My Experience with Square

A number of lawyers have asked me recently about using Square to process credit card transactions.  Admittedly, the ads are appealing.  If you are an iPhone, iPad, or Android user and want simple, straightforward credit card processing, I understand the temptation.  Square advertises:

  • Fast set up
  • A free credit card reader and free apps
  • Next-day payout
  • 2.75% merchant fee

If you occasionally accept credit cards for earned fees only and own an iPhone, iPad, or Android, then Square may be a good choice for you.  It is not a good choice if you:

The lesson here is simple: always know the Terms of Service for any vendor with whom you do business.  It only takes a few minutes to review the content at Square’s Help Center.  I found it to be direct, to-the-point, and easy to navigate.

My Experience with Square

As a customer, I used Square for the first time recently.  I really liked it!  The store owner swiped my card, entered the amount and description, and I used my finger to sign on her iPad.  It was easy/breezy.  (I chose to have the receipt e-mailed to me.)

Tips for Using Square

A couple of tips that I learned from this retailer and a lawyer I know who uses Square:

  • Customer support is friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable.  Once you jump through the support hoops on their Web site, I’m told they are very easy to work with.
  • Haggle!  Terms with Square can be negotiated – just ask!  One lawyer I know got Square to change his terms for processing payments manually – see above.  I’m sure it didn’t hurt that he had a track record with them.
  • Using Square on the iPad is substantially easier than using it on the iPhone or Android (Clients will have a difficult time signing on the small screen of your smartphone.)
  • Remind ladies with long fingernails to sign with the pads of their finger, not with their nails – the signature technology is heat-sensitive.  Nails won’t work and may scratch the surface of your iPhone, iPad, or Android.

Other Alternatives for Lawyers Who Want to Take Credit Cards

LawPay/Affinipay is my favorite choice by far.

How does LawPay work?

  • Lawyers using LawPay save up to 25% on credit card processing fees compared to typical bank charges for the same service.
  • Fees are deducted exclusively from the operating account (no client money is ever taken).
  • Funds are never commingled between the operating and trust account.
  • You are in control of your deposits.  If you take a credit card for a retainer, simply direct LawPay to deposit the funds in your trust account.  If you accept a credit card for fees you have already earned, direct LawPay to deposit the proceeds into your operating account.  Your ability to “direct traffic” ensures that funds are always properly separated.
  • Transactions can be processed traditionally or via virtual terminal (i.e., over the Internet).

For a refresher about accepting credit cards (and the ethical constraints), see this blog post.

Copyright 2012 Beverly Michaelis

5 Ways to Increase Your Visibility on the Web

What can you do to increase your visibility among search engines and drive traffic to your Web site? Search engine optimizationIncoming links?  Obviously both help, but the former requires special expertise. The latter involves persuading others, which isn’t always easy.

So how about a solution that is completely within your control and doesn’t require paying for links or hiring a consultant?

Complete Online Profiles

The first stop on your journey should be completing online profiles that point back to your Web site. The most popular free site is LinkedIn.  Others include Avvo, FindLaw, JD Supra, Justia, Lawyers.com, Lawyer Profiles from ConsultWebs, Legal Match, LLRX, Martindale, MyLegal, and Naymz.  A word of caution: know what you’re getting into when you sign up for these services.  Some are free.  Some are not.  Be mindful of advertising and solicitation rules – you may be required to use disclaimers or opt out of certain features entirely (such as lawyer rankings or client testimonials and endorsements). On the plus side, many of these services allow you to share more than just biographical information.  By posting articles, pleadings, forms, and presentations or displaying blog posts and tweets you can take full advantage of your profile. While you’re at it, don’t forget to complete your Google Profile and Google Business Listing.  If others request permission to reproduce or reprint your material, require proper attribution, included a link back to your Web site or blog.

Engage in Social Media

If you haven’t joined social media yet, I hope you do.  It’s fantastic IMHO.  If the King is Facebook, the Queen is Twitter.  I won’t try to reinvent the wheel here.  Instead, visit the Mass LOMAP blog (our law practice management counterparts in Massachusetts). Once there, click in the Search box in the upper left hand corner and enter “Facebook” to find all their great posts on setting up a Facebook business page.  You can also learn a ton from the ABA book, Social Media for LawyersSave some bucks and get it at a discount through the Professional Liability Fund.  From the PLF Web site, select ABA Products.  Once at the ABA Web store, enter the PLF discount code.  Mashable is also a wonderful source for how-tos and breaking news on all things social media.  

Try Social Publishing

Social publishing could easily fall under online profiles or social media, since the whole idea is to set up a profile, then share with others. No matter how you slice it, sites like YouTube, Flickr, Slideshare, Scribd, and Docstoc are great places to post photos, videos, PowerPoint presentations, articles, and related content. When your items are published, share them via Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.  LLRX also welcomes contributions.

Keep it Free and Local

Are profiles or online listings part of your state or local bar association memberships?  Specialty legal organizations?  Bar sections or committees?  If yes, take advantage! 

Blog!

Obviously you’re a blog reader, or you wouldn’t be here.  But are you blogger?  It takes time and effort, but the best way to raise your visibility is to give search engines what they crave: frequently updated content. That’s what this post is all about – giving you as many avenues as possible to get your material out there.  Tough to do using your Web site, which can be static by comparison.  But a blog fits the bill quite nicely.  You can read more about the process here and compare blogging services here.

Always Keep Ethics in Mind

If you’re not fully informed in the premises, read:

Monitor Your Online Reputation

Now that you’ve jumped in with both feet, you should keep tabs on yourself.  Sound a bit strange?  It won’t if you’ve Googled yourself before.  In addition to the occasional Google, Yahoo!, or Bing, search, sign up to receive alerts whenever your personal and/or business name is used.  Google and Yahoo! both offer Web monitoring services.  Don’t overlook Social Mention, which monitors over 100 social media properties including Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, and YouTube or BoardTracker which searches and tracks threads on forums and message boards.  

Good luck!

Copyright 2011 Beverly Michaelis

LexisNexis Legal News Channel

Have you checked out the LexisNexis (LN) Communities Channel on YouTube? Launched June 9, the LN Communities Channel offers “a free online resource where legal professionals can connect with others who contribute their insights on today’s top legal issues through blogs, podcasts, videocasts, white papers, and expert commentary.”

The channel is starting off slowly – seven subscribers as I write this post.  Many of the videos are from the Inside Counsel 10th Annual Super Conference.  Newer uploads address  recent court decisions and other breaking legal news.  

Could the video quality (or content) be improved?  In some cases, yes.  But there are some solid nuggets of advice to be mined here.   I particularly liked:

Mary Clark’s quick tips on alternative fees:

Carl Aveni on effective rainmaking:

Both speakers were articulate and to-the-point.  So keep an eye on the LexisNexis Communities Channel and consider becoming a subscriber so you can be informed of new content.

Copyright 2010 Beverly Michaelis

10 Ways to Market Your Practice in the New Year

Get 2010 off to a great start with a fresh, new marketing plan.  Here are 10 great ideas shared by Carolyn Elefant at our Solo by Choice CLE:

  • You must allow time for marketing on a consistent basis to keep cases flowing in.  Add a weekly “marketing morning” to your schedule and use it to blog, make calls, or find time for events.
  • Each quarter come up with a list of people you want to meet.  Establish contact and schedule meetings.
  • Create a Facebook fan page to market your practice.
  • Sign up for AVVO to get free referrals.  Complete your profile to increase your Web presence. 
  • Set up a blog or create a Web site with blogging capability.
  • Use Twitter to increase traffic to your blog or Web site, establish social media connections, and monitor trending topics.
  • Write articles.  Want an easy shortcut?  Interview someone – the article almost writes itself.  Issue a press release about your article.  Call colleagues about it, and offer to e-mail the article to them.  Reprint snippets of your article on your blog.  Upload your content to Docstoc, a community where people find and share professional documents, then link to the article on your blog or Web site.  You can also upload articles to JD Supra, a document-sharing site dedicated to legal professionals.  Articles can also be displayed in print form in your reception area.
  • Multi-purpose for maximum effect.  If you give a speech, record it, and then turn it into a podcast or e-book.  Consider uploading video content to You Tube or hold a Webinar based on your speech.
  • Network and host events on Biznik.  Find the Portland, Oregon Biznik community here.
  • Consider submitting source material to HARO (Help a Reporter Out).

My Bonus Tip

If you weren’t able to attend our Solo by Choice CLE, consider ordering a copy of Carolyn’s presentation and book.  It’s a bargain at $30.  Visit the PLF Web site, then select Programs on Audio or Programs on Video.

Copyright 2010 Beverly Michaelis