The Ultimate Guide to Legal Payments
Modern consumers demand convenience, security, and flexibility when paying for their goods and services, and like it or not; legal clients are no different. If your firm fails to provide the payment options that modern clients want, you risk falling short of client expectations. Poor client experience can snowball into a whole host of problems for your firm, including poor client retention, little to no client referrals, and ultimately hurting your law firm's profitability.
In the age of Venmo, PayPal, and Square, cash and paper checks have become dated relics of times gone by. Your clients expect the convenience of electronic payments, so much so that they probably have their payment method information saved onto their computers and phones - cutting out even the most minimal hassle of manually typing in their card numbers. Modern clients are busy and prefer to avoid the hassle of coming into an office to pay in person. Our data shows the collection rates for law firms that accept online payments are nearly 10% higher than those that don't.
Long story short, failing to provide various payment options means leaving your hard-earned revenue on the table. The following information will help you choose and implement the lawyer payment methods your clients prefer.
Are lawyers allowed to accept online payments?
The trend of clients paying their legal fees online or with a credit card is undeniable, but are lawyers allowed to accept payments online? Short answer: yes. However, there are a few implications to consider.
It's not inherently risky for attorneys to accept payments online, but they still have to comply with all the legal and ethical requirements. In particular, lawyers have struggled with using electronic payment solutions while complying with the rules requiring the separation of client and third-party funds from the lawyer's operating funds. However, using a legal payment solution like LawPay, explicitly made for attorneys and the legal industry, is the best way of keeping your transactions above board and secure.
Are there options for lawyers to collect payments?
Credit card processors, also called merchant service providers or acquiring service providers, administer a service so you can accept credit card payments at your business. In many cases, business owners choose a credit card processing provider by comparing a few companies -- Paypal, Stripe, and Square, for example -- and selecting the best one.
Credit card processing for lawyers is a little more complicated. As we established above, accepting credit card payments for legal services evokes several ethical rules. Lawyers must ensure that their credit card processors will keep them in compliance.
LawPay's legal payment platform lets lawyers separate payments into earned and unearned funds and direct them into their proper accounts. In addition, the solution deducts the processing fees from the lawyer's or firm's operating funds rather than from funds that may still legally belong to the client or a third party.
Using a legal payment solution built specifically for attorneys and the legal industry, like LawPay, is the best way of keeping your transactions above board and secure.
What should you be charging, and how should you be charging it?
Before you begin exploring how you can build your law firm's online payment processes to cater to the modern legal landscape, we invite you to enter the mind of a standard legal client. All of the following are questions current and potential legal clients frequently ask.
- What are reasonable legal costs?
- How much is a legal consultation fee?
- Why do good lawyers cost so much?
- Can lawyer fees be paid monthly?
No surprise, money is top of mind for many legal clients. As a legal professional, you want to help your clients and offer top-notch service. But at the end of the day, you are performing a job, and you need to collect the money you are owed.
To ensure your clients feel prepared to incur the costs associated with legal representation (and so that you don't find yourself in a situation chasing down unpaid invoices), it is essential to be clear and transparent with your costs. Reviewing the type of payments you accept, the frequency of payment, your hourly rate, flat fees, and how you'll collect payments from your clients are all critical questions to answer during your client onboarding process. This way, there are no surprises!
Additionally, you'll want to ensure that your rates are commensurate with your geographic location, target client demographic, and your area of law and experience. Lawyers don't always determine the appropriate value for their services or fail to adjust rates to keep up with changing economic times. That's where doing your research comes in! By asking colleagues, mentors, and other legal professionals in your area how much they charge, you can compare your law firm's billable rates for different types of cases with other legal professionals in your geographic region who handle similar cases.
You might consider looking at data on employment via the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which shares the average salaries for lawyers across the country. Some state bar associations also publish industry trends on salary, breaking those down further by law firm type and practice areas.
4 lawyer payment methods to accept at your firm
It's important to reiterate that today's consumers value varied and flexible payment options. That's why we recommend offering as many ways to pay as possible. Review the following lawyer payment options to discover all the payment methods available, and learn the pros and cons of each one.
Offering online credit card payments is one of the best options for law firms for multiple reasons:
It's familiar to clients. For many clients, credit card payments are already their preferred payment method in their day-to-day life.
It's more convenient for clients. Online credit card payments allow clients to pay their legal bills quickly, easily, and securely. Like credit cards, debit payment options provide clients with the convenience, efficiency, and familiarity they want and expect. A recent study noted that 40% of clients would never hire a lawyer who didn't take credit or debit cards.
It helps your firm get paid faster. When it's easier for clients to pay, they tend to pay their legal bills sooner. Moreover, online card payments reduce the delay between the client making a payment and your firm receiving it. Data tells us firms get paid 39% faster when collecting fees via a secure online credit card payment platform when compared to other means.
- Credit card processing fees. You'll have to deal with credit card processing fees if you accept credit cards as payment for your services. Why? There's a cost to moving money in our financial system. However, the impact of faster payments and increased cash flow generally offsets late payments and the processing fees associated with credit cards.
Online payment systems, like PayPal, are important to consider when law firms are choosing which payment options to provide to their clients.
- PayPal offers a convenient, easy-to-use payment option that appeals primarily to a younger demographic, which may be particularly attractive to lawyers focused on bringing in this type of client.
PayPal takes a cut of your payments.
Payments accepted via platforms like PayPal may not follow all ethical and compliance rules. As mentioned earlier, the nature of PayPal could make it challenging to ensure compliance when accepting payment for retainers or funds for a trust account.
The rules on accepting payments for legal services vary. Be sure to check your state's laws about accepting legal payments via PayPal to ensure you're able to stay compliant.
An electronic check—or eCheck—serves as a digital version of a traditional paper check. NOTE: To accept eChecks, law firms must use an online payment solution that includes eChecks as a payment method.
Clients can pay their bills directly from their online bank account instead of writing a check.
eChecks function similarly to paper checks—but with a lower cost than credit cards.
A legal-specific eCheck processor, like LawPay, allows law firms to securely accept eChecks as a lawyer payment method.
- Attorneys should always follow ethical guidelines when accepting payments via eCheck. Using a legal-specific payment solution can make this easier.
Legal Fee Funding:
Fee Funding is a type of short-term financing that allows consumers to make purchases and pay for them at a future date, often interest-free. Since 2020, the popularity of this type of payment has exploded, with 50% of Americans using fee funding to make a purchase. Through legal fee funding, clients can pay for services over time while the firm receives the total amount upfront.
Firms receive the total invoiced amount upfront, while clients get an automated payment plan that meets their financial needs.
With traditional legal services financing, you receive multiple smaller deposits. Allowing clients to use fee funding means you can secure your total requested amount in advance.
Easily accommodate the evolving payment preferences of modern legal clients and cut down on time spent chasing after overdue invoices.
Legal fee funding provides a cutting-edge way for clients to pay for services; however, because of its relative newness, some law firms and clients might be hesitant to recognize it as a viable form of payment.
It can be challenging to locate a payment platform that offers fee funding as an option. Along with giving you the power to provide automated legal fee financing through Pay Later, LawPay simplifies and streamlines the overall invoicing process and makes it easier for your clients to pay.
Should lawyers accept several payment options?
Offering a greater variety of payment methods leads to faster payments and stronger cash flow. In fact, data shows that law firms offering flexible payment options save 3 billable hours daily, increase profitability by 10%, and receive payments 32% faster. By accepting multiple online payment options, law firms make it easier for clients to pay, which can help grow their practice. Providing various convenient lawyer payment methods is one way to prioritize the client-centered experience.
How can lawyers create billing solutions for their clients?
A successful law firm must have streamlined and transparent billing practices. More likely than not, you know how important it is and have taken steps to reduce inefficiencies in your law firm's billing processes, but how? Simplifying your billing can be as easy as 1, 2, 3.
Be thorough with your bills. Record every task you've performed for your client's case, including every significant step along the way. Many legal professionals will record their tasks in 10-15 minute increments, with some going as detailed as six minutes at a time. Legal practice management software, like MyCase, can help make this process less tedious.
Record your tasks as soon as you complete them. Try to document work as soon as it's done or as close to completion time as possible. If you delay, you may be distracted by another task and unable to remember the details accurately.
Maintain a consistent billing schedule. Plan a consistent time and date to send your bill out every month. This ensures your client can anticipate your bill in advance and pay it more promptly. Also, try to list the line items in plain language. Most clients will not be familiar with legal jargon, and if they can easily understand the charges on their bill, there's less chance they'll contest or find them suspicious.
When building a billing process that works well for you and your clients, an all-in-one billing payment solution is the best place to start. By connecting your billing process and payments, you can create smooth, streamlined workflows to save time and money on your billing and collections process.
How do you choose the right lawyer payment methods for your law firm?
Although today's technology offers many possible payment options for law firms, not all options are appropriate for all firms. Finding a solution that integrates with other systems is essential for many law firm tools (such as practice management or accounting software), allowing them to accept multiple payment methods in one solution.
LawPay functionality makes it easy for law firms to accept secure legal credit card payments online. The following LawPay features are just some ways your law firm can streamline its payment processes and keep your life a little simpler while increasing your cash flow and client satisfaction.
Scheduled Payments: Scheduled Payments through your LawPay account allow you securely store clients' payment information and set automated payments in advance, guaranteeing your invoices get paid on time.
Card Vault: Securely store your clients' preferred payment methods within your LawPay account to quickly pay invoices without affecting your PCI requirements.
QR Codes: When clients scan your unique QR code, they will be redirected to your LawPay payment page, where they can enter their credit card or eCheck information and submit payment instantly via their mobile device.
Pay Later: With Pay Later, our fee financing system for legal professionals, your clients can pay in installments while your firm still receives 100% of the invoiced amount upfront.
Before implementing digital payment methods, law firms should research their state bar's rules and regulations and any ethical considerations.
Lawyer Payment Methods: In Conclusion
Providing clients with different payment options beyond traditional methods can reveal many benefits for law firms. Ultimately, firms that can offer alternative payment methods position themselves as much more client-centric by keeping the needs of their clients top of mind from the beginning of the case to the end. The more you can be mindful of your clients' needs, the more likely they are to become repeat clients (and recommend your services to others). Additionally, offering varied payment options makes life a little easier for legal professionals, cutting down on the time they spend on time consuming billing processes and chasing down the money they are owed. And - with more time back in their day, lawyers can focus less on what they have to do, and more on what they want to do.
LawPay empowers you to offer a wide variety of the latest payment options to your clients. If you’d like to see how our modern payment platform can benefit your firm, we invite you to schedule a demo today!