More and more lawyers are using digital tools in proceedings to make data accessible and to collect evidence. Not for nothing: the size of digital data is growing rapidly and without intelligent tools it is virtually impossible to gain knowledge of the content of e-mails, digital paperwork, administrations and databases. Mark Hoekstra, global leader Forensic Technology at the international accountancy and advisory organization, explains how his team of researchers work.
What is your view on forensic technology?
Forensically responsible search has little to do with turning on a computer and starting an investigation based on search terms. At its core, it’s about looking at a validated set of data, finding the right data in the right legal context, in a logical order, with a tight focus on case management.
The ‘smart’ research and assessment of data is a specialty. Take, for example, a printout of an email that is entered in a procedure. You would say little technical about it. Nothing is less true. The question of authenticity with regard to the content alone has the potential to raise many technical questions. Is the content authentic? Has the mail been received and read? Thorough forensic technical investigation provides answers to these types of questions.
Many lawyers are amazed at what can be traced back to systems regarding the actions of persons, organizations or available information on a specific subject. For example, deleted data can be retrieved and (semi) open sources often provide additional information. “
What makes ‘a good forensic investigation’?
”It is very important that the so-called ‘chain of evidence’ and ‘chain of custody’ are safeguarded. The research must be conducted on the basis of a clear objective – the question to end – and the research results must stand up in a possible lawsuit. In short, responsible research by well-equipped specialists.
As a researcher it is important to master all phases of an e-discovery procedure. The so-called EDRM model shows all these phases. Inception is one of the most important steps in this process. It starts with selecting the correct data from sources and extracting and processing the data in a responsible manner. The principle of ‘garbage in, garbage out’ also applies here.
In addition, we believe it is important that the implementation of the technology is closely aligned with (the interests of) the client and his lawyer. This is generally custom work, in which good interaction between the specialist, lawyer and client is the critical success factor. The more the specialist speaks the language of the lawyer and knows and understands his interests, the more successful the investigation will be. At the same time, you must ensure that you as a specialist do not take the position of the lawyer, and that this does not happen the other way around. We experience that through close cooperation between lawyer and digital forensic analyst significantly better results are achieved for the client. ”
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How do your clients in the legal profession experience the technology?
“With regard to e-discovery, there are many examples where the lawyer is much better able to assess data by using the right platforms and support. Simply put, the software ensures that the lawyer can search, classify, mark, file forms and add notes through a simple user interface. Once the lawyer has subsequently selected the data relevant to the procedure, these can be extracted from the dataset and presented in a neat and presentable manner in a forensically responsible manner. ”