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Updates to NCRA Advisory Opinions Offer Guidance on Gift-Giving Policy

July 22, 2011

The Board of Directors approved a change to Provision 8 of the Code of Professional Ethics in March 2011, so that there is now a distinction between thank you (or marketing) gifts and incentive gifts (gifts given in direct exchanged for future work).

The Provision reads:
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 $100 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.

As a result of this change, thank you or marketing gifts are still allowed as long as they don’t exceed $100 per recipient per year, but gifts given in exchange for future work are prohibited in any amount.

COPE has written a new Public Advisory Opinion, No. 46 which discusses different scenarios and how to apply these new rules to your own marketing decisions. Current Public Advisory Opinion No. 45 was also revised to reflect these changes.

The Board agreed to a grace period for enforcement of these changes to allow members time to understand them and make any necessary changes to their practices. No complaints will be considered on the new Provision until after November 1, 2011. In addition, COPE will not consider complaints based on actions occurring before November 1, 2011.