One of the interesting search hits to my site this week was “should my lawyer have a Gmail account.” Then, shortly after seeing that search term, I heard an advertisement on the radio encouraging listeners to “move from your free email account that scans your messages for search phrases and advertising, to [this provider].” The hope, at least for the advertiser, was that users would abandon their free accounts and pay “a mere” $40 per year for a [this provider] domain extension.
This got me thinking about whether having a free email account as one’s law firm business account is professional enough. The answer for me is no, though clients aren’t going to crucify you if you use it.
While having a Gmail, AOL, or Hotmail address isn’t illegal, to me, since appearance is king, having an address that at least appears like you’re competent is a first step in the right direction. I know, a lot of people, especially young, solo attorneys, want to save money using some generic, free email address, such as email@example.com (sorry to the bloke who’s now getting 10,000 spam messages), but is that really how you want your clients, or potential clients, to remember you? I guess nothing says, techo-savvy “professional” like a good ole Gmail address.
Don’t take my criticism the wrong way though. I love Gmail. Just search this site and you’ll find pages of posts praising Gmail, and even more praising the better choice for professionals, Google Apps. The problem is, when you’re looking to brand yourself, being known as the lawyer with the difficult email address isn’t a good start.
As many people know, setting up a specific email address isn’t difficult, and directing the flow of email traffic to your Gmail account is even easier. That’s why, when you’re sending me an email from your Gmail account I cringe and giggle.
The first step in non-Gmail email independence is to purchase a personalized domain name. You can get one from any number of providers, for $10-15 per year. That’s not a bad price to move yourself into marketing magnificence.
Next, if you want to continue using your Gmail services (and why wouldn’t you when they’re awesome?), you’ll need to direct your new branded email to Gmail. Now the only thing you need to worry about is remembering which email address to respond with (Settings > Accounts and Import > Send mail as > Reply for the same address the messages was sent to).
Just because you’re a solo or small firm attorney, doesn’t mean you can at least look like one of those lawyers in the high-rise offices. You don’t have to spend a fortune to look professional, you just have to do it right. Marketing is about creating consistency and regularity, and more importantly, developing free or no-cost, recognizable methods to maintain the consistent avenues.