Payment by E-Commerce

Lawyers and paralegals may use e-commerce methods to conduct business, where doing so allows them to comply with their professional obligations regarding client funds, trust accounts and the general account. Payments via a third-party e-commerce provider are typically transferred from the provider's holding or clearance account to an account designated by you, and are usually subject to a service charge (e.g. monthly flat fee, fee per transaction, or otherwise) that is payable by you as a cost of doing business.

For payment of client accounts for services that have been rendered to the client and for which a bill has been delivered, there is no prohibition against accepting payment by this method to your general account. Such payments would be transferred from the provider's holding or clearance account to your general account, and any related service charges would also be drawn from your general account.

Prior to entering into any arrangement regarding payments to your general account through a third-party provider, you should also consider whether the security measures offered by the third-party provider will allow them to maintain client confidentiality in accordance with section 3.3 of the lawyers' Rules of Professional Conduct and rule 3.03 of the Paralegal Rules of Conduct. You should discuss with the provider the level of security it offers for the service during any given transaction and the risk(s) of disclosure. If the third-party provider will have or require regular access to basic client information, you must obtain the client's consent prior to disclosure and should consider including a confidentiality clause in the third-party provider service agreement.

Though it may be permissible for lawyers and paralegals to accept e-commerce payments into a general account from the provider's holding or clearance account, you are not permitted to accept the payment of retainers or retainer fees via this method. Retainers or retainer fees must be deposited directly into a designated mixed trust account that

 

  • is held at a financial institution permitted by section 7(1) of By-Law 9 
  • earns interest at a prescribed rate that is payable to the Law Foundation of Ontario, per section 57 of the Law Society Act 
  • meets the record keeping requirements of section 18(10) of By-Law 9 

 

Retainers or retainer fees cannot be deposited to an account that does not comply with these requirements. Where the holding or clearance account offered by a third-party provider does not meet these requirements, you must not accept retainer payments via this method. Likewise, it is not permissible to make all deposits to the general account and then transfer the appropriate amounts to the trust account.

Additional Resources:

Payment by Debit or Credit Card

The BookkeepingGuide for Lawyers

The Bookkeeping Guide for Paralegals