Huseby affirms client relationships are business relationships and certain lines must not be crossed
Googling the term “court reporter gift giving” tells you all you need to know about the giving of gifts by reporters to paralegals, legal assistants and others.
It’s a big issue.
In addition to guidance offered by the National Court Reporters Association, there are additional posts by state court reporting associations and individual court reporting firms.
NCRA has established that gifts valued over $100 (aggregate) per year are a violation of ethics guidelines created by the organization to avoid the possible appearance of partiality or favoritism on the part of a reporter.
Here are some bullet points on the destructive impact of gifting in our industry.
Leveraging a supplier relationship for personal benefit. Paralegals and legal assistants are making vendor decisions simply by the gifts they receive.
Accept gifts or other similar benefits with the intent of improperly influencing the client’s decisions or business affairs.
Does the accepting of gift cards need to be filed with the IRS as income and who is responsible (individual or law firm)?
Baker & McKenzie
Don’t just take it from Huseby, take it from the third largest law firm in the world.
Baker & McKenzie is one of the few firms that publishes the fact that employees cannot accept gifts.
The firm points out employees cannot accept anything with the intent of improperly influencing a company’s business affairs or decisions in its code of business conduct.
Business entertainment and courtesies
Our client service principles encourage us to get to know our clients personally and “turn relationships into friendships.” But we always keep in mind that client relationships are business relationships, and certain lines must not be crossed.
We must be particularly careful not to offer, give, ask for or accept gifts, entertainment or other similar benefits with the intent of obtaining or retaining business or otherwise improperly influencing the client’s decisions or business affairs or our own behavior.
Appropriate business courtesies are not considered to be bribes. To ensure that the exchange of business courtesies could not be construed as a form of bribery, business courtesies should be all of the following:
Of appropriate value and compliant with applicable laws.
Consistent with the policies of both the giver’s and the recipient’s employer.
In no way offered or accepted with the intent of obtaining or retaining business or otherwise improperly influencing a company’s business affairs or decisions, or our own behavior.
Properly approved and reported in compliance with local policies.
In all matters, reporters should use sensible judgment to determine whether what is proposed could be seen to be inconsistent with these principles. If in doubt, seek guidance.
When it comes to dealing with others, avoid conflicts of interest
Reporters must avoid any investment, interest or association that interferes, or might interfere, with the independent exercise of our own individual best judgment and our obligation to perform our responsibilities in the best interests of the firm. With respect to suppliers, this means:
We will avoid actual or apparent conflicts with the firm’s interests.
We will deal with all suppliers doing business with the firm in a fair and objective manner without favor or preference based upon personal financial or relationship considerations.
We will not accept from any supplier any gift or entertainment (except those discussed under “business entertainment and courtesies”) or leverage a supplier relationship for personal benefit.
We will not do business on behalf of the firm with a member of our household or close relative or have a financial interest in any company that does business with the firm, unless the transaction is disclosed to the director of professional responsibility and determined to be on arms-length terms.
Florida Court Reporters Association -- What every attorney should know
State Bar of Texas paralegal division -- The ethics of gifts from vendors