Credit Card Surcharges Revisited

Remember the Payment Card Interchange Fee Settlement?

Processing credit card payments is a fact of life for today’s law firm. So are costly surcharges – the fee assessed by your bank or credit card processor for the privilege of accepting this form of payment.

In 2015 – 2016, some Oregon law firms took the position that the Payment Card Interchange Fee Settlement (PCIFS) permitted them to pass on credit card surcharges to clients.  As a reminder, the PCIFS was a class action settlement among merchants, Visa, MasterCard, and other defendants. American Express and Discover were not part of the litigation.  Applying the conditions of the settlement to a service-based industry like the legal profession was always tenuous at best.

Regardless, using the PCIFS as a justification for passing on credit card surcharges became moot in mid-2016 when the Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded approval of the settlement.

The Post-PCIFS Era

If you’ve read my blog before, you know I’m an ardent advocate of absorbing credit card surcharges as a cost of doing business. This doesn’t mean watching money fly out the door without recourse.  It does mean you shouldn’t pass on surcharges as a separate cost item to the client.  Consider:

  • Assessing surcharges (or crediting clients for the net amount less fees) involves extra administrative and bookkeeping steps.  If you get the math wrong and the transaction involves trust account funds, you could face disciplinary action.
  • Firms who want to charge for credit cards often bill clients for postage, faxing, scanning, and photocopying.  These items already rate high on the client annoyance scale.  Pass on surcharges and that scale may tip.
  • Ethically, clients are not obliged to pay any cost to which they did not agree.  If you did not include the right to assess surcharges in your fee agreement, you cannot unilaterally pass on the cost after the fact.  Granted, you can fix this by modifying your fee agreement – but it isn’t necessarily advisable and may not be successful.  See OSB Formal Opinion 2005-97.
  • Fees can be adjusted to reflect this, and other, costs of doing business.
  • Surcharges are outright illegal in some states and capped in others.
  • Passing on surcharges may trigger compliance with Regulation Z of the Truth in Lending Act:

Passing the merchant fee on to the client or crediting the client for the net amount of the transaction only … may implicate Regulation Z of the Truth in Lending Act, 12 CFR §226.  As a result, you may be compelled to offer cash discounts to all clients and make specified disclosures to your clients who pay by credit card.  See CONSUMER LAW IN OREGON ch 14 (Oregon CLE 1996 & Supp 2000).  OSB Legal Ethics Opinion No. 2005-172.

As Before: Proceed at Your Own Risk

If you want to assess surcharges, do your own research and proceed at your own risk.

I leave you with these words of wisdom from LawPay, a popular credit card processor serving the legal profession:

While your state may allow you to pass on transaction fees to clients, think carefully before doing so. Potential clients will not expect a higher fee simply because they use a different form of payment. In today’s market the best practice may be to simply absorb these fees yourself as the cost of doing business.

All Rights Reserved 2018 Beverly Michaelis

Best Practices for Docketing, Conflicts, Disengagement, and File Retention

This is the last call for Best Practices for Docketing, Conflicts, Disengagement, and File Retention scheduled for April 11, 2018 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., PDT. This live, online webinar is the second in a two-part series on effective and ethical office systems.
Topics include:

Docketing

  • Learning the attributes of effective docketing systems
  • Appreciating the duty of due diligence
  • Docketing tips for eCourt practitioners: knowing where to go, forwarding notices, calculating deadlines, understanding the Register of Actions, enlisting proper email management

Conflicts

  • Recognizing ethical traps
  • Establishing system objectives: who to screen and when to screen
  • Comparing software applications
  • Streamlining conflict checking using forms, checklists, procedures, and letters
  • Recording conflict results

Disengagement and file retention

  • Meeting your ethical obligations under Oregon RPC 1.16
  • Simplifying disengagement with forms
  • Protecting clients and limiting liability exposure
  • Creating policies, procedures, and checklists
  • Accessing resources

Register Now
$25 – Visit the Upcoming CLE page or choose the registration link below. Secure payment processing powered by Eventbrite. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express accepted. Program materials included in the registration price.

REGISTER NOW
Best Practices for Docketing, Conflicts, Disengagement, and File Retention

 FAQs

Are group discounts available?
Discounts are available to firms who register 5 or more attendees. Contact me for a discount code before you register beverly@oregonlawpracticemanagement.org.

Do the Programs Include Written Materials? 
Yes. Written materials are distributed electronically to attendees.

Are questions welcome?
Absolutely. Questions may be submitted any time during the live event or afterward via email. Attendees are also encouraged to participate in live, anonymous polling.

Where are the programs being held?
This program will be a live, online webinar.

MCLE Credits
1.0 practical skills pending.

Can’t Attend?
Video and audio recordings of the April 11 CLE will be available to download along with the program materials shortly after the live program event.
Price: $25. Contact me or visit my online CLE store to place an order.

Best Practices for Client Intake, Engagement, and Workflow

This is the last call for Best Practices for Client Intake, Engagement, and Workflow scheduled for March 28, 2018 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., PDT. This live, online webinar is the first of a two-part series on effective and ethical office systems.
Topics include:

Intake

  • Recognizing objectives and ethical traps
  • Implementing the 7 key elements of effective intake forms
  • Building in accountability to prevent mistakes
  • Automating intake with ease

Engagement

  • Documenting representation: why bother?
  • Appreciating the ethical implications of engagement vs. nonengagement
  • Finding alternatives when a nonengagement letter can’t be sent
  • Modernizing the engagement process using forms, brochures, automation, and eSignatures

workflow

  • Identifying barriers to improving productivity: what’s stopping us?
  • Exploring the connection between bar complaints and poor workflow management
  • Setting objectives using automation, integration, and delegation
  • Using technology and staffing to improve workflow

Your office systems are the backbone of everything you do. Don’t miss out!

Register Now
$25 – Visit the Upcoming CLE page or choose the registration link below. Secure payment processing powered by Eventbrite. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express accepted. Program materials included in the registration price.

REGISTER NOW
Best Practices for Client Intake, Engagement, and Workflow

Coming April 11, 2018 –
Best Practices for Docketing, Conflicts, Disengagement, and File Retention

In this second part of our two-part series, we will cover:

Docketing

  • Learning the attributes of effective docketing systems
  • Appreciating the duty of due diligence
  • Docketing tips for eCourt practitioners: knowing where to go, forwarding notices, calculating deadlines, understanding the Register of Actions, enlisting proper email management

Conflicts

  • Recognizing ethical traps
  • Establishing system objectives: who to screen and when to screen
  • Comparing software applications
  • Streamlining conflict checking using forms, checklists, procedures, and letters
  • Recording conflict results

Disengagement and file retention

  • Meeting your ethical obligations under Oregon RPC 1.16
  • Simplifying disengagement with forms
  • Protecting clients and limiting liability exposure
  • Creating policies, procedures, and checklists
  • Accessing resources

This program is scheduled for Wednesday, April 11 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., PDT.

Register Now
$25 – Visit the Upcoming CLE page or choose the registration link below. Secure payment processing powered by Eventbrite. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express accepted. Program materials included in the registration price.

REGISTER NOW
Best Practices for Docketing, Conflicts, Disengagement, and File Retention

 FAQs

Are group discounts available?
Discounts are available to firms who register 5 or more attendees. Contact me for a discount code before you register beverly@oregonlawpracticemanagement.org.

Do the Programs Include Written Materials? 
Yes. Written materials are distributed electronically to attendees.

Are questions welcome?
Absolutely. Questions may be submitted any time during the live event or afterward via email. Attendees are also encouraged to participate in live, anonymous polling.

Where are the programs being held?
Both programs are live, online webinars.

MCLE Credits
1.0 practical skills pending for each program.

Can’t Attend?
Video and audio recordings of the March 28 and April 11 CLEs will be available to download along with the program materials shortly after the live program events.
Price: $25. Contact me or visit my online CLE store to place an order.

CLE Series: Best Practices for Effective and Ethical Office Systems

Your office systems are the backbone of everything you do. Join me for CLEs on Wednesday, March 28, 2018 and April 11, 2018 and learn how to implement best practices for client intake, engagement, workflow, docketing, conflicts, disengagement, and file retention.

Register Now
$25 – Visit the Upcoming CLE page or choose one of the registration links below. Secure payment processing powered by Eventbrite. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express accepted. Program materials included in the registration price.

REGISTER NOW
Best Practices for Client Intake, Engagement, and Workflow

REGISTER NOW
Best Practices for Docketing, Conflicts, Disengagement, and File Retention

Location
Both programs are live, online webinars.

Who Should Attend?
Lawyers, office administrators, or staff – anyone interested in improving office systems.

Program Details
Best Practices for Client Intake, Engagement, and Workflow
March 28, 2018 CLE – 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Pacific

Intake

  • Recognizing objectives and ethical traps
  • Implementing the 7 key elements of effective intake forms
  • Building in accountability to prevent mistakes
  • Automating intake with ease

Engagement

  • Documenting representation: why bother?
  • Appreciating the ethical implications of engagement vs. nonengagement
  • Finding alternatives when a nonengagement letter can’t be sent
  • Modernizing the engagement process using forms, brochures, automation, and eSignatures

workflow

  • Identifying barriers to improving productivity: what’s stopping us?
  • Exploring the connection between bar complaints and poor workflow management
  • Setting objectives using automation, integration, and delegation
  • Using technology and staffing to improve workflow

Best Practices for Docketing, Conflicts, Disengagement, and File Retention
April 11, 2018 CLE – 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Pacific

Docketing

  • Learning the attributes of effective docketing systems
  • Appreciating the duty of due diligence
  • Docketing tips for eCourt practitioners: knowing where to go, forwarding notices, calculating deadlines, understanding the Register of Actions, enlisting proper email management

Conflicts

  • Recognizing ethical traps
  • Establishing system objectives: who to screen and when to screen
  • Comparing software applications
  • Streamlining conflict checking using forms, checklists, procedures, and letters
  • Recording conflict results

Disengagement and file retention

  • Meeting your ethical obligations under Oregon RPC 1.16
  • Simplifying disengagement with forms
  • Protecting clients and limiting liability exposure
  • Creating policies, procedures, and checklists
  • Accessing resources

FAQs

Are group discounts available?
Discounts are available to firms who register 5 or more attendees. Contact me for a discount code before you register beverly@oregonlawpracticemanagement.org.

Do the Programs Include Written Materials? 
Yes. Written materials are distributed electronically to attendees.

Are questions welcome?
Absolutely. Questions may be submitted any time during the live event or afterward via email. Attendees are also encouraged to participate in live, anonymous polling.

MCLE Credits
1.0 practical skills pending for each program.

Can’t Attend?
Video and audio recordings of the March 28 and April 11 CLEs will be available to download along with the program materials shortly after the live program events.
Price: $25. Contact me or visit my online CLE store to place an order.

Save the date – March 28 CLE

Best Practices for Effective and Ethical Office Systems

Your office systems are the backbone of everything you do. Join me for a CLE on Wednesday, March 28, 2018 and learn how to implement best practices for client intake, engagement, conflicts, workflow, docketing, disengagement, and file retention.

Topics include:

  • Designing effective intake forms
  • Modernizing the engagement process
  • Creating ethical and reliable conflict systems
  • Improving workflow through automation
  • Protecting deadlines with proper docketing protocols
  • Ending the lawyer-client relationship efficiently and ethically
  • Retaining, closing, and destroying client files

Date/Time/Location

Wednesday, March 28, 2018 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Pacific Time. This is a live, online webinar.

Who Should Attend?

Lawyers, office administrators, and staff – anyone interested in improving law firm office systems.

How to Register

Registration will open by the end of the week. Watch this blog for the announcement. Cost: $25. Secure payment processing powered by Eventbrite. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express accepted. Program materials included in the registration price.

All Rights Reserved [2018] Beverly Michaelis