We’re living in a digital age, forcing law firms to shift most, if not all, of their data and processes online. Although digital solutions bring greater efficiency and convenience, innovations like online payments come with compliance and security regulations firms should be aware of.
The right legal practice management software enables firms to scale operations, remain profitable, and comply with PCI standards to prevent security breaches. In this article, we’ll share a PCI compliance checklist you can follow to securely accept online payment without worrying if your firm is operating in compliance.
What Is PCI Compliance for Law Firms?
Payment card industry (PCI) compliance guidelines aim to keep personal data private. They require up-to-date data security techniques that protect debit and credit card transactions from hacking and cyber threats. The Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC), which consists of major credit card brands like Visa, Mastercard, and American Express, manages PCI standards.
Why Is PCI Compliance Important for Law Firms?
Law firms that wish to process online payments must comply with PCI standards. Businesses that fail to comply place client data at risk of security breaches and face possible financial penalties.
Your firm must abide by specific rules and regulations to ensure compliance, which can include:
- Regular security testing
- Restricting digital and physical access to cardholder information (including your staff)
- Using firewalls to protect cardholder data
- Updating anti-virus software
- Encrypting cardholder data
- Protecting all the cardholder information you store
- Regularly changing default passwords
- Giving your staff unique IDs to every computer at your law firm
Risk of Non-Compliance
If you do not comply with the PCI SSC’s rules and regulations, you may face these risks:
- Financial penalty: Credit card companies may impose significant fines ranging from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Your bank will then pass these penalties on to you.
- Business disruption: If there’s a data breach, you must divert your attention to resolving the matter, disrupting your workflow and putting your business on hold.
- Decreased client satisfaction: A security breach compromises personal client information, eroding customers’ trust in your law firm’s ability to safeguard sensitive data.
- Harmed reputation: Client mistrust and legal repercussions can hurt your bottom line and your firm’s credibility.
Why Should My Law Firm Accept Online Payments?
Accepting online payments is one of the most client-centered benefits you can offer. As a result, you may find that it:
- Increases efficiency: You can focus more on your clients’ cases rather than asking for their payments or waiting for them to process.
- Improves cash flow: You’ll receive payment faster and more efficiently.
- Boosts competitiveness: Potential clients may be more likely to hire a firm that has adopted modern payment methods.
- Enhances convenience: Accepting contactless online payments is fast and easy for you and your clients.
Stay PCI Compliant with Legal-Specific Software
While there may be several online payment processors on the market — they may not all adhere to the legal regulations law firms must uphold when it comes to data security.
Law firms looking to accept online payment should opt for solutions that are legal-specific and come with built-in controls to make operating in compliance easy.
When looking for the right law firm software, make sure they offer these features to help you comply with PCI standards:
- Security and data encryption
- A variety of online payment methods
- Custom reporting
- Client portals
PCI Compliance Checklist
In addition to adopting the right law firm software, your firm should create a standardized process to adhere to PCI compliance.
Here are five items to include in a PCI compliance checklist:
- Create security policies and procedures. Build protocols your firm will follow to comply with each PCI regulation listed earlier in this article.
- Train your staff to be PCI compliant. Staff should follow your firm’s policies and procedures, use your law practice management software, and follow other PCI guidelines.
- Control user access. Ensure each employee has a unique ID, and appropriately restrict access to cardholder information.
- Regularly monitor and report on data security. Appoint a staff member to head your PCI protocols. The staff member should periodically report on your firm’s adherence to security standards.
- Conduct third-party compliance due diligence. Any third-party partners or vendors your firm works with must also comply with PCI standards. Confirm their compliance and periodically monitor it throughout your relationship with any partner or vendor.
Does My Firm Need a Compliance Manager?
A compliance manager ensures your firm is always operating to PCI standards. They will create processes to adhere to compliance regulations, monitor your firm’s performance, and identify areas for improvement.
If you’re a solo practitioner or a small law firm, hiring a compliance manager adds a considerable expense that may not fit your operating budget. Alternatively, you might appoint an existing staff member to monitor compliance, but be mindful of how the added responsibility might affect their workload.
On the other hand, if you are a large law firm or have a high processing volume, it may make sense to hire staff that specifically focus on data and PCI compliance. While firms don’t necessarily need a compliance manager, it’s an added layer of protection to ensure that everyone in your firm is following PCI protocols.
Only you can decide if a compliance manager is suitable for your firm. In either case, law practice management software can help your firm stay compliant.