Starting your law firm off with a professional email account: when AOL won’t cut it

Your law firm has a comprehensive website with its own domain name and a solid online presence. But if you’re still relying on third-party email services instead of starting a professional email account, you aren’t making the most of your brand presentation.

While email accounts provided by your Internet service provider or free accounts through services like hotmail.com, aol.com, and Google can be acceptable for personal use, no law firm should be sending emails from those type of addresses. An email address at your own domain name will give your firm a higher degree of professionalism, confidentiality, and branding.

What’s wrong with a Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, or AOL email address?

There are several problems with having a personal email account serve as the main email address for your law firm. For one thing, it gives a less than professional impression to clients, who might:

  • Perceive a lack of separation between personal and professional emails
  • Wonder if their confidential client data will be safe among all the other emails that flood the typical free email account
  • Question your firm’s familiarity with standard web technology
  • Assume that your firm has limited resources, putting you (and them) at a distinct disadvantage in disputes with larger, more “cutting-edge” firms
  • Be concerned that others will read their private email messages on a shared home computer
  • Get confused when receiving multiple emails from different people within your firm

Having a free email account is also bad for branding. Your email should be representing your firm, not someone else’s brand. joecool.giraffelegal@hotmail.com does not highlight your brand in the same way that joecool@giraffelegal.com does. The first version also does not appear as professional and will be harder to remember.

Another reason for a custom email account is that unless you are a sole practitioner with no employees whatsoever, you’ll probably need to hire associates, paralegals, and legal support staff. How are they going to receive and send email messages – with another Hotmail account? my-name.giraffelegal@hotmail.com perhaps?

What about if and when an employee leaves the firm? Will they (and you) still have access to those messages? The best way to set up your firm for the future is with a custom domain that allows you to add new email addresses for staff members.

Setting up a customized email account

It can be quite simple to set up a personalized professional email address for your law firm in only a few easy steps.

1. Get a domain name

Before you set up your firm’s customized email address, you’ll need to purchase a domain. Many companies that provide this service, including GoDaddy or Namecheap, where a domain name can be purchased for under $1 per year.

2. Find an email provider

Once you have a domain name, you’ll need a hosting provider. Some good work options include:

Office365: Included with current version of Microsoft Office and can be bundled with the full Office desktop suite, a popular solution for lawyers

G Suite: Some optional plans include unlimited storage and Vault features such as automatic email archiving for eDiscovery or litigation hold purposes.

Both providers offer a range of subscription types and user possibilities. Just be sure to read through the privacy policies of potential providers to make sure that they comply with your firm’s duty of confidentiality.

3. Link your domain and email provider together

This step might be a little more technical because you’ll need to get your domain to point its mail record (MX record) to your email provider, but your provider can help navigate the process. Choose how you’ll assign users, by first initial and last name, or a similar variation. As an alternative, you can also buy email service straight from GoDaddy or Namecheap.

4. Set up your devices

Your email provider will probably provide a guide for successfully configuring your smartphone to receive email. You can also find other instructions for setting up email on devices like:

And that’s it. In an hour or less, your law firm can have a custom email address that will serve you, your colleagues, and your clients very well.

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