The Pros and Cons of .lawyer and .law Domain Names

law-lawyer-domain-namesDid you know that, as a law firm, you have options for your website address other than .com?

Since 2015, law firms have been able to register .lawyer and .law domain names.

That means your website could be:

www.xyz.law instead of www.xyzlaw.com.

And your email address could be:

yourname@xyz.law instead of yourname@xyzlaw.com.

If you didn’t know this, it’s probably a good indicator that these domain names have not really set the legal world alight.

But are they worth registering? Are they really the “trusted name for legal professionals”? How much are they and what is there to gain (or lose) from going down this path? Do they improve your Google rankings?

Here we cover the pros and cons of .law and .lawyer domain names.


What are Domain Names, URLs & TLDs?

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Your website address is probably either www.xyz.com or www.xyz.ca if you’re in Canada; perhaps www.xyz.net if you were unlucky and couldn’t get the .com name you wanted.

That’s your URL. Or, if you want to impress your colleagues at dinner parties, your Uniform Resource Locator.

And your domain name is xyz.com, xyz.ca or xyz.net.

Domain names have been around since 1985 when the dot.com era first started gaining traction.

It’s most intuitive to think of them as addresses that uniquely identify a website.

Top Level Domains refer to the part of the domain name that follows the dot. They generally recognize either of the following about an organization’s web presence:

  • Its objective: .com/.gov/.edu
  • Its location: .ca/.co.uk/.com.au

For many years, the range of Top Level Domains (TLDs) available relating to an organization’s objective was limited.

To tell the difference between a website for a lawyer, an accountant, and a plumber you had to glean information from the domain name or click through to the website to find out.

That changed in 2013, when ICANN started a push for more industry-specific naming on the web: more than 1,300 new names were approved.

Now you can identify yourself as a lawyer, attorney or law firm simply from your domain name extension.


Which legal TLDs are available?

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ICANN introduced legal extensions to domain names in 2015. There was a lot of fanfare at the time.

John Morgan, chairman of the new domain said:

“It’s incredible… It gives everybody the opportunity to have a one-time reset for the domain name of their dreams, and it will probably never happen again when you have a domain like this in a field like ours.”

The introduction of these domains marked the first major change to law firm Internet ‘handles’ since the start of the dot-com era.

In particular, they were frequently touted as a huge asset to law firms looking to boost their search rankings.

But we’ll see how that’s turned out a little later.

Currently, three types of top level domain names are available for law firms:

  • .law
  • .lawyer
  • .attorney

Note that anybody can register a .lawyer or .attorney domain name. That should be a red flag in itself.

However, .law domains are restricted to:

  • Qualified lawyers and law firms
  • Courts of law
  • Law schools, and
  • Legal regulators and state bar associations.

How does the pricing compare to .com domains?

Following are some general pricing guidelines for purchasing these domains. Note that prices do depend on where you buy from:

  • .law
    • Generally, from $73-$300.
    • Average is $99-$124.
    • You’ll also find highly competitive domains like newyorkdivorce.law going for thousands of dollars.
  • .lawyer
    • $10-$114, depending on the domain.
    • Average $20-40.
    • Again highly competitive domains are priced much higher.
  • .attorney
    • $10-$114, depending on the domain.
    • Average $20-40.
    • Again highly competitive domains are priced much higher.

The price of these domains has dropped since their launch. That’s quite revealing in itself. You didn’t use to be able to find a .law domain for less than $200.

However, .com  domains generally cost from a few dollars up to $20. So the legal TLDs are still more expensive.

And remember: the costs apply annually as domain names need to be renewed each year (and the renewal price is subject to change at any time!).


Do they impact your website’s organic SEO rankings?

In a word… no.

Let’s look at the example of a high-priced domain like bostonfamily.lawyer.

Previous thinking with search engine optimization was that these keyword-rich exact match domains would help a website rank better.

So, if someone was searching for boston family lawyer, the top sites in the search engine results pages would be the ones with an exact match URL.

But that’s not the case. The powers-that-be have said so… and we’ve seen the proof in search results.

The view from Mountain View (Google HQ)

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Since Google’s update in 2012, neither bostonfamily.lawyer nor bostonfamilylaw.com are guaranteed to be the top sites for that search term simply by virtue of their URLs.

Google decided not to be fooled so easily.

It’s well aware which websites are lawyer websites: Google My Business categories, structured markup, Rank Brain and its crawlers continuously checking content take care of that. They don’t need to be told through the URL.

So, just because you purchase a particular domain it does not guarantee you will receive an advantage in search. You still need to consider items like your content, the quality of the information on your website and backlinks.

In case you have your doubts, here are a few additional resources.

Matt Cutts of Google said in 2012:

“Google will attempt to rank new TLDs appropriately, but I don’t expect a new TLD to get any kind of initial preference over .com, and I wouldn’t bet on that happening in the long-term either.  If you want to register an entirely new TLD for other reasons, that’s your choice, but you shouldn’t register a TLD in the mistaken belief that you’ll get some sort of boost in search engine rankings.”

And John Mueller later added:

“Overall, our systems treat new gTLDs like other gTLDs (like .com & .org). Keywords in a TLD do not give any advantage or disadvantage in search.”

“The TLD is not something we take into account”

That’s fairly emphatic. The TLD is basically ignored and provides no search advantage. This is borne out in search engine results pages:

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Of the top five organic search results for “boston family lawyer”, two are actual law firms and the other three are law firm directories.

Neither of the two law firms has an exact match URL. In fact, they just use theirname.com. Other factors are helping them rank well for this highly competitive term.

If you want a glimpse of what those factors might be, check out our guide to law firm SEO.


What are the main pros of these domain names?

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The .law domain may have some value in branding. It puts your stake in the ground that you’re a law firm or in the legal field.

It may distinguish you from competing law firms.

However, if your firm is relying on your website address to do that, there are probably other marketing issues at play – and a TLD is not going to fix them.

Besides, it’s difficult to see where the domain name XYZ.law has an advantage over XYZlaw.com. The latter equally distinguishes you as a law firm and your credentials should be made self-evident on your website and in other marketing materials.

As a new law firm, it might be worth considering a .law domain if all variants of your desired domain name are registered by someone else, however, as an established firm, it’s tough to make a compelling case to switch.

The .lawyer and .attorney domains have even less going for them. They can be registered by anybody, so are practically useless in terms of credibility.


Bottom line: What’s in a name?

…and that’s all it is: a name.

That’s why they’re often termed “vanity domains.” They serve little practical use.

How many leading law firm websites have you seen actively using .lawyer or .law domains?

They may have registered the names to protect their brand and prevent anyone else registering them – but few seem to be using them actively.

Some have set up redirects from their .law domain to their primary .com domain.

Try typing in these and you’ll see what I mean…

  • daypitney.law
  • dentons.law
  • armstrongteasedale.law

The fact that there are so few .law domains being used as primary domains or featuring in search results tells its own story.

The promised ”domain name gold rush” in the ABA Journal has never really happened.

Let’s go back to the first rule of law firm marketing: focus on what gets results.

The simple fact is that .lawyer or .law domain names may look good on business cards but aren’t going to get you higher in the search rankings, generate more leads or find you new clients.

A good marketing strategy will do that. Though it may involve a little more time and effort.

In short, don’t believe the hype! A decent dot com name (without any dashes or difficult spellings) will serve you just fine.

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