Having announced my departure from Avvo earlier this week, Sarah Glassmeyer asked the following question on Twitter:
So @lawyerist and @rightbrainlaw are shifting towards building community and there's (grudgingly admitting its existence) LawyerSmack… seems like a trend. Are people seeking out what they're not finding through traditional bar associations?
— Sarah Glassmeyer (@sglassmeyer) April 18, 2018
I can’t speak for what Lawyerist and Keith Lee are building other than to to tip my hat and tell them both that I respect them a great deal and am impressed by what they’ve done so far.
I also can’t say that I’m replacing traditional bar associations. I definitely have many opinions about traditional bar associations (here’s a primer) but my aim is not to replace them. At least, not yet.
Here’s what I know about what I’m building and why (in no particular order and without any real continuity between the ideas) :
- The internet is a powerful way of connecting people: I’ve thought a lot about the power of technology and the internet during my time at Avvo. I’ll leave it to smarter people and deeper thinkers to really expound on these topics but one thing is very clear to me: the internet is an incredibly powerful tool to connect people who wouldn’t otherwise connect, to encourage those people to share ideas amongst themselves and to disseminate information and ideas. While targeted and analytical advertising will probably continue to dilute the “free” internet on third party platforms there is still significant opportunity to find your people, create a space for them to connect, and share your ideas with them. I’m into that.
- I already have a community . . . or, at least, a modest audience: As it became increasingly clear to me that my time at Avvo was coming to an end and, simultaneously, I became increasingly sure I wanted to do my own thing, I did an inventory of the resources that I had and the opportunities they presented. One thing of which I’m incredibly proud, and for which I’m tremendously grateful, are the thousands of people who have heard me speak over the last few years or the others who keep track of me on the internet somehow, be it on the Lawyernomics blog, Twitter, or LinkedIn (my Facebook presence is almost non-existent, a story for another time). Building a product or service from scratch to offer to some amorphously defined customer seemed hard and, frankly, not that interesting. Following the lead of other “audience-centric” entrepreneurs like Rand Fishkin or Brian Clark, who built businesses by developing an audience and then serving that audience, seems much easier to me and much closer to what I am already doing and what I want to do.
- I wanted the thing to be economically self-sustaining: Having given a lot away over the last few years in working to build communities and in other endeavors large and small, I was laser focused on having something that was economically self-sustaining. I wanted, to some extent, to capitalize upon the inherent human need for economic security and desire for gain in both myself and in others to grow something meaningful. While I don’t know whether that makes me more or less like a bar association, or whether it’s just a random desire of mine, I can say that even some of the best bar associations are incredibly political beasts that can have, particularly of late, precarious economic footing. I’ve chosen to subject my ideas to the unforgiving forces of the market in exchange for greater clarity and control if I succeed.
So, I don’t know whether I (or others) are filling some previously met now unmet need opened by flagging bar associations. What I can say is that the initial response to what I’m doing has been really positive and, even more than that, connecting with this audience resonates on a deep level with me. If I can build and scale this thing, that’ll be pretty cool.
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