Your personal injury law practice needs a website as an online brochure, but how do you pick a domain name for your law firm’s web site? What exactly is a domain name?
Your web site is located by an IP (Internet Protocol) address and looks like this http://18.104.22.168. Instead of typing a series of numbers which are difficult to remember, you can register an easier to remember domain name which becomes associated with your IP address. Similar to a 1-800 vanity phone number, some domain names pertain to the subject of the web site, while others may simply be the name or an abbreviation of your law firm.
For instance, lawyer-advertising-blog.com is the registered domain name for my blog, which is obviously for lawyer advertising. When you type that domain name, the domain name servers on the Internet know that you’re looking for http://22.214.171.124 and take you there. You can have multiple domain names pointing to the same web site.
Be sure to include your domain name on your business cards, law office letterhead, and any advertising you may use.
Following are tips to help you pick a domain name:
1) Ownership. When you register a domain name, make sure that you are the registrant of the domain name. Sometimes, web site design firms or hosting companies will register their name as the registrant for your domain name. This is an unscrupulous practice and will essentially keep you hostage. If you try to change companies, they will likely not allow you to continue use of your domain name.
2) Hyphens. There have been a lot of misunderstandings about whether to use hyphens in a domain name. First of all, the domain name you choose must not have hyphens. The domain name without hyphens is the domain name that everyone will type in the address bar of their Internet browser and the domain name that you should use in print and advertising.
The reason that some people say that you should have a domain name with hyphens is to force the search engines to see keywords in your domain name so that your web site does better in search engine results. The bigger search engines can now see the individual words even without hyphens, however, smaller search engines may not and even the bigger ones may see a word differently than you want.
Thus, the importance of hyphenated domain names has diminished, however, if you wish to use a hyphenated domain name, as I did above, you can set the DNS or domain name servers to the hyphenated domain name, but you should also register the unhyphenated domain name which you will forward to the hyphenated domain. The unhyphenated domain name is the one that you will use in print and advertising and is the more important domain name.
3) Extensions. Domain names are available with various extensions, for instance, .com, .net or .org and various new extensions. If it’s really important to you, you can take domain names in any or all of the extensions, however, if you take only one domain name, you need to register your domain name in the .com extension.
The .com extension is similar to 1-800 for telephone numbers. Everyone automatically goes to .com first. Additionally, many people including myself simply type in the domain name without the http://www. or the .com and press “control. enter”. Pressing “control, enter” will enter http://www. and .com for you, automatically taking you to a web site with .com.
4) Choosing. Choosing a domain name is a lot like choosing a name for your company or law firm. Ideally the name should be short, easy to remember, and good for branding.
5) Web site domain names and Attorney Ethics. A website name is an address, not a trade name which is prohibited. Advertise your web site name as an address, a means for people to find your web site, not a trade name. Like a vanity telephone number, some web site domain names can violate legal ethics. Make sure that your web site name avoids use of certain words which could create a potentially incorrect expectation in the mind of the consumer or violate one of the other ethics rules.
Your domain name should not imply that you are better than another lawyer or that you can accomplish something that may not actually occur. Use of words such as “BEST”, “TOP”, “FOREMOST, “LEADING”, “WIN” and similar words in a web site domain name could create a misleading expectation in the mind of the consumer and will violate ethics rules in most states.
For instance, 1-800-LEADING, LeadingLawyer.com or BestLawyer.com will violate ethics rules by implying that you are the leading lawyer or the best lawyer. The question is by what standards and who’s standards are you the best or leading and in what? 1-800-WIN-XXXX may be good for a casino, but will imply that the person who becomes a client of the firm will win money when, in fact, that may not happen and even when it does, it’s an award for just compensation, not a winning. Likewise, WinningLawyer.com or WinningCase.com will also violate ethics.
Laura Hodes in her article for the ABA Journal entitled Vanity Phone Numbers Make Your Firm Less Forgettable, quoted Will Hornsby, an expert on lawyer advertising and staff counsel in the ABA Division for Legal Services, who said that while there is nothing unethical about vanity numbers, “1-800-I-WIN-CASES would be unethical because it is making an unsubstantiated claim, creating unjustified expectations that can be true but still be misleading.”
6) Top Level Domain vs. Sub-Level Domains. A sub level domain is a second level domain under a first level domain name and can look like yourlawfirm.freehosting.com. You must have your own domain name. Do not under any circumstances use a free hosting service, since free hosting services will only give you a sub level domain. It’s sort of like typing your own letterhead on a manual typewriter.
If you do not already have a domain name for your law firm, you can get one at 8.95domains.com from Dynaserve for only $8.95/year or free when you get hosting starting at $4.95/month. If you do not want to spend the amount needed to use a web site design firm, you can choose from 20 beautifully designed law office web sites (on 3 pages) at
for around $50 (one time charge) or you can customize the template for around $300 at TemplateTuning (TemplateMonster & TemplateTuning are both divisions of the same company).