DELOITTE HAS doubled the size of its computer forensic and electronic discovery group, completing a merger with another data specialist firm, Forensic Data. Forensic Data’s founder and CEO Nicholas Adamo will join Deloitte as a partner.
Giam Swiegers, Deloitte Australia’s CEO is confident that the merger will make Deloitte “the largest and most experienced forensic technology team of its kind in Asia-Pacific”.
The merger is the result of the growth in demand for forensic technology, particularly in the legal and regulatory sectors, and was a natural progression for both firms.
The high volumes and complexity of work in the area meant that Deloitte and Forensic Data often found themselves working side-by-side on big matters, according to Deloitte partner Tim Phillips.“We’ve been working at a 100 per cent, and working alongside Nick and his team quite often. We said, ‘this is silly, why we don’t come together and really seize the market?’”
Both companies reported significant changes in the size and shape of the market for forensic data in the past 12 months. When pressed to explain the alterations in the market, they identified two key developments. Firstly, the “physical side”; the sheer volume of backup memory tapes containing data from client computer systems. Adamo said Forensic Data has gone from handling 10 tapes on an average job to 1,000 per job, and up to 10,000 for some clients.
The original Deloitte team comprised 12 specialists in the area of forensic practice, handling dispute resolution work, anti-money laundering and databases. The merger with Forensic Data swells the practice’s staff headcount to 25 people. The increase in staff numbers will allow the firm to handle growing demand, and extend its service to all key centres and regional centres around Australia.
Deloitte is keenly aware of the unique demands of the legal services industry, working with both mid-tier and top-eight law firms in a consulting capacity as well as providing technology management services.
Time-poor lawyers are becoming increasingly reliant on computer forensics to sift through large amounts of data in a relatively short time period. “For example, we recently did a large electronic discovery job for a financial institution,” Adamo said. “We were able to get down to [30,000 documents] for every million documents that we extracted from backup tapes … That’s a significant time and cost saving I’m sure you can imagine for the lawyers and for the client ultimately.”
The growth in complexity as well as scale of data recovery projects was another factor in the merger decision according to the Forensic Data CEO. “The second aspect is the complexity of the work that we’re now seeing. Not just in file structure and file formats, but in the requirements of legal and regulatory bodies,” Adamo said. “Very uncertain standards are being handed down by the courts about whether native data should be handed across, and whether it should be in a specific format or in a proprietary format.”
A key area of concern for law firms is the forensic integrity of data, which Adamo described as the process and regulation of data extraction, of crucial concern in legal proceedings.
“It means that if we have data that needs to be provided in a court of law, we have the necessary standing to say to the judge, ‘Your Honour this is how we got the data. These are the reasons why, and technically what we’ve done’,” Adamo said. “And any judge will be able to say, ‘Thank you, I perfectly understand and accept that this data is accurate, and I will accept it in my court’.”