Despite the enthusiasm for the .law registry amid its early rollout, many question whether or not the domains will help firms, and in some respects, can even be considered a mild form of extortion. Well-known firms that rarely acquire new business via the internet will likely be required to purchase the .law extension in order to keep others from buying it in a brand-protecting move.
On October 12th, the internet will have a new home for lawyers; at least that is the hope of domain registry company Minds + Machines. The Irish company won an auction last year for control of the .law domain registry, which is a suffix for web page addresses similar to .com or .org registries that currently exist, purchasing .law from the regulating non-profit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICANN, which ended its restrictions on domain suffixes in 2011, has partnered with Minds + Machines’s .law division head and former Lexis Nexis North America and Bloomberg law CEO Lou Andreozzi to create the .law registry available only to credentialed lawyers. Looking to net at least 100,000 lawyers and firms on board within the next 12 to 24 months, Andreozzi “estimates the U.S. market is about 1.2 million attorneys, while the worldwide market approaches 2 million lawyers,” and he is looking to capture at least ten percent of that market.
Minds + Machines began taking orders for the .law registry on July 30th, charging an annual rate of $200 per domain name along with a $10 verification fee. Some more generalized domains like antitrust.law or divorce.law will require additional price negotiations, a common practice among .com suffixes. To help promote the registry, the company granted top-tiered law firms DLA Piper, Skadden, Arps, Slate, and Meagher & Flom free .law domains, calling them “early adopters of .law.” Andreozzi noted the benefit of the specialized registry, saying that the .law suffix “creates a vertical community where you know that the person is actually an attorney.” Andreozzi also notes that many companies who could not acquire a more company-specific .com domain name in the earlier days of the internet can get a second chance to “have a new opportunity at Internet branding with the .law suffix.”
Despite the enthusiasm for the .law registry amid its early rollout, many question whether or not the domains will help firms, and in some respects, can even be considered a mild form of extortion. Well-known firms that rarely acquire new business via the internet will likely be required to purchase the .law extension in order to keep others from buying it in a brand-protecting move. Stova Wong, chief information officer for the firm Paul Hastings, says his firm will likely purchase the .law domain as a defensive maneuver, adding that he expects to receive little traffic due to the domain. The .law domain registry is not unique either as domains ending in .lawyer, .attorney, and .legal already became available since last October. .lawyer has roughly 13,000 domains, .attorney has about 8,500, and .legal has about 4,800. The company that owns both .lawyer and .attorney charges $35 for registration and .legal charges $60. Wong says Paul Hastings registered .lawyer and .attorney domains, with very little traffic running through the sites. Andreozzi however, noted the spread of the .edu domain suffix as an example of a successful non-.com category.
Andreozzi believes the particulars of .law distinguish it from its competitors, saying “Unlike other top-level domain names, we have a vetting process that ensures that lawyers are in fact the owners of the domain.” He also argued that smaller firms could enhance their credibility and profile due to .law’s higher standards. Minds + Machines has also reached agreements in principal with several bar associations, offering the .law registry as a benefit for joining. Supreme Court Litigator and SCOTUSblog co-founder Tom Goldstein also received a gift membership. Goldstein praised the venture, saying “We’re pleased to be an early adopter of the .law domain, which is a sure-fire, trusted way to signal to clients and colleagues the legal resources we provide.” While not dismissing the novelty of the .law registry completely, Wong added with much less enthusiasm, “I don’t think anyone knows where it will land.”
ABA Journal – Richard Acello
Bloomberg Big Law Business – Casey Sullivan
The Domains – Michael Berkins
Wall Street Journal Law Blog – Jacob Gershman