Tips When Accepting Credit Cards
By Tracey Gavin
In the world of merchant accounts, law firms are unique business entities. Unlike a restaurant or retail store, law firms have special considerations when dealing with credit cards and client funds. Whether you are considering accepting credit cards or already offer an electronic payment option, using state-of-the-art technology will ensure you are paid quickly and securely. Some other tips to ensure a successful transition to the modern ways of getting paid as a law firm merchant:
1. Protect your trust and IOLTA accounts. Do not allow your merchant provider access to your trust account. Most merchant agreements will require you to give access to this account in the event of a charge back or fraud. There are merchant services specific to law firms that correctly protect and safeguard your trust accounts.
2. Avoid storing credit card information.If you bill clients on a monthly basis, you will potentially need the ability to recharge their credit cards. Accepting credit cards through a secure web-based solution will allow you to avoid keeping sensitive credit card information within the walls of your office. Modern law firms are quickly moving away from the traditional credit card machines, which sometimes require paper storage of client credit card numbers. This also limits the liability and risk to your firm of credit card information falling into the wrong hands.
3. Communicate to your clients.Let clients know what your payment expectations are on the front end by including due dates, late fees, and payment options as part of your fee agreement. It is much easier to establish these guidelines while your client is new and eager to get started. More importantly, continue to communicate to your clients what payment options you provide by including credit card logos or adding “Major Credit Cards Accepted” to your invoices and website. Clients will commonly look for an attorney who provides credit card options. Even popular legal websites such as Martindale-Hubbell have specific search criteria to find attorneys who accept credit cards.
4. Use the technology you have. Once you make the decision to accept credit cards, be sure to use the payment option that best suits your needs. Depending on your area of practice—and, more importantly, where you interact with your client—there are different choices to accept payment. For example, there are many options to accept credit cards with smart phones, including iPads and laptops.
5. Let your clients do the work. By taking time to establish payment options on your website, clients can run their own credit cards. Not only does this provide a convenience to clients, but it frees up the time you otherwise would spend processing credit card payments. This also allows you to avoid ever seeing credit card numbers, eliminating any responsibility to accept, store, shred, or protect credit card numbers.
6. PCI compliance.When you accept credit cards in your office, you also accept the responsibility of protecting cardholder data. Be sure your merchant solution is PCI compliant. PCI-DSS is the payment card industry’s security guidelines for merchants. More information can be found on the PCI Security Standards Council website, www.pcisecuritystandards.org.
The LawPay program is a custom payment solution designed for attorneys. The LawPay program complies with ABA and state requirements for managing client funds. As a member benefit of the Dallas Bar Association, law firms save up to 20–25 percent off standard credit card fees. If you are currently accepting credit cards, we encourage you to compare your current processor with LawPay. To learn more contact (866) 376-0950 or www.LawPay.com/dallasbar.