Coming from the UK but living in New Zealand I get people’s frustrations with bank fees on international transactions. Quite frankly, it feels like daylight robbery.
Which is why I love the idea of Bitcoin, a digital currency in which transactions can be performed without the need for a central bank.
In January 2014, LegalVision, one of Australia’s most innovative legal service providers, announced it would be the first Australian law firm to accept payment in Bitcoins.
Lachlan McKnight is the CEO and co-founder of LegalVision, which helps small to medium businesses and start-ups looking for legal assistance, advice or documentation. Their business lawyers work online and for a fixed fee.
I spoke to Lachlan about:
- what prompted this
- how it’s impacted LegalVision’s business
- what advice he’d give to other professional services firms thinking about accepting Bitcoin payments.
Why did you decide to accept Bitcoin payments?
“We had a customer based in Germany who wanted to pay in Bitcoins and so we decided to look into it. We signed up with Bitpay, which was a really easy process, and started accepting Bitcoin payments. The real benefit to international clients is that we can charge them less, as Bitcoin trading fees are much lower than traditional international bank transfer fees.”
What, if any, impact has doing so had on your business?
“When we announced that we were accepting Bitcoin payments, we got lots of media coverage both in Australia and internationally. As a result, a number of people came to us asking us to help them resolve Bitcoin disputes.”
“We now seem to get found by people wanting help in this area. Interestingly, negative publicity about Bitcoin resulted in more work for us.”
“Bitcoin payments make up a small, but growing percentage of our total revenue. However, a lot of our clients operate in the online or technology sphere. Even if they don’t want to pay in Bitcoin, the fact we accept this currency shows that we understand new technology and that we’re open to new ways of doing things – it’s essentially a trust signal.”
“Accepting Bitcoin payments has also been valuable internally as it shows our existing and potential staff that we’re a different type of business to a traditional law firm.”
What types of customers typically pay in Bitcoins?
“Typically overseas clients who don’t want to deal with money transfer issues and Bitcoin entrepreneurs. I expect this will change over time but Bitcoin is still not main-stream.”
What advice would you give to lawyers and other professionals looking to accept Bitcoin payments?
“Firstly, I’d say it’s very easy to set up and to use. Secondly, once you’ve taken a payment in Bitcoin, sell it immediately for your local currency. The value of Bitcoin does fluctuate from day to day and so, unless you’re prepared to take a risk, you’ll want to exchange it for real money.”
How to set up a Bitpay account:
1. Go to www.bitpay.com and fill out the short form.
2. Click the link in the verification email they send through to verify your email address.
3. Once you receive your account approval, log into your Bitpay account and set up details of your settlement currency and bank details.
4. Adjust your approved sales volume limit from US$100 per day by clicking ‘raise your limit’ on your dashboard. There are 3 options:
- Basic – enables processing up to $1,000 per day. It requires a manual account review and can take 1-3 business days.
- Verified – enables processing up to $10,000 per day. This requires a manual account review and you will need to provide proof of address, incorporation documents, photo ID and Tax ID number. It takes 2-4 days to set up.
- Trusted – enables processing up to $100,000 per day. This requires all the same things as ‘Verified’ plus the most recent 3 months of bank statements OR an extended validation SSL certificate.
4. Add payment buttons and/or plugins to your website, or invoice via Bitpay.
What do you think – can you see a benefit in accepting Bitcoin payments in your practice?