Today’s the day. Dot LAW (.law) is released. Should you run out and spend $200+ to reserve your firm’s spot? Guest poster Igor Ilyinsky breaks it down for us.
Have you ever felt like you missed the big wave on some business opportunity? For me, as a techy, that’s a daily feeling as I watch kids become billionaires off of silly apps and websites. This all started for me when I was a kid myself, in 1997, a junior in college with nothing but time. As the internet geek I was, I used to spend that time trying to look up random domain names on Network Solutions to see if they were available for purchase (not that I actually had the thirty five bucks per year to register them). I recall stumbling on the availability of “business.com” thinking it was a meaningless domain name (this is 1997 mind you). Imagine my dismay when I learned that someone who purchased it only a few months later flipped it for $7.5 Million in just two years. Still, the business of squatting on a domain seemed very seedy for me to get involved (at least that’s what I told myself). Fast forward to 2015. The ICANN (look it up) has announced that the “.law” gTLD (again, Google it) will be available for sale, throwing lawyers and legal marketers all over the world into a frenzy. Do we buy a domain? Is this the next internet gold rush? Not so fast! Gone are the days when it cost $35 to buy a domain (actually they were free before 1995, then they started charging at $50/yr, then dropped to $35 two years later, and now they are pretty much free again with the hosting of a website). These days getting in early on a premium gTLD can cost you tens of thousands of dollars, plus a lot of headaches as the new registration system works itself out. Specifically, according to Minds + Machines, the company that owns the “.law” extension, you’ll need to pay a premium of $12,500 per domain to get first dibs (source: https://join.law/). However, if you’re willing to wait a few days, the price will go down. After 5 days, the cost for access is only $125, and if you wait one whole week, there is no additional price beyond the actual yearly registration of the domain. Oh, you thought the $12,500 includes the registration fees? Silly! Those vary depending on who you choose as your registrar, and what their “cut” will be. You see, in order to get that highly coveted domain you want, your registrar must be the first to request it the exact moment it goes on sale (Noon ET on Monday the 12th). In order to assure that someone will be at the ready to do this for you, your paperwork must be prepared well in advance, and it’ll cost you a pretty penny. One registrar I spoke to tacked on almost $3000 in additional fees for a Monday request. What if you don’t get the domain you want? No worries, you get your money back, minus a “we tried our best” fee which in most cases was only $50-$100. There’s a list of accredited registrars, not including their pricing, on this page: http://nic.law/registrars/ (note: the “Sunrise” period already ended last month, Monday opens the “General Availability” period, also known as the landrush). So is it worth it? Well, being the geek I am, I look at the trends on domains, specifically during the surnrise period. However, according to one website that tracks these gTLDs, only four domains have been registered so far (source: https://ntldstats.com/tld/law). Aside from the two mentioned above, I read a press release that two big firms were on board (DLA and Skadden) so maybe that makes four? Either way, the sunrise period, which requires a detailed trademark registration, is not always the best indicator of what will happen during the Landrush (that’s the technical term – kidding aside) that opens on Monday. But at the prices being offered, my guess is that most firms will wait out the week, and go for a more affordable domain at around $200 (the quote from Minds + Machines). In about a year or two I think we can expect them to cost even less than $100. But regardless of when you register, you should be able to prove that you are a law firm. In fact, the gTLD was created on the basis of being a “Public Interest Commitment” to “let the public know they are dealing with real lawyers” according to Lou Andreozzi, CEO of dotLaw (.law). In my opinion, although there are not a ton of law firm phishing scams out there, this could be one of a few good reasons to own a dot law domain if it hits a critical mass. With each registration you must provide:
- The firm name as registered with your regulator (state bar in the US).
- The official name of your regulator (e.g., The State Bar of Texas) –
- The year of registration with your regulator.
- The license number of your registration with your regulator.
- The jurisdiction of your regulator (Country plus state, province, and/or district, as applicable).
So there’s a lot of work to be done if you want to get in on the ground floor. But be wary of anyone selling “pre-registrations” as only the companies on the list are accredited to register for you – and there is no such thing as pre-registration. If you’re still on the fence, here are some tips I give our clients:
- Firms that are very concerned about their brand identity being hijacked should consider reserving all the possible domain names. That’s a very small number of law firms; and if a group truly has to be validated as a lawfirm to purchase a .law domain, there should be even less cause for worry, since hijackers are rarely other firms. At worst you will be competing against a firm with a similar name. On the other hand, if it turns out that the validation is weak, then it’s likely that the new gTLD will never gain traction.
- Unlike the other legal related gTLDs “.law” is short, and many firms can shorten their domains with a “.law” or they may prefer it over a “.net” or something with a hyphen. So if your firm settled on “jones-lawyers.net” because everything else was taken, it might behoove you to try for jones.law. Otherwise, there’s no benefit to users recognizing and remembering your domain.
- The general public is not informed about these specific gTLDs and they may take a long time to gain traction. Remember, gTLDs have been around in other industries for almost a decade, yet no one uses them due to the confusion they cause. Legal could be different, but only if the validation becomes a strong factor.
- Google is known to ignore what are called EMDs (exact match domains) which implies that they won’t give any bonus points to keywords in the TLD. So don’t expect your site to fly to the top of the top of Google searches. But again, we don’t know if the TLDs actually become validations that a law firm is real and reputable, in which case Google may reconsider. So far, none of the popular TLDs are quite that authoritative.
About Igor Ilyinsky. Igor is a Marketing Technologist, Entrepreneur and entertaining presenter focused on advancing Law Firms and Companies to the highest level of marketing technology automation. He is the founder of FirmWise where he helps law firms market online.