After being frustrated with the “inappropriate” gift giving that occurs in the profession, a member of the legal community says she has the answer.
Say It Forward, a pro bono program created by Neeson Court Reporting, will offer firms a financial perk for using Neeson’s services.
Beginning Feb. 15, for every $20 spent on transcripts at Neeson Court Reporting, firms will be provided with a $1 “redemption of services” credit they can use towards transcript and ancillary services for pro bono matters.
The program’s creator Kimberley Neeson, president of Neeson Court Reporting, says she came up the program as an “answer” to the unethical gift-giving dilemmas that she has witnessed over the years.
“Choices are being made simply because of the incentive,” says Nesson, who has participated in focus groups where she has witnessed the trend. “I’m really hoping that law firms choose their service providers based on neutrality, competency, and pricing.”
Nesson says she has seen firm employees rewarded with gifts that range from an all-expense-paid trip to Las Vegas, days at the spa, and large-scale parties, all for booking at a particular court reporting firm.
“My belief is a firm should be booked because it is the right place to conduct a discovery or hearing for your client,” wrote Neeson in a press release. “I also believe that this type of gift really belongs to the client, the person who is ultimately paying for the disbursement of fees to a court reporting agency.”
For Neeson, the program is her way of not only thanking her clients, but also a way to “help a lot of people in need”
“I’m really trying to do something innovative and I truly hope that it will help some people,” says Nesson, who says the program has been met with a positive response. “I hope that it’s sort of a feel good for all of us, because we’re giving back as a collective to people that can’t otherwise access justice.”
Firms who sign up for the program will be given a Say it Forward account, enabling all of their lawyers to participate. They will have a full calendar year to use their credits, and have the option to donate their remaining balance to Pro Bono Law Ontario once the calendar year ends, giving the organization a year to utilize the donations.
“Pro Bono Law Ontario could certainly use a lot of our services,” says Neeson, who worked alongside the organization when creating the program. “I want to give back, and I want to give back in a meaningful way, and I think pro bono touches all of us in this community.”
But for firms that don’t need to use the credits, Nesson says they can still go to a good cause. Firms that sign up for a Say it Forward account can immediately pledge their credits to PBLO.
“We think it’s a creative and excellent idea,” says Matthew Cohen, PBLO’s director of litigation projects. “We have always seen pro bono as a movement that touches all participants in the justice system.”
Cohen believes the program will be a “great way” to extend pro bono work into the court reporting industry, an area PBLO hasn’t worked with in the past.
“We’re hoping that a lot of firms will engage in this,” says Nesson, noting that the program is directly tied to collecting credit from a typical transcripts order. “If you can’t use it, then PBLO certainly can, and they will benefit from it directly, and that means a lot of Ontarians can benefit from all of the work that we’re all doing collectively.”