Attorney Email Addresses: Where You @?

Imagine for a moment that you’re hiring a financial advisor. You’ve narrowed your choice down to two possible candidates.

  • Tom Thielson can be reached at TThielson@hotmail.com
  • Tim Talbert can be reached at TimTalbert@TalbertFinance.com

Who do you want to trust with your retirement planning: Tom with his free, outdated email address or Tim with his on-brand address and professional web domain?

The fact is, appearances matter. They mattered back when lawyers first started buying 24lb bonded cotton letterhead, and they matter today where email has replaced letters as the standard form of communication.

In the face of email scams and a constant barrage of sketchy pharmaceutical junk mail, a professional email address is the bonded paper and embossed letterhead that sets your law firm apart. However, a surprising number of solo and small law firm attorneys still fail to acknowledge this importance – at the risk of their own business.

Consider the public perception your email address creates. FindLaw recently ran a survey on our legal consumer-facing website asking visitors about attorney email addresses. The results revealed an excellent opportunity for attorneys to improve their perceived trustworthiness.

When asked, “If a lawyer used a free third-party email address (i.e. name@aol.com), would that impact your decision to hire them?” over half of respondents stated that it looked unprofessional and would make them question the quality of the legal representation.

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What’s more, when asked which email addresses a consumer would trust the most, the respondents showed a dramatic preference for branded email. In fact, a branded email address outperformed the closest competition (Gmail) by nearly 50 percentage points!

Now, if you already have a custom email address, you’re probably thinking, “How many lawyers could possibly still use a Hotmail account for business email?” Well the answer might surprise you.

The 2015 ABA Legal Technology Survey Reports revealed that 32.7 percent of solo attorneys and 7.5 percent of attorneys at firms with 2–9 lawyers use a web-based provider’s domain in their email address. That’s about a third of solo attorneys sending and receiving client communications via Google, Yahoo, Hotmail/Outlook or even AOL.

Only slightly more reassuring, 16.1 percent of solos and 4.6 percent of attorneys at 2–9 people firms use their ISP-provided email address, such as @comcast.com or @midco.net.

Given the strong consumer preference for a branded email address, attorneys are chipping away at their trust and competency with every @yahoo.com email they send.

Simply put, there is no excuse for a lawyer to not have a custom domain. Email addresses are inexpensive and the technology required to send and receive from a custom-branded domain is not prohibitively complex. In fact, taking steps to own your email address is probably far less expensive than the potential revenue losses you could face when your future clients turn to a more “professional” firm.

If you’re serious about getting control of your brand, check out our white paper on law firm branding. It’s free and essential reading for any attorney who wants to gain an edge among today’s increasingly savvy legal consumer.

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