Lawyers, what does your email address say about you?

Note: This article has been repurposed from another blog of mine.

Lawyer communicate by email almost as much as they do by phone or letter. Not a day goes by that I don’t get at least a handful of emails from other attorneys. What amazes me is that some attorneys are still using email services like hotmail.com or AOL.

Fifteen years ago, a lawyer with an email address of any kind was on the cutting edge. A lawyer with a “.com” email address was a rare person. Only the largest law firms, it seemed, had the financial resources to have an address like smith@lawfirm.com. As web site hosting and domain name registration became easier, other firms and lawyers began to adopt the .com email addresses.

In 2011, setting up your own .com email service is criminally easy. It’s very inexpensive, too. I’ve seen services as low as $4 per month–if that’s going to break your law practice budget, you have serious problems.

So, why should lawyers dump their hotmail.com or yahoo.com email addresses? The answer is simple: your email address is a reflection of your law practice. It is also a reflection of your success–or lack thereof. When lawyers use an email system like gmail.com, it suggests several possibilities:

  • The lawyer cannot figure out how to set up a personalized .com email service. This makes potential clients wonder what else the lawyer may not be able to figure out. Can the lawyer even use basic word processing software?
  • The lawyer cannot afford to set up the more professional service. Why can’t the lawyer afford it? Is the lawyer not good enough to get clients who pay?
  • The lawyer doesn’t care about a professional appearance. Will the lawyer show up in court wearing an old wrinkled suit?
  • The lawyer can’t provide the service that a larger law firm can.

Whether we like it or not, appearances matter. When lawyers use a service like hotmail.com, they send the message that they are not professional. That is most likely not the case (indeed, I know some lawyers using these sorts of email services who are, in fact, excellent lawyers–and I don’t hesitate to refer people to them), but some potential clients will wonder.

If you are an attorney and you’re still using aol.com or any of the other email services as your email address, it’s past time to upgrade. You need to register a domain name and set up a personalized email service. Gmail.com addresses are fine for communicating with friends and family.  Clients, however, now expect their attorneys to be in the top tier. When you use hotmail.com for your email, you’re saying you’re not even close to the top tier. If you think I’m kidding, read what knowledgeable people think about email addresses.

Take a look at your email address like it’s your letterhead. Does your letterhead say “I’m a professional lawyer” or does it say “I also own a bowling alley“?

[Disclosure: some time ago I set up a gmail account as a “mirror” email account. I forwarded all emails to this address so they would be archived and searchable. Despite my best efforts, some lawyers picked up that address and use it as my email. I wish they wouldn’t for the reasons above, but I also know that address book management is low on everyone’s priority list. Just please don’t think I ignore my own advice.]

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