Finding Domain Names For Law Firms
By K. William Kyros, Esq.
Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly- May 1, 2000
Before setting up a web site, a lawyer or law firm is faced with the daunting task of deciding upon what their address will be in cyberspace. For this article I surveyed what Massachusetts lawyers have already decided upon, I examine what factors should be considered in selecting a domain name and offer some tips for overcoming the obstacles likely to be encountered in getting your name on the web.
Every page on the web has a unique address, or URL (usually pronounced as "you are ell"), which is acronym for "Uniform Resource Locator." A URL consists of several components. Take for example the URL of a page on the Lawyers Weekly site:
The http:// (stands for hypertext transfer protocol) tells a user they are looking at a web page. Given the pervasiveness of the internet most people assume this component and most browsers will supply it. The "www" (world wide web) is adopted as a matter of general practice but not essential to a URL, other prefixes can be used. The third and most important component of a URL is the domain name (which will be the focus of this article), in this example masslaw.com. Finally we have /mafirms.htm. The slash tells the browser to look into another directory containing a page called mafirms.htm
The heart of a URL is the domain name which you can purchase from Network Solutions or a number of other domain name registrars for about $70 (excluding hosting and set-up costs). The domain name signifies your space on the internet and the easier it is to remember and spell the more valuable it will be to you. Additionally, choice of a domain name is important because it will often be used as part of the firm email address.
There are a number of different approaches to choosing a domain name. The selection process is governed by the arbitrary constraints of internet protocols established before most people had any idea what the internet was. Additionally the element of scarcity plays a key role since internet start-ups, speculators and the competition have purchased names at a furious pace leaving fewer and fewer options.
There are several species of domain names ending in .com, .net, .org The current trend is to invest in a .com (stands for commercial) this is purely historical accident, but most people who type in a URL will instinctively add .com . Indeed while the original Network Solutions site was at internic.net, an enterprising person purchased internic.com and resold domain names at slighter higher prices, making millions from the tendency to type in .com to the exclusion of .net and others suffixes. Eventually the .com may not be significant with the introduction of dozens of other dot endings but law firms today should be dot coms.
Many firms start by looking for descriptive names, but after searching find that most of the good names have been taken. Indeed a great name like Massachusettslawyers.com is surprisingly not owned by a law firm at all-but is rather a pornography site. The owner is apparently banking on the fact people looking for lawyers and porn have something in common.
A few firms still try to find descriptive names: a solo practitioner in Haverill has mydayincourt.com; a specialist in child injury cases has childtort.com; a firm specializing in ERISA has erisa-lawyers.com; a criminal appeals firm appealslaw.com. Some firms aim for humor such as darngoodlawyer.com and meethalfway.com Others opt for a key word approach such as lawyer-injury.com the internet home of a lawyer in Medford presumably hoping the words in the URL will affect his search engine placement.
Until very recently names were limited to 23 characters, but that limitation has recently been extended to 63 characters. This means that very long descriptive names are now available meaning you may register Massachusettslawyerwholikeshakespeare.com.
Most firms are content to just have their name. One trend is to choose a very short abbreviation such as the firms initials. Here we find Massachusetts law firms designated as: fhe.com (Foley Hoag, Eliot), tht.com (Testa, Hurwitz & Thibeault), dmb.com (Devine, Millet & Branch), fhdj.com (Finegan, Hickey, Dinsmoor & Johnson) Unfortunately for a firm shopping for a name these days nearly every three letter combination has been registered. And last year a group of British students registered 75,000 domain names (of the 456'976 possible combinations) in an effort to corner the market on the remaining four letter dot com addresses.
Faced with these obstacles many firms have decided that appending "law" to their initials is a worthy solution, so we get bhpklaw.com (Brody, Hardoon, Perkins & Kesten), ghlaw.com (Gadsby and Hannah), haslaw.com (Hinckley, Allen, Snyder), hklaw.com (Holland & Knight).
For solo practitioners, the trend has been to select your last name (unless it is very common) and if already taken you can add "law" as in kyroslaw.com
Other firms have decided to run the words of the firm name together to create a new internet word. This approach yields haledorr.com, cushingdolan.com, dwyercollora.com, burnslevinson.com, etc. This approach is especially effective for people who look for a firm by what experts refer to as "URL guessing". User studies have shown that many people will simply type in the name of the company they are looking for. This means that abbreviations such as bromsun.com (Bromberg & Sunstein) or barronstad.com (Barron & Stadfield) while shorter may not be as easy to remember because of the arbitrariness of the abbreviation.
The options above are usually effective choices, being easy to recall and spell (Many lawyers know the agony of spelling out a difficult name over the phone). There are other species of URL's that should be mentioned. These include URLs that are actually part of another domain name. Such as the URLs offered by West Group, Martindale-Hubbell, Bell Atlantic or Boston.com.
Few would argue that URLs such as http://go.boston.com/sites/mata9/home.html (the home page of the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys) are easy to remember or spell. Other names such as http://lakinsolomongold.wld.com (West Group) criminaldefense.baweb.com (Bell Atlantic), http://www.lawyers.com/bonsignorelaw (Marinsdale-Hubbell) are less effective because they are in fact part of the domain name of another company and the URL actually points to a subdirectory on that companies server. Such names are traditionally more difficult to promote in the search engines and less professional than having your own domain name.
Reprinted with permission of Lawyers Weekly.
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