Throwback: Jeff Salling's Business Development Ideas for Relativity Fest-goers

by Keely McKee on July 08, 2016

Community , Law Firm , Professional Development

We recently announced that Daniel Pink, presenter of one of the top ten most popular TED Talks, will speak at Relativity Fest this October. Inspired by Daniel's work on the social side of business, we wanted to take another look at Jeff Salling's tips for making the most of your conversations at the show.

Finding a forum where an industry community can share ideas, ask questions, and discuss trends is invaluable. Every year, the kCura team strives to make tangible, actionable lessons the fuel for Relativity Fest because these lessons make a real difference in case teams’ effectiveness back in the office.

To get an attendee’s insight on how this experience influences e-discovery strategy from a business perspective, we sat down with Jeff Salling, director of business development at Complete Discovery Source (CDS). He discussed why he attends Relativity Fest every year and shared some of what he looks forward to most about the show.

Keely: What does an attorney in a business development role get out of attending an e-discovery conference?

Jeff: I like getting more technical. It’s helpful to take a closer look at the topics and software beyond high-level concepts and use cases. For example, I really liked Threading in Relativity: A Technical Deep Dive at Relativity Fest. I’m familiar with email threading from a high-level perspective, but I do not always get the opportunity to get as technical as I’d like. With a session like this, I’m able to get more knowledge about the exact steps performed, as opposed to just the purpose and theory behind it. I have the legal background—Relativity Fest allows me to expand my technical background.

How do you approach the networking opportunities at industry events?

I am looking for people with a different viewpoint. I want to talk to the more technical attendees around me to find out what they are doing with Relativity. For example, if you are using it for legal hold, how is it working out for you, and what do you find challenging? What are you using the software for right now, and what is great about it? What do you want to improve on in terms of how you use it?

Even if I talk to someone who is not doing things the way we are at CDS, it is good to know how and why they are using the platform. As an educator of e-discovery—I also teach it at John Marshall Law School—I want to dig deep and help people understand it. So just because someone may be a competitor, it does not mean I won’t exchange ideas and discuss some of the things we are doing. Relativity Fest is a really phenomenal forum for collaborating on new ideas without giving away your secret sauce.

Are there certain people you make a point to connect with every year at Relativity Fest?    

It is not uncommon to meet somebody at Relativity Fest and gradually start shooting each other emails to see what’s going on and what they’re working on. The conference has grown every year, offering a bigger marketplace of ideas, which is what I want. Each year I meet a few more people in addition to connecting with people I’ve met in previous years. If I had suggested something to them, I can find out how it worked. If someone suggested an idea to me, I follow up to show my appreciation and tell them how I have implemented it.

What lessons from past Relativity Fests have you applied to your work?

In one example, I got into a discussion at last year’s Relativity Fest about the importance of privacy and protecting a client’s data. Recently, I spoke at John Marshall Law School to a group of new attorneys about e-discovery. During my presentation, I shared some ideas that came out of my conversation with other Relativity Fest attendees. Specifically, I noted that law firms are a new target for hackers. Why try to hack some of the best security in the world, such as large corporations, when you can attack the law firm? I want to make sure new attorneys are well aware of the duty they owe their clients when it comes to data security. We take data security very seriously at CDS. Relativity Fest is also a great venue to advance client relationships, which is why a lot of people go.

I also like that Relativity Fest gives you a glimpse into all phases of the EDRM. Many of us in the industry focus on one or two specific phases. As an attorney, my first several years were spent becoming an expert on managing reviews and implementing defensible technology-assisted review (TAR). I was very fortunate to work with the early adopters of TAR and help them develop best practices. Now, I need to be knowledgeable of all phases of the EDRM to best serve my clients. Relativity Fest allows me an opportunity to not only attend seminars, but interact with those who have that same skill set.

You’ve attended every Relativity Fest since 2011. What keeps you coming back?

It is really about hearing what other people are doing. In particular, it’s great to learn about the platform applications and integrations that other people create because we do a wide variety of that at CDS. A lot of times I hear about really great ideas that are similar to what we have been working on, which is validating. Plus, we can use the ideas from some of these discussions to improve what we have.

When I first started attending, it was from a consulting and managerial standpoint. Now, it is from a business development and networking standpoint. Basically, Relativity Fest has something for anyone involved in the wonderful world of e-discovery. I enjoy any event that collects so many creative minds in one venue. Typically, e-discovery is not your dinner conversation (except in my house). It is wonderful to interact with people who share that interest.

What are you looking forward to at this year’s Relativity Fest?

First, I am interested to see what kCura will do next. Each year it’s something better than the last.

Second, it is such a great opportunity to connect with people from other locations, including my own coworkers from other offices. I work with people from across the country as well as internationally. In 2014, for example, I had the opportunity to meet some acquaintances from the Netherlands that I had emailed hundreds of times, but had never actually met in person.

The whole point of this industry is to be electronic, meaning most of our work is done on a computer. So many of us have to be mobile, and it’s great to see everyone come together. With Relativity Fest, you’re able to get people outside of the office and simply spend time with them.


Jeff Salling is the director of business development at Complete Discovery Source (CDS). As an attorney with experience consulting in the e-discovery industry, Jeff helps CDS’s clients solve their e-discovery challenges efficiently and effectively.


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