When it comes to credit card processing for lawyers, firms that leverage plastic as a payment method win. According to Clio’s Legal Trends Report, firms that accept credit cards get paid faster—57% get paid the same day they are billed, and 85% get paid within a week. 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.
But as recently as 2017, only 15% of solo and small firms were accepting credit cards.
Credit card processing for lawyers does come with challenges. Firms need solutions that integrate with their billing and accounting processes, and lawyers are bound by strict compliance regulations—especially for trust accounting. But with the right credit card processing provider, the benefits far outweigh the risk. Lawyers who accept credit cards and other online payments save valuable time otherwise spent tracking down payments and processing checks. And not only is it more efficient—many consumers expect to purchase anything and everything online. Requiring clients to physically appear at a brick-and-mortar location to hand over their payment or buy a stamp and put a check in the mail can harm client satisfaction.
Before you can start accepting online credit card payments, you’ll need to pick a processing service for your firm. Ideally, one that specializes in credit card processing for lawyers. Here’s how to choose the best one.
Can law firms charge credit card fees?
In some jurisdictions, it’s permissible for lawyers to pass on credit card processing fees to clients. However, it’s not recommended. A reversal of previous ethics opinions has happened. It’s best to accept these fees as the cost of doing business.
Credit Card Processing for Lawyers — 4 Things to Consider
1. Ethics rules for trust accounting
For many business owners, choosing a credit card processing provider is as simple as comparing a few of the top players—PayPal, Stripe, and Square, for example—and deciding what’s best for them. Credit card processing for lawyers, however, is not as simple. When accepting credit card payments, several ethics rules come into play. Lawyers need to ensure that their credit card processors 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 to an ethics violation.
Law firms need a credit card processing solution for lawyers—one that does not allow chargebacks on trust accounts, and does not take fees from trust accounts.
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.
Legal-specific credit card processors eliminate ethics concerns for lawyers by taking extra precautions that regular merchant credit card processors don’t. Does that mean that lawyers need to pay a premium for this service?
Actually, no. It’s true that you might pay a small monthly fee that you otherwise wouldn’t with non-legal-specific credit card processors. However, your overall 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. Still, 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.
Some credit card processors for lawyers charge lower per-transaction fees, but make up the difference by charging 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.
Clio Payments and LawPay charge lower per-transaction fees than third-party 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 (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.
Not all credit card processing solutions for lawyers are the same. It’s up to you to find the balance between monthly fees and per-transaction fees that works best for you and your firm.
3. Integration—ensure online payments fit into your firm’s workflow
Ethics and pricing considerations aside, you’ll want a legal credit card processor that genuinely 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.
When considering credit card processing for lawyers, it’s imperative to think about how your chosen solution will impact the other tools you already 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 will integrate 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.
4. Beyond the credit card—additional payment options
40% of clients who dealt with a legal issue stated they would never hire a lawyer who didn’t accept credit or debit cards, according to the 2018 Legal Trends Report. That same report found 50% of legal clients are more likely to hire a lawyer who takes electronic payments.
Accepting digital payments beyond credit cards is integral to growing your business and prioritizing your clients’ experience. That includes credit and debit—the most popular payment methods—but also eChecks and e-transfers. When investigating credit card processing for lawyers, look for a payment solution that also accepts multiple payment methods. The more options you offer, the more ease and convenience your clients will feel.
When you activate Clio Payments, you get LawPay for free—allowing you to accept eChecks safely and securely.
You’re ready to choose the right credit card processing service
When it comes to your law firm, every dollar counts. Accepting online payments with the aid of technology like Clio Payments is an easy way to keep clients satisfied and ensure you get paid quickly. Do your research; credit card processing for lawyers is possible and can be highly beneficial to your firm. And the right solution is out there for you and your team.
*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