Gifting and Court Reporting – When is it an ethics violation?

It’s always great to be thanked for a job well done but when does a thank you become an ethics violation? If you’re a court reporter, it’s clearly defined in the National Court Reporters Association Code of Professional Ethics:

“Members shall refrain from giving, directly or indirectly, any gift or anything of value to attorneys or their staff, other clients or their staff, or any other persons or entities associated with any litigation, which exceeds $150 in the aggregate per recipient each year. Nothing offered in exchange for future work is permissible, regardless of its value.  Pro bono services as defined by the NCRA Guidelines for Professional Practice or by applicable state and local laws, rules and regulations are permissible in any amount.”

The reason for having a code of professional ethics, whether you’re in the court reporting or other industry, is to avoid favoritism. Remember, it’s the role of court reporters to remain impartial. That rule applies to Oklahoma court reporting agencies like ours, not just our reporters. Let’s look at three scenarios.

Here’s your holiday bonus.

The holidays bring thoughts of making lists and checking them twice. If your court reporter is on the list, be aware of the dollar amount or value of the gift. Be sure it doesn’t exceed an annual total of $150 or you could be in violation of the ethics clause.

I’ll buy you a cup of coffee. 

Seems like a rather benign statement to tell someone you will buy them a cup of coffee in exchange for a meeting. And it is if the coffee comes without strings attached. If the requestor were to ask the recipient if they could buy a cup of coffee in exchange for scheduling a deposition, that is an ethics violation because, “Nothing offered in exchange for future work is permissible, regardless of its value” even if it’s just a cup of joe.

We will give you a referral bonus for every deposition you send our way.

Even if it’s just $1 per deposition donated to a charity of the client’s choice, this is an ethics violation. There’s really no way getting around it and the rule is clear. Nothing can be exchanged for future work, even a small donation to save abandoned puppies. We know the puppies need help but we’ve got to find another way to make a difference.

The lesson for court reporters and agencies is to be sure you’re sharing the code so there’s no question of what is, and is not, and ethics violation. At Steno Services, we strive to provide the highest quality court reporters and transcripts in the industry. Contact us today to learn more.

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