Jane Colston specialises in complex and high-value commercial banking, contract and tort disputes as well as company, shareholders and partnership disputes. Jane has acted in numerous complex fraud cases and has extensive experience of forensic investigations, most of which have involved working with teams of investigators and accountants, and coordinating lawyers in multiple jurisdictions to trace and freeze assets. She has managed numerous cases involving freezing, search, disclosure, gagging and delivery-up injunctions as well as breach of confidence claims.
Describe your career to date.
I trained and qualified as a litigator at Hogan Lovells, and then Baker McKenzie. Having co-founded one of the early City litigation boutiques, I then returned to the international platform as I very much appreciated the need to be able to offer to clients a multi-jurisdictional and experienced civil and white-collar crime litigation and contentious regulatory team.
What traits do you think would serve a litigator well?
At the National Theatre recently, I joined in a standing ovation at the end of The Lehman Trilogy, which spoke volumes about the London audience’s reaction to this outstanding play directed by Sam Mendes. The audience was taken with a hugely innovative, thoughtful, dynamic and very accomplished production. I would say these are four good traits for any litigator.
What changes in the litigation space do you hope to see in five years’ time?
I would hope that litigators will be proud of their tech capability and their increased knowledge of AI in the legal space; that they appreciate the ambition and work ethic of millennials, iGens and Generation Zs; and that the profession has embraced more diverse teams and leaders.
Asset recovery work is almost always multi-jurisdictional. How do you ensure effective coordination between lawyers and teams around the globe?
It is essential in today’s world that the whole legal team knows how the AI black box works. The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) issued a 2018 report referring to the SFO’s determined use of AI to investigate crime. With average datasets of more than 10 million records, machine-learning AI document review tools are the only realistic solution to investigate such cases. As a civil litigator, I see that the civil courts in the US, Australia, Ireland and England have already approved their use. In January 2018, London’s High Court’s pilot scheme will be launched, which puts the use of AI firmly in civil litigators’ “must-have” toolkit. This will be a downside for those reluctant to learn new tricks, putting them at a disadvantage with clients, their opponents and the courts. But for those litigators who want to stay on the cutting edge and who understand the need for close partnership with lawyers in other jurisdictions, those litigators will ensure that the whole legal team understands how to partner successfully with each other and with those that know how the AI “black box” works.
What are the downsides to using AI in litigation?
The main downside is that AI technology is not perfect. Insufficient data or poorly supervised training by litigators of the AI algorithm will lead to sub-optimal outcomes. However, the benchmark is not perfection. Once you are working on a large fraud investigation, the volume of relevant material goes beyond the realms of practicality for a human to review. AI algorithms can power through 600,000 documents per day, faster and more accurately than any human team can manage. In the SFO Rolls-Royce investigation, the “privilege robot” the SFO used to pull out themes in the 30 million documents it reviewed, saved eight lawyers one year of work.
Cryptocurrencies and digital wallets have altered the way fraudsters operate. How is this reflected in the scope of your practice?
Tech will, of course, be the Trojan horse for cybercriminals. AI document review algorithms will help litigators get to the hot documents obtained from, for example, a search order and asset trace that bit faster. A litigator needs to know, for example, how to asset trace across the blockchain using search orders. Such orders may reveal that cryptocurrency software has been installed or reveal where the bitcoin wallet or keys are stored. They may show that an exchange has been used to convert into or out of cryptocurrencies, thereby allowing Norwich Pharmacal/disclosure orders to be sought to compel disclosure from the exchange.
What advice would you give to young female lawyers hoping to one day be in your position?
If at first you don’t succeed, try again and repeat. Seize and create opportunities rather than waiting to be given them. Don’t let someone else write your narrative. Work with a business coach so you allocate time to thinking about your career path and plan.
Become part of the Law Society’s ambitious project to empower women leaders in the law to be change makers, by attending or hosting a Women in Leadership in Law roundtable discussion using the Law Society’s diversity toolkit. The Law Society is planning to use the information gathered from the numerous roundtables in a report to be published in 2019 to mark the 100th anniversary of women in the law in England and Wales. For more information write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The “excellent” Jane Colston is one of the titans of the asset recovery market. Peers impart that she is “an outstanding lawyer, and an absolute nightmare to be against” on a case.
Jane Colston specialises in complex banking, contract, tort and shareholder disputes.
She is named in The Legal 500 2018 as a “leading individual” in civil fraud, “Key partner Jane Colston is ‘a dynamic and creative practitioner’ who ‘brings a fabulous intellect, credibility and command of law along with incredible strategic thinking and client-facing skills’.”
Jane is ranked by Chambers and Partners 2018 in Band 1 for civil fraud and has been described as “very tenacious, imaginative and fights very hard for her clients. Clients appreciate “her no-nonsense attitude, and the way she gets to the heart of issues and helps us navigate through it in a straightforward, commercial and pragmatic way.” Chambers also states Jane has an “excellent reputation in the civil fraud arena”; is “praised by impressed sources as “efficient, hands-on and client-friendly”, who go on to cite her and ability to staff work in a “lean and efficient manner””; “sources describe her as “focal and effective” and that Jane “is hailed as a prominent figure in the market. She has experience in forensic investigations and multi-jurisdictional asset tracing”.
Jane is named in the Who's Who Legal: Asset Recovery 2018 analysis as one of the “thought leaders 2018” which comprise of just the top two per cent of all the eminent practitioners listed across WWL's guide.
She was recognised as Asset Recovery Lawyer of the Year 2017 by Lawyer Monthly Women in Law Awards and is part of the team which won The Legal 500's award for Firm Specialist of the Year 2018 for fraud: civil.
Jane frequently lectures at international conferences, eg, the IBA and C5.