Credit card payments promise ease and convenience for the consumer. That’s why people are making more payments than ever before, including recurring monthly payments like bills, with their credit cards. Many lawyers know that offering online payment options to their clients makes bill payments faster and easier, resulting in more bills paid – and paid on time.
Yet there’s no escaping the fact that lawyers also have more responsibilities when it comes to handling client payments than most business owners.
Why it’s complicated
The American Bar Association’s Model Rule 1.15 requires lawyers to safe keep clients’ property, including very specific requirements for funds deposited into and withdrawn from trust accounts. For instance, you can’t commingle funds. This means that if a client pays a bill with a credit card, the payment needs to be split, with the payment amount going into the trust account and the associated credit card fee being charged to the firm’s operating account.
Since the rest of the business world doesn’t need to follow trust accounting rules, most credit card merchants aren’t equipped to accommodate them.
The solution: Use a legal-specific merchant
You want to offer online payment options to your clients, but you also want a merchant that understands trust accounting and can handle the credit card fee going to a separate account (your operating account). You’ll also need a merchant who knows that chargebacks or other third-party charges can’t come out of the trust account. These are bare minimums to keep your firm compliant and can be met by legal-specific merchants such as LawPay.
There are other components that are good to have from a time-saving, hassle-reducing perspective. If your merchant can batch your credit card fee payments in one monthly transaction, it’ll streamline your expenses bookkeeping. Likewise, batched fee payments make for a cleaner, clearer reconciliation process each month.
One last thing to consider – linked billing and accounting programs are helpful because unlike checks, memos aren’t attached to credit card fees.