What Every Attorney Should Know About Incentive Gift-Giving by Reporters

Did you know…that incentives, gifts, and rebate programs designed to reward law firms in return for scheduling court reporting assignments are being offered by some court reporting companies to influence the hiring decision?

Did you know…that the Florida Court Reporters Association has adopted limitations pertaining to the practice of giving items of value to attorneys, clients, or their staff?  FCRA believes that such practices could create, in the eyes of the public or others, the appearance that the reporter and/or firm holds some partiality or favoritism toward the recipient; therefore, these practices undermine and dilute the integrity of the court reporting profession and the status of the court reporter as a neutral and impartial officer of the court.  See FCRA Code of Professional Ethics and FCRA’s Commentary on Provision No. 7.

Did you know…that court reporters are officers of the court and are to be impartial and certify that they are not a relative, employee, attorney, or counsel of any of the parties, nor financially interested in the action? 

Did you know…that any member of a law firm that receives a gift for scheduling court reporting services on behalf of their client has an obligation to fully disclose that fact to their client and/or pass the savings on to their client?  See Statutes, Rules, Opinions Re: Gift-Giving.

Did you know…that accepting a “perk” from a reporting company in exchange for court reporting services creates the perception of impropriety because the choice is influenced by gift-giving promotions rather than quality of service and product?

Did you know…that these gifts may not only affect the price you pay but, also, the cost that opposing counsel pays for their transcript?

Did you know…often incentive gifts, such as gift cards or iPads, in exchange for booking depositions are sent to employees’ homes, making it difficult for attorneys to be aware that these gifts are being accepted?

Did you know…that the amount of these gifts may be considered by the IRS to be revenue to you and create a taxable event to the recipient, whether it is a lawyer, legal assistant, or any other employee of the firm?  See Hanson Bridgett Memorandum.

Did you know…that a court reporter or court reporting company who gives gifts to a law firm

that exceed $600 in a year is required to provide an IRS information return to that recipient law firm?

Did you know…that FCRA members agree to abide by a Code of Professional Ethics that addresses gift-giving?  Nothing offered in exchange for future work is permissible regardless of the value.  FCRA recognizes that gifts of nominal value as a thank you for past work, such as pens, pencils, coffee mugs and other advertising paraphernalia, or modest forms of meals and entertainment, do not compromise the reporter or firm’s appearance of impartiality and are permissible.  See FCRA Code of Professional Ethics.

Protect yourself and your client.  Hire a court reporter based on skill and experience.  Hire an FCRA member that adheres to a Code of Professional Ethics.

See Florida Rules and Advisory Opinions to consider when receiving gifts from court reporting firms.