Law firms who accept credit cards get paid faster—35 percent faster, according to our 2016 Legal Trends Report, which analyzed client time-to-pay for over 40,000 attorneys. Credit card payments are convenient for clients, and they’re easy to set up and track, meaning that firms who accept them provide more client satisfaction while spending less time on an administrative tasks.
However, 85 percent of solo and small-firm lawyers still don’t accept online credit card payments. They spend valuable time tracking down payments and processing checks when they could be getting paid faster online. And not only is it more efficient—consumers are now accustomed to purchasing everything from groceries to clothing to furniture to vehicles online. Requiring them to physically appear at a brick-and-mortar location to hand over a check can have a negative impact on client satisfaction.
Before you can start accepting online credit card payments, you’ll need to pick a processing service for your firm. Here’s how to pick the best one.
1. Consider ethics rules for trust accounting
For many business owners, choosing a credit card processor is as simple as comparing a few of the top players—PayPal, Stripe, and Square, for example—and deciding what’s best for them. For lawyers, however, it isn’t that simple. There are a number of ethics rules that come into play when accepting credit card payments, and lawyers need to ensure that their credit card processor will keep them compliant.
Specifically, lawyers need to consider the potential for chargebacks on trust accounts. If a client disputes a charge that results in a chargeback, and the credit card company withdraws money from a pooled trust account, this may add up to an ethics violation.
Law firms need a credit card processor that does not allow chargebacks on trust accounts, and that does not take fees from trust accounts. Usually, this means using a credit card processor tailored specifically towards lawyers.
A solution like LawPay or Clio Payments ensures that you have separate operating and trust accounts, and that processing fees are deducted from your operating account only. You’ll never have to worry about an inadvertent ethics violation due to your choice of credit card processor.
Note: Aside from trust accounting ethics, you’ll need to ensure your firm is compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).
2. Look at pricing
Legal-specific credit card processors eliminate ethics concerns for lawyers by taking extra precautions that regular merchant credit card processors don’t take. Does that mean that lawyers need to pay a premium for this service?
As you can see in the chart above*, to process a standard credit card payment on a $3,000 bill, it would cost you about $90 using PayPal, Square, or Stripe, but just $60 using a legal-specific credit card processor like LawPay or Clio Payments.
Here’s a more in-depth breakdown of pricing:
Most credit card processors do not charge a monthly fee, but LawPay charges users $20 per month.
However, when you use Clio Payments, Clio covers these fees, keeping your transaction costs low.
Other legal-specific credit card processors charge lower per-transaction fees, but charge a monthly rate to cover standard charges from credit card companies. Visa and Mastercard charge a 1–2 percent fee per transaction.
For example, LexActum only charges 25 cents per transaction, but monthly fees range between $19 and $99—and there’s no trust accounting option on the lower-priced plans.
As you can see above, both Clio Payments and LawPay charge lower per-transaction fees than third-party credit card processors. Clio Payments is powered by LawPay, so per-transaction fees are the same—1.95 percent plus 20 cents per transaction for most credit cards, and 2.95 percent plus 20 cents per transaction for various specialty credit cards.
PayPros Legal charges just 1.69 percent per transaction with no monthly fees. However, that’s only if you use their terminal to process payments (and you’ll need to buy the terminal for $60). Without the terminal—i.e., if clients want to pay online—it costs 2.25 percent per transaction, or 2.99 percent per transaction for specialty credit cards.
3. Consider your workflow
Ethics and pricing considerations aside, you’ll want a credit card processor that truly works for your firm. Most of the credit card processors mentioned above allow for customizable invoices, which is a must for keeping up a professional image for your firm.
Also, it’s worth considering how your credit card processor will work with other tools that you use. If you’re keeping multiple windows open and entering the same information into different programs, you’re wasting valuable time on a rote task—and increasing the chance of human error.
The ideal solution would be one that integrates directly with your practice management software, so that you can handle your payments and keep your records up to date in one place. Clio Payments is one such solution, as it allows you to bill clients and track payments from directly within Clio.
Legal-specific credit card processors are essential for lawyers who use trust accounts. However, even if you don’t use trust accounts (and don’t plan on using them in the future), a legal-specific credit card processor may still be cheaper than using PayPal or Square.
When it comes to your law firm, every dollar counts. Accepting online payments is the easiest way to ensure you’ll get paid faster, so do your research and find a credit card processor that works for you.
Want to get paid faster? Learn how Clio Payments can help your firm’s bottom line or set up today.