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RPC 102

January 18, 1991

Gifts to Employees from Court Reporting Service

 

Opinion rules that a lawyer may not permit the employment of court reporting services to be influenced by the possibility that the lawyer's employees might receive premiums, prizes or other personal benefits.

 

Inquiry:

 

A local court reporting service is offering prizes to legal secretaries who place depositions with that service. The legal secretary with the most dollars billed to his or her firm within a certain period of time wins. May a lawyer permit the employment of court reporting services to be influenced by the possibility that the lawyer's employees might receive premiums, prizes or other personal benefits?

 

Opinion:

 

Court reporting services can vary in terms of cost, efficiency and quality. Such factors should be considered by the lawyer and his employees in purchasing such services for the client. It is evident that the judgment of the person selecting the court reporting service could be compromised by the prospect of earning prizes or premiums. This could be detrimental to the client. Rule 3.3(b) requires a lawyer having direct supervisory authority over a nonlawyer to make a reasonable effort to ensure that the nonlawyer's conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer. This provision would certainly require the supervising attorney to direct his employee to avoid conflict of interest of this sort. Indeed, a lawyer who became aware of such a practice involving his secretary and took no action to have the practice discontinued would be professionally responsible for the conflict of interest under Rule 3.3(c).

 

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