A few years ago, I wrote about my experience with credit cards as a solo lawyer. When I started my law firm, I asked all of the attorneys I knew how they dealt with credit cards. None of the solo practitioners I knew took credit cards—this was 2015.
It’s a no-brainer to let clients pay by credit card—and the reason is simple: Clients want to pay by credit card. Why? Consumers are already used to paying by credit card for day-to-day transactions and bills. For example, most people pay their mobile service, utilities, and other providers via credit card. Not to mention large-ticket items like furniture, etc.
In this blog post, we’ll cover why legal clients want to pay by credit card and how to let clients pay for legal services with their credit cards. We’ll also include some tips and tools for getting paid quickly—via credit card.
Legal clients want to pay by credit card
If you don’t take cards right now, the statistic above means a majority of your client base could potentially increase drastically when you start accepting credit cards. Considering how easy it is to set up Clio Payments, you are leaving easy money on the table if you aren’t accepting credit cards.
Offering credit card payments is a valuable and client-centered option
For most people, coming up with a $10,000 retainer isn’t easy. Even if they have the funds, their money may be tied up in an investment or retirement account. Yet plenty of law firms still ask potential clients to pay $10,000 for the retainer upfront, plus additional replenishments as the case progresses.
The 2020 Legal Trends Report also found that consumers ranked whether a law firm offered payment plans as one of the most important factors for hiring a law firm. If you implement payment plans and let your legal clients pay via automated payments or fund transfers, your firm will appear more attractive to potential legal clients. Because of liquidity constraints, legal clients appreciate the option to break that retainer up into multiple payments.
Credit card payments are central to payment plans, as it allows your clients to make automatic payments to your firm.
Payment plans via credit card payments are helpful for you too: Setting up automated payments means you won’t have to manually collect outstanding bills every month. With Clio’s payment plans, replenishing retainers or breaking up payments for fixed fee services is easy and automatic.
Get paid faster with credit card payments
Traditional payment transactions via cash or check are time-consuming. Clients typically have to manually write out a check, go to the post office to mail it, and your law firm has to deposit the check. If you accept cash, you need to meet your clients face-to-face, then deposit the cash at the bank. Many clients may not even have checkbooks or typically carry cash with them. If so, they’ll need to visit the bank first to order a checkbook or take out cash, which adds to the overall time needed to complete the transaction. In certain situations, like a pandemic, or for clients who can’t visit your law office, it may be difficult to arrange an in-person appointment just so your client can pay your law firm.
With credit card payments, you can complete the transaction online and even set up automatic payments.
Cash isn’t always king
With cash, 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 with cash payments, you are not living in the same economy as your clients. While you need not necessarily take cryptocurrency like Bitcoin (although some of you might already be doing that)—you need 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.
Considerations before accepting credit cards
We’ve established that clients want to pay by credit card. It’s clear that if you aren’t accepting credit card payments for your legal services, your firm will enjoy many benefits from doing so. But you need to understand the ethics of law firms accepting credit card payments.
There are four ethical questions regarding law firms accepting credit cards:
- Can I accept payment for legal fees and expenses via a credit card?
- Can I accept the advance payment of fees via a credit card?
- Can I pass a surcharge to my client to compensate for the processing fees charged by some credit card processors?
- Can I set up recurring charges for customers once they have stored a credit card on file with my law firm?
As always, different jurisdictions have different ethics rules regarding lawyers accepting credit card payments. While lawyers can take credit card payments (especially since clients want to pay by credit card), remember to check your state for specific rules regarding firms accepting credit cards.
How to let clients pay by credit card
Different ways of accepting credit card payments from law firm clients
Online credit card payments
Clients want to pay by credit card—and accepting online credit card payments is the easiest way to let clients do so. Legal credit card processing solutions like Clio Payments can help you get paid faster. You can even schedule recurring credit card payment plans or plans that clients can afford. You can also arrange automatic top-ups for trust accounts. Payment plans can help your law firm improve its cash flow.
While there are many available online credit card payment providers, we’ve put together a guide to choosing the best credit card processing service for lawyers.
In-person credit card payments
Although this is another way your law firm can accept credit card payments, it’s a more time-consuming method. It’s also a less client-centered option for accepting payments. However, for certain clients who can’t access a mobile device or computer to complete their online credit card payment, your law firm can consider accepting in-person credit card payments.
Merchant bank accounts
Opening a merchant bank account to accept credit card payments from your legal clients is another way you can accept credit card payments. However, a credit card processing service and legal payments provider like Clio Payments typically charges lower processing and transaction fees.
Tips for getting paid quickly
We’ve established that legal clients want to pay by credit card. Your law firm can also benefit from accepting credit card payments from your clients. What are some other ways you can get paid quickly and improve your firm’s cash flow? We’ve put together a more in-depth guide in our law firm billing guide, but the main ways to make sure you get paid quickly are to:
- Improve your timekeeping and recordkeeping habits so you can accurately collect on time billed.
- Bill consistently so clients know when they can expect to pay your law firm.
- Send clients regular billing reminders.
- Accept credit payments—since clients want to pay by credit card and there are many benefits to letting them do so, as mentioned above.
If you have any existing fears about credit cards, we hope this blog post helped you understand the benefits of letting clients pay by credit card. After all, clients want to pay by credit card as they’re already used to doing so for other purchases and services.
Accepting credit card payments can also help your firm improve cash flow, get paid caster, and provide better client-centered service. However, there are some ethical considerations before you choose a credit card processing service. After checking your jurisdiction’s rules and recommendations surrounding law firms accepting credit cards, you’re ready to choose the best credit card processing service. Although there are multiple ways your law firm can accept credit cards, online legal payment providers and credit card processors like Clio Payments make it easy for your firm to accept credit cards.
We published this blog post in October 2018. Last updated: .
Categorized in: Business