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WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Phil Beckett stands out as one of the foremost digital forensic experts in the region. His top-tier practice spans a range of matters including investigations and IP theft.

Questions & Answers

Phil Beckett is a managing director with Alvarez & Marsal’s (A&M) global disputes and investigations practice in London and leads the pan-European forensic technology team. He brings more than 20 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 named Who’s Who Legal’s Investigations Digital Forensic Expert of the Year in 2017 and 2018.

What attracted you to a career in consultancy?

When considering what employment options I had when leaving university, consultancy appealed to me for many reasons: the ability to solve problems, to work closely with clients, to have a range of projects, challenges and clients to work on – rather than doing the same thing over and over again. Finally, I was attracted to the range of different options that consultancy offered to shape your career.

What qualities make for an effective testifying expert?

The most obvious is being technically excellent – you really do need to know your subject area. But there is more to it than that; you need to have an eye for detail, be able to think about and critique alternative hypotheses, not stray outside your area of expertise or your expert view, and be able to communicate complex topics in a way that non-experts can easily understand.

What are some of the main challenges currently facing forensic experts?

The fact that the underlying technologies that everyone uses continues to change rapidly – be it with mobile devices, social media, cloud-based technologies, ephemeral data or the applications themselves. That means you need to be able to stay up to date with modern technological changes, but also have the ability to understand and analyse legacy systems as an investigation can often involve a historic dimension. It is not only the changing nature of the technologies, but the fact that new ones seem to spring up so rapidly, meaning there is an ever-growing list of technologies you need to be prepared to deal with.

What makes Alvarez & Marsal stand out from competitors?

Alvarez & Marsal differentiates itself in a number of key ways, including the following.

First, the range of forensic technology services that we perform within one team, ensuring that data, analytical and information governance skills are appropriately used 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(s) rather than being “passed” from department to department.

Third, our “client-first” approach ensures that we are available when needed, flexible as appropriate, experts 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. We have people in the US, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, China, India, Russia, UAE and the UK who all know and trust each other. This means we can offer global coverage with the same degree of knowledge and expertise.

What has been your proudest achievement to date?

What I am most proud of in my career is the fact that I have helped talented individuals succeed and develop their own careers. Linked to this is the ability to identify, build and retain a high-performing team – something that is essential as projects become larger, more complex and diverse. This helps our team exceed client expectations and deal with the various challenges that are inevitable in these types of project.

What is the best piece of career advice you have received?

I am not sure there is a single piece of advice that has dramatically impacted my career, but I have had a number of mentors throughout my career that have helped me along the way (and still do). Having someone who can stand back and provide independent advice to you when you need it (and especially when you don’t know you need it) has helped me greatly, and it is something that I would encourage everyone to consider.

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader
WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

“Seasoned forensic technology practitioner” Phil Beckett continues to stand out as a pre-eminent name in our research thanks to his impressive work on anti-bribery investigations and IP theft, among other areas.

Questions & Answers

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 20 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 named Who’s Who Legal’s Investigations Digital Forensic Expert of the Year in 2017 and 2018.

WHAT FIRST ATTRACTED YOU TO WORKING IN THE FIELD OF DIGITAL FORENSICS?

My first project in the field of digital forensics was back in 1998 when I was at Arthur Andersen. It was an investigation related to alleged stock fraud and I was part of the team capturing and interrogating the computer data related to the investigation. I really enjoyed the nature of the work and the combination of technical and investigatory skills that were required to find information that would be useful to the investigation. I found I wanted to learn more about this field and 20 years on I am still working and enjoying the challenges.

YOU HAVE A WIDE-RANGING PRACTICE. ON WHAT SORTS OF MATTERS DO YOU FIND YOURSELF MOST FREQUENTLY OCCUPIED AT PRESENT?

The matters that I work on are varied, but always have a common nexus between technology and contentious legal issues – be it litigation, investigation or regulatory. There are three common themes that appear: theft of intellectual property investigations, which vary from source codes to client lists to confidential data; investigating data breaches, whether it be an internal or external issue, or indeed a hybrid of the two; and managing large datasets that need to be mined to identify relevant intelligence and information for a matter.

HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR GIVING TESTIMONY IN LITIGATION AND ARBITRATION?

Be prepared. You must know the details of the matter you are giving evidence on – not just the headlines, but the details that are the foundations. Also, I always think about how best to present and communicate very technical concepts in a manner that can be understood by someone who does not have a technology background – otherwise, the point can become “lost”.

HOW HAS THE FIELD OF DIGITAL FORENSICS CHANGED SINCE YOU STARTED PRACTISING?

In some ways everything has changed and in others nothing has changed. The three most fundamental changes are data volumes; the range of devices and sources of information; and underlying technologies that manage data on devices. Technology has forced us to adapt methodologies and approaches, ensuring that forensic principles are adhered to. However, the objectives and nature of what we look for during an investigation have not changed too much.

HOW IMPORTANT IS THE HUMAN ELEMENT IN THE APPLICATIONS OF DATA?

It is essential. Every case has unique circumstances to it, so there is no magic button to find what you need. Therefore, it requires a combination of experience and knowledge to deploy the right tools and approaches to meet the specific objectives of a case. It is the ability to really understand what a client wants and how to put that into action 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 take into account the difference between how computer systems should be used (according to IT) and how they are actually used by the people themselves, to make sure all the relevant data sources are covered – especially when certain technologies are not officially 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 CAN CLIENTS GET THE BEST VALUE OUT OF DATA?

Clients need to understand what they are seeking to get out of the data and have business goals and objectives in mind when interrogating it. The intelligence and information contained within any given dataset is incredibly vast and varied, therefore clients need to be focused. They also need to ensure that they do the simple things right. Too often hyped-up phrases such as “artificial intelligence” and “deep learning” get referenced as solutions. Yes, they have a role to play, but doing the basics right is fundamental to success. Within an investigation, it is also important to recognise the smoking-gun document may not be either there or easily accessible. In most investigations, it is a case of working closely with the client, the lawyers and the wider investigation team to gradually build a picture of what has been happening. Sometimes though you do have the “Eureka!” moment and find the smoking gun.

WHAT DO CLIENTS LOOK FOR IN A SUCCESSFUL DIGITAL FORENSIC EXPERT?

It goes without saying that they must be an expert in their field with the ability to deliver what is required. But it also about being able to communicate in a way that can be readily understood, as well as being able to see the bigger picture and how digital evidence fits into the overall case. Client service is also a crucial element – ensuring that you are available when required, responsive to requests and honest in the delivery of results. Finally, it is important to have an expert who understands the requirement and really thinks about how to approach the matter, considering alternative lines of enquiry to ensure where appropriate – not merely following a standard, fixed approach.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE STARTING A CAREER IN THE FIELD?

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 specific qualifications in this area during your career.

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.

Global Leader

Data - Data Experts 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Phil Beckett is lauded as a “seasoned forensic technology practitioner” with a wealth of experience advising international clients across the financial services, automotive and construction sectors.

Biography

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. He was recently named Who’s Who Legal’s Investigations Digital Forensic Expert of the Year for the second year 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 Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Phil Beckett stands out as one of the foremost digital forensic experts in the region. His top-tier practice spans a range of matters including investigations and IP theft.

Biography

Phil Beckett, a managing director with Alvarez & Marsal’s disputes and investigations practice in London, brings more than 20 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 named Who’s Who Legal’s Investigations Digital Forensic Expert of the Year in 2017 and 2018.

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 Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Phil Beckett is a first-rate forensic technology, investigations and disclosure expert with 15 years' experience advising major international clients across numerous industry sectors.

Biography

Phil Beckett, a managing director with Alvarez & Marsal’s disputes and investigations practice in London, brings more than 20 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 named Who’s Who Legal’s Investigations Digital Forensic Expert of the Year in 2017 and 2018.

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 Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

With over 20 years of experience, Phil Beckett is widely considered a "top tier" forensic technology expert.

Biography

Phil Beckett, a managing director with Alvarez & Marsal, heads A&M’s disputes and investigations practice in Europe. He brings more than 20 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. He was Who’s Who Legal’s Investigations Digital Forensic Expert of the Year in 2017 and 2018.

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.

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