Get Paid…Faster Than A Speeding Bullet
Technology and trends are changing faster than most non-superheroes can keep up with, much less an attorney attempting to run both a law practice and a business. How do you defend yourself against the onslaught of new technology with options changing on a weekly basis?
One of the most critical areas where this holds true is how attorneys accept payments, especially in regards to credit card processing. Historically, law firms have not considered themselves as “traditional businesses” but as professionals practicing law. While it is true attorneys have an ethical and sometimes higher calling to uphold justice, in reality, they have to run a successful business first, which involves getting compensated for their work.
With technology, attorneys now have the ability to finally control cash flow through the use of credit cards and electronic payments. By doing so, you gain control of your accounts receivables and ultimately your overall practice. Traditionally, law firms do not perform credit checks or report delinquent clients to credit agencies. By allowing your firm to accept credit card payments, you can effectively shift your receivables to the card-issuing banks. Visa and MasterCard banks have already established the creditworthiness and financial capability of your clients.
Credit cards and debit cards are becoming the payment of choice among consumers. As an example; there are an estimated 10,000 payment card transactions made every second around the world. (Source: American Bankers Association, March 2009). Based on these emerging trends, attorneys can no longer ignore the importance of accepting credit cards, nor the risks associated with bad debts.
The Law Firm Merchant
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 chargeback or fraud. There are merchant services specific to law firms that correctly protect and safeguard your trust accounts.
2. 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.
3. Use the Technology You Have. Once you make the decision to accept credit cards, be sure to use the payment option that best suit 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.
4. 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 frees up the time you would normally spend processing credit card payments.
Like the Internet, credit cards and other forms of electronic payments have become an integral part of our nation’s commerce and the way many people prefer to pay. In 2009, credit cards officially surpassed paper check transactions in the U.S. Last year, over $60 billion was processed through debit and credit cards. Perhaps it is time to rethink the way your firm handles billing and collections.
You Don’t Have to be Superman to be a Super Lawyer
It is not necessary to be a website developer or have a degree in computer science to embrace credit card payments, just a smart attorney that knows how to get paid. By using technology as a payment tool, you give clients flexible payment options while allowing yourself to get paid quickly and securely. So, with technology moving at a rate that is “faster than a speeding bullet,” throw on your super-lawyer cape and take back control of your receivables and ultimately your practice.