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Can legal clients pay by credit card?

The ABA and state bar associations decided decades ago that it is ethical for attorneys to accept credit card payments from clients.[1]

Best law firm administrative practices when accepting credit card payments are as follows:

  1. Obtain written consent from clients to disclose limited confidential information to credit card companies in order to accept credit card payments.[2][3]
  2. When submitting a request for payment to the credit card processing company, provide general information rather than specific details about the services, e.g., “for legal services rendered.”[3][5]
  3. Get the credit card processing company to agree that the firm may redact confidential information when providing documentation of services in response to a chargeback request by a client.[3][5]
  4. Allow the client a reasonable amount of time to review the invoice and dispute any charges before charging the credit card.[6][7]
  5. Have your fee agreement to specifically state how and when your firm can charge the client’s credit card for unpaid invoices and set out the dispute process.[6][8]
  6. If you store client credit card information for automatic payments, be aware that you have a duty to keep that information secured in specific ways.[9][10]
  7. Keep written authorizations from clients and third-party payers on file when automatically charging client credit cards.[8][11][12]
  8. If a client disputes a fee that is being paid by a credit card, or if the client overpays on an invoice by credit deposit the payment into the trust account, and transfer out immediately any undisputed, earned portion.[7]
  9. For credit card deposits to client trust accounts, use a legal-specific credit card processing company, like LawPay, that can deposit trust payments directly into the client trust account, that will not take chargebacks out of your trust account, and that will not remove merchant service fees from the trust deposit as it occurs. [3][13][14][15]
  10. Do not charge your clients a “credit card finance charge” or “convenience fee” to pass along the merchant service fees to the client.[3] If you do decide to pass the merchant service fees on to the client, make sure that your finance charge does not exceed the total merchant fees that you pay on the client’s credit card transaction.[3][14]

There is wide disparity between the states on the ethical rules governing acceptance of credit card payments. Check with your state and local bar associations before accepting credit card payments.


References

1. Should Lawyers Embrace a Cashless Future and Accept Credit Cards?
2. How to Accept Credit Card Payments the Ethical Way
3. Accepting Credit Cards for Payment of Legal Fees
4. Legal Ethics Corner: Ethical Issues in Accepting Credit Card Payments
5. What if I receive a chargeback notice?
6. Ethics committee on lawyers accepting credit card payments
7. Opinion 582
8. How do I add credit card language to my attorney fee agreements?
9. The Ethics of Accepting Credit Cards
10. PCI Compliance Guide.
11. LawPay Authorization Form
12. LawPay Friends and Family Form
13. LawPay
14. Trust Accounts: Accepting Credit Card Retainer Payments
15. How Credit Card Merchant Fees Are Affecting Your Trust Account