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“I’m convinced that we have to look for what comes after email” – DLA Piper rolls out internal ‘Twitter for enterprise’

Added on the 29th Jul 2015 at 10:44 am
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In an idea that has yet to be fully embraced by its staff, DLA Piper has introduced its own internal Twitter for enterprise called Grapevine.

Using Greets instead of Tweets, Grapevine is an open security model which is being used to send messages; spread news, information and know-how across the firm; and send automated messages to update fee-earners on areas such as matter status and bill payments.

It is envisaged that Grapevine, which is the brainchild of chief information officer Daniel Pollick and his team, will become a replacement for the ‘no action required by you’ element of email, allowing staff to consume news when they choose.

Pollick said: “I’m convinced that the newsfeed model is partly the successor to email; a lot should happen in the Twitter way where you are consuming optional news and can go on when you feel like it.”

Take up so far has been reasonably slow and Pollick said: “Either it will fade and die and we’ll have to give up and try something else, or it will be a success, but I’m convinced that we have to look for what comes after email.

“The problem with email today is that it is a horrible mashup of stuff I don’t need to see, stuff I need to see but which requires no action by me, and stuff that I need to act on, with no way of distinguishing between these elements without reading each one. No wonder people hate it!”

DLA is no stranger to slow burn innovation, with other examples including the roll out of Microsoft Lync as a form of Skype for enterprise, which now means that hundreds of lawyers no longer have a phone at their desk, instead using their PCs to receive and make calls.

Pollick worked with DLA’s senior leadership team to help drive the change. He said: “I thought the only way to get people to start using Lync would be if they get calls from senior people so I corralled people to start calling.”

The effort was helped when chief operating officer Andrew Darwin moved to Australia in 2013 and used Lync constantly. Notably much of the private one-to-one messaging that used to be done over email is now being done over Lync.

“It’s about harnessing leadership to drive change,” Pollick observed, adding: “but you’ve got to prepared for the occasional failure.”


  1. Charles Christian says:

    Interesting to see DLA addressing the “what comes next after email” issue ..CC

  2. Dan Hauck says:

    We could not agree more. As the past year has shown, the answer to “what comes next after email” is team chat. Tools like Slack, Hipchat and others have shown real-world business value of team chat.

    We built ThreadKM for this exact reason: to give law firms the power of team chat but with the security, integrations, and matter-centricity required by law firms. It’s exciting to see the legal community embracing this kind of technology.

    • Jay Guiliano says:

      re ThreadKM – very clean product design. I just took a spin through your website and I like your streamlined concept of integrating Slack/Hipchat with something like Trello (Kanban boards). In your ThreadKM implementations, have you seen this become a replacement for, or an adjunct to, email? And have you noticed a split between lawyers migrating to increased usage of ThreadKM for internal project communications with email still functioning more for external communications?

      Last set of questions – why wouldn’t DLA move to something like ThreadKM instead of building Grapevine? This seems to be a standard approach in the legal space. Even though a vendor like ThreadKM likely has more specific expertise with the design of a such a messaging app, and the law firm understands the solution provided by something like ThreadKM, there still is the fact that a law firm still chose to roll its own solution. Is this a data control issue, a cost issue, a design/features issue, a research/discover solution issue, or something else?

      • Carl Boyes says:

        Hi Jay,

        I’m the Application Architect at DLA Piper and worked with the team on Grapevine.

        ThreadKM is indeed a clean well-implemented product. We created the Grapevine ‘twitter like’ engine in just under three weeks, leveraging open source technologies including Ember, Node.js, CouchDB & Java. But Grapevine is much more than just twitter, it’s intelligent integration with WorkSite, Elite and various additional information systems enables powerful yet simple to use matter centric collaboration. For example, due to the performance restrictions of WorkSite, DLA Piper have 50+ WorkSite servers across 30+ countries around the globe, Grapevine abstracts away this complex topology and for the first time allows fee earners at DLA Piper quick and easy access to share documents across the globe – and from mobile devices too.

        • Dan Hauck says:

          Hi Carl,

          That’s really cool and thanks for sharing more about Grapevine. We are excited when any firm gets serious about helping lawyers work outside of email, because the benefits can be enormous, especially when you integrate with your existing technology infrastructure. Before ThreadKM, there wasn’t any similar tech on the market, so it makes sense you would roll your own!

          Just to add, ThreadKM does integrate with Worksite as well as several other popular legal applications to enable file sharing, search, mobile access, and more. We’d be happy to set up a quick call to discuss ideas about attorney collaboration. Ping me on Twitter @ThreadKM if you’re interested!

      • Dan Hauck says:

        Hi Jay,

        Sorry for the delay in responding – I didn’t see your message until today.

        Thanks for your comments on ThreadKM! You are exactly right. ThreadKM takes two powerful technologies – team chat and kanban – and rolls them into a single, matter-centric platform for law firms.

        We are still early enough that we haven’t developed metrics on the effect on email volume, but we plan to release case studies as we collect that information in conjunction with our customers. For our own part, I can tell you that the number of emails exchanged between the team at ThreadKM is almost zero. Everything – communication, file sharing, project planning – flows through ThreadKM.

        Email will continue to have an important place in law firms: It’s an easy way to communicate outside your organization and compose your thoughts in long-form. But it’s often not the best tool for collaborating with the people you work with every day.

        ThreadKM will be at ILTACON this year, and in fact were selected as the featured “Hands On” presentation (Thurs. Sept. 3, 9am). For many attendees, it will be the first time they’ve encountered ThreadKM or this technology. We’re looking forward to sharing it!

  3. Jay Guiliano says:

    The adoption will take some time. I’m curious why DLA Piper devoted the resources to Grapevine instead of trying something like Slack instead.

    We use Slack at Patdek and it has virtually replaced email, but we started with HipChat and never became reliant on email so that’s not much of a surprise.

    My suspicion is that this is more grounded in the legal community. At my law firm Slack adoption is dismal. Email remains a giant dumpster for so many different types of communication; so email remains the primary communication channel despite how terrible that mechanism is. Any screenshots of the Grapevine interface or usage stats?

  4. Simon Williams says:

    Interesting slant on the app re: replacing emails, but good to see it announced all the same! Congrats to the team! 🙂

  5. Joebeck says:

    Email is good enough. Just tag it. It beats trying to understand some new model being forced down your throat, that only the development team really understands.

  6. Charles Christian says:

    Another update – Twitter have just announced they are increasing the length of direct messages from a max of 140 characters to a max of 10,000 (this is still only half of what you get with Facebook Messenger btw) ..Ed

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