lawyers-online-marketing-mistakesUsing an AOL, Hotmail or Yahoo! email address

It amazes me that lawyers still use these kinds of email addresses—and put them on their business cards! I’ve been tempted on more than one occasion to purchase domain names for lawyers when I see that they’re still using AOL for their email.

If you want to look like a professional on line and you are using your email address to send business emails, you need an address that conveys seriousness and permanence. Like it or not, an AOL email address makes you appear unstable or fly by night. The cost of your own domain name is less than $10/year and will usually include free email. Direct your new email address to your Outlook (or other email client) account and you will be good to go.

Not writing for real people

You may have gone to law school to “think like a lawyer,” but when you talk like one, you’re probably not doing yourself—or your clients—any favors. This is especially true online, where you have mere seconds to capture the attention of a web visitor. Since you can’t see them, you cannot gauge their reaction or understanding and adjust accordingly. Use the language your clients use when they describe their legal issues. Check your online copy with a layperson—ask them to rephrase your content in their own words. If they cannot understand what you’re saying, simplify it.

Writing for real people includes being smart about SEO, too. You can pack your site with keywords, but if the copy does not make sense for those visiting your blog or site, it won’t resonate. When writing for an online audience, you want to demonstrate your expertise and write about subjects that interest your target audience. If you do that, you will be halfway to your SEO goals already.

Focusing your website or blog on YOU rather than your audience

Your website is for your clients, potential clients and referral sources, and they should be the focus. Make sure that your site reflects your clients’ interests and needs and provides information that they are seeking. Provide information about you in a way that reflects the benefits they seek. Remember the client’s perspective “What is in it for me?”


Do not make your website, your online profiles or other online advertising sound like a “Crazy Eddie” commercial. Overselling yourself is counterproductive and damages your credibility. Instead of preaching about your expertise, demonstrate it using stories and case studies or testimonials where permitted.

Expecting results without participation

It is a “Web 2.0” world; the internet is now a two way street, not just a platform for publishing or obtaining information. To make the most of the internet in your practice, you need to participate and interact online. Provide ways for others to interact with you on the web: allow comments, ask questions, and invite discussion. Make sure that you participate in the online conversation and extend that conversation offline. People do business with people they know, like and trust—and those relationships develop over time, with a number of contacts.

Boring, resume-style profile or bio

Professionalism is one thing, but boring is another. Infuse your online presence with some personality and style. Be authentic. Where appropriate, let you readers and potential clients know what interests you, why your work is important to you and your clients and how you are different. Give them a glimpse into who you are—it will be easier to like you and thus easier to hire you.

Being invisible online

When preparing for a consultation with a lawyer recently, I searched in vain for any information about him on the internet. There was none to be found—no website, blog, profile or internet presence at all. Do not assume your clients don’t use the internet. Even after receiving a personal referral, potential clients and referrals sources will likely check you out online. If you are not there, they may move on without even attempting to contact you. (And speaking of contact—make sure your contact information is easy to find online. Do not make people search for it.)

(photo: r3v || cls)


  1. Avatar Jay Parkhill says:

    To me an AOL, yahoo or gmail address is the online equivalent of dressing down for client pitch meetings. It says “I am so successful I don’t need to worry about this branding stuff”. Maybe true, maybe not.

    • Aaron Street Aaron Street says:

      Jay: I’m not sure it’s worthy of too much debate, but I certainly view AOL/Yahoo/Hotmail emails in a totally different light than GMail. I think kindly upon GMail users. Anyone still using AOL as their primary email—in my book—hasn’t thought about technology since 1995.

  2. Good point on the email addresses!

  3. Avatar Mike DeLuca says:

    The point the writer is trying to make is not about the the legitimacy of Yahoo, Google, etc, its about consumer trust. Having a “hotmail” email address makes you appear to be at best, small, and at worst, illegitimate. You want to be as opposed to

    I’d also add an 8th mistake to the discussion which is not being an active participant in your online campaign. As I’ve highlighted during the Yodle Challenge, the business owner needs to be engaged by answering the phone and emails, pricing their services appropriately, having the right website, being a good salesperson, etc. A successful marketing campaign is not based on just the media.


  4. I use GMail and love it. I agree that is may be somewhat unprofessional but I always include my business email in my signature block.

  5. Avatar Philippe says:

    I agree with the comments above , i would like to add a few comments as being involved in IT for the past 19 years and having been involved in evangelizing the Corporate Industry mostly and more recently the Legal and Professional services sector with High Tech . My feeling is that most of the firms outside the US and UK are still at the stone age stage in their mind , they have some IT stuff but look at it as a constrain , not as an instrument of their overall strategy . There is a giant step to be made still by them in order to enter the digital world .
    I have in mind an exemple of a PS firm in Madrid where a friend entrepreuneur of mine asked them if they could send him some pdf of his book records for admin purposes and the answer was they could send him by courrier the whole physical BOOK and at that same firm , they have one email adress for the all firm , a one … and they consult the mailbox once a week to answer their clients requests ….
    Obviously , those anecdotes look like carricature but still it helps understanding how much needs to be done .

  6. I purposely didn’t mention gmail in my post because I think gmail has a different connotation — and with more and more services being offered by Google that are tied to gmail accounts, we may be seeing more and more of gmail. I just don’t think it gives the same impression, although I’d still like to see lawyers use a unique domain for their email.

    Mike – great point about participation. I did include offline participation in my original post, but I realize that it wasn’t highlighted. Good marketers must work both online and off (then again, this post was specifically addressing online mistakes).

  7. Avatar Tom DelRosario says:

    If you like Gmail so much that you want to use it as you primary (or sole) email address, you can use Google Apps so that you can use a gmail front end with your own domain name. You get the benefits of gmail (spam filtering, huge inboxes, labels, etc.), but with your own domain name.

  8. Avatar Greta Kirkland says:

    We use aol for our firm email addresses. We started with them 10 years ago and I don’t see any reason to change something that’s working. It’s easy for clients to remember, too. I’m not understanding the snobbery about it.

  9. Sam Glover Sam Glover says:

    It isn’t snobbery. Think of an AOL address like using a p.o. box instead of a street address. It is functional, but not optimal.

    And when you realize it costs less than $10 per year to get your own domain, there is no good reason to keep using an AOL address.

  10. I love Gmail and use it daily. I forward all of my email accounts to it and send all of my email from it. With Gmail you can “mask” the outgoing mail so that it appears to come from the same email name it came in from. This makes the ease of use perfect and allows you to keep the professional persona.

  11. Avatar Les Lovoy says:

    I agree with everything, especially points about potential clients need to learn about the attorneys on a personal level. I have a marketing practice, and have several law firms as clients. One is a plaintiff firm ( When someone comes to the site, they see a video where the attorneys talk about a specific client they helped, and why that case illustrates why they enjoy helping people find justice. On their bios, I also videotaped them talking about their hobbies, families and what they enjoy doing outside of the office. For both, I’m trying to humanize them and make them more accessible to potential clients.

  12. These are all great tips. It was not until I began participating that I found results.


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