E-discovery, data privacy and information governance risks are increasingly intersecting in today’s organizations. In turn, the ways corporations manage their data, approach compliance and react to legal matters must evolve quickly. FTI Technology’s teams are focused on addressing these new challenges and opportunities. The recent addition of Managing Director Brandon Lee to the team is a prime example of FTI’s ability to provide solutions and expertise that bridge the most pressing legal, regulatory and data issues. We recently interviewed Brandon about his new role and his unique strategy for supporting in-house legal teams.
Thanks for taking time for this Q&A, Brandon. You have an extensive background that spans government investigations, digital forensics, e-discovery, security and legal operations. Can you talk about how your past experiences will coalesce at FTI?
I view myself as a data whisperer for my clients—to help them address their challenges across the full data lifecycle—including how it can be utilized, and possibly monetized, to add value for an organization.
When I take a bird’s-eye view of my career, I see an evolution of efforts. I started out as a lawyer, but always had a strong interest in tech. When e-discovery really came into being, I transitioned into legal technology consulting with a focus on e-discovery. Over the years, I advised clients across a variety of subject matters that were logically intertwined with e-discovery—including digital forensics, information governance and most recently security and privacy. Today, I view all of those practice areas through the prism of legal operations and focus my advice on how technology can be rolled-out from an operational perspective in legal departments and law firms.
You’ve held leadership positions at many prominent consulting firms, including some of the Big 4. What about FTI stood out to you?
One of the strong themes throughout the recruiting and interview process was the firm’s collaborative culture and client-centric approach. That theme drew me to FTI and is where my skills are best positioned. A global advisory firm needs to be collaborative and deploy services with a multidisciplinary focus across practices, so clients can truly rely on us as trusted advisors. FTI does this well, and I plan to expand on that to add value to our clients across a variety of challenges and opportunities.
Talk about what you’ll be doing in your new role.
I plan to help address technology needs within corporate legal departments at multinational organizations. My personal background seamlessly integrates with FTI’s strong history of working with law firms for e-discovery and digital forensics matters. At the same time, corporate legal departments are evolving and many teams need additional third-party expertise to streamline operations, strategize on tackling new challenges and approach legal technology holistically. This means helping clients with how they handle their data, and ensuring a strong position against the security and privacy implications of that data.
How does your experience as a lawyer and active member of the Wisconsin and American Bar Associations manifest in your work with clients?
Many of our clients are attorneys, and it’s critical to be able to speak their language. It gives them a sense of comfort when they are being advised by another lawyer. One thing that is often overlooked in e-discovery is that every step of the process—collection to processing to production—has a larger relevance, whether it’s a legal, business or hybrid underlying purpose. It’s not enough to be just a business person or just a technologist or just a lawyer. The team must understand the inherent “why” behind the request, and specifically the legal context of the matter at hand. FTI does a great job with this. And my background of having worked on both sides gives me an appreciation for the pressure points across every element of a matter, and a clear vantage point to understand the services and guidance clients need.
You’ve been vocal in recent years about security and trust. What do you anticipate will be the most pressing security and privacy issues clients will face in 2021?
We’re all experiencing the increase in mobility and remote access to key information. These trends are critically timely in that they allow people to do their jobs despite the pandemic, but they also create new risks. As we continue down the path of maximizing the world of mobility and remote work, it’s essential for organizations of all sizes and industries to be careful about security and privacy. It will be important this year for clients to stay very focused on how to ensure that alongside the greater opportunities for access, they equally address the increased risk these situations present.
What technology trends or advancements are you most excited about right now? How might these impact clients?
I’m really interested in the innovative ways complex data analysis is being embedded into e-discovery to drive efficiency and improve value-added outcomes. For example, analytics features are increasingly becoming the cornerstones of innovation in e-discovery, which is shifting the focus of e-discovery platforms and spurring considerable consolidation among the tech companies in our industry. The changing dynamics and enhanced use of this technology is exciting on many levels, but it will be critical for our clients to understand how to effectively leverage these analytical features and value the defensible results.
From a digital forensics perspective, I’m interested in the increasing reliance on remote collection methods. In particular, the industry needs to see continued focus on how to conduct truly defensible remote collections from computer hard drives, as well as from mobile devices.
In legal operations, matter management is a big area of opportunity. Legal departments have historically said that their backbone platform is their matter management system, which might mean any number of things depending on who you talk to. Where there’s room for innovation is digging into what is truly driving technology in a legal department—is it legal hold, or records and information management, matter management or something else? How do all of the legal technologies connect, and what can serve as an effective hub for the department? To some degree, I think many legal teams are forcing a square peg into a round hole by using traditional matter management as their foundation. I think we’ll continue to see an evolution in approaches to matter management platforms and related technology so that they more effectively ingest business advice, track decisions and engage and support all practices in the legal department.
Can you share a story from a recent client matter that stands out as particularly interesting or illustrative of the challenges in today’s climate?
This is a hard question to answer as I’ve had the opportunity to work on a lot of interesting engagements over the years. One that stands out was a sizeable global monitorship that spanned into the pandemic. Initially, the project required a lot of global travel, but we had to shift that strategy pretty quickly to support the project via remote workflows. We quickly mobilized and pivoted to remote management. Now that we as an industry have more experience conducting e-discovery and investigations remotely, I think we’ll see increased reliance on remote methods even after pandemic restrictions are lifted. That said, there will always be a need for in-person interactions and on-site handling of highly sensitive information for certain matters.
Is there anything you’d like to share about your personal life?
I’m personally invested in mentorships and sponsorships for upcoming legal technologists and other practitioners in this field. I have always been focused on the people I work with, and helping colleagues advance their careers. There’s always a lot of talk about coaching and mentoring, but beyond that, senior-level practitioners have a duty to invest in sponsorship and helping to empower up-and-coming professionals as they navigate their respective career paths. This is a mission-critical focus for me on both a personal and professional level.