NCRA Ethics First Program

What is Ethics First?

NCRA’s “Ethics First” program was developed for a single reason: To recognize our members who have made a commitment to abide by and promote the rules of the Code of Professional Ethics (COPE), particularly with regard to gift-giving.

Through its grassroots efforts, Ethics First seeks to positively educate court reporters, firms, and clients that the impartiality and neutrality of the court reporter is of utmost importance in maintaining an unbiased legal system. Getting the word out to attorneys, legal staff, and other consumers of court reporting services about the perils of accepting free gifts from court reporting firms is also one of the Ethics First committee charges.

Ethics First has prepared presentations geared toward state court reporting associations and state bar associations with goals of increasing court reporter membership in the program, as well as encouraging attorneys to hire firms and reporters who are Ethics First members.

NCRA’s Ethics First program invites all firms abiding by COPE to join Ethics First and to reference  this website. This will assure your clients that you understand the ethical implications that gift-giving entails and are doing your part to ensure that the legal system remains entirely impartial. The Ethics First logo demonstrates to your clients, to your peers, and to your competition that you refuse to risk compromising the judicial system through practices which are in conflict with COPE.


Sign up today and help join this grassroots, nationwide effort to advocate for the neutrality of the court reporter in legal system.

Sign up for Ethics First



Ethics First FAQs

A firm is owned by one NCRA member and one non-NCRA member. The firm is signed up for Ethics First but is found to be giving incentive gifts. Can that firm remain an Ethics First Firm?

No. The firm would be sent a cease and desist letter from NCRA to stop using the Ethics First logo.

A court reporting firm is owned by one NCRA member steno reporter and a nonmember voicewriter. Is the firm eligible to be an Ethics First Firm?

Yes. Since one of the firm’s owners is an NCRA member, the firm would be eligible to be an Ethics First Firm, and the NCRA-member owner would become an Ethics First Participant as an individual. However, the voicewriter owner is not eligible to promote him or herself, individually, as an Ethics First Participant or to use the Ethics First Participant logo.

When is a manager eligible to sign their firm up for Ethics First?

As long as the manager is a person responsible for the day-to-day operations of their firm and holds sufficient authority within the firm to commit that firm to participation, they are eligible (provided they themselves are an NCRA member).

Are CLVS candidates who are NCRA members eligible to be an Ethics First Participant?

Yes. As long as their NCRA membership is current, they are eligible to be an Ethics First Participant because they “make the record.”

Why are closed captioners and CART providers not eligible to be Ethics First Participants?

The gift giving restriction is an intervention in commercial practices that are perfectly acceptable in most customer/provider relationships. For example, airlines give frequent flyer points and other financial incentives to reward customer loyalty. The Department of Justice and antitrust enforcement looks on any effort to interfere or discourage such actions that are financially beneficial to the customer with suspicion and hostility.

That same circumstance that justifies NCRA’s stance against incentive gift-giving – the unique duty of impartiality in the middle of an adversarial proceeding – does not exist in the relationship between a CART provider or a captioner and the consumer utilizing those services. So CART providers and closed captioners, like others with an interest in the program, are free to take part as an Ethics First Supporter, but it would be legally insupportable to encourage them to join the program and swear not to gift themselves.

However, if closed captioners and CART providers DO take depositions on occasion, they are more than welcome to register as an Ethics First Participant.

What happens if a firm has an NCRA member owner or manager who signs the firm up, but that individual later leaves or drops his or her membership? No other owner or manager in the firm is an NCRA member. Can that firm remain an Ethics First Firm?

No. Ethics First Firms are required to annually recertify (renew) their participation in the program in January.  If there is no longer an NCRA member owner or manager able to execute that renewal agreement, the firm is not eligible for renewal.

What will happen to the individuals who are currently signed up for Ethics First but are no longer eligible to join based on the new, NCRA member-only restrictions?

They are grandfathered into the program until the routine annual renewal in January, at which time they will NOT be eligible to continue.

What happens if an individual participant drops their NCRA membership or the NCRA member leaves their membership? Do they lose eligibility to continue in Ethics First immediately, or are they dropped at their next annual renewal?

They are grandfathered into the program until the routine annual renewal in January, at which time they will NOT be eligible to continue.

Can non-program participants distribute Ethics First materials and reference Ethics First without use of the logo? For example: can a non-NCRA-member firm or individual reporter distribute pamphlets from the Ethics First website, copy and distribute Ethics First articles and letters to the editor, circulate links to Ethics First  web videos to their clients because they support the principles, even though they are not able to participate in the program or advertise using the Ethics First logos?

Yes they can. There is no practical manner for NCRA to regulate such activities. NCRA will, however, vigorously protect the restriction on use of the Ethics First logo or name by actual program Participants/Supporters only.


History of Ethics First

In 1993 NCRA adopted as part of its Code of Professional Ethics a policy that prohibits giving excessive gifts to attorneys, clients, witnesses, insurance companies, or other persons or entities associated with the litigation. The original policy set a limit of up to $25 in value per occurrence and $50 in aggregate per person per year. The limit later was set at $100 per recipient per year.

The policy was established because the NCRA Board of Directors believed that the practice of providing gifts, rewards, or incentives to attorneys, clients or their representatives or agents undermines and dilutes the integrity of the reporting profession and the status of the reporter as a neutral and impartial officer of the court. Giving excessive gifts and incentives can create in the eye of the public the appearance of partiality or favoritism on the part of the reporter towards the recipient.

The Board of Directors in 2008 asked the Committee on Professional Ethics to review the policy. As a result of that process, the association’s policy on gift giving was reaffirmed, and COPE Advisory Opinion No. 45 was issued to clarify the policy.  In 2011, at COPE’s recommendation, the policy on gift giving has been revised to prohibit all gifts, regardless of their value, given as an incentive for future work.  COPE is working on another Public Advisory Opinion to assist members in complying with the new policy.

In addition, the Ethics First program was created as a positive and proactive effort to encourage reporters, firms, and the clients they serve to promote the impartiality and the neutrality of the reporting profession and avoid inappropriate gift giving and gift acceptance. The Ethics First logos were created to instill public confidence in the court reporting profession, and the program, and when court reporters, attorneys, or other legal professionals see the logos, they will be assured that the court reporter understands the ethical implications with incentive gift-giving.