Faster, Safer, Simpler: A Law Firm’s Guide to Electronic Payments  

“Too complicated. Too risky. Too expensive.”  

Suggest that your firm start accepting electronic payments, and you’re likely to hear objections along those lines. But those concerns, while valid, aren’t necessarily aligned with the reality of modern electronic payment processing platforms. 

In fact, your firm might save money on some transactions by offering an alternative to checks. You would certainly reduce the firm’s exposure to check fraud. Most importantly, you’d be giving your clients what they want.  

(Unless your clients are mostly large corporations—although electronic B2B transactions are on the rise.)  

In this guide, we’ll define “electronic payment” and fact-check some of the most common misconceptions about electronic payments. With the facts at your fingertips, your firm can make a more informed decision about accepting electronic payments. 

What is an electronic payment? 

For purposes of this article, “electronic payment” means: 

  • Automated Clearing House (ACH) payment. Pulls from a client’s bank account. Can be reversed, unlike a wire transfer. Also called an “e-check.”  
  • Credit cards. Pulls from a client’s revolving credit. Subject to more ethical restrictions than other electronic payment types, but not prohibited in most jurisdictions.  
  • Debit cards. Pulls from a client’s bank account. Fraud safeguards are similar to a credit card, but not identical. 

Some electronic payment platforms allow you to choose which types of electronic payments you’ll accept. So even if your firm decides not to accept credit cards, you could still accept debit cards and/or ACH transactions. 

True or false: Paper checks are the standard 

It depends.  

Paper checks are standard for many businesses, particularly larger corporations. But in 2022, only 33% of B2B transactions in the U.S. and Canada were made by paper check, down from 81% in 2004. B2B ACH payment volume grew 10% between 2022 and 2023. 

For individuals, paper checks are the least-used payment method. In 2023, consumers used just one check per month on average, meaning they chose checks only 3% of the time. Compare that to 75% of payments made electronically: credit (32%), debit (30%), and ACH (13%).  

Unless your client base uses checks exclusively—and that is the case for some firms—at least some of your organizational clients are probably interested in paying electronically. And your individual clients? Many of them likely don’t even know where their checkbooks are. 

True or false: Paper checks are easier  


Handling paper checks is a time-consuming, manual process for many firms: opening the envelope, stamping the endorsement, hand-entering the information, and depositing the check.  

When you think of electronic payments, you might be envisioning another manual process. There’s a card scanner with a rat’s nest of cords, a round of fresh IT headaches, and a sheaf of credit card receipts that have to be stored correctly.  

Modern electronic payment platforms, however, are typically simple and seamless. Orion’s ePay module, for example, can embed a payment link directly in the client’s invoice. The invoice is delivered by email, and the client can choose to pay by debit card, credit card, or ACH.  

Your client can pay with a single click, and your firm never touches a credit card number or ACH authorization. The payment is simply delivered to the correct trust or operating account, usually within 24 hours. ePay’s safeguards also ensure your trust accounts are always in compliance.  

True or false: Paper checks are safer 


Of all payment methods, checks are the “most vulnerable to fraud.” Check fraud reports increased 90% between 2021 and 2023, and law firms are frequent targets of check scams. One recent case left a law firm’s trust account overdrawn by over $75,000. 

Of course, law firms must always be vigilant against every kind of fraud, including electronic scams. Checks, however, aren’t likely to reduce your firm’s vulnerability.  

True or false: Paper checks are cheaper 


On the surface, this seems like a no-brainer, because there’s a transaction fee for each electronic payment. But receiving a check means incurring a median cost of $1.01-$2.00, according to the Association for Financial Professionals.  

There are other costs associated with checks too: 

  • Increased exposure to check fraud. 
  • Longer timeline for payment to clear (1-7 business days vs. 24-48 hours). 
  • Longer time to payment because a check must be mailed to you. 
  • More staff time following up on missing payments. 

Each firm is unique, and it might be true that checks make more financial sense for you, particularly for very large transactions. But it’s worthwhile to quantify the costs before deciding that accepting electronic payments is too expensive. 

True or false: Electronic payments are unethical 

It’s complicated. 

Today, an overwhelming majority of states allow lawyers to accept credit card and ACH payments. A few states have some restrictions, including rules against passing along surcharging fees to clients.  

Important issues to research before accepting electronic payments include: 

  • State bar ethical rules that may prohibit acceptance of credit cards, advertising related to credit cards, or other electronic payment restrictions. 
  • State laws about billing clients for payment processing fees (surcharging). 
  • Electronic payment processing platform security and the duty of confidentiality. 
  • How the platform ensures IOLTA compliance, particularly with fees and chargebacks. 

State bar associations and/or professional liability funds are a good starting point for investigating the restrictions that apply to your practice. With the right platform, however, it’s likely that you’ll be able to ethically accept at least some forms of electronic payment. 

*Surcharging laws vary by state, and are subject to change. Always check with your local bar association for the most updated information. 

Orion ePay makes accepting electronic payments easy 

Your clients want to pay electronically. Electronic payments are faster, safer, and easier for you. And if you’re an Orion customer already, Orion ePay makes accepting them effortless: 

  • The tightest integration available with your Orion software, streamlining even tricky processes like issuing refunds. 
  • Ability to disable credit card payments and accept only debit and/or ACH.  
  • Easy email invoicing (integrates with Orion’s E-mail Bill Delivery Manager). 
  • Reduced time to pay with one-click payment links embedded in invoices. 
  • Faster billing cycles (integrates with Orion’s ePrebill Manager for Windows and iPadOS). 
  • Less time waiting for payment clearance; most payments are available in 24 hours. 
  • Highly secure data storage with full PCI compliance. 
  • Compliant management of separate trust and operating accounts.  
  • Robust dashboards and analytics with real-time payment information. 

Want to see how Orion ePay could benefit your firm? Schedule a demo today.