Exude Professionalism: Get a Real Email Address

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.


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

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


  1. We have our email hosted by gmail and are very happy with it.
    We do use godaddy as a host for the website and that comes with email hosting
    but haven’t used that.

  2. Avatar Carlos Castro Neves says:

    I also use Google’s email, but not Gmail – Google Apps. It’s Gmail’s platform that you could use your own domain. It’s free for up to 25 users with unlimited aliases. And you can also put your own logo to look even more professional.

    • Avatar Sam Glover says:

      Whether you use Google for Work (f/k/a Google Apps for Business, etc.) or not, it’s still Gmail. Either way, you can use your own domain, and either way you can look more professional than you do with a free email address.

  3. Avatar Frank Nielsen says:

    Other then your so-called “it looks more professional” view, I think you need to justify every outlay of $$ that contributes to overhead. A lawyer has less credibility by reason of his email provider choice? Wait a sec.

    • Sam Glover Sam G. says:

      If you have a hard time justifying $10 per year for your own domain name, your business is in trouble.

      And yes, your email address can give you greater credibility, just like website.

      • Avatar Jeff Taylor says:

        Actually, some domain names might cost as much as $15 per year. So there you go!

        And what about specialty domains that might cost as much as $30?

        And what about the children!?

        End result: get your own domain name.

    • Avatar Carlos Castro Neves says:

      And it’s not simply a matter of credibility relating to choice of email provider. It is the commitment to invest in your business. To have an identity that Clients can quickly trust and rely upon.
      I have this great friend who is a plastic surgeon, and wanted to add a website to his practice. I said: go professional and hire people to do it. It may cost a bit more, but clients will certainly look at it and see a professional who is investing in his practice, and who will certainly invest in his Client base
      My 2 cents

    • Avatar Graham M. says:

      I’m going to echo what Sam and Carlos already said, and add that pretty much anything a person does in his or her professional capacity reflects on credibility. Your credibility is based not just on whether you are credible, but on how you present yourself, whether you are reliable, whether you are appropriate and professional at the right times, and much more.

      To my mind, an email address is the visual representation of a tool we use constantly for communication. Every time I send an email, my address is there for someone to see. And I want that person to see my email address as belonging to a well-suited and professional individual who takes his career and his clients’ interests seriously. To me, freebie webmail addresses being used in a professional setting are the equivalent of showing up to a client meeting in old jeans and a t-shirt—there’s nothing inherently wrong with it, and you can still get the job done, but you will be perceived differently as a result of how you have chosen to present yourself.

      Given all that, I think the $40 per year I spend on my domain and email service is WELL worth the cost.

    • Avatar flashwins says:

      If you can’t spend 40 bucks, you’re doing it wrong.

  4. Avatar Bobby Salvin says:

    People who are too obsessed with other see them may just be insecure.

    • Avatar joeross says:

      This will sound confrontational because internet comments don’t provide the opportunity for the conversational nuance of face-to-face discussion. It’s not meant as confrontational.

      There’s simply no excuse for someone who calls themselves a professional not to have a custom email address relevant to their business, i.e. firm name or practice area.

      It’s not a question of insecurity, it’s a question of whether you take yourself seriously as a professional, and whether you are interested in others taking you seriously as a professional.

      • Avatar Bobby Salvin says:

        I disagree with you and the article. I have an e-mail domain that I don’t use because I like my outlook (hotmail) account better. If that is your critria for judging me, I think your perception of what’s important is misguided. I see no rational connection between an e-mail provider and credibility.

        • Avatar Sam Glover says:

          You could just spend 30 seconds setting up forwarding from your domain to your outlook.com/hotmail.com account, and set that account to send with your domain. Then you could go ahead and use your free email service but you’d look like a professional in your email correspondence.

          • Avatar Bobby Salvin says:

            I find this conversation exceedingly superficial. I have had my hotmaiI / outlook account since the 90s. It has gone with me through multiple employers and into my private practice. In fact, I used it at my last job specifically so that reaching me was not dependant on my employer’s e-mail domain.

            Using outlook is part of my brand and I’m proud of it. There is value in having the same e-mail address for decades. If you put my e-mail address in your contacts 15 years ago you still have it. Are you certain you are going to have the same domain 10 year from now? Are you going to be locked into a domain you no longer want because it is tied to your e-mail address? Not me.

            • Avatar Jay Brinker says:

              As someone who has had his own domain since 1998, it depends on how you want to view stability. If you are committed to your own practice, you will have your own domain name which you can always rely on. If you wish to ditch Microsoft for gmail or another provider, you might have to change your address. You are somewhat fortunate that you chose Hotmail in the 90s and did not cast your lot with Compuserve or Netzero.

              If I were you, I would spend the money for your own domain and forward your email to your beloved email Hotmail account per Sam’s suggestion. I would view you as a more worthy adversary if I were on the opposite side of you.

              • Avatar Bobby Salvin says:

                I think I mentioned that I have a website with a domain, but I decided to keep using the e-mail address I had been using for years, and that people already had for me. And I don’t want my e-mail tied to a domain that I pay for and may want to stop paying for or change at some point.

                If you don’t think I am a worthy adversary based on my e-mail address, then I hope I have a case against you. I am a plaintiffs attorney for regular folks, and I am the exact opposite of big law.

        • Avatar joeross says:

          My judgment of you isn’t really important. If you think your clients won’t consider a custom domain and email more professional, and not having those things doesn’t appear to hinder your business, do what you will.

    • Avatar Eggsucker409 says:

      I agree! That’s why I roll with my aol.com email.

  5. Avatar Ramsey Hanafi says:

    I think this depends on your practice area. I know a bunch of (mostly older) plaintiff’s lawyers who are very good at what they do and they have some random ancient generic email domain. Some of them don’t even have a website. (Shocking, I know.) They don’t need it, or they don’t know how to do it, but mostly they don’t care because what they have works for them. If you started practicing in the days of AV rating, typewriters, yellowpages, and payphones, I think there is a different perception of what is necessary to be a professional attorney and what is not.

    Not to say it isn’t helpful or positive; whenever I talk to people who don’t have one, they say they need to get one. I have to agree however that this is a tad superficial. I can see its importance for certain clients and practice areas but I don’t think this is applicable across the board. And judging your adversary on this basis is a huge mistake, in my not so humble opinion.

  6. Avatar Kellie McConahay says:

    I have my own email, hosted currently by GoDaddy. I hate GoDaddy, and I moved my website hosting already but left my email with GoDaddy because I wasn’t sure if I could save all the folders where I store my emails. Is there a way to transfer those folders and their contents if I switch my email? Also any recommendations for hosting the email?

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