Ernst & Young Forensic Party

If Ernst & Young Forensic Technology and Discovery Services manage their clients’ work as thoroughly as they manage their party invitations – as I am sure they do – it seems unlikely that they miss much. My Inbox is full of reminders and confirmations of the date, all apparently from department head Sanjay Bhandari – I say “apparently” because I was actually talking to him at the Legal Week Litigation Forum when the last of them arrived the day before the party, and I am damn sure he wasn’t sending e-mails as we spoke.

It is worth a trip down to More London even if you are not favoured with an invitation from Ernst & Young. It lies on the South Bank, just west of Tower Bridge. I found it when I spent a night at the Hilton Tower Bridge earlier in the year – it is even better by night than by day. The river frontage is a wide space with seats and those fountains which bubble gently out of the ground and then shoot up your trouser leg when you get too close. Apart from E&Y’s building, there is Boris’s bee-hive shaped office, Norton Rose, and a Marks & Spencer food store to serve as a backdrop, with HMS Belfast, 30 St Mary Axe (aka the Gherkin) and the Tower of London in front of you. I saw a dinner party taking place on a platform hanging from a crane, with waiters wandering nonchalantly around 60 feet up.

The view gets even better when you get up E&Y’s building, particularly at sunset, with a panorama from Westminster to the Tower. One probably should not choose a professional adviser on the strength of the view from its office, but it might be a tie-breaker when you come down to the last two choices.

The official excuse for the party was to welcome three new partners, Richard Indge, Maggie Stilwell and Jim McCurry and, so the invitation said, to celebrate the launch of E&Y’s eDiscovery practice. That word “launch” somehow implies that Ernst & Young are new to this space, which obviously is far from the case, not least because I come across Sanjay Bhandari speaking about eDiscovery and the wider subject of corporate information management and document retention at most of the conferences which I attend.

It is right to say, though, that the rest of us waited with curious interest for several months after Sanjay’s move from KPMG’s Forensic team to see what Ernst & Young would do with the team which they were steadily accruing. Brian Stuart joined from Linklaters at the same time. Tyrone Edward was not the only one recruited from CRA International earlier this year, and they all seemed extremely busy whenever one came across them. Sanjay explained in a short speech. He had, he reminded us, been a litigation solicitor at Baker & McKenzie before moving into eDiscovery and information management. Coming to E&Y had given him the opportunity to build the team and the infrastructure which he would expect if he were the client. That takes time, not least because they were obviously working flat out for clients in parallel with developing the service and the equipment to back it.

We were shown a mock-up of the review room. Visitors do not get to see the real thing – all the staff in this department are security-cleared E&Y employees and there are no contract workers. Examples of data sources were laid out on a table, from ordinary-looking hard drives to strange and unidentifiable things; it would be salutary for a litigation lawyer or his client to see what a diverse range of equipment might hold data. We were also shown the purpose-built server bunker, twin rows of cages with twinkling lights, fans like a Boeing taking off and, rumour had it, three Cray Supercomputers lurking somewhere. Two days’ supply of diesel is kept to fuel the generator.

On begins to see why Sanjay Bhandari keeps referring to “boys with toys” though, to be fair, he does so to point up the importance of exactly the opposite, the thinking and the process to which the computing power is servant.

The client end of all this processing and storage power was illustrated by two of Ernst & Young’s technology partners, Attenex and Autonomy showing, respectively, Attenex Patterns and Autonomy Zantaz Introspect. I watched as highlights of each of them were demonstrated to a lawyer. It doesn’t take more than a few moments to convey the searching power and flexibility of applications like this and there is business to be won in this new post-Lehman world by those who can show would-be clients – and there will be more of them now – that they have at least a grasp of the power and efficiencies of technology.

I don’t know whether it is the fall-out anticipated from Lehman Brothers’ fall which is to blame, but my desk was overflowing when I got back, rather late, to my office. I sent E&Y’s Tyrone Edward an e-mail at about 2:30am and discovered in the morning that his reply had come in – from the office – some time after I drew stumps at 4.00am. It might be that the party went on through the night. The e-mail suggested otherwise, however, and it looked as if Ernst & Young had seen their last guests off and got straight back to work.

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