Understanding The New .law Domain

If you’ve ever downloaded tax forms from www.irs.gov or visited a university’s website like www.harvard.edu, you’ve visited a separate top-level domain. And if you’ve been reading up on legal industry news lately, there’s a good chance you’ve heard about the new .law domain. But what exactly is a domain and why should you care? Well let’s start at the top.

A gTLD (generic top-level domain) is the portion of a web address to the right of the final dot. For example, the vast majority of websites end in .com – a gTLD originally attributed to commercial websites but now open to anyone. There are many other unrestricted domains available today including .biz, .net and .org. These other options are certainly legitimate, but .com is by far the most dominant domain online today.

Unfortunately that dominance in past years has created a market for “good” website URLs much like the 19th century gold rush. Squatters and prospectors swooped into any available space in the hopes of registering virtually any domain with potential value. The result: an online landscape that feels like all the best plots are taken.

Somewhat less chaotic are restricted domains like .gov, .mil and .edu. These domains are limited to verified government, military or educational entities, providing a measure of reassurance for web users. For example, one can safely assume that www.harvard.edu is the official website of Harvard University, and not some malicious web entity that relies on accidental traffic.

From both a consumer and an SEO perspective, a verified, restricted top-level domain provides a level of confidence that you know who you are dealing with online. Which leads us to today and the .law domain.

Officially available since late July, the sale of generic .law domains is restricted to verified legal entities such as law firms, legal publications, law school guides and legal forums. This will benefit legal consumers by ensuring that any .law website is owned and operated by a verified legal entity.

Will it benefit your firm? Possibly. There are several specific cases where securing a .law website is a smart play for law firms. First among these is as a defensive tactic to protect your brand and ensure your competition doesn’t snag the desirable .law equivalent of your current web address.

I’ll dive deeper into these scenarios in the coming weeks, but for now take a moment to think about the .law opportunity and consider how your firm might benefit from this new web space dedicated exclusively to lawyers.

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