This is an updated version of a post originally published in August 2014.
If you’re still accepting cash and cheque payments at your law firm, accepting credit cards will improve cash flow and client satisfaction.
Streamline your law firm
Accepting payments via cash and checks can cost your firm unnecessary time and money in reconciling accounts and collecting outstanding legal fees. When you accept credit cards, payment processes are automated, resulting in faster cash flow.
Cater to your clients
Credit cards are a convenient and preferred payment method for many of your clients. With a variety of payment technologies and automated reminders, it’s easy for clients to pay retainers or outstanding fees, saving you time on billing and collection so you can focus on cases.
Here are six tips for accepting credit cards at your law firm:
1. Get your own merchant account
There are two types of payment processors that you can go with: merchant account providers and processing aggregators. The main difference between the two is that with merchant account providers, you own your own merchant account, with aggregators, you use a joint merchant account along with other businesses. As law firms have special compliance and financial regulations, your own dedicated merchant account will help ensure you’re always meeting the requirements for handling client funds. Given that you’re bundled with other businesses when you use an aggregator; owning your own merchant account is beneficial, especially if you need to separate earned and unearned fees and costs or to keep your clients’ funds secure and separate.
With an aggregator, your processing limits, both individual and monthly, will be lower. This is significant if you typically have a few transactions that are high in dollar amounts. Exceeding the limits may mean account holds and frozen funds.
Whereas with a merchant account provider, you apply for your own merchant account, get higher processing limits, and see funds are deposited within 1-2 business days. Since law firms are not typically considered high-risk businesses, merchant account providers have the ability to offer customized fees based on processing volume. In addition, merchant account providers often offer turn-key solutions, allowing you to accept credit and debit card payments over a variety of channels.
2. Automate client billing
Recurring payments simplifies your payment processes and saves time by automating client billing. By storing clients’ payment info in a secure customer vault, you don’t have to ask your client for their credit card information each time you bill them. You simply create custom payment schedules and subscribe clients to plans.
3. Go mobile
One way lawyers are integrating new payment technology into their firms is by accepting payments on their mobile phones and tablets. Processing fees wherever your clients are using a card reader on a mobile device ensures you get paid without delay.
4. Accept credit card payments on your computer
Using Web Terminal, you can accept credit card payments for your legal services without any additional equipment. Securely enter client information and process payments on any web browser.
You also have the ability to preauthorize transactions. This comes in handy if you have a refundable retainer. You can preauthorize your retainer amount and then release it once the case is settled – no more dealing with cash or issuing checks.
5. Let your clients pay with one-click invoices
If you prefer invoicing your clients, you can send digital invoices. With customizable templates, invoicing is easy to set up. Your clients get an email with an embedded payment option, and they pay via credit card in a couple clicks.
6. Look for a PCI-compliant solution
An important requirement when you’re shopping around for a payment processor is the level of security and PCI compliance offered. You’re responsible for your client’s information, so it’s crucial to be able to say with confidence that their payment information is protected. A good payment processor ensures that all your transactions are PCI-compliant – and a great one does it for free.
No matter the size or type of your law firm, you’ll reap many benefits when you accept credit cards. You’ll keep your cash flow steady, simplify your office operations, reduce receivables, and cater to your client’s convenience.