In an age where email has become a standard medium for communication among lawyers, potential clients, actual clients, opposing counsel, and judges, the way you present yourself speaks volumes about your reputation, professionalism, and credibility. And as much as I would like to be able to say that the only thing that matters is the content of one’s communiqué, its presentation in terms of look, feel, and source also greatly influence its reception.

The digital age has made it far easier and more cost effective to become a solo practitioner, allowing individuals to design their own websites, write their own articles, produce their own marketing materials, and forego the use of a secretary for communications. But with this DIY ability comes the responsibility to ensure that one’s DIY projects exude the same competence and professionalism that would come with professionally produced materials.

All this is a long-winded, overblown introduction to why I think it’s important to have your own email address instead of an email address hosted at Hotmail, MSN, Yahoo, AOL, or even Gmail (my personal webmail service of choice).

For those in the know about the history of the web, each webmail service carries its own baggage (e.g., AOL is old and sluggish, Hotmail is free and full of junk and advertisements, etc.). Whether these judgments are true or not is irrelevant — all that matters is how the recipient perceives the email address. I know that every time I see another attorney’s email address that is not part of his or her own domain, I cringe a little and find myself thinking he or she is less credible.

Mostly this is because I know how simple it is to sign up for a website and set up an email account attached to that website. You don’t even need to have a website set up, so long as you have a domain purchased for yourself!

You can purchase a domain name for as little as $10 per year at Hover (what we use for Lawyerist.com) or GoDaddy.com, and there are plenty of other options. Any good host will also have an option to set up an email address of your own choosing, which means you can end up with something as simple as mickey@mouse.com. My email address is firstname@mydomain.com. Easy for people to remember, and professional to boot.

Also important to note is that any host worth its salt will make it easy to forward email from that email address to whatever other email address you may want to use. For example, I use Gmail as my email client because I love its interface and search capabilities. But I have my host set up to forward my email to my Gmail address, and I have Gmail set up to send email using my hosted email account. So even though I have and use all the functionality of Gmail, I have a professional-looking email address, which — although a small detail — helps establish me as a professional.

At $10 to $50 per year it’s hard to argue that having a professional email address is unaffordable. And given the tools provided by both web hosts and webmail providers (like Gmail) for displaying your email address, it’s hard to claim that it is too hard to set up.

So if you want an email address that is easy for clients to remember and professional-looking, sign up for a domain, add email service (if necessary), and start emailing like a professional.

Need help setting up your email forwarding or response address? Let me know in the comments and I will help as best I can.

Updates

  • 2011-11-01. Originally published.
  • 2014-10-09. Revised and republished.

Featured image: “Young successful businessman pointing and winking” from Shutterstock.