PCI Compliance and Secure Payments: Why It Matters for Your Law Firm

PCI Compliance and Secure Payments Why It Matters for Your Law Firm

With the rise in data breaches and other cybersecurity incidents over the past decade, clients expect that you safeguard their sensitive information as carefully as you safeguard their best interests.  

The imperative is real: according to a recent report by Vercera, 66% of consumers would not trust a company that falls victim to a data breach involving their information.  

That means those payments need to be secure every time you process a transaction. And in today’s online payment marketplace, one of the primary standards for businesses across industries to follow is Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance 

Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance provides guidelines for law firms to better protect client credit card information when making a purchase. These rules exist to prevent fraud and data breaches that could negatively impact your clients and your firm. 

If you’re unsure of how PCI compliance works, why it’s important, or what your firm needs to do to achieve it, you’ve come to the right place. 

In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of PCI compliance so you can ensure your firm stays compliant and your client’s financial data stays protected. 

What is PCI compliance? 

PCI compliance simply means that a business adheres to the PCI standard. This standard was created by major credit card companies in 2004 to protect sensitive card-user information during and after financial transactions with businesses. 

Thresholds for compliance vary significantly depending on the volume of credit card transactions processed:  

  • PCI Level 1: Over 6 million transactions/year 
  • PCI Level 2: 1-6 million transactions/year 
  • PCI Level 3: 20,000-1 million transactions/year 
  • PCI Level 4: Less than 20,000 transactions/year 

Compliance thresholds also take into account:  

  • If you store physical copies of documents with the client’s credit card information 
  • If you store client’s credit card information online 
  • If you use a physical card reader to process cards   
  • If you process cards using a third-party payment portal 
  • The reputation of your credit card processing company or third-party payment portal 

Failing to meet PCI standards isn’t a criminal offense, but if your firm isn’t compliant, payment processors can hit you with substantial penalties. These penalties vary on the duration and severity of noncompliance, as well as the conditions behind the violation, but can add up to tens of thousands of dollars per month.

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The Five Obstacles of Legal Accounting

Download this eBook to learn the five most common legal accounting challenges and how to avoid making costly mistakes. Topics covered in this resource, include:

  • Client Trust Accounting
  • Proper Accounting of Case Costs
  • Differentiating Income and Revenue
  • Data Entry Errors Between Billing and Accounting Systems
  • Understanding Where the Money Came From

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Why does PCI compliance matter for your firm? 

Beyond the fact that it’s imperative to safeguard your clients from harm, being PCI-compliant is vital for law firms. Here are just a few reasons why it’s essential to keep your firm compliant: 

Compliance minimizes security risk 

Your clients trust you with sensitive information that can include personal identifiers and financial details. When you uphold compliance obligations, you minimize the risk of cybercriminals gaining access to sensitive information.  

Compliance protects your firm’s integrity 

Client data isn’t the only thing at risk when it comes to financial transactions—law firms handle a wealth of confidential information, like case files and financial records. Staying compliant helps protect these assets and your firm’s operational integrity. 

Compliance protects your firm’s bottom line 

As noted above, noncompliance can lead to severe penalties from both regulatory bodies and credit card companies, not to mention the potential for lawsuits in the event that a breach does occur. 

Compliance acts as a differentiator 

Staying compliant can help your firm build confidence and trust with your clients by ensuring that all financial transactions and personal data are handled with the utmost security. 

What goes into becoming PCI compliant? 

Achieving PCI compliance involves rigorous attention to detail and a thorough strategy to ensure you’re meeting and maintaining requirements. While each law firm’s obligations will vary depending on their PCI level, these requirements include:  

Build a secure network and systems

1. Install/maintain a firewall configuration that protects cardholder data
2. Don’t use vendor-provided defaults for system passwords and other security parameters

Protect cardholder data

3. Protect stored cardholder data
4. Encrypt transmission of cardholder data across open, public networks

Establish a vulnerability management program

5. Protect systems against malware and regularly update antivirus software
6. Maintain secure systems and applications

Implement access control measures

7. Limited access to cardholder data by business need to know
8. Identify and authenticate access to system components
9. Limit physical access to cardholder data

Regularly monitor and test networks

10. Monitor access to network resources and cardholder data
11. Regularly test security systems

Maintain an information security policy

12. Create a policy that addresses information security for all personnel

PCI compliance often falls into the hands of IT professionals, but it shouldn’t be limited to this department. To begin, small firms may not have dedicated IT professionals. What’s more, PCI compliance is most successful when it’s handled as a cross-departmental, cross-functional endeavor.  

Even when compliance is achieved, it should be treated as an ongoing project. Regular education and training can help prevent avoidable missteps that could jeopardize your firm’s reputation.  

The role of your law firm’s payment processor in PCI compliance 

PCI compliance for law firms extends beyond the practices themselves. Any law firm accepting credit card payments must also ensure their payment processor adheres to PCI compliance requirements.   

When choosing your law firm’s payment processor, ask the following questions:  

  • Does the payment processor have compliance certifications, including PCI and GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) 
  • Do they implement employee security protocols like limited access to sensitive data? Do they require ongoing training?  
  • How do they monitor security vulnerabilities? 
  • Do they encrypt data to ensure robust protection? 
  • Do they provide automatic backups of your account?  
  • Will they work with your firm to ensure you understand their practices, as well as what’s required of your firm?  

Asking these questions will help you make an informed decision as you choose a payment processor, providing you valuable peace of mind. Software like CosmoLexPay can provide you with everything you need to stay compliant, not just with PCI regulations but also with legal and regulatory standards that govern law firms. 

Ready to achieve PCI compliance at your firm? 

With CosmoLexPay, your firm can effortlessly process payments and provide your clients with peace of mind knowing that their financial data is protected around the clock with state-of-the-art security protocols and top-notch technology. 

With CosmoLexPay, you can: 

  • Benefit from secure transaction processing with bank-grade encryption and secure protocols that ensure that every bit of your client data remains confidential and protected from unauthorized access. 
  • Leverage comprehensive monitoring and reporting solutions that allow you to easily track payment activities and spot any potential unauthorized or fraudulent activities before they turn into big problems. 
  • Stay in control of who can access specific data and payment information with user access controls, ensuring that only authorized personnel can view or manage client financial data. 

Ready to see how CosmoLexPay can get your firm to PCI compliance? Sign up for a one-on-one demo or get your 10-day free trial today.

eBook

The Five Obstacles of Legal Accounting

Download this eBook to learn the five most common legal accounting challenges and how to avoid making costly mistakes. Topics covered in this resource, include:

  • Client Trust Accounting
  • Proper Accounting of Case Costs
  • Differentiating Income and Revenue
  • Data Entry Errors Between Billing and Accounting Systems
  • Understanding Where the Money Came From

Get Free eBook Now
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