$25 Gift Card For Every Deposition

If you've clicked on this page looking for a $25 gift card for scheduling a deposition -- YOU CAN STOP LOOKING -- we do not give incentives or gifts of any size to clients for using our services. 

We trust you will appreciate our desire to offer quality court reporting services within the guidelines of our national and state associations without unethical gift-giving schemes.  It is my opinion that gift giving by court reporters or court reporting firms is tantamount to bribery.  More importantly, the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) isn't very keen on it either.

You've probably seen the flyers or the website offers from various court reporting firms: Schedule a depo with us and we'll send you a Nordstrom gift card.  Or perhaps the very transportational: Depositions with us are a gas -- get a $25 gas card for every depo!  Something to that effect.

Facts About Deposition Incentives:

  • Did you know that the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) considers it an ethics violation for any court reporter  ... giving, directly or indirectly, any gift, incentive, reward or anything of value to attorneys, clients, witnesses, insurance companies or any other persons or entities associated with the litigation ... (http://ncraonline.org/AboutNCRA/cope)
  • Did you know that cash or cash-equivalents (e.g.; gift cards, Starbucks cards, gas cards, etc.) of whatever size are not allowed under any circumstance? (http://ncraonline.org/AboutNCRA/cope/Advisory/045.htm)
  • Did you know that a member of NCRA in violation of these gift-giving ethics should be reported immediately?  (http://ncraonline.org/AboutNCRA/cope/Complaint/)

If You Work For a Law Firm
Gift giving by court reporting firms may seem like a great way to get some goodies, however it violates the inherent neutrality of the court reporter.  This violation, while not necessarily a crime, could compromise the integrity of your case.  If opposing counsel were to get wind of this compromise, things might get sticky for you.  If you work for a law firm and are considering hiring a court reporting service, please do not utilize the services of any firm that engages in gift giving.

If You Are A Freelance Reporter
If your firm or agency is involved in gift giving, please do not take jobs for that firm.  While it may seem like they are busy and have work, they are violating ethics guidelines set forth by NCRA and are damaging our industry.  The apparent short term gain of having work is myopic when considering that doing jobs for a law firm who has received gifts or incentives could jeopardize you -- as the reporter -- and your license.

What's Wrong With Law Firms Receiving Kickbacks From A Court Reporting Firm?
Perhaps it's the same thing that's wrong with a doctor receiving kickbacks from a pharmaceutical company? Or maybe it's the same thing that's wrong with a politician receiving kickbacks from a special interest group? What's wrong with all that?  By that logic, we should all carry around little treats for officers who pull us over.  ‘Donut, Officer?‘

My Personal History Of Gift Giving
I know firsthand about gift giving.  During a brief spell in 2005 I gave gift cards to a client for scheduling depos with my firm.  I think I got the idea from seeing a flyer from a competitor.  My first thought was, Hey, this big competitor was doing it, it must be okay.  I called the lead secretary at a very large law firm client of mine.  This client had something like 14 offices statewide and many in other states.  I got the green light from her.  She said her secretaries would love to receive gas cards.  I made up my own flyers. I passed them around the office.  Within a few days, sure enough, the phone started ringing way more than usual from that office.  Of course, everyone wanted their gas card.  I was stoked.  Here was the greatest marketing trick ever.  Within a few weeks, I planned to do a larger rollout of this scheme.  I made the rounds for three more of their offices.  Same flyer, same spiel.  Set a depo with me, get a gas card.

Then it happened.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  Actually it was Friday, May 27, 2005. (Why do bad things always happen on Fridays?)  At about 9:30 a.m. my office got a call from the main big wig attorney for this firm.   Mr. Big was on the phone and he was pissed.  No -- pissed is not quite the word.  Murderous might be more descriptive.  My heart stopped but I took the call.  I've never been cussed at like that in my life.  I thought he had made a mistake.  I can't remember verbatim what he said but it was something along these lines:

  • You F-#$%!@#-ing B-#$%@-ard!
  • You better not come around my firm the rest of your life!
  • How could you F-#$%!@-ing jeopardize my business ethics with your gift-giving scheme?
  • Are you really that stupid that you can't seen a conflict of interest if I allowed this type of thing?

In my defense, I told him, I had gotten the approval of that lead secretary.  Remember her?  I didn't know it was wrong, et cetera, yada yada yada.  He said she was in trouble too.  Ouch!

I got off the phone completely crushed.  Stunned.  I cried and prayed.  The loss of this client represented 1/3 of all my business at that point. 

Tip No. 1 - Never put yourself in the position where in one phone call 1/3 of your business can be taken away. Diversify the risk more. 

Tip No. 2  - Don't give out gift cards as incentives to schedule depos.  It's unethical.  Period.

In the months that followed My Personal Black Friday, I was able to eventually get back in that firm's good graces.  Mr. Big actually apologized about a year later that he had blown up at me.  I apologized about a million times and said I had learned my lesson.  Still, things were never the same between that firm and me.  I did put into effect an initiative to remove all my eggs from any one basket.  Now days, no single entity represents any more than a few percent of the totality of my business.

And I never give out gift cards!

UPDATE 2012 - Tax Memo released last year that speaks directly to this issue.  Check it out: http://library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1103736796761-13/FOR+IMMEDIATE+RELEASE+Tax+Memo+2011.pdf
 


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Author
Todd Olivas

Todd Olivas is a court reporter and entrepreneur.
He founded TO&A in 2003.

  Comment by Diane | Friday, February 27, 2009
I sure wish you you get this message across to the State of Minnesota. I have had several phone calls in the last few weeks regrading this issue. Although the state association does not condone this practie, it seems nothing is being donw about it either. I`ll pass your message onto the law offices that have called me to inquire. I`m sure I have lost some business however.
  Comment by Todd Olivas | Saturday, May 02, 2009
Diane, I`m sorry to hear that you may have lost some business due to gift giving. I know for a fact I have as well. If we can raise our voices and make state associations and law offices aware, I believe this practice can be tackled sooner rather than later. Personally, I joined forces with the Deposition Reporters Association (www.caldra.org) which is a California entity geared to fighting gift giving and contracting.
  Comment by Julia Scarborough | Monday, April 26, 2010

We are fighting gift giving in the state of Georgia, along with contracting with insurance companies, which breaks the impartiality venue.

But you are right about the gift giving, educate the attorneys about this, because 99% of them do not know it`s going on. Any suggesstions let me know.


  Comment by Breck Record | Friday, June 03, 2011
Tddd,
This is awesome! Shame on our profession for evening starting down this path and a select few of us thinking that it was okay to do it. Our gift to all clients should a great transcript, prompt service when they need it and that is it, nothing more. Somewhere that concept got lost in our profession, but it is refreshing to see someone like you stepping up and speaking out about it and taking a stand. I am sharing this on Facebook and also sharing it with my Encouraging Court Reporting Students group page. Much appreciated!
(tipping hat)
Breck Record, CSR, RPR, CCR
El Paso, Texas

  Comment by Lisa | Saturday, June 04, 2011
Agree with Julia. Every time I discuss this issue with attorneys in my beloved state of Florida they haven`t been aware it`s even happening in their own offices. Education from the top seems to be the path for tackling this issue. I believe that most of the gift receiving is innocent; after all, who wouldn`t want a gift card? We`re working on education about WHY it`s wrong!
  Comment by Diana | Monday, June 06, 2011
Reporters would be wise to make themselves familiar with the links on the NCRA web site regarding NCRA Ethics First - http://ncraonline.org/ethicsfirst/logo/default.htm
  Comment by Tony Wright | Wednesday, August 03, 2011
You think this is bad? In Florida, we had a company offering new clients $100 gift cards to provide proof that they CANCELED an already set deposition to reset it with their firm. Disgusting.
  Comment by Debi | Wednesday, February 08, 2012
Tony Wright, I saw the same message!!! Yep, I`m in Florida too! It is sickening how these firms hand these gift cards out left and right. Worse yet, they`re now giving away iPad`s if the client sets and orders 8 depositions...anyone see that? Also, insurance contracting is back and stronger than ever...we have to band together to stop all this nonsense!!!
  Comment by ROBYN | Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Todd,
I this is a wonderful article you have written. I am going to share it with others in my profession. If only Florida had more laws governing the court reporting profession, we would definitely see the incentive bribes fall to the wayside.

  Comment by Todd Olivas | Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Thank you for the compliments, everyone. Here is a good link to a Tax Memo that came out in 2011 about just this topic.

Check it out: http://library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1103736796761-13/FOR+IMMEDIATE+RELEASE+Tax+Memo+2011.pdf


  Comment by Martha | Thursday, March 29, 2012
A very interesting read, Todd, thank you. The problem is, how can anyone prove who receives a gift card? I think, and correct me if I`m wrong, it`s used as cash, no? How can it be traced? I`ll bet the legal assistants receiving them don`t even know themselves how many they`ve received.
  Comment by S. Shaw | Sunday, November 04, 2012
The worst part about insurance company contracting is it hurts the reporter`s bottom line. I remember receiving a memo from an agency about the new rates reporters would be paid for doing this particular insurance company`s depos. We were paid far less hourly, sometimes a flat appearance rate when we had always been receiving hourly wages for writing time, and the page rate was almost half of what we charged for normal depos. I remember feeling very cheated when I had to do a depo for that particular company.


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