Q&A: Conor Gavin Discusses E-Discovery Trends and Segment Growth in Ireland
Demand for e-discovery and digital forensics capabilities is growing rapidly in Ireland. FTI Consulting is stepping up to the market’s emerging needs with the expansion of experts in the region and solutions to address the increasing complexity of litigation, investigations and governance in today’s climate. We recently spoke with Conor Gavin, a Senior Director in the segment’s Dublin office, to discuss his focus for supporting clients in Ireland and what he sees as the key issues for the year ahead.
Thanks for taking the time for this Q&A, Conor. Can we start with your background and what brought you to your current role at FTI Consulting?
“I’ve now been with FTI Consulting for roughly nine months, following an eight-year run as part of the e-discovery and forensics practice in BSI’s Dublin office. During my time at BSI, I served as the technical lead on e-discovery and forensics projects. Gráinne Bryan, now the head of the Technology segment in Ireland, was a frequent client of mine when she was working in similar roles with two of Dublin’s top law firms. We had developed a strong working relationship over the years, and when I decided I was ready for a change, she made the choice to join FTI Consulting an easy one."
“FTI Consulting’s culture of high standards, work ethic and unique approach to consulting really appealed to me. It’s energising to be part of a big firm that leans heavily on technology innovation, offers immense opportunity to grow and takes on some of the most complicated and interesting projects out there. There’s also a lot of growth potential in Ireland, so I was very interested in joining the core team in Dublin and being a part of its development."
“Starting a new job in the middle of a pandemic and learning the ropes while not being able to meet with people in person is difficult, though. My prior relationship with Gráinne, and with Inés Rubio—who we brought on late last year—has smoothed out the transition."
So, with your focus on growing the practice in Ireland, what solutions and practice areas do you plan to build out in the coming year?
“In the short term, we’ll primarily focus on our core capabilities in e-discovery and supporting clients in civil litigations and disputes. That will include working closely with law firm clients with whom our team has strong relationships. We’re also putting a lot of energy into supporting clients with regulatory investigations and data review challenges, particularly in the areas of financial services and M&A activity. "
“Longer term, I’ll also be looking to further develop our offerings around data protection, focusing on where it intersects with e-discovery. So, looking at areas—such as data subject access requests, data breach identification and identifying instances of sensitive information in certain data sets—where we can apply e-discovery technology to solve problems. Inés is also focused on this, so we’ll be collaborating on bringing forth new approaches that help clients address the constantly-changing data protection and privacy landscape. "
What do you make of the chatter about an expected uptick in litigations and investigations resulting from the pandemic? Are there any key challenges you anticipate for clients in Ireland and EMEA?
“In the e-discovery space over the last decade, I’ve noticed that when there’s a large, chaotic event, it takes time for the litigation response to kick in. For example, years ago, Bernie Madoff was driving a lot of litigations and claw back efforts, but most of these matters in our region were triggered about 12-18 months after the scheme collapsed in the U.S. Similarly, we saw a huge explosion of cases a year after the economic fallout of 2008."
“The pandemic is the latest global crisis, and we’re still in the midst of it. The downstream legal and regulatory effects will start to emerge in the coming months and year. Contracts have been broken, and soon, legal teams will be looking at what terms were violated. We’ll see an increase in disputes around exposure, insurance claims and payment agreements, because a pandemic of this nature was surely not accounted for in most contractual clauses."
Aside from a wave of future issues relating to the pandemic, do you have any other predictions for 2021?
“Uncertainty around Brexit and how it will impact data protection regulations will affect the way organisations in Ireland and the rest of Europe manage their data and approach cross-border data transfers. We’ll have to wait and see how much the U.K. will break from the EU in terms of data privacy standards and policies. Among local clients, we’re already seeing a reluctance to use U.K.-based systems and providers for investigations due to fears over whether the transfer of sensitive data out of EU member countries to the U.K. will be considered stable and compliant under GDPR. Some of the Irish market’s openness to working with U.K. businesses will realign to providers in France and other EU member countries."
Can you share a previous client matter that stands out as a relevant example of where FTI Consulting services are headed?
“I previously worked on a matter involving post-data breach analysis. Data breaches are happening all the time, for organisations of all sizes. How companies handle the response to regulators, quantify a breach, understand the nature of the data taken and identify who was impacted is a very big problem at the moment. The matter I worked on was an interesting test case for how to use e-discovery processes for post-breach work. I think this is an area we’ll continue to watch and explore in the future."
You mentioned earlier that you’re motivated by FTI Consulting’s emphasis on technology. What area of e-discovery innovation is most interesting to you right now?
“I’ve taken a keen interest in the use of AI and supervised learning in e-discovery. I’m starting to get more hands-on with the technologies and the ways we can use AI to help improve document review processes. As a firm, we’re very invested in emerging approaches and technology that bring AI into document review and are making sure our consultants have room to experiment and build upon the latest tools, trends and best practices."
The pandemic has upended how we all spend our time in and out of work. What has that looked like for you?
“Days are so much quieter now. My life of travel and going out to live music have been put on hold this last year. Instead, I’ve spent more time exploring my neighborhood—walking and cycling and spending weekends touring around locally. I’ve taken a lot of beautiful walks and discovered parks and other outdoor spaces I would have missed if I had still been traveling internationally. So, I’ve really enjoyed that."
The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting, its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals.