By this time, most of our readers have likely accepted that the practice of law is changing in a number of important ways. For example, we use email to correspond with clients and opposing counsel; we use social media tools to market and network our practice; we increasingly find ourselves using less and less paper in the course of our practice. But for some reason, unlike nearly every other business in the world, most law offices still don’t accept credit cards from clients despite the many advantages of doing so. It’s time to reconsider that position.
The Advantages of Accepting Credit Cards
Credit cards provide an opportunity to ensure payment from clients. Indeed, when a client arrives at your office for an initial consultation it is very possible that they haven’t brought a checkbook or cash. By accepting credit cards you can provide them an opportunity to immediately pay your retainer fee. Further, when you accept a credit card from a client you receive the payment immediately instead of having to wait to receive payment and/or having to wait for a check to clear. Additionally, by accepting credit cards you allow a client, who otherwise may not have the funds available to make a payment, to pay your fee on the spot. Once the charge has gone through you no longer run the risk of nonpayment.
The ABA Model Rules has accepted the propriety of lawyer’s accepting credit cards for payments, although you should always check with your state’s specific ethical rules if in doubt. The only downside, of course, is the transaction charge associated with accepting credit cards. Nonetheless, that charge isn’t significant when compared to the risk of nonpayment or a significantly delayed payment.
Using Square & PayPal to Accept Credit Cards
Thanks to Square, accepting credit cards for individuals of any business type is easier than ever. Square allows you to accept credit cards quickly and easily using a free, small plastic card-reader that inserts into the headphone jack of your smartphone or iPad. Sign up on their site and they immediately send you your free card reader. They charge a mere 2.75% per swipe with no commitments and no annual fees. As a result it is a great option for accepting payments on the spot – especially when accepting an initial retainer fee.
The downside is that they charge 3.5% + 15 cents per transaction for cards entered manually. If your client isn’t present at the time you charge them, then this might be an issue for you. In that situation you could consider setting up a Merchant Account with PayPal which charges 2.9% + 30 cents. In this case you can simply email a “Request For Money” from your PayPal account directly to your client’s email address. They can then choose to pay with any method they choose.
Either way, it’s become so easy to accept credit cards from your clients, you really have no reason to not consider adding that payment option to your practice.