Two years ago, lawyer and blogger Keith Lee started a lawyer-networking group on the messaging application Slack. Called Lawyer Slack, the group expanded to include more than 100 channels dedicated to a variety of legal topics and several hundred members who exchange more than 20,000 messages a week.
But as the network grew, Lee became concerned about the limitations of Slack as a community platform. He also spent increasing amounts of time working on the group — time for which he received no compensation.
So today Lee is introducing a new version of Lawyer Slack with a new name, LawyerSmack, and a new subscription requirement for membership.
In a blog post, Lee explains why he created LawyerSmack and what he hopes to do with it.
His concern with continuing to use Slack, he writes, is twofold. First, he wants to build out a member directory that is more robust than Slack’s directory functionality allows. Second, he wants to be able to preserve certain topics and conversations for future use, which Slack’s conversational interface does not allow.
So, while LawyerSmack will continue to use Slack as its primary platform, Lee is also launching a permanent forum and a user directory.
Regarding the membership fee, Lee says he puts in a lot of time overseeing the community. To address that, he sees only two options — either take VC money and become beholden to investors and advertisers or charge for access and remain beholden to members.
Opting for the latter, he settled on charging an annual membership fee of $99. This is a “reasonable fee for membership access to a solid professional organization,” he writes.
Lee says that he will cap the size of the community at 1,000 members. Those who sign up by Jan. 5 will permanently lock in the $99 annual fee. Members will also have access to exclusive deals and discounts, he says. Lee reviews all applications to confirm that applicants are lawyers.