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A Mind-Blowing Secret About Law Firm Cash Management

Aug 17, 2007
All lawyers - solo and large-firm attorneys alike - know that time is money. Days must be planned with the utmost efficiency in order to keep a law practice running smoothly. Lawyers and attorneys must spend the majority of their time and efforts representing clients; but the day-to-day running of a law office is like any other business.

Clients must be billed, payments tracked and accounts kept up to date, and receiving payments in a variety of formats is time consuming. Sometimes, law firm cash management can be anything but profitable.

It stands to reason that if all of one's time is consumed by business administration issues like collecting on unpaid accounts, banking and so on - this "multi-tasking" will not only waste time, but also cause the firm to actually lose profits for the following reasons:

1. Less time will be spent billing hours and making money

2. Money will be lost on accounts owing, and time will be lost pursuing them

So what's the solution - getting paid up-front, or perhaps using a trust account?

Both of those may be options, but the most adaptable and sensible option is to accept credit cards from your clients. This opens your doors to more clients - as it makes it easier for "cash-strapped" clients to pay legal fees. It also makes it easier to collect on A/R, because you can simply process the payment in a matter of seconds and the issue will be dealt with - instead of waiting for checks, or running all over town to collect them.

However, today's credit card mentality has created a dilemma, particularly for professionals working independently or with small firms and businesses. Typically, the procedure for accepting credit card payments has been fraught with rules, regulations and a lot of stress. And when time is short anyway, the process involved in setting up such a system can seem endless. The costs to set up a "merchant account" can seem intimidating.

Concentrating on a law practice is an ongoing endeavor; but the task of providing credit card acceptance capabilities can be downright overwhelming. The need to know everything there is to know about merchant services has caused thousands of professionals and business hopefuls to throw up their arms in frustration and declare "No credit cards accepted!"

Issues involving statement and transaction fees, in addition to annual fees, programs fees and monthly minimums are enough to annoy anyone, and it doesn't end there. So, in the long run, attorneys lose potential clients desperately in need for attorney services.

Daring souls who brave the murky waves of rules, regulations, waivers and fees to invest in the actual equipment/startup cost needed to perform a credit card transaction still face contracts and agreements for that equipment, and hours of research. Cost for leasing credit card processing tools ranges from $29.00 to $80.00 a month, sometimes more. Lease terms generally run 36-48 months and canceling the lease is often not an option. Once you sign, you're stuck. Leasers must also pay state tax, if applicable, and may also find themselves paying for "Loss or Destruction" of that equipment as well. If you default on your lease, it's your credit report that suffers.

As a result, attorneys often find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. And many attorneys, especially those working solo, or even those who belong to small firms, can ill afford to spend hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars setting up and maintaining a credit card billing system for their business. Yet not doing so can cost them thousands of dollars in earning potential - and in terms of collecting on legal fees owed while simplifying their law firm cash management process overall.

So what to do? What options are out there? Granted, not many. Still, one solution is growing in popularity. It's called mobile credit card processing, and it's a unique service provided by companies like "Accept by Phone". Finally, professionals, especially lawyers, can accept credit cards without the mundane and frustrating hassle of more "traditional" credit card processing methods. Many potential clients, including those going through divorce, those facing criminal charges and whose account assets have been frozen, and countless others seeking the services of an attorney often don't have access to cash or checking accounts. Mobile credit card processing services enable both clients and attorneys to complete payment transactions painlessly with a credit card.

Most mobile credit card processors allow attorneys to accept credit card payments via landline and through cell phones, instantly. No more waiting for checks to arrive and, more importantly, to clear. Credit card payments don't bounce. Using such a service also cuts overhead expenses and eradicates the fees and regulations of more traditional methods.

The catch? Believe it or not, there isn't one. Some services actually cost as little as $5.00 a month (in fees) to use, along with a percentage on each sale (usually ranging from 3.95% to 5%). Most services have no annual fees, no transaction fees, no minimums or volume restrictions. There are no cancellations fees and no terminals needed. And all you need is a phone line, cell phone or a PDA.

How can that be? Besides technology that truly places the world at our fingertips, this "accept by phone" system is very low maintenance for the account provider (financial institution that issues the merchant account), and the account setup/approval cost is minimal in comparison to a traditional account. These services utilize an automated system that enables callers and vendors to complete transactions in a matter of seconds and with a minimum of hassle. And as a result, both the merchant provider and the merchant (you) save big time.

These unique merchant services offer a win-win situation; clients receive immediate legal representation that fits into their financial ability and preference, and attorneys get paid, instantly, just by using their cell phone for 30 seconds - simplifying their law firm cash management struggles in one fell swoop.

What's not to like about that?
About the Author
Chris Rempel recommends www.AcceptByPhone.com, which enables lawyers to accept credit cards using any phone (or cell), for just $5 per month and 3.95% per sale. Find out why Chris and others think this service is the ultimate mobile merchant account service.

For more practical law firm business tips, see my law firm management website.
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