A South African law firm, Thomson Wilks, is now accepting the crypto-currency Bitcoin as a form of payment from its clients. According to the firm’s director Stephen Thomson, the decision was based on Bitcoin’s efficiency as a trans-country payment method.
“I just love the idea of Bitcoin. It’s sort of a universal currency,” Thomson told How we made it in Africa.
“It’s got no limitation. It can be transferred in a second from one country to another, from one continent to another, and it’s easily convertible into cash.”
The firm implemented the payment system on Monday through a partnership with South African company Voomar, which accepts Bitcoin payments into a digital wallet on the firm’s behalf. It then either converts Bitcoin into cash or holds onto it as an investment.
Thomson said his firm has already received some interest, especially from overseas, concerning paying for legal services using Bitcoin.
“It is exactly what I hoped would happen. Being the only law firm [in South Africa] that accepts Bitcoin as a form of payment, we have this monopoly really, and what happens is that anybody who wants to pay lawyers in Bitcoin can only find one firm of lawyers to contact. So they would have to appoint us.”
The digital currency has caused a bit of a stir over the past year. It has proven highly volatile, with its value crashing from over US$1,000 last year to below $400 currently. China banning its banks from handling Bitcoin transactions and the collapse of Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox this year have been some of the causes for its drop in value.
Other controversies include its use for illegal activity on the internet black-market.
However, Thomson said it is precisely because of Bitcoin’s current low value that his firm has decided to adopt it as a payment option now. “There is risk, which is why we decided to go for it now rather than later. Bitcoin has reached a low base so I think the risk is lower in terms of accepting it because hopefully, if I’m right, the value of Bitcoin will increase, not decrease.”
He added he sees the option of payments via the virtual currency being particularly attractive for international clients, who have a better understanding of Bitcoin than the South African market.
However, Bitcoin is starting to make its way on the continent. Earlier this year How we made it in Africa reported on a Nigerian fashion start-up, Minku, that decided to accept it as a form of payment for its designs. The company’s founder, Kunmi Otitoju, said despite scepticism, she sees Bitcoin as being the future of online payments.
“With time, governments will step in and give a cleaner definition of what it is, how it can be traded, and so on. And then it could garner general acceptance as just another boring old method of paying for things online.”