What Lawyers Need To Know About Accepting Credit Card Payments

You should be accepting credit card payments. Clio’s 2015 Legal Trends Report observed a 35% reduction in the time it took to receive payment compared to waiting for a check. You may think that the way you process payments now is just fine so why fix it? Because the way we pay for things have changed. A little over 10 years ago, checks were the biggest form of noncash payments in the US, but in 2007, according to the Federal Reserve, the combination of debit cards, credit cards, and ACH payments overtook checks. Many of your clients are already paying online in other places. Four out of five households with internet access opt to online bank, and this isn’t only millennials– more than 70% of online or mobile bill payers are 35 years of age or older. By not collecting on invoices immediately, you’re effectively extending your client’s credit.

Every credit card processor will provide you with a “payment gateway.” A “payment gateway” is what clients use to submit their credit/debit information. It can be a physical swiper or an electronic form. Which type of account you have then determines where that information from that gateway goes. A merchant account is a one-to-one relationship. It will briefly hold the client’s money and then transfer it to your firm’s bank account. Processors made specifically for attorneys are usually merchant accounts. In fact, some legal-specific credit card processors handle trust accounting, depositing the transaction the correct account right away and only deducting fees from your operating account. Examples of these types of processors include LawPay, LawCharge, and MyCase Payments (only available with the MyCase practice management software).

credit card chart

In 2011, a new type of account came on the market – the aggregator account, making way for all sorts of new processors you may have heard of: PayPal, Stripe, Square, and Authorize.net. Aggregator accounts merge the money from your transaction with the money from transactions of other businesses and then move it to their own merchant account. This process reduces their fees from the credit card companies that they then theoretically pass on to you with lower transaction fees. In my comparison chart, however, you can see that merchant accounts have lower fees per transaction, with LawPay having the lowest published transaction fee (see column M for a test of running a $1K transaction). Double click the image to see all the data in Google Sheets.

If you decide to accept credit card payments, it’s important that you remain PCI compliant by following the PCI guidelines for protecting credit card data: 1. Build and maintain a secure network; 2. Protect cardholder data; 3. Maintain a vulnerability management program; 4. Implement strong access control measures; 5. Regularly monitor and test networks; 6. Maintain an information security policy. Every year you should submit a self-assessment of your compliance to your acquirer bank. To make the process easier on yourself, select a processor that is PCI Compliant on their end as well as yours. LawPay actually includes a free guide and support through the assessment. Other processors are PCI compliant but do not offer the same level of support LawPay does. PayPal Payments Pro actually puts the onus on the merchant in order to take on higher risk merchants. Consider if the benefits of using PayPal Payments Pro outweigh the headache of maintaining PCI Compliance. You can learn more about PCI and take a look at sample self-assessments, check out PCI Security Standards Council’s Document Library: https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/document_library?document=pci_dss

For more information, see our CLE “Accepting Online Payments Ethically and Securely” at http://bit.ly/2mpiCcB


*Bankruptcy attorneys and debt collectors: be diligent in reading the fine print when selecting a credit card processor. Stripe considers your practice too high risk, but there are plenty that don’t.

How To Re-Open a Recently Closed Tab

Have you ever closed out of a browser window you didn’t mean to? Don’t panic. There’s several ways to get back to that page. Internet Explorer 11, Firefox, and Chrome all allow you to retrieve the tab easily. Press Ctrl+Shift+T or right-click on the tab bar and select “Reopen closed tab.” Viola! The page is back open. If you press Ctrl+Shift+T again, it will open the second last closed tab.


Firefox and Chrome also have methods of retrieving closed tabs via their settings menus.


In Chrome, simply click the “hamburger” menu symbol. Near the top, you’ll see the option for “Recent Tabs.” Mouse over that and select the tabs that were recently closed.


Click to enlarge.


In Firefox, it’s only slightly different. Click the “hamburger” menu and then select History (the clock icon). This will pull up a menu that allows you to see and restore the closed tabs.


Click to enlarge.

That’s all there is to it! Never fear a slip of the mouse again.

Employee Empowerment, Your Ticket to Freedom

employee empowermentIt has been said that a sign of a great manager is one who can leave the office, take a vacation and not worry about what’s happening back at HQ. Letting go of our need to control every piece of paper, phone call or email transmission isn’t as easy as it seems. Many of us micro-manage or doubt the abilities of our employees due to bad experiences or having been burned in the past.

Get over it.

Learning to empower the people in your office to do their jobs, improve your business and utilize technology will pay you back tenfold.

Good news. It’s not that complicated.

Empowering employees comes down to one simple principle. Understanding what is most important to an employee and gives them satisfaction, then leveraging that knowledge to reward the employee when they achieve what is most important to you and your business. You hired the people in your office because they have innate qualities that separated them from the rest of the pack. You put them in their role because they are fulfilling the needs of the business, and obviously doing it well enough to stay there. Now all you need to do is groom them to be the leaders, task-masters, and expect the same from their peers. Here are a few ways to encourage and empower your team:

Promote Open Communication

Bosses often say ‘I have an open door policy’ but how many actually live by it?  Making it a point to invite people into your office to talk, saying hello to them as you pass by. Encouraging walk in conversations shows interest in their position and that they do have a voice.

One on One Time

Everyone feels special when they get to go to lunch with the boss, or get called into the office for a one on one meeting. These 30 minute to 1 hour blocks of time can tell you a tremendous amount about that employee’s motivations and overall job satisfaction. Together you’ll also uncover ways to improve operational areas of your business.

Encourage Learning

Lunch & learns, sharing tech tips, guest speakers. Even You Tube videos get the job done. When a team is trained with the skills they need to succeed, not just survive the whole business benefits. Efficiency is your ally, and there’s no better way to become efficient than by utilizing the technology and people you have to their fullest potential.

Accept Mistakes

I don’t think anyone reading this can honestly say they’ve never made a mistakes. They happen, that’s how we learn. Pigeonholing an employee into a cycle of self-doubt and guilt because they are afraid to make a mistake is unhealthy. Know that new employees are going to need some learning room, and existing employees might not have been trained properly, are only partially informed or just need help.

Define Every Role

There’s a difference between saying ‘that’s not my job’ and not actually knowing what your job is. Uncertainty breeds self-doubt and when employees are not confident in their direction they make hesitant decisions, pretty much paralyzing your business.

Equal Accountability

Everyone’s on the same team, working towards the same goals. Actions that do not drive the business forward, or distract others from their ability to do so should be dealt with accordingly. Regardless of position, family ties, or college friendships. Letting one employee slide while others pay the piper for their actions begets resentment and disdain.

Reward Business Wins

You would love a lower office supply bill, maybe a firm-wide discount at a health club, or lower group cell phone rates right? So encourage and reward employees for finding ways to save the business money. You can bonus them with 10% of the amount they save you, or do something as simple as getting to leave early on a Friday afternoon.

Hold Company Meetings

This is the difference between being a business owner, and being a business leader. Holding a company meeting, that isn’t about problems, clients and deadlines but more about goals, improvements and direction builds commitment, vision and unity. Employees want to feel like they are a part of something, something they can help build, contribute to. Without understanding what’s important to you, and your goals for the future, how are they supposed to help you get there? Share, engage, ask for ideas. You’ll be surprised how much feedback you get.

Say Thank You

Last, but never least be grateful for your employees. Honestly and truly grateful. What would happen if Tom, Sarah or Sally walked out on you tomorrow? What kind of situation would you be in? How many times has an employee taken heat from a client outside your door while you got to focus and work? Cookies, a thank you eCard, late starts, early departure. Whatever you can do to show you are paying attention will be the difference between that employee going the extra mile, or looking the other way.

One Closing Anecdotal Tale

A young man, and incredibly hard worker on one of my very first teams started to loose energy and decline performance in his second year with the firm. His attitude was slipping, and I was running from meeting to meeting paying little attention to what was happening. He was my right hand, my fallback, my second brain always making sure I had what I needed, until one morning when he called in sick. That morning, scrambling to collect my thoughts I realized how valuable he was, and how little I had done to find out what was important to him.

That’s the center of every employee puzzle. What is happening and valuable to them in their life. He had called in because he wanted to spend time with his grandfather who didn’t have much time left. Instead of requesting the time off, he took it on his own. Because he wasn’t comfortable approaching me, or was afraid to ask. It was my fault, I wasn’t paying attention to one of the most critical people in my business.

When he returned to the office, we sat down to chat. I asked him what would make the week better for him? Was there anything bothering him about his job, that made him take time without notice? He explained that if he could just have a late arrival two times per week, that would make a world of difference. We talked through timing and hours, informed his teammates, and went back to work. Not only did his performance improve but so did his personal happiness. Translating into a better client experience and quality work product. All because of one simple change.


blue-red-cables-heartAs an attorney you work with sensitive client documents. Whether you entrust those documents to a file cabinet in your office or a cloud service, like Dropbox or Box, the onus is on you to safeguard your client’s information. Using cloud services provides a huge benefit to large and small businesses alike and have been embraced by many attorneys and firms. But when there is a serious security breach like Heartbleed, it’s imperative that you have a basic understanding of what happened, what it means to you, and what it could mean for your clients.

How it works

Heartbleed is the result of a bug in the “OpenSSL” encryption mechanism, which is widely used across the Internet by websites both large and small. This bug has been present on web servers across the Internet for several years. Hackers could have taken advantage of this vulnerability in the past, if they had found it themselves before it was publically announced on April 7th 2014. The bug allows malicious hackers to submit a specific request to a web server that triggers the server to respond with much more information than it should. This additional information could be meaningless letter and numbers or it could be sensitive information from website visitors including usernames and passwords, credit card information, or other sensitive and private data.

What this means to you

It is possible that hackers could have retrieved any information that you have exchanged with a website affected by Heartbleed. The data retrieved would have been in relatively small chunks so it is not likely that complete documents would have been compromised. Hackers would primarily be looking for usernames, passwords, and other personal or financial credentials.

How to protect yourself

  1. Check to see if the websites you use were affected by Heartbleed
    LastPass, a company that offers a secure password service, has a webpage you can use to see if the websites you frequent were, or are, affected by the Heartbleed vulnerability at https://lastpass.com/heartbleed/. Many companies have already sent emails to their customers and/or released public statements. If you have any questions about the security of the websites you use you may also want to reach out to them for comment.

  2. Change your passwords
    As a precaution, even websites known to be unaffected by Heartbleed are recommending that users change their password. When was the last time you changed your passwords? You may want to take this opportunity to change them now and set a reminder on your calendar to change them on a set schedule.

  3. Use a password manager like LastPass
    Since you’re changing your passwords, now is a perfect time to evaluate secure password managers like LastPass, https://lastpass.com/. Services like LastPass help you to:

      • Keep track of all of your passwords across all of the websites you use
      • Make it easy to change and not have to remember all of your passwords
      • Use a different password for every website you use without having to remember each one
      • Encourage you to easily make use of very long and complex passwords


  1. Consider notifying your own clients
    In some cases, you might consider putting your own client’s minds at ease by notifying them that you are aware of Heartbleed and that you’ve checked with your partners and service providers to ensure that their systems are now protected against this vulnerability, especially if you use a secure client portal.

  2. Be vigilant
    Monitor any web service accounts that you have for suspicious activity, such as Dropbox, Box, your bank and credit card accounts. Keep a close eye on them as a precaution and if you notice suspicious activity change your password immediately and notify the company.

ABA TECHSHOW 2014 Run Down


Once you’ve been to ABA TECHSHOW you know that there is no other conference quite like it. It is a 2.5 day blitz of CLE presentations, dinners, and technology products all documented in real time through every conceivable social media channel. The goal for most of us is just to keep up, and absorb as much as we can, chatting until we are hoarse and tired enough to sleep for a week. So without further ado, let’s recap!


Lexthink.1, kicked off ABA TECHSHOW 2014 with a lighting round of 10 speakers delivering their message in 6 minutes through 20 image centric slides. This year we saw a delightful mix of new speakers including three women: Leila Kanani of Intermix Legal Group presented “MomLaw and the 50% Solution,”; Yael Citro of LawPal delivered “Stop Working Like It’s 1983.” ; and Gwynne Monahan of the ABA LTRC had us asking “what does a strawberry pop tart and your law firm have in common?” from her session “The Data Life Raft: From Walmart to your Law Firm.”

The evening closed with a word from Matt Homann declaring that this would be the last year of Lexthink.1. We’ll all be waiting to see how Mr. Homman re-creates this fun event.

Dominating Digital Documents

Advanced manipulation of the digital word is here. Document assembly, OCR, dictation and editing tools made their presence known on the ABA TECHSHOW Expo floor this year. New and existing tools you may not have heard of are changing the way attorneys prepare and perfect their work.

Document assembly allows you to automate a form or template by taking pieces of variable information and turning them into form fields. Filling in these fields then generates a new and unique document, without tedious copying and pasting. Examples of this could be an establishing an LLC, or creating a living will, contract, or an agreement. What makes this year so exciting is that we are not only seeing integrations with case management solutions like Clio, Rocket Matter, My Case & Smokeball, but we are also seeing stand alone solutions that any attorney can use to save time, increase efficiency and reduce error. A newcomer to the document assembly party is a tool called Doxserá (from the makers of The Form Tool) which uses previously written clauses to complete forms and agreements for the attorney by answering a series of questions.

On the editing front, Wordrake, can edit and proofread your documents with intelligence from leading legal writing coach Gary Kinder. Beyond correcting spelling and punctuation, this tool suggests word choice and reduction of superflous language. Dictation tools continue to engrain themselves into software and automation platforms, the most notable this year being Big Hand’s acquisition of Esquire Innovations. The dictation giant aims to combine the power of dictation with automated legal documents and forms offered by Esquire.

Finally pen to digital paper is now more refined than ever. The Sony Digital Paper device was a big hit at the Worldox booth, with tablet form and elegant function translating your handwriting into ready to review documents.

The Cloud Also Rises

Cloud vendors have often debuted at ABA TECHSHOW. In 2008 we saw the entrance of Rocket Matter and Clio. Next came My Case.  Now enter round 3 of cloud apps and services. Newcomers to the SaaS practice management space include Lexis Nexis – Firm Manager and Thomson Reuters – Firm Central.  Others include CaseTrek, JuraLaw ,CosmoLex and Time59.   Hybrid cloud services, which  marry the offline capability of desktop tools with the backup and data sync features of SaaS products such as Smokeball, Viivo, Tabs 3 (Tabs 3 Connect) and Amicus (Amicus Cloud) also had a big presence.

Off the Floor… App of the Week.

If you didn’t attend a Taste of TECHSHOW dinner you missed out! Reid Trautz wowed us all by letting his iPhone do the talking… and walking. At dinner Reid set his iPhone down in the middle of our circular dinner table and let the dance begin. We watched as iPhone app Cycloramic kicked into gear! The iPhone started buzzing away, sequentially turning to face every person, cycling a full 360 degrees to compile a single group photo of everyone at our table. In one word: supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Hipsters, photo-bombers and selfie lovers unite!

Take Aways

Lessons from ABA TECHSHOW sessions and the Keynote Speech by Rick Klau.

The customer is not always right. If you went to get your car repaired, would you tell the mechanic how to change the parts, which ones to order, and how long it should take? No, because if you could, you would do it yourself. The same is true for your clients. While it is important to hear them out and listen to what they think they should pay don’t let that deter you from pricing by what you know to be fair and reasonable.

Your services and time are valuable. Everyone knows that. What the average client often doesn’t factor in is the residual effect that hiring a knowledgeable attorney has. Will working with you help them avoid tearing their family apart during the custody process? Can you help them avoid penalties or taxes by using certain estate planning strategies? Are you able to advocate for an employee’s labor issue without it ruining their daily life at work? It’s about preservation and peace of mind.

It’s about selling value. The commoditization of the legal industry isn’t happening, it’s already here. And in the words of Mark Britton, Founder of Avvo you need to ask yourself: “What is your cheeseburger?”.  Think of an entry level product that your clients know they need and want at a fixed price. Then when selling it to them explain why a Happy Meal might be a better option. The Happy Meal is your full service offering, or combination of services that delivers a higher level of certainty or peace of mind. A client may know she needs filings for an LLC, but had no idea that a strong business foundation also includes an operating agreement, maybe an employee contract, and various other documents. The same can be said for estate planning. A simple power of attorney is the doorway into a larger conversation about living wills and asset protection.

“Just Say No” Nancy Reagan may have coined the famous phrase in relation to drug use but it rings true in business today. As business owners you may feel pressure to take on work outside of what you are comfortable with in order to pay the bills. However, taking on a difficult client or questionalbe case means that you neglec twork that leads to growth and success.  Spending an hour on the phone with a troublesome client you knew you shouldn’t have taken on now means you can’t get to your marketing to do list. Neglecting marketing and networking may  mean you might have a lull in new business while churning your wheels with a client you don’t even like. Still skeptical? Read this.

Irrelevance applies to those who are not willing to change. So lastly… Think Big.

In many ways what used to work in the business of law isn’t working any more, so lawyers need to imagine what tomorrow will look like and how to get there. Use data to drive decisions, fuel new business models and leverage the combined power of your peers to show the world how things have changed.

Hope to see you next year. Until then I look forward to pushing forward into the future inch by inch, and hope you are too.

Five ways to have a better morning.

Morning StretchFor those of us who struggle with mornings, hit quadruple snooze until our iPhone alarms lap each other, and despise the early morning meeting; Here are five ways to get your day in gear, and on the road with time to spare.

1. Get a real alarm clock and place it across the room.

It’s been said that a trip to the gym is easier once you put your gym shoes on. The same is true for getting out of bed. Once you’re actually up, and have walked across the room, you have to make a conscious decision to crawl back under the covers and go to sleep. Snoozing your phone alarm on the night stand, or silencing an alarm right next to you is offers little resistance to oversleeping.

2. Pre-make your breakfast.

Having something delicious to look forward to in the morning is a great motivator. Here are a few easy to make morning meals that are both healthy and commute friendly.

i. Granola Parfaits – Three Ways

ii. Easy Muffin Tin Mini-Omelets

iii. Freezer Friendly Breakfast Sandwiches

iv. Overnight Slow Cooker Oatmeal

3. Drink a glass of water.

One tall glass of water first thing in the morning will do much more for your energy level than any amount of espresso. Drinking water jump starts your metabolism, digestive system and increases brain function.

4. Lay out your clothes and effects the night before.

Scrambling around the house looking for a sock, your keys, or standing in front of your closet wondering what you should wear eats up precious time, creates stress and in turn… makes you frantic and late. Regain those minutes and start your day calm and on time.

5. Research your destination before bed.

There’s nothing worse than driving around a courthouse or client location you’ve never been too, already running late due to traffic. Taking 5 minutes to run through your route, and find local parking ahead of time works wonders. You’ll not only know when you need to leave, but where to park when you arrive. Extra credit: Save time & money finding Chicago parking with SpotHero.com, it’s like the Hotels.com of parking garages.

Time Out for Health – A Chicago Traveler’s Guide

Tips for a Healthier Chicago ExperienceChicago Travelers Guide to Healthy Choices

You will find few people as passionate about sharing our great city as me. In previous years I’ve written guides on where to eat, shop and talk. This year I’d like to share something different.

Living a healthy lifestyle means making it a part of everyday, even when you’re traveling. So here are a few ways to stay active and balance out those heavy… but delicious Chicago dinners.


Eat well: Lighter daytime meals keep you energized and guilt free at dinner.

Healthy, fast and easy choices all nearby. 

Eat Fit: 1151 S State St. | 312-566-9220 | Menu

Salads, wraps, smoothies & quinoa galore. Inside the FFC health club.

Yolk: 1120 S Michigan Ave. | 312-789-YOLK | Menu

Don’t let the name fool you, this Michigan Ave favorite serves up some of the best fit-breakfast in the whole city.

Pret A Manger: 108 S Michigan Ave | 312-873-0416 | Menu

Gluten free, vegan friendly, quick & convenient. Small portions and great soup allow you to mix & match your way to health.

Native Foods Café: 218 S Clark St.| 312-332-6332 | Menu

The über delicious local café for Vegan, Vegetarian and Gluten-Free choices.

Freshii: 17 E Monroe St. (Inside the Palmer House Hilton)|312-419-1777 | Menu

Fresh, Fast, Delicious. Quinoa bowls, breakfast burritos, kale chips and smoothies galore.

Meli Café: 500 S Dearborn |312-834-0500| Menu

Greek for honey, Meli never falls short on flavor. A full service juice bar, Almond Milk Hot Chocolate and more salad choices than you’ll know what to do with. Morning till night.

Karyn’s on Green: 130 S. Green St. | 312-226-6155 | Menu

You love the earth, you really really love the earth, and you want everything you touch, taste and consume to contribute to a greater goal of good. Karyn’s is your home away from home. The first all vegetarian option in Chicago offers a culinary treat of specialties. Not to be missed!

Kramer’s Health Foods: 230 S Wabash | 312-922-0077 | Menu

Forget your vitamins? Juicing and need a beet & wheatgrass fix? Kramer’s got you covered. Two stories of nutritional goodness & full service juice / lunch bar.

Trader Joes – 1147 S Wabash | 312-588-0489

Always pressed for time? Stocking your mini-fridge with premade salads & healthy choices make eating easy. Grab a bottle of Two Buck Chuck and throw your own BYOB party back at the hotel.


Stay active: A 1 hour workout is only 4% of your day.

Each of the following clubs offers a free guest pass, all you have to do is show up.

FFC – 1151 S State St. | 312-360-1151| Class Schedule

Early morning Spin Class, craving kettle bells? No need to fall out of your routine, FFC is one of Chicago’s premier clubs, with fantastic group fitness instructors.

Chicago South Loop Runners Club: Morning Run Meet-up Details

Always run in the morning, but don’t know the area? No worries! An avid group of runners is ready to take you along for the ride! Join this group of locals on their near daily run through the south loop & lakeshore.

X Sport Fitness819 S State St. | 312-294-0500 | Class Schedule

Nike Training Club, Dance Fitness, Aqua Fit, and Zumba classes all live under the X Sport roof. Squeeze in a 30 or 45min class and head to dinner ready to take on that 22oz steak with confidence.

Core Power Yoga: 555 W Roosevelt Rd (Rooftop of Best Buy) |312-829-9642 |Class Schedule

Beginner and advanced Yogi’s welcome! Calm yourself and senses with heated & non-heated yoga classes, set against a near 300 degree view of the city skyline. Breathtaking… in more ways than one.

UFC Gym South Loop8 E 9th Street | 312-922-8269 | Class Schedule

TECHSHOW Roommate getting on your nerves? Knock out the stress, not your comrade with these high energy but beginner friendly boxing classes.

The Foundry – Cross Fit:  730 S Clark St. | 312-566-7201| Class Schedule

Cross Fitters… you know those crazy people you see throwing tires and climbing ropes. If you haven’t tried it, make sure you’re free the next morning. Because you won’t be able to move. That said, if we have any Cross Fit die-hards in the room… we’ve got you covered.

JUST ART WALK! | Grant Park Sculpture Collection Guide & Maps

Even 20 minutes around the hotel or park will help keep you focused and energized, especially after a heavy TECHSHOW meal. Lucky for us, Grant Park is across the street and filled with an impressive collection of sculptures to refresh even the most weary smartphone attached eyes.

New and Free! How To… Sessions

Ever wish you could just get the straight forward lowdown on a product or service? Want to be more productive but can’t find the time to read the 100′s of articles telling you how?

Meet our How To… Session Series

Chicago Bar members have unlimited FREE access to our How To… Session Series. Filled with concise, specific video courses on products, services, technology and efficiency tips aimed to help you and your law practice. 

Register to attend a live course with me for FREE.  Up next: 

How To… Easily Prepare Documents with Draftonce 

How To… Manage a Growing Real Estate Practice – Led by Jane Oxley, President of Smokeball 

How To… Use Cloud Computing in a Law Office – Led by Larry Port, CEO of Rocket Matter

We add between 2-4 new sessions per month, so please check back often. I hope to see you in class! 

HT Live registration

How To… Live registration