Phil Beckett
Office:
One Finsbury Circus
EC2M 7EB
City:
London
Country:
England
Tel:
+44 207 663 0778

Questions and Answers:

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders: Investigations Digital Forensics Experts

Phil Beckett, is a managing director with the Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) global disputes and investigations practice in London. He brings more than 18 years of experience in forensic technology engagements, advising clients on forensic investigations of digital evidence, the interrogation of complex data sets, information governance, cyber risk and the disclosure of electronic documents. Mr Beckett leads A&M’s pan-European forensic technology team. He was recently named Who’s Who Legal’s Investigations Digital Forensic Expert of the Year.

WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO PURSUE A CAREER IN FORENSIC TECHNOLOGY?

I originally started my career within IT risk and assurance services team at large accounting firm and quickly experienced a forensic engagement. The combination of technical and investigative skills drew me into forensic technology, as I especially enjoyed unravelling technical conundrums.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST MEMORABLE INVESTIGATION YOU HAVE WORKED ON OVER THE COURSE OF YOUR CAREER?

There have been many memorable investigations that I have worked on, often involving international travel during which I met some very interesting people. On one occasion, I was even involved in a car chase. However, the case that stands out involved unravelling the unauthorised and illegal use of my clients’ data by their former business partner. The technical depth of the investigation, the irrefutable nature of the findings and the hostile nature of the work environment made the end result all the more satisfying.

YOU’VE BEEN ADVISING CLIENTS ON DIGITAL FORENSIC EVIDENCE FOR NEARLY 20 YEARS. HOW HAVE INVESTIGATIONS CHANGED IN THAT TIME?

When I first started we would print everything out! We devised programs to print, with header sheets, all “documents” and also to identify, extract and print all textual content from system areas of computers. This is simply not feasible now. The use of advanced technical techniques – such as predictive coding, machine learning and artificial learning – means there is much more “science” to the role nowadays. Having said that, the underlying aim of producing reliable findings has not changed.

WHAT FACTORS ARE DRIVING COMPANIES TOWARDS MORE PROACTIVE DATA MANAGEMENT OF DATA?

Although industry leaders have been talking about this for a long time, proactive data management has never been in vogue, except on rare occasions. What is now advancing this conversation is regulation, both in terms of penalties when things go wrong (especially in the financial sector) and proactive legislation that will enforce good behaviour in this area. The most notable example of the latter is the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The GDPR enshrines the principles of EU citizens’ privacy and security for personal data protection into the very processes and operations of organisations that provide Europeans with goods/services or analytics data. These regulations, require legal and IT expertise as well as operational efficiency to ensure that necessary changes are made. The big stick underpinning the GDPR is the potential fines for breaches and reputational damage. This means the regulation has real teeth and is driving change for the better.

HOW ARE YOU AND YOUR TEAM HELPING COMPANIES PREPARE FOR POTENTIAL CYBERSECURITY INCIDENTS IN THE FUTURE? WHAT ARE THE MAIN CHALLENGES IN DOING THIS?

Cybersecurity is a hot topic for many A&M clients, who turn to our senior professionals to help assess and improve their cyber security controls and infrastructure, as well as to provide lead roles in any incident response, should the worst happen. The challenges clients face varies significantly from organisation to organisation. However, the first step in a proactive engagement is to perform a complete holistic assessment of a client’s cyber program and defences to understand where they are today, where they want to be, where they should be and how to bridge any gaps. One of the main challenges is helping people realise that cybersecurity is not solved by technology alone, as processes, policies and people all play vital roles in ensuring cybersecurity.

HOW DOES ALVAREZ & MARSAL’S DISTINGUISH ITSELF FROM OTHER DIGITAL FORENSIC PRACTICES?

Our team differentiates itself in a number of key ways. First, the range of forensic technology services that we perform within one team, ensuring that data, analytical and information governance skills are appropriately utilised across all engagements. Second, the fact that the members of our team have experience and knowledge across the entire spectrum of forensic technology services and processes, meaning that they “live” with clients throughout a project rather than being passed from department to department. Third, our client-first approach ensures that we are available when needed, flexible as appropriate, expert in our field and proactively advising on methodologies to be followed. Fourth, the close relationship we have within our integrated disputes and investigations practice, as well as the rest of the firm, means we are not isolated and can bring other experts and skillsets to projects as required. Finally, our closely integrated international practice, where we have people in the US, Germany, China, India, Russia, the UAE and the UK that all know and trust each other. This means we can offer global coverage with the same degree of knowledge and expertise.

AS HEAD OF EUROPEAN FORENSIC TECHNOLOGY GROUP, HOW DO YOU SEE THE PRACTICE EVOLVING OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?

A&M has an entrepreneurial culture and a bias towards action. We leverage situations as they arise. Undoubtedly, the next five years will reveal some surprises and unforeseen opportunities. New geographies, new people, new services. A key development is that forensic technology services will become increasingly embedded across all of the services that A&M provides, thus expanding our role internally and externally.

One thing is without question: we will continue to build our teams in the UK, Germany and throughout the world, including our recent forensic technology practice in Dubai.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WISHING TO PURSUE A CAREER IN THIS AREA?

First, don’t focus too quickly – for example you do not need to do a “forensic” degree to pursue a career in this area. In fact, I would prefer to see candidates with a more general computing degree – though, of course, you’ll be expected to gain certain qualifications in this area during your career. 

Also, you never get a second chance to make a first impression – so make the most of it! Do something you enjoy – you’re going to be doing this for a long time (hopefully).

Attention to detail is critical: a small error can cost a lot and prevent you from a successful forensic career.

Have an open mind and try to keep all your avenues open – you never know where they may take you.

Never stop learning – always challenge yourself.

And finally, grab every opportunity that presents itself to you. Have the courage and commitment to take full advantage of what life throws at you.

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders - Data

Phil Beckett is a managing director with Alvarez & Marsal’s global disputes and investigations practice in London and leads the pan-European forensic technology team. He brings more than 19 years of experience in forensic technology engagements, advising clients on forensic investigations of digital evidence, the interrogation of complex data sets, information governance, cyber risk and the disclosure of electronic documents. He was recently named Who’s Who Legal’s Investigations Digital Forensic Expert of the Year.

DESCRIBE YOUR CAREER TO DATE.

I originally started my career within an IT risk and assurance services team at a large accounting firm and quickly experienced a forensic engagement. The combination of technical and investigative skills drew me into forensic technology, as I especially enjoyed unravelling technical conundrums. I have now been working in this field for over 19 years.

HOW HAS INCREASED REGULATORY ACTIVITY AROUND THE WORLD IMPACTED YOUR PRACTICE?

It has had a double impact, with more regulatory activity creating more projects, compounded by the fact that regulators are getting more and more interested in data and what can be derived from it. Therefore, there are more projects and each project tends to have a more substantial data element. This is also driving more proactive consultancy.

TO WHAT EXTENT ARE COMPANIES NOW TAKING A PROACTIVE RATHER THAN A REACTIVE APPROACH TO CYBER SECURITY? HOW HAS THIS CHANGED IN THE PAST FEW YEARS?

Cyber security is still a hot topic for many Alvarez & Marsal clients, whether they need help to assess and improve their controls and infrastructure, or with incident response, should the worst happen. We are seeing more companies taking a proactive stance in respect of cyber, but there is still a surprising number who do not take it seriously enough or simply think it is an “IT issue”.

AS BUSINESS BECOMES MORE GLOBAL AND INTERCONNECTED, HOW MUST BUSINESSES AND LAWYERS ADAPT TO ENSURE DATA IS KEPT SECURE?

It never fails to surprise me how technology and data within an organisation seems to live a life of its own. It has been easier to buy new/more storage rather than get the house in order. However, cyber risk and regulatory action, specifically GDPR, are changing this dynamic. Businesses need to fundamentally understand what data they have, how they use it and the legal basis for doing so, as well as ensuring that it is sufficiently protected. However, there is an upside to this in that it can help drive competitive advantage and gain new insights.

WHAT IMPACT HAVE TECHNIQUES SUCH AS PREDICTIVE CODING AND ARTIFICIAL LEARNING HAD ON INVESTIGATIVE PRACTICE?

We are regularly using these technologies for virtually every project that we work on, regardless of whether it is investigative or not. However, they are not a silver bullet that instantly finds the answer, but rather another tool in the toolbox to be appropriately deployed. We are finding the greatest impact in two distinct areas: getting to the key documents quicker and ensuring a more robust quality control process. Specifically, in respect to the first, the application of continuous active learning is making a huge impact as it allows an investigator to quickly get into the documents and for the system to adapt to what they are doing, rather than having to go around iterative learning cycles. However, what matters most is not whether these technologies are deployed but rather how they are deployed – regularly ensuring that the results and impact are consistent with the objectives.

WHAT SKILLS DO CLIENTS LOOK FOR WHEN SELECTING DIGITAL FORENSIC EXPERTS?

Technical competence obviously goes without saying, but beyond that, the most important skill is communication, both in terms of written reports and oral discussions. The ability to articulate very technical details into plain English is something that is essential in an expert. Experts also need to be able to thoroughly, independently and methodically consider the issues that they are dealing with, fully considering the different options and consequences before presenting a considered view. Finally, responsiveness and availability are key requisites for an expert to be able to deliver the service clients demand. 

TO WHAT EXTENT HAVE THE SKILLS REQUIRED OF INDIVIDUAL EXPERTS AND INVESTIGATING TEAMS DIVERSIFIED OVER THE COURSE OF YOUR CAREER?

In some ways, the core skills required have not changed over my career. What I think has changed is the way that these are delivered to clients. Standard reports and processes are being replaced with agile and tailored solutions to ensure that clients receive the service they need rather than the service the expert can provide. In addition, the investigation team has become much more integrated with the lawyers and clients working more collaboratively with the economists, accountants and technologists and being seen as “one” team rather than distinct separate teams. This is essential to successfully meet the challenges of intense investigations.

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO BE THE GREATEST CHALLENGES FACING THE PROFESSION OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?

There is the perennial challenge of handling more and more data in different formats in shorter time frames. However, this has always been there and will continue to be addressed through improvements in process and technology. Beyond these, I think one of the most significant challenges will be to maintain a level of quality and consistency given the above – especially when one document/email/chat message/transaction, etc, can totally change the case. The other challenge I foresee will be in dealing with the range of devices (including the Internet of Things) that hold data and the amorphous nature of them. There can be challenges now identifying where all the data is, but generally speaking at least a computer looks like a computer; a server like a server; and a phone like a phone. As devices in general get “smarter”, merely identifying those that could hold relevant data will become more challenging – a taster of which is being seen with potential evidence being stored on Amazon Echo devices.

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders - Investigations

Phil Beckett is a managing director with Alvarez & Marsal’s global disputes and investigations practice in London and leads the pan-European forensic technology team. He brings more than 19 years of experience in forensic technology engagements, advising clients on forensic investigations of digital evidence, the interrogation of complex data sets, information governance, cyber risk and the disclosure of electronic documents. He was recently named Who’s Who Legal’s Investigations Digital Forensic Expert of the Year.

YOU ARE ENGAGED AS A FORENSIC EXPERT ACROSS A WIDE VARIETY OF INDUSTRIES. WHAT CHALLENGES ARISE WHEN WORKING FOR SUCH A BROAD ARRAY OF CLIENTS?

It is interesting to see how alike businesses are from a technical perspective – the backbone of what technology they use is often very similar. What you do have to be conscious of are the subtle nuances within different industries: those that are regulated should have more archives or back-ups; financial services often have audio recordings and use instant messaging or chat rather than email; in some industries virtual machines are prevalent. It is also important to go into projects with an open mind to make sure in each case you get a complete and detailed picture of where data is stored... otherwise you may miss something crucial!

WHAT MAKES A GOOD FORENSIC INVESTIGATOR?

It is the ability to really understand what a client wants and how to put that into action on a case that makes the difference. It is not per se about which tool to use, but how those tools are applied and used in different scenarios. You also need to appreciate the difference between how computer systems should be used (according to IT) and how they are used to make sure all the relevant data sources are incorporated into the process – especially when they are not technically sanctioned. Above all else, it is about following your nose and not just going through a standard set of motions to ensure the client gets the service they need.

HOW HAS THE ROLE OF AN INVESTIGATOR EVOLVED OVER THE COURSE OF YOUR CAREER?

When I first started, we would print everything out! We devised programmes to print – with header sheets, all “documents” – and also to identify, extract and print all textual content from system areas of computers. This is simply not feasible now. The use of advanced technical techniques – such as predictive coding, machine learning and artificial intelligence – means there is much more “science” to the role nowadays. Having said that, the underlying aim of producing reliable findings has not changed.

TO WHAT EXTENT HAVE VARIOUS FORENSIC DISCIPLINES BECOME MORE INTEGRATED?

The investigation team has become much more integrated with the lawyers and clients working more collaboratively with the various forensic disciplines such as economists, accountants and technologists. The most successful cases are ones where these are seen as being one team rather than distinct separate teams. Another crucial element that can often be interwoven into this mix is true industry subject matter experts, who can provide insight into how businesses and industries operate – both formally and informally. This is essential to successfully meet the challenges of intense investigations.

HOW HAS TECHNOLOGY ENABLED INVESTIGATORS TO HANDLE CROSS-BORDER MATTERS MORE EFFECTIVELY?

Many of the matters that we work on are cross-border, which means we regularly have to deal with the complexities and issues with moving data – be it for data privacy/protection, industry regulations, jurisdictional reasons or local legislation/regulation. What is critical to recognise is that there is no “one size fits all” solution. Technology should not stop any solution being implemented and there is a myriad of different solutions that can be applied in different situations. Therefore, it is more important to understand the inherent challenges and risks so that they can be mitigated from a process perspective; before determining the technical solution to deliver that process.

TO WHAT EXTENT IS IT IMPORTANT FOR CONSULTANCY FIRMS TO HAVE A GLOBAL PRESENCE?

A global presence provides many advantages when conducting investigations, from basic operational ones (eg, language skills, power systems) and financial ones (eg, lower travel costs), to those that should never be overlooked in an investigation: cultural and technical norms. This is especially relevant when dealing with investigations outside of the “Western world” as individuals there tend to approach data and technology very differently. For example, you won’t get far looking for WhatsApp, Facebook or Twitter data as part of a Chinese investigation: you’d need to turn to Weibo, WeChat or QQ – and need to appreciate how these are much more than chat or social media channels in China!

HOW DO YOU EXPECT TECHNOLOGY TO SHAPE THE PRACTICE AREA IN THE NEAR FUTURE?

Technology has already shaped the way investigations are carried out significantly and will continue to do so. One of the developments that have very recently come online is Continuous Active Learning – whereby an investigator can take advantage of the benefits of predictive coding without having to go through training cycles. From a more fundamental perspective merely understanding where potentially relevant data is stored is becoming a more complicated question to answer as more businesses move towards cloud solutions and smart devices – a trend that will only continue.

WHAT STEPS ARE ALVAREZ & MARSAL TAKING TO STAY AHEAD OF THE CURVE OF THESE CHANGES? 

There are two aspects to this: firstly, investment in people through training and research to ensure that from a technical perspective we know what technologies our clients are and will be using, as well as knowing how to best take advantage of technological advancements in how we carry out investigations. This means not blindly jumping on the “latest thing” but thoroughly analysing it to determine how and where it can be deployed effectively. Secondly, it is about ensuring that technology is interwoven into everything that we do from a dispute and investigation perspective, as opposed to being seen as a completely foreign topic. This is one reason our disputes and investigations practice is one single team with integrated economic, accounting and technology skill sets.

Biographies:

Who's Who Legal Consulting Experts: Experts - Digital & Data - Digital Forensic Experts

Phil Beckett, a managing director with Alvarez & Marsal’s disputes and investigations practice in London, brings more than 19 years of experience in forensic technology engagements, advising clients on forensic investigations of digital evidence, the interrogation of complex data sets, information governance, cyber risk and the disclosure of electronic documents. Mr Beckett leads the forensic technology team across Europe and was recently named Who’s Who Legal’s Investigations Digital Forensic Expert of the Year.

Mr Beckett has led anti-bribery/Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigations, incident-response engagements, kickback investigations, intellectual property (IP) theft cases, employment disputes, cartel/antitrust investigations, and compliance review exercises. He has also supported commercial litigation and international arbitrations.

Mr Beckett has regularly been appointed as an information technology forensics expert and managed the execution of multi-site civil search orders whereby he has provided expert testimony. Mr Beckett also served as an expert witness in Imerman vs Tchenguiz ([2010] EWCA Civ 908).

Mr Beckett has worked on a large number of high-profile e-disclosure cases, including litigation between Russian entities in the High Court, where data had to be managed in an extremely secure environment across the UK and Russia. Mr Beckett also managed a regulatory review of a global bank trader performed by multiple regulators involving data from multiple systems and jurisdictions, including instant message chat and voice data.

Mr Beckett earned a bachelor's degree in computing and management from Loughborough University, a master’s degree in forensic computing from Cranfield University and a master’s degree in computer and communications law from Queen Mary, University of London. He is a fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and won the ACCA Gold Medal in 2001. He is also a certified fraud examiner and lectures regularly on information governance and forensic technology.

WWL says: Phil Beckett is an investigations Thought Leader and praised as "one of the top figures" in forensic data investigations by peers. He has experience of global investigations across a multitude of sectors.

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Consulting Experts which can be purchased from our Shop.

Who's Who Legal Consulting Experts: Experts - Digital & Data - Data and E-Discovery Experts

Phil Beckett, a managing director with Alvarez & Marsal’s disputes and investigations practice in London, brings more than 19 years of experience in forensic technology engagements, advising clients on forensic investigations of digital evidence, the interrogation of complex data sets, information governance, cyber risk and the disclosure of electronic documents. Mr Beckett leads the forensic technology team across Europe and was recently named Who’s Who Legal’s Investigations Digital Forensic Expert of the Year for the second time running.

Mr Beckett has led anti-bribery/Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigations, incident-response engagements, kickback investigations, intellectual property (IP) theft cases, employment disputes, cartel/antitrust investigations, and compliance review exercises. He has also supported commercial litigation and international arbitrations.

Mr Beckett has regularly been appointed as an information technology forensics expert and managed the execution of multi-site civil search orders whereby he has provided expert testimony. Mr Beckett also served as an expert witness in Imerman vs Tchenguiz ([2010] EWCA Civ 908).

Mr Beckett has worked on a large number of high-profile e-disclosure cases, including litigation between Russian entities in the High Court, where data had to be managed in an extremely secure environment across the UK and Russia. Mr Beckett also managed a regulatory review of a global bank trader performed by multiple regulators involving data from multiple systems and jurisdictions, including instant message chat and voice data.

Mr Beckett earned a bachelor's degree in computing and management from Loughborough University, a master’s degree in forensic computing from Cranfield University and a master’s degree in computer and communications law from Queen Mary, University of London. He is a fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and won the ACCA Gold Medal in 2001. He is also a certified fraud examiner and lectures regularly on information governance and forensic technology.

WWL says: Phil Beckett garners respect from sources for his considerable experience in litigation support, particularly regarding e-disclosure and multi-jurisdictional investigations.

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Consulting Experts which can be purchased from our Shop.

Who's Who Legal Data: Data Experts

Phil Beckett, a managing director with Alvarez & Marsal’s disputes and investigations practice in London, brings more than 19 years of experience in forensic technology engagements, advising clients on forensic investigations of digital evidence, the interrogation of complex data sets, information governance, cyber risk and the disclosure of electronic documents. Mr Beckett leads the forensic technology team across Europe and was recently named Who’s Who Legal’s Investigations Digital Forensic Expert of the Year.

Mr Beckett has led anti-bribery/Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigations, incident-response engagements, kickback investigations, intellectual property (IP) theft cases, employment disputes, cartel/antitrust investigations, and compliance review exercises. He has also supported commercial litigation and international arbitrations.

Mr Beckett has regularly been appointed as an information technology forensics expert and managed the execution of multi-site civil search orders whereby he has provided expert testimony. Mr Beckett also served as an expert witness in Imerman vs Tchenguiz ([2010] EWCA Civ 908).

Mr Beckett has worked on a large number of high-profile e-disclosure cases, including litigation between Russian entities in the High Court, where data had to be managed in an extremely secure environment across the UK and Russia. Mr Beckett also managed a regulatory review of a global bank trader performed by multiple regulators involving data from multiple systems and jurisdictions, including instant message chat and voice data.

Mr Beckett earned a bachelor's degree in computing and management from Loughborough University, a master’s degree in forensic computing from Cranfield University and a master’s degree in computer and communications law from Queen Mary, University of London. He is a fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and won the ACCA Gold Medal in 2001. He is also a certified fraud examiner and lectures regularly on information governance and forensic technology.

WWL says: Standout practitioner Phil Beckett is “well regarded in the marketplace” thanks to his 19 years of experience in the forensic technology arena.

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Data which can be purchased from our Shop.

Who's Who Legal Investigations: Digital Forensic Experts

Phil Beckett, a managing director with Alvarez & Marsal’s disputes and investigations practice in London, brings more than 18 years of experience in forensic technology engagements, advising clients on forensic investigations of digital evidence, the interrogation of complex data sets, information governance, cyber risk and the disclosure of electronic documents.

Mr Beckett has led anti-bribery/Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigations, incident-response engagements, kickback investigations, intellectual property (IP) theft cases, employment disputes, cartel/antitrust investigations, and compliance review exercises. He has also supported commercial litigation and international arbitrations.

Mr Beckett has regularly been appointed as an information technology forensics expert and managed the execution of multi-site civil search orders whereby he has provided expert testimony. Mr Beckett also served as an expert witness in Imerman v Tchenguiz ([2010] EWCA Civ 908).

Mr Beckett has worked on a large number of high-profile e-disclosure cases, including litigation between Russian entities in the High Court, where data had to be managed in an extremely secure environment across the UK and Russia. Mr Beckett also managed a regulatory review of a global bank trader performed by multiple regulators involving data from multiple systems and jurisdictions, including instant message chat and voice data.

Mr Beckett earned a bachelors degree in computing and management from Loughborough University, a master’s degree in forensic computing from Cranfield University and a master’s degree in computer and communications law from Queen Mary, University of London. He is a fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and won the ACCA Gold Medal in 2001. He is also a certified fraud examiner and lectures regularly on information governance and forensic technology.

WWL says: Phil Beckett is "one of the best experts in the country" and boasts a superb practice covering a wide range of matters including e-disclosure, data analytics and management and forensic investigations.

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Investigations which can be purchased from our Shop.

Follow us on LinkedIn

Practice Areas

Firms

Browse Firms

Search Firms

The Who's Who Legal 100

Awards

News & Features

Special Reports

Events

Shop

About Us

It is not possible to buy entry into any Who's Who Legal publication

Nominees have been selected based upon comprehensive, independent survey work with both general counsel and private practice lawyers worldwide. Only specialists who have met independent international research criteria are listed.

Copyright © 2018 Law Business Research Ltd. All rights reserved. | http://www.lbresearch.com

87 Lancaster Road, London, W11 1QQ, UK | Tel: +44 20 7908 1180 / Fax: +44 207 229 6910

http://www.whoswholegal.com | editorial@whoswholegal.com

Law Business Research Ltd

87 Lancaster Road, London
W11 1QQ, UK