How should our law firm choose a bank?
Business bank accounts are a necessity for law firms. Choosing where to open these accounts requires some research, along with asking specific questions, to make sure you’re selecting the bank that’s the right fit for your firm, needs and compliance.
Fees and limits
Most bank accounts have fees associated with them. However, depending on the amount of money you’ll be keeping in an account, you may be able to eliminate them.
Be sure to ask about fees. ATM fees and wire transfer fees can add up. There are some banks that offer free business packages, with included checks and no ATM fees, no minimum balance requirement, or transfer fees.
Make sure that the bank is approved to handle IOLTA accounts. Most states require you to only use banks that are approved with IOLTA accounts if you’re going to be dealing with trust accounts2.
Lines of credit
Access to a line of credit is important for law firms of all practices and sizes. However, if you’re a litigator and work on contingency, you should do some deep digging into this area. Keep in mind that community-based banks tend to be more lenient in giving out loans, with managers having more discretion about what to authorize than those at larger name banks. On the other hand, larger banks are more likely to have the ability to provide and back Small Business Administration (SBA) loans.
When you’re busy running a law firm, you don’t have time to go to the bank every time you need something. Find out what online services are available to see how much time you’ll save being able to make deposits directly from your desk.
Business credit cards
Find out if the bank offers business credit cards and what it takes to get one. While you may not use it all the time, it’s often helpful for paying for monthly subscriptions, including software and services like phones, practice management tools and utilities.
Each of these factors will have a different level of importance to you, but the main considerations should be IOLTA handling, fees and availability of customer service and operating hours of the branch.