Law firms who accept credit cards get paid faster—57% get paid within the same day they are billed, and 85% get paid within a week, according to our 2019 Legal Trends Report. 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 administrative tasks.
However, according to our 2017 Legal Trends Report, 85% 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 their payment 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 Clio Payments, powered by LawPay, 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 PCI Compliant.
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?
Actually, no. Even considering that you might pay a small monthly fee that you wouldn’t pay with non-legal-specific credit card processors, overall, your transaction costs will likely be lower with processors like Clio Payments and LawPay.
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 for an account (Theoretically customers can have an unlimited number of bank accounts connected to their LawPay account at no additional cost).
However, when you use Clio Payments, Clio covers these fees, keeping your overall monthly 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% 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.
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% plus 20 cents per transaction for most credit cards, and 2.95% plus 20 cents per transaction for various specialty credit cards.*
PayPros Legal charges just 1.69% 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% per transaction, or 2.99% 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 with the aid of technology, like Clio 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.
*Note: Rates listed are for US accounts and may differ for international customers. Certain card processing rates and fees are set by the card brands and aren’t negotiable by business owners or payment processors. This could cause additional card network pass-through fees that aren’t preventable and could be caused by card type, transaction type, or personal information provided at the time of transaction. These fees will not apply to every transaction.
We published this blog post in November 2016. Last updated: .
Categorized in: Business
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