Virginia Bar Association, Legal Ethics Opinion 1848

Ethics Committee

Topic: Use of Credit Card for Legal Services

Conclusion of the Committee:

“This Committee has previously opined on the use of credit cards by lawyers and law firms. After seeking a legal opinion from the Office of the Attorney General, the Committee opines that a lawyer may pass along merchant fees associated with credit card use to the client with disclosure and consent. These fees may be deducted from the lawyer’s escrow account; however, the Committee continues to caution regarding the risks inherent in permitting a financial institution to debit the lawyer’s escrow account. When possible, a lawyer should contract with the financial institution that all debits of fees and costs associated with credit card use, including “chargebacks,” be made from the lawyer’s operating account”.

Relevant Law: Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15(a), (d)

Referenced Ethics Opinions:

  • LEO 186-A (June 18, 1981), the opinion discussed whether it is ethical to charge clients the transactional fees associated with the use of credit cards and opined that a lawyer or law firm should not pass along a higher fee to a client for the use of a credit card.
  • LEO 999 (November 13, 1987), the Committee determined that a lawyer may use one escrow account for the deposit of all credit card transactions even when those deposits include monies for earned and unearned fees.

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