In our continuing exploration of perspectives and personalities in the legal solutions industry, we recently spoke with Keith Wilson of Acorn Legal Solutions to get his take on keeping promises, delivering value through AI and TAR, and differentiating yourself in a complex industry.
You can view the full video or read a condensed version below.
Keith, you’ve worked in both the tech and services side of the ediscovery industry. Why did you choose to join the legal tech profession?
It definitely wasn’t a direct path – eight or nine years ago, I was selling software that helped corporations with employment management. Then the founder sold the firm to venture capitalists, and they made a lot of changes to the way we did things. I found myself working about 80 hours a week, and I was really getting burned out. So I went to lunch with the founder of the company, who was by that time no longer affiliated with it, and I asked him what he thought I should do.
He told me an acquaintance of his was looking for a new Head of Sales, which sounded interesting. Then he mentioned that the company had a chef that cooked lunch for everyone, everyday…I was sold as soon as I heard the word “chef,” but after I met the team and started to learn about what they did, I really got excited.
So that’s how I got into the business. The company sold a technology that plugged into Relativity, so I really got to know basically every company and law firm that was using the platform at the time.
So what do you think is your most valuable professional trait?
It’s all about being honest, and as weird as it sounds, it’s something that I don’t think a lot of people do. It’s not on purpose – I’ll give you an example. Mark Cuban has been widely quoted, basically telling salespeople that if a prospect or customer asks you if you can do something, you say yes, and then you figure out how to do it.
And that might work for some people, but not for me. I’m always cautious about making promises I might not be able to keep. I don’t want to provide bad service, and I know that if I say yes, but then realize that I have no idea how to do it, and my tech team has no idea how to do it, everyone will just be disappointed. So I make it a point to get with my tech team and my project managers first, and really understand how my customer is going to be affected. That way I can provide them with a legitimate solution instead of just saying yes and then flying by the seat of my pants.
What’s your take on vendor capabilities? Aren’t they basically all the same?
Initially, that’s what I thought: it’s the same technology and essentially the same selling points. But after I went to the services side of the business, I learned that there are a lot of differences between vendors.
For example, there are some vendors that are great at infrastructure as a service. If that’s what a customer wants, they’re going to be better off with a company that really specializes in IaaS. Or take the corporation that has 27 locations in 25 countries as an example. They often really want a vendor with a physical presence in each one of those countries, and there are vendors out there who are very good at meeting that requirement taking care of those customers. Every vendor has a set of capabilities or skills that they’re especially good at.
What about AI and TAR? Do humans still matter?
I’ve talked to a lot of my clients from back when I was on the technology side of things, and they’re using AI in just about every single case, unless the court specifically tells them they can’t. And what I’ve heard over and over is that the technology matters, but what matters more is how you use it.
So if you don’t have the right people with the necessary expertise, you’re going to quickly fall behind. It’s like cell phones. Two people can have the same exact cell phone, and one of them might barely know how to send texts, while another might be using her phone to put together a movie. It’s the same exact phone, but very different applications and very different skill sets, you inevitably get very different outcomes.
What’s your favorite thing about what you do?
Exactly what I’m doing right now. Talking to people. I love building relationships, and I know that even if one of us decides to leave the industry, I’m still going to be friends with them for a long time.
Thanks, Keith – it’s always a pleasure to talk with you.
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