A pending change in Internet domain names creates new law firm branding opportunities. 

The New York Times reports in New Flavors for Addresses on the Web Are on the Way (27 June 2008) that the authority regulating Internet domain names, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), has approved custom “top level domains” (TLD). Common TLDs are .com, .edu, .org, .net, and a host of two-letter country codes. Moving forward, at six-figure plus cost, anyone can purchase a custom TLD. So I could purchase .friedmann or a law firm, say Skadden, could buy .Skadden.

The article does mention the confusion this may cause. But think of the branding opportunities…. www.securities.skadden or www.mergers.wachtell. Of course, this extends to e-mail addresses such as smith@energy.sutherland or jones@antitrust.howrey. This type of naming is distinctive and potentially memorable; it could also create style and usage challenges.

Beyond the potential visual appeal of a practice_area.law_firm_name URL, marketers could more easily create customized e-mail addresses for one-time use in tracking inbound inquiries from print or web ads. Of course, this might require some back-end e-mail administration.

And let’s not forget the legal disputes that may well arise over trademarks and name usage. That likely will keep at least a few lawyers busy.