Today’s tech-savvy clients expect online payment options—especially the ability to pay by credit card—from the companies they do business with, whether they’re buying a new sweater or hiring a lawyer. In fact, between 2000 and 2018, the use of credit cards grew 392%, while checks declined by 66%, according to the US Federal Reserve.

By offering clients the flexibility and convenience of paying with a credit card, your firm will enjoy multiple benefits, including:

  • Getting paid faster.
  • Simplifying your billing process.
  • Improving collections rate and cash flow. 
  • Saving time by avoiding manual check and cash transactions.
  • Creating a client-centered experience.

Accepting credit cards also opens up the world of automated payments to your firm. Given the typical size of a legal retainer, clients value the option of breaking up the retainer into several smaller payments. In fact, the 2020 Legal Trends Report found that consumers ranked whether a law firm offered payment plans as one of the most important factors for hiring a law firm. 

As an added benefit, offering payment plans via credit cards has the potential to increase access to justice. By giving clients the flexibility to pay over a longer period of time, you can help make legal services more accessible to those who need them most. 

If you’re new to the online payment ecosystem, accepting credit cards is a good place to start. Adding a credit card option doesn’t have to involve a huge organizational change. Follow these five steps, and you’ll soon be reaping the benefits of accepting credit card payments.

Many customers expect online payment methods, especially the ability to pay online via credit cardMany customers expect online payment methods, especially the ability to pay online via credit card

1. Confirm that your firm or practice can accept credit cards

Before you start evaluating credit card processing providers, review your state bar rules and ethics guidelines to confirm that accepting credit cards is in line with the standards and regulations in place for your state.

Depending on the size and structure of your firm, you may require buy-in from partners and firm management. But considering that firms not accepting credit cards are creating a distinct competitive disadvantage for themselves, buy-in isn’t likely to be a stumbling block.

2. Decide how you’ll take credit card payments at your law firm

Credit card payments can be accepted online or in person. The online approach using cloud-based credit card processing software, such as Clio Payments, simplifies bill payment for your clients because they can pay from the comfort of their home, on their laptop, or on-the-go using their smartphone. 

Accepting credit card payments online is also much faster and more efficient for your firm. You can add click-to-pay links to your website and in client communications, including invoices, providing greater flexibility and convenience for clients—and improving your collections rate and cash flow.

If you wish to accept credit cards in person, you’ll need to purchase a credit card reader to process payments. Clients tap or swipe their cards to complete the transaction.

Lawyers strategizing how to accept credit card payments at their law firmLawyers strategizing how to accept credit card payments at their law firm

3. Find a payment processing provider

Due to ethics rules, selecting a credit card processing provider involves an extra layer of complexity for lawyers. Law firms need a credit card processing solution that recognizes and accounts for the difference between trust accounts (for retainers) and operating accounts (for bill payments). 

Critically, the card processing system must not allow chargebacks on trust accounts nor take processing fees from trust accounts.

Whether you’re considering legal-specific processors or general credit card processors, make sure you’re confident that your provider of choice will keep you compliant with IOLTA trust accounting rules. 

Integration with your legal practice management system is also a key consideration that should inform your selection process. By integrating your credit card processing solution with your practice management system, you can ensure the collections process is fast, automated, and convenient—for both you and your clients. 

For example, Clio Payments, built within the robust Clio Manage infrastructure, creates a client-centered payment experience by enabling clients to pay their bills via credit card or set up automated payments on their card. Plus, you get paid faster, improve your collection rates, and boost efficiency within the firm.

4. Get your credit card processing solution up and running

With the right provider, setting up your credit card processing software (ideally integrated with your legal practice management software) should be a simple process. For peace of mind, be sure to select a solution provider that offers reliable customer support and training to assist you if you have any questions. 

Once the software is up and running, you can send electronic invoices with “pay now” buttons. Additionally, activating click-to-pay links on your website and in client emails is a breeze. Sophisticated solutions like Clio Payments will automatically post clients’ credit card transactions to the appropriate matter or account, and sync records with your accounting platform to eliminate errors and save time.

5. Inform your clients that your firm now accepts credit cards

Don’t forget to spread the word that your firm is now accepting credit cards. Promote the news via your social media channels, update messaging on your website (be sure to highlight the “pay now” button), and add the credit card option to your invoice template. 

Consider emailing your client list informing them that you’ve expanded payment options to include credit cards. Signage in the reception area of your office is also helpful for alerting clients that you now accept credit cards.

Accepting additional payment methods

As new payment methods gain popularity, law firms should be ready to adopt themAs new payment methods gain popularity, law firms should be ready to adopt them

The benefits of accepting credit cards extend to other online payment methods, such as debit cards or ACH (eCheck) payments. Accordingly, your ideal payment processing provider will be able to accept multiple payment methods.

Clients appreciate the flexibility and convenience of having multiple options for paying their bills online without having to visit your office. In addition to creating a customer-centered payment experience, you’ll be able to reap the efficiency and cash flow rewards of secure digital payments, whether credit card, debit card, or eCheck.

Clio Payments: The best way for law firms to accept credit cards

By integrating Clio Payments with Clio Manage, we’ve created a secure, efficient, and client-centered billing and collections ecosystem that enables clients to pay with a credit card (or debit or eCheck), while automating back-end processes at the firm, such as updating billing records. 

With the ability to accept credit cards, you can set up flexible payment plans for your clients, accept trust payments, and be confident that you’re compliant with trust accounting rules

At Clio, we’ve made things simple with convenient “pay now” buttons and one flat transaction fee, across all forms of payment. Unlike other providers, we’ve opted not to charge additional fees, such as those passed on from credit card networks. 

With our simple setup process, you can get started with Clio Payments in as little as six minutes! And if you have any questions, our 24/5 customer support team with dedicated payment specialists is ready to help.

Start accepting credit cards at your law firm today

Whether you’re a lawyer in a solo practice or a large law firm, it’s impossible to deny the benefits of accepting credit cards—for both you and your clients. And with the right credit card processing provider, the setup doesn’t have to be difficult. Get started with Clio Payments today!