bring your own device (BYOD) policies in place to allow these devices to be investigated.

We see both an increase in people trying to cover up what they are doing and in allegations of forgeries when key documents relate to a dispute.

GM: Which industries are driving the most activity?

PB: You can look at this two ways. First, any industry where data and information have a particularly high value — for example, in customer lists, algorithms or models — makes that data more tempting as a target.

Secondly, if you are looking at computers to provide documentary evidence, then this can include literally any industry.

Financial services professionals are always going to be high on the list — they create mountains of data as they have to maintain communications for regulatory reasons, as well as trading data. More data = more investigations = more evidence.

GM: What are the best practices corporations need to keep in mind to safeguard their company data?

PB:  My recommendations are to:

  • Have a strong BYOD policy.
  • Have a robust information technology (IT) use policy that allows for investigations to be undertaken without any legal issues.
  • Make sure that your company has appropriate back-up procedures that are tested and can be called into action
  • Immediately take a forensic image and review the computers of employees who are leaving the company
  • Have a response plan for the worst-case scenario.

GM: What are the top lessons you have seen companies learn from being involved in investigations?

PB:  In my experience, I have seen several consistent learning including:

  • Backups don’t always back up the information that company executives think they do.
  • They have no idea where their data is, how to control it or who has access to it.
  • Investigations need to be undertaken in a forensically sound manner — rather than by internal IT professionals (unless they are properly trained).

GM: What should employees keep in mind as they interact with corporate data?

PB: There is one key message that should guide all activity: only do what you are allowed to do with that data! Remember the importance of data to the company, and treat it with due care and attention.

Read more about Phil Beckett and his practice as a digital forensic expert.