To clarify your clients’ payment options and protect your firm against payment disputes, it is recommended to add payment clauses to your attorney fee agreements and intake paperwork. These should clarify that your firm accept credit cards, ACH, and/or other electronic payment methods. The most common way attorneys incorporate this language is by adding it directly to their contracts or by appending credit card authorization forms to their original agreements.
If you’d like to add payment language to your legal agreements, we’ve provided sample language below that you can use for a number of scenarios. NOTE: Lawyers utilizing these forms should customize the clauses to meet their practice needs, taking into account any disciplinary rule or statutory requirements in their jurisdiction.
FORMS OF PAYMENT
Your legal fees are due and payable [upon receipt of the billing] to be paid not later than [the last day of the month] and may be satisfied with any of the following payment options:
a) By the application of funds held in the firm’s trust account for prepayment of fees, which the firm shall be entitled to transfer upon invoicing
b) By paying by paper check or ACH (automated deduction from client’s designated checking account)
c) By the use of a credit card in person or by accessing the firm’s payment page [insert your hyperlink], provided that client understands that by clicking “Enter Payment” the client agrees to pay the entire payment amount for the bill selected, and authorizes the firm to charge the client’s designated payment method for the payment amount. Please initial your authorization and agreement: _________
d) By paying in cash at the offices of the firm, at which time a written receipt will be generated for you
PROMISE TO PAY PROVISION
Once services are engaged, the client recognizes that they are contractually bound to the lawyer for their entire fee. All fees paid are nonrefundable and must be paid in full. It is further understood and agreed that if client or any third party paying professional fees for client pays such fees through the use of a debit card, credit card, or other electronic means, such payments cannot be revoked or reversed in any manner by the client.
Client initials: _________
AUTOMATIC REPLENISHMENT OF RETAINER VIA CREDIT CARD
Client agrees to maintain a minimum prepaid fee retainer balance of $________, which shall be maintained in the firm’s trust account, and be paid/replenished monthly, along with the monthly invoices for services rendered by the firm. By way of example, if the invoice for fees and expenses is less than the required prepaid fee retainer, client agrees to pay into the firm’s trust account only the amount equal to billing. If the billing exceeds the minimum prepaid fee retainer, client agrees to pay the entire balance to the firm’s operating account, thus maintaining the prepaid fee retainer intact.
Client agrees to provide any further necessary authorizations to charge the following credit card for paying the bill or replenishment amount:
[Citibank MasterCard ending in 1234]
I hereby authorize [insert firm name] to charge the balance due each month to pay the outstanding invoice or replenish the prepaid fee retainer, with such charge being made once per month on or after the ____ day of each month as necessary.
Client initials: _______
USE OF AUTHORIZED THIRD-PARTY CREDIT CARD
Should client desire to pay client’s attorney fees and expense through a credit card provided by a friend or family member, the authorized cardholder shall be required to sign the attached form. Client understands that cardholder authorizing payment is not automatically entitled to any confidential communications without additional authorizations by client. Any disclosure must be subject to review by firm to protect client’s right to expect full confidentiality.
SEPARATE AUTHORIZATION FORMS
You can also choose to add one of several authorization forms to your intake paperwork. Below are several sample forms to help you get started.
Form A: A sample attorney-client agreement.
Form B: Covers collecting credit card information on an invoice or placing a client on a payment plan.
Form C: Designated for obtaining authorization from friends and family who are making payments on behalf of your client.
CAVEAT on definition of “retainer.” Lawyers are advised to review their local and state rules on how “retainer” is defined. While many states define “retainer” to include the advance payment of fees and costs to be held in trust subject to future billing, in Florida, retainers “are not funds against which future services are billed. Retainers are funds paid to guarantee the future availability of the lawyer’s legal services and are earned by the lawyer upon receipt. Retainers, being funds of the lawyer, may not be placed in the client’s trust account.” See Florida Bar Rule 5-1.1- Trust accounts (Commentary).
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