Top Level Domains or TLDs play a unique role in SEO and marketing a website. ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) and the authority on domain names recently allowed for restricted TLDs to be used for things like health care and professional services1 (such as attorneys). Having a specific type of TLD will not help your site rank any better in search than traditional .com, .net, .org domains but there are several other benefits to using the .lawyer and .attorney TLDs.
For attorneys that missed out on those coveted exact match domains for their practice area (or maybe they just have a really common name) .attorney and .lawyer TLDs are another chance to get what they want. The cool part is that a person who wants to register professional services TLDs has to provide proof that they are a legitimate attorney before they will be approved.
Lawyers who did not want to go after the .org or .net that was available can now have a more professional TLD and get the domain name they wanted in the first place.
A lot of firms have names that just sound like they are lawyers. Others do not. Regardless of what your firm name is, the .attorney or .lawyer TLD makes your site stand out as one that is a law firm. Sifting through search results, legal domain names can stand out among the other TLDs for users looking for an attorney.
For example if your domain name is just your name (i.e. martyboxer.com), no one is going to know you are an attorney until they click on the URL. If you have something like martyboxer.attorney, people instantly know that is the website of a lawyer.
This is also a great marketing opportunity offline. Putting .attorney or .lawyer on a business card, mailer, signage and other collateral just makes you look even more tied to the legal identity.
Not many people know this but Google’s core mission2 (other than not being evil) is to organize the world’s online information. They do their best to index as much content as possible and deliver information to people who are looking for it. A natural progression of that is to organize online personas (i.e. websites) so that they are easier for people to identify.
Think of how easy it would be to find a dentist of all of the results you were provided had .dentist in the URL (knowing of course that those professionals had been vetted beforehand by ICANN). Now think of how easy it would be for Google to show you attorneys in your area if it knew that all local results with a .attorney or .lawyer TLD were bonafide attorneys vetted by ICANN. That would make sifting through their index much easier.
That is not to say Google has plans to do this however considering that holders of these professional TLDs have to verify their authenticity before acquiring them, it would not be a surprise.
It is important to point out that having a .attorney or .lawyer domain is not going to make your site rank any better in search (at least not yet). The same is true for domains like .edu or .org TLDs. Google has openly disclosed that the type of domain you have does not enter into their ranking factors3.
An exception is country level TLDs4 that have a bearing on location-based search. Lawyers should not count on .attorney or .lawyer TLDs to get them better rankings. Instead, focus on their other benefits of marketing your law firm and building trust with users. If you’re interested in picking up yourname.attorney or practiceareakeyword.lawyer then I highly recommend you go buy .attorney / .lawyer domains at the direct source and not a 3rd party like GoDaddy or Namecheap. By going directly to the source you’ll avoid additional add-on fees.