Law firms are unique. They have unique processes and strange, sometimes archaic, rules governing the way to handle money. As a result, it's prudent for a law firm to ensure that any electronic payment processor understands and complies with these rules. Below are the most important items to check.
1. Fee Management. If you are going to accept credit/debit cards or other electronic payment methods into a trust or IOLTA account, ensure the processor will debit all fees from the firm's operating or business account. Failure to do this could result in accounting headaches, or more importantly, disciplinary action.
2. Charging Fees to Clients. Many businesses charge customers extra to pay by credit card. In addition to the state laws and card brand rules governing this practice, it's important your processor understands the rules of professional conduct in your state. These rules impact the practice of charging clients for card fees. In some states, the rules even prohibit it. For more details see our state-by-state guide on charging clients for card fees.
3. Chargeback Management. Chargebacks occur for many reasons, including fraud. But they can also occur if a client disputes a charge on their card. If this happens the amount of the disputed charge will be automatically deducted from your account and an arbitration process will ensue. The credit card processing system is biased in favor of the consumer and against businesses. As a result, these disputes can be tough to win. Ensure your processor can provide proof of the transaction and will help with the arbitration process. More importantly, confirm that any chargebacks initiated on the trust account will be removed from the firm's business or operating account. This will help avoid more accounting headaches and potential rules violations.
4. Large Transactions. To state the obvious, law firms aren't like coffee shops. The average transaction size on the Gravity Legal platform is currently close to $1,500, but it's common to see much higher dollar value transactions. It's important your processor understands your transaction profile. Make sure you ask what transaction sizes are allowed. This is especially important with e-checks or ACH transactions, which typically have lower limits than cards. Prevent the situation where a client is ready to pay a large bill, and the transaction won't process.
There are many quirks when it comes to law firms and payment processing, but these are the four most important items to understand.