A few years ago, I wrote on these very hallowed blog pages, about my experience with credit cards in solo land. Basically, when I opened up shop, I asked all of the attorneys I knew how they dealt with credit cards. None of the solos I knew took credit cards, and this was 2015.
To me, it seemed like a no-brainer to take plastic. And, it still is: Countless, brilliant words have been spent since on this blog about how to choose a credit card processor that won’t lead to an ethics complaint, why your fears and myths about credit cards are unfounded, and how to use Clio’s new payment plan feature for setting up instalment payments.
At this point, you probably know that it makes business sense to take credit cards. Payment is instant, clients can access a lot of money in a hurry, and it makes accounting a snap.
But how do consumers feel about the issue? Because, quite frankly, you can hang a VISA sign in your window and put “AMEX accepted” on your website, but if potential clients are not interested, it doesn’t really matter, does it?
Well, consumers do care whether or not you accept credit cards, and they care in a big way.
Legal clients like paying by credit card
There are a lot of great nuggets of wisdom in the 2018 Legal Trends Report about consumer preferences and attitudes towards lawyers, and how those preferences relate to the hiring process. Here is one major takeaway from the report: 40% of consumers surveyed would never hire a lawyer who didn’t take credit or debit cards.
Forty percent. And it goes further than that—50% report that they are more likely to hire you if you take cards.
If you don’t take cards right now, imagine your client base expanding by 40% overnight. While it probably won’t increase that drastically, I would bet that you are second-guessing your reticence to take cards—you’ve probably had more than a couple potential clients raise the question. Considering how easy it is to set up Clio Payments (powered by LawPay) if you aren’t taking cards you are leaving easy money on the table.
Payment plans are a valuable option
For most people, coming up with a $10,000 retainer isn’t easy—even if they have the funds somewhere, their money may be tied up in an investment or retirement account. And yet, plenty of law firms still ask potential clients to pay $10,000 down for the retainer at the outset, plus add replenishments as the case progresses.
That liquidity obstacle just might have something to do with why 47% of survey respondents were more likely to hire a lawyer who accepts automated payments or fund transfers. They want—nay, they need—the option to break that retainer up into multiple payments.
This is where offering clients the option to pay you via payment plans can make things easier.
Plus, payment plans are helpful for you too: Setting up automated payments means you won’t have to put on your bill collector hat every month. Clio introduced payment plans earlier this year, by the way, which makes replenishing retainers or breaking up payments for fixed fee services easy and automatic.
Cash isn’t always king
All of us would prefer cash over any other payment method: You know it’s not going to bounce, or be charged back, and it comes without processing fees or bank holds.
But in a world where people are paying just by tapping their watches and phones, or “Venmo-ing” the rent, if you are stuck on greenbacks, you are not living in the same economy as your clients. We’re not suggesting you go crazy and take cryptocurrency like Bitcoin (although some of you might already be doing that)—just learn to accept the same old plastic that people have been using since the Diners’ Club card was introduced … in 1950.
Your clients—and your practice—will be better off for it.