The views expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting, Inc, its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals.
Ian Smith is a managing director with the FTI Consulting technology practice in London and calls upon more than 20 years of experience in the fields of computer forensics and e-discovery. Mr Smith advises clients on the technology aspects of investigations, litigation and regulatory inquiries, including data mapping, preservation and review. His engagement experience encompasses fraud and corruption, anti-competitive practices, intellectual property theft and breach of contract matters. He assists clients in EMEA and globally across a broad range of industries.
What inspired you to pursue a career as a data expert?
I have always been interested in technology, and how dramatically its use in all facets of life changes over time. The intersection of technology advancement with principles of trust and crime is particularly compelling to me. Early on in my career, working as a forensic investigator for law enforcement, the work was constantly evolving and presenting new challenges. This has continued over the past 12 years at FTI and I find working with our clients to reach solutions that are effective and defensible continues to inspire me.
How has the role of data expert evolved since you first began practising?
The volume of data and diversity of platforms is one of the biggest changes (and challenges) in computer forensics over the past 20 years. In the early days, digital forensics focused on computers, data archives and perhaps backup stores. Today, we must identify key data and correlate it with information from multiple sources including personal computers, mobile devices, cloud accounts, collaboration platforms and many disparate systems. Having a meaningful understanding of the data and the flow of information throughout every stage of a matter has become vitally important to good decision-making and case strategy. Additionally, because of the massive volumes of data that come into question for a case, teams must now have efficient methods for getting to the most important information quickly and early enough to implement an efficient review strategy.
What motivated you to move from a career in law enforcement to private consultancy?
Spending almost a decade in law enforcement was a fantastic experience, working with dedicated individuals who put getting the job done and integrity foremost. I worked on cases involving companies and individuals across the UK in the context of criminal and civil investigations. My move to FTI was driven primarily by the desire to seek more expansive challenges, and the opportunity to work with a broader range of clients and matters.
Once I began at FTI, I found it very satisfying to help clients achieve positive outcomes: defending their position in high-stakes litigation, helping them avoid unnecessary tech costs, advising on effective, defensible solutions to complex problems.
What do you enjoy most about your role as head of the firm’s UK digital forensics and investigation group?
My client and colleague relationships mean a lot to me and have been a foundation for many personal and professional connections. In my role, I often have the opportunity to work with the same clients again and again – whether they are with the same company, or move to other positions and engage our services at their new organisation. I also appreciate the emphasis FTI places on long-term career development within the company. Over my 12-plus years here, I have had the privilege of seeing bright young graduates just starting their careers gain experience, learn from advice and guidance, and develop their own approaches to becoming trusted advisers looking out for our clients.
What impact has the introduction of the GDPR had on clients’ approaches to data management?
The impact of GDPR has been far-reaching and is continuing to shape how corporations are handling everything from data management to e-discovery to risk mitigation. Broadly, most organisations are beginning to understand the importance of knowing what’s in their data, where and how it is stored, and whether they should be keeping it at all. We’re seeing clients place much more emphasis on prioritising their privacy risk and strengthening their overall information governance and data management accordingly. Many companies still have a long way to go, but these efforts are definitely gaining momentum in the wake of GDPR’s enactment.
What are the main challenges you face when trying to strike a balance between the efficiency and defensibility of the advice you give to clients?
It is a careful balance, but ultimately, we are seeking to deliver both as efficiency is only a gain if the end product is defensible and understandable. Many clients are still wary of technology use and lean towards a more conservative, manual (and thus inefficient) approach. But advancements in analytics, visualisation tools and TAR have improved the e-discovery process significantly, and the CPR pilot rules that came into effect in January 2019 are exerting a positive push towards the use of more advanced technologies. Once we help clients see the power of the tools, explain how they are used, and demonstrate the time and cost-savings they can provide, they are usually more open to using them. One way we find that balance is leveraging our managed review capabilities with a focused team of analytic reviewers who are experts in the latest tools. This allows us to surface documents of interest quickly at the outset of an investigation, which acts as a force multiplier for investigators and allows small teams to manage large investigations in a defensible manner.
What impact do you envisage the new CPR Disclosure Pilot Scheme having on litigation and contentious proceedings?
We are already seeing the effects, particularly in the initial stages of a litigation where there is an increased need to share information with the other side on scope, parameters and the approach being taken in a more detailed way. This is largely positive, engendering a greater understanding between parties and the opportunity to discuss and question before plans are set. It is also impacting the openness to and use of technology, with more lawyers looking to tap into our experience of analytics and predictive coding. Our aim is to make these technologies as transparent as possible so that legal teams can leverage them with confidence.
What is the best piece of career advice you have received?
Focus on the positive, not the negative. If someone makes a mistake, don’t criticise; help them understand what went wrong and what they can do to make it go better next time. This takes a little more time but repays that time in increased trust, openness and collaborative working that benefits everyone.
Ian Smith receives high praise from market commentators for his high-level technical ability and expertise in computer forensics.
Ian Smith is a managing director in the FTI Consulting technology practice and is based in London.
His career spans 20 years in the fields of computer forensics and e-discovery, in both the law enforcement and private sectors. In this time, he has advised clients in relation to the technology aspects of internal investigations, litigation and regulatory enquiries, including data mapping, preservation and review. His engagement experience encompasses matters in relation to fraud and corruption, anticompetitive practices, intellectual property theft and breach of contract.
He has assisted clients in EMEA and globally from a wide range of industries, in particular the financial services sector, and also in the energy, pharmaceutical, manufacturing and construction sectors. His experience has enabled him to assist clients in understanding in simple terms their technology challenges and risks, and to provide strategic advice and hands-on management of large and complex matters to ensure defensibility while taking a proportionate and efficient approach to control technology and legal review costs.
Ian has assisted some of the world's largest banks, including an engagement in relation to a highly contentious litigation with a value in excess of £500 million where challenges included data across multiple jurisdictions, restrictions due to banking secrecy legislation, disparate data systems and a date range spanning more than a decade. In addition to directing the project from initial scoping to disclosure, Mr Smith was able to save the client over £1 million in technology and review costs by submitting affidavits to the court in relation to overreaching demands by the claimant for disproportionate work to be undertaken.