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Legal Tech

Why Client-Focused Firms Are Choosing Flex Payments

By Kevin Gallagher

If your firm isn’t extending digital and flex payments, consider making a change.

flex payments

In this digital age, technology plays a pivotal role in shaping law firms’ efficiency, productivity and competitiveness. Secure client portal sites, chatbots, virtual receptionists, online meetings, e-signatures, mobile apps and other legal technologies have become hallmarks of client service and convenience.

Firms offer these services to enhance the client experience; they want to be seen as “easy to do business with” to grow trust and loyalty and to communicate smoothly with existing clients. Offering these services also makes the firm more attractive to prospective clients. Firms can broaden their accessibility and appeal by meeting prospective clients on their financial terms and making it simple to pay online. If your firm is not yet extending digital and flex payment options, consider making a change.

Why Consider Flex Payments?

When prospective clients search for a law firm, they consider location, practice area and referral information. Clients also name fee transparency and flexible billing arrangements among the top five considerations, so payment terms are clearly an important way to attract new clients.

If your firm is still billing by the hour, tracking time and then mailing invoices to clients for an expected payment by check, it’s time to reconsider the billing and payment process from the client’s point of view. Clients are willing to pay reasonable legal fees but also consider their financial situation when selecting a law firm. A firm that understands and helps meet these client concerns will have a competitive advantage.

Financial Constraints

Legal services can be expensive, and clients may have budget constraints that make it challenging to pay a large lump sum upfront. Options like flex payments can help clients manage their finances more effectively by spreading the cost over time.

The costs associated with legal services can sometimes be uncertain or difficult to predict. Clients may be unsure how long a case will take to resolve or what additional expenses might arise during the process. Share expected project costs when you can. Flexible recurring payments can allow clients to adjust their payments as needed based on the evolving nature of their case.

Risk Mitigation

Legal matters carry inherent risk, and there’s no guarantee of a positive outcome. Clients might hesitate to invest significant money upfront, especially if the outcome is uncertain. Flexible payments can allow clients to manage their financial risk by paying for services as they are delivered or as progress is made on their case.

Ways to Improve Transparency and Flexibility for Clients

1. Offer Billing Transparency and Payment Terms Upfront

When potential clients evaluate your firm — initially online — they will look for information about fee transparency, hourly rates, flexible billing and automated payments. Before engaging with your firm, they want to feel comfortable that they can afford the services and that there may be a variety of ways to pay. Sharing your firm’s billing and payment policies on your website can encourage prospective clients to take the next step to engage with your firm.

2. Offer a Variety of Payment Options

Along with billing transparency, offer clients multiple easy ways to pay an invoice. Popular methods include credit or debit cards and e-check (ACH) payments. Most firms still accept paper checks, but that payment method is in decline. Look for automated payments system features within practice management software. This makes billing a quick and easy process, allowing firms to securely process credit card payments and ACH transactions within the daily work environment.

3. Embrace Digital Payments

Rather than collecting credit or debit card information over the phone or manually depositing paper checks, take the next step with digital payments. Digital payments allow you to offer clients a “Pay Now” link in an email or a payment link in a secure client portal. Digital payments are submitted in a secure online transaction that authorizes payment from their credit card or checking account, cutting days off the cumbersome paper process.

4. Assure Clients That Digital Payments Are Secure

Automated payment platforms leverage bank-level security protocols and fraud-monitoring technology to protect against bad actors. Online payments leverage encryption and are highly secure. By comparison, the use of paper checks sent via mail is dropping rapidly. The USPS reports that from October 1, 2022, to March 31, 2023, more than 25,000 cases of mail theft were recorded. Indicating a significant increase in fraud. In addition to offering greater security, digital payments accelerate receipt of funds. A paper check takes on average 72 days for funds to arrive in the bank, while a credit card or ACH payment clears in two business days.

5. Enhanced Transparency and Accountability

Overall, flexible payment arrangements can help law firms attract and retain clients, increase client satisfaction and adapt to the diverse financial situations that clients may face. It’s a way to make legal services more accessible and manageable while maintaining a solid client-firm relationship.

For firms using a fully integrated billing and payments solution within their practice management platform, billing is an efficient, reliable process. An entire matter is handled in one place, from intake to billing and reconciliation of the firm’s ledgers and financial reports.

Clients benefit from a simplified payment process, real-time financial insights and the assurance of robust security measures. As embedded payments continue to gain traction within the legal industry, they are becoming a vital tool for law firms aiming to deliver exceptional client experiences in an increasingly digital world.

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Categories: Law Firm Billing, Legal Software, Legal Technology
Originally published September 28, 2023
Last updated November 27, 2023
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Kevin Gallagher

Kevin Gallagher is general manager of the payments division at CARET, a leading software and integrated payments solutions provider, delivering best-in-class cloud applications to over 10,000 professional services firms. He has over 25 years of experience in the payment industry and is an expert in building and scaling PE-backed payment and SaaS companies. Follow him on LinkedIn.

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