on the cheap and sleazy side (www.cheapandsleazy.net)
The Art of the Obvious
In Which Kyung Lee-Green Points Out Things That Should be Obvious To All
While reading through some of the posts on my Facebook page the other day, I noticed a post by one of Cheap and Sleazy's newest contributors, Kyung Lee-Green. She titled her post, "Obviousness of the Week."
Each of the posts talked about a specific area of court reporting as a business that should be obvious to all, but might just not be -- especially to new reporters.
I found each of these posts to be so important that I immediately began copying them and some of the extra comments made later in the thread and pasting them into this page, without any formatting for a later release -- assuming, of course, she would be okay with my doing so ... and thankfully, she was.
I hope you find them to be of some use.
As Kyung posts updates, they will be added at the end of the article, but for now, you can find the latest one by clicking here.
Obviousness of the Week (23JAN15):
When accepting a job from an agency, it's always important to get as much information as possible.
Some of the most important things you need to know:
Page rate (!!!!!!!)
Location (Mapquest it the night before. Once in a great while the law firm will give the agency the wrong name.)
Type of job (w/c, employment, law, doctor depo, med-mal, construction defect, patent, pharma, wrongful death, personal injury, criminal, etc.)
Agency procedure (copy order on record, all attorneys sign order form, ability to contact law firm, rough draft direct to law firm or to agency)
After-hours contact number for agency
Name of client (law firm)
caption info (may not have)
prior transcripts in case (may not have)
continuing exhibit numbers, if any
Don't feel like you're being a pain if you ask the agency this information. A lot of it will be on the job sheet they send you. And usually you'll only have to ask it once, like agency procedures. You can always send them an e-mail asking for this information. Then save the e-mail for future reference.
If you get the information verbally, I suggest you write it down though so you're not continuously asking the same question. You'll also get a feel for the kind of work an agency does, so after a while you won't have to ask that question either.
But the last three things on my list are something I usually ask every time, especially if you learn the depo is a Volume II. It makes you look more professional at the job.
Obviousness of the Week (26JAN15):
What Do You Need To Turn In For a Complete Job?
1) ASCII transcript (absolutely minimum and super obvious) via e-mail or upload through Internet in some way. Some agencies have various websites.
2) parking receipt -- I usually scan and send in as PDF. I write the job number, job date, witness name, amount, and my name on the receipt
3) FedEx/UPS receipt for exhibits - if agency does not provide me with their shipping service account number and they do reimburse, then I scan and enter same info as for the parking. (not so obvious tip - get a FedEx or UPS account, You will be get a slight discount over regular shipping rates.)
4) worksheet -- agency's or your own -- this will probably include disposition of original transcript, appearances of the attorney, location of depo, job number, caption info, and sometimes billing information
5) copy order forms - any copy order forms signed at depo
6) billing sheet/invoice - this may be in combo with the worksheet for some agencies.
7) exhibits and certs should be sent in via FedEx/UPS, hopefully before the due date. I do not recommend USPS. If you forget to send in hard copy certs or there are no exhibits to send in, you could scan your cert and e-mail it in.
8) miscellaneous things that the agency requests (it's going to be pretty redundant)
Unless their billing sheet/invoice is very clear, I suggest you send in a separate invoice. That way you will be able to itemize very clearly what you expect to be paid for and how much you are expecting to be paid for each item and who is expected to be billed for each item.
By sending in an invoice, you will have one clear place to go to to make sure you are getting paid for everything you're supposed to be paid for. So when you get that check and/or payroll sheet with the breakdown of jobs, then you simply compare it to your invoice. If the numbers are off, then either you made a mistake or they did. But that's another post.
Different agencies have different policies. Some agencies pay for parking, some don't. Some agencies reimburse for shipping of exhibits, some don't. Some will let you use their shipping accounts; some don't.
The most obvious of them all -- if in doubt, ask.
Obviousness of the Week (27JAN15):
Smartphone: You Should Have One
1) GPS - so you know where you're going and you can get traffic updates. I use GoogleMaps. I know some people really like WAZE.
2) back-up audio - you can never have enough backups (I make sure the phone is on silent. I also download a audio recorder app. And that's it).
3) camera - take pic of exhibits, business cards, captions
4) e-mail/text so you can keep track of all the offers being sent to you by agencies.
5) Candy Crush - for when your witness is late
6) it is a legitimate business expense and you'll be able to write off a portion of your cellphone. Not the whole thing unless you have a phone exclusively business and a phone exclusively for personal
I just turn my ringer off and my app continues to record even if I have an incoming call. I'm on an Android.
If you put the phone in airplane mode, then you won't get e-mails and stuff.
You just need to download a recording app from either GooglePlay or the Apple Store. Once it's downloaded, it's just like having a digital recorder on your phone. You are limited by the amount of space you have on your phone.
Your e-mails will load onto your phone later. But by that time you might have a missed an important from your agency or an agency.
Obviousness of the Week (28JAN15):
Keep Track of What You're Due. It's Important.
You'll never be able to tell if an agency is paying you on time and paying you correctly if you do not keep track of what you're due.
This is super obvious, but I know lots of reporters who say, oh, they owe me a couple thousand. Or they'll say I'm not sure, but I think they owe me some money.
Then you have to go research what they owe you. Check your bank to see if perhaps you received a check. Once you confirmed you didn't receive payment, then you have to follow up with the agency. Then you have to wait for the agency to get back to you. Then you have to wait for a check to be issued, which will probably not happen until the next payroll.
Bottom line: it will take you longer to get paid.
Obviousness of the Week (29JAN15):
Back up your Dictionary and your Files All. The. Time.
You never know when your computer is going to crash, especially if you only have one computer on which you keep your work.
My writer has the text file and audio (I'm not going to count this as a copy). It's strictly a last resort. The only thing more painful than having to download the audio and text file from the writer to your laptop and converting is telling the agency you've had a catastrophe and you have nothing and the job must be re-done.)
I personally have a "field" laptop. At the end of the Week, I usually download the files that I worked on that week plus my main dix. Only then do I close down my computer. (Copy 1 and 2)
At home, I have a desktop that I work off of. I upload the files to that computer. On my desktop, I have Carbonite which automatically starts backing up my files. Think of Carbonite as a picture of your computer for the last 30 days. So if your computer crashes, you can get everything back that you've saved. (Copy 3)
I send most of my files out to my scopist, which means I upload to Dropbox and save my files through Dropbox. (Copy 4)
When the scopist is done, she then sends the completed file back to me via e-mail. (Copy 5)
I download the scoped file to my computer. I rename the original file that has not been scoped as the original file (just in case something goes wrong). I have saved the e-mailed filed back as the wrong file, and it can get confusing. This way I have a reference as to what the file is supposed to be. (Copy 6)
Once the file is complete, I send it to my agency. (Copy 7)
Yes, they're all at various stages. But I've got 4 copies of the audio file going, plus 6 copies of the text file. It's always better to not start from scratch.
Once a month (I've been very lax about this). I back up my dix and my final text files and ecl file to an external hard drive and delete the wav files and ecl backups. Those things suck up space on your computer.)
This honestly doesn't take any time at all. Well, the once-a-month backups do. But I should really do that and so should you. If your dictionary corrupts, you don't want to rebuild that thing from scratch. It will be very painful.
If you have Carbonite, it will do it for you automatically or any other cloud storage like SugarSync.
Obviousness of the Week (30JAN15):
If an agency calls you asking to see if you can cover a job and you can't, refer them to your friends. It takes just a second, and it helps out the agency and your friend.
They'll remember your help (hopefully).
But remember to vet the job for your friend so you don't put your friend in an akward position.
I always ask, what area is the job, what kind of job, and what's the rate. That way you can match the job up with the reporter. There's no use sending a reporter who doesn't do realtime a referral for a realtime job. Or if the reporter you're thinking of lives in L.A., but the job is in San Diego at 8 a.m. or 6 p.m., then probably not a good match.
Anyway referrals are always good. Hopefully if you refer someone out, they'll remember the favor and refer you next time they get an overflow job.
Obviousness of the Week (31JAN15):
Ask and Ye Shall Receive
A lot of newer reporters come out of school and have no idea what they can be paid for or how much they should be paid. I'm going to cover what can be paid for. What you should be paid is very regional.
Original transcript and one copy - meaning upfront within a specified amount of time. I don't feel that a reporter should wait for the court reporting firm to get paid on this before we get paid.
Any copies ordered -- upfront or on whatever scheduled arranged for with agency
Rough drafts -- upfront when ordered by attorney paying for the Orig & 1cc or at the same time as when certified copy (cc) are paid for by any other counsel ordering a cc. Rough drafts should not be provided unless a certified copy or orig is ordered.
Video -- per diem or per page amount paid when O&1 is paid.
Realtime: per page amount/should not be provided to any party without ordering of final transcript
Interpreter: per diem or per page amount, paid when O&1 is paid parking -- reimbursable at cost due with O&1
Exhibits: some agencies reimburse you to ship them exhibits, some don't. Some will give you their FedEx or UPS account number to ship.
Expedite: standard in SoCal -- 110 for same day, reducing by 10% the next day (some agencies are different on this)
Arbitrations/court: per diem
San Diego has a per diem on top of page rate. Most other counties in CA do not, that's both North and South.
I think that's the majority. If I missed one, let me know.
Obviousness of the Week (05FEB15):
IT'S OKAY TO SAY NO.
When the agency calls you up and you're swamped with an expedite and a backlog of 300 pages on top of the expedite. It's okay to say no.
Do not be afraid that you will never work for that agency again. The reasonable ones will understand.
Also, I think it shows that you're a busy reporter and they can't always call you at the last minute and expect you to be hanging around.
If you are booked for another agency, it is none of their business why you can't take their job. So just say no.
They want you to drive 100 miles one way for a 8 a.m. start. If you want to do it fine. But you can say no. Don't feel the need or urge to explain yourself. Just simply say I can't cover that particular job.
Never feel pressured to take a job. Never feel like you have to take one for the team out of guilt. That's BS. If you're going to last in this career, you've got to learn to stand up for yourself and not be guilted into doing things you don't want to. You shouldn't be afraid that if you piss off calendar, that you will never work again.
Do you really want to work with people where you have to walk on eggshells for fear of offending them? I think not.
So at the end of the week, make sure you're happy with the decisions you're making.
Obviousness of the Week (07FEB15):
Do you Know What You're Getting Paid For?
You're getting paid to interrupt.
Yes. I said it!!! You're getting paid to use your judgment and interrupt when necessary.
You're not getting paid to sit silently while your audio gets the words you can't quite hear or that went by too fast to get down.
Yes, you're there to take down the record, verbatim. But let's be honest. A tape recorder can take it down verbatim. But the tape recorder is not going to produce clean, usable, readable record. Recording two people speaking is verbatim and what happened at the deposition. But I'm pretty sure that's not what the attorney wants to see in the record.
The most important thing you're there for is to interrupt when the attorney and the witness start to talk on top of each other.
When the witness trails off and says things under their breath, that's when you need to INTERRUPT and get it down.
When the attorney wants to silently mouth his objections, that's when you need to INTERRUPT, Counsel, I didn't hear that.
When counsel get into arguments on the record, you're there to make sure that the arguments get taken down and make it clear when they're on the record or off the record by asking all counsel if they want to go off the record.
So, yes, taking the words down are important.
But YOUR most important skill is your ability to interrupt.
"But There's a Fine Line Between Getting a Good Record and Being Seen as Incompetent."
I don't think you're ever incompetent when you're interrupting. I think you're more incompetent when you don't interrupt. That just means you'll be sitting at home agonizing over why the hell I didn't interrupt or, oh, my god, I don't know what he said, this doesn't make any sense.
Obnoxiousness is in the eye of the beholder. If the attorney resents your doing your job and doesn't want you back, so what??!!!
Why do you want to go back to a job where they're talking as fast as f*ck and won't slow down and don't respect you or make you feel incompetent for asking them to slow down?
If you don't get sent back on that job, then you'll get a different job.
I have attorneys tell me when they appreciate it when I ask both counsel if they want to go off record. Some like it when I say, Counsel, what was that objection? I couldn't hear it because the witness was talking. They made the objection. I assume they want it on the record.
Honestly, the good ones will appreciate your conscientiousness and your ability to control the proceedings or your trying to control the proceedings.
Obviousness of the Week (14FEB15):
When You Don't Get Paid, You Are Working for Free.
For me, this job is a job. There are aspects that I like and aspects that I dislike. It is like any other job in the world that you will do. I expect to be paid and paid in a timely manner.
There are lots of things that I do that I am not paid for. I take care of my child. I mentor reporters. I teach classes. I put on realtime demos. I do all of that without expectation of monetary remuneration. Except for the childcare, it is called volunteering. The taking care of my daughter is probably payback for some bad karma in another life (j/k). Really, I love my daughter and I do lots of things for her because I love of her.
But back to court reporting. I don't volunteer to be a court reporter, and you shouldn't either. When an agency does't pay you, you are volunteering.
I once had an agency (who was past due with an invoice), it's better to have work than no work at all.
Uh, no. Absolutely not true.
It's better to work and be paid than to work and not be paid. I don't really want a sh*t-ton of pages that I won't be paid for. I don't know. Call me crazy.
So number one, if an agency owes you and is past due with you more than you are comfortable with, it's perfectly okay to tell them, "Hey, you owe me $$$, when do you think you will pay me for that? I really feel uncomfortable continuing to work with you when you haven't paid me for the jobs I've already done for you. Once you've caught with your past-due amount, I will re-consider working with you."
Number two, there is nothing wrong with following up with an agency on a monthly basis, a weekly basis, daily basis (who really has time for that?).
I start off with the soft phone call or e-mail. Keep track of all communications and have details. Do not be vague. Vagueness will get you absolutely nowhere. I think I took a job for you in August and I haven't gotten paid, can you check on that. Nope. Nada.
Better - I took a job on 9/26/2014. The witness' name was Joe Schmoe, the job number is ####. The exhibits were turned in on 10/6/14, I turned the job in on 10/8/2014. I was paid for the Orig & 1 on 11/13/14. My records show that the copies have not been paid. I turned in the signed copy order form with all other documents or I got the copy order on the record. Have you received payment for copies? Do you show these copies in your system? Did a copy go out to the requesting attorney?
Hopefully they will get back to you with:
1. We have not been paid, but we are pursuing payment. (Follow up in a month or two weeks.)
2. We don't have those copies in the system. The attorney canceled, and we never notified you. (Gee, thanks. What are you gonna do? Believe them and take it off your books. If this is continuous/standard procedure with them, I'd re-think continuing to work for them.)
3. No, we never sent out a copy. We notified them, but they never responded. (Same situation as number 2. But at least you know they never received a copy. Small consolation.)
Personally I am of two minds on this. Well, I got the copy order in writing and/or on the record. Why didn't you send the copy and get payment? Or, well, I guess, they were probably never going to pay anyway and I'm glad they don't have a copy of the transcript.
If it is the Orig & 1 they're late on, no excuse. When it is due and you have not been paid, follow up. Send them an e-mail. The more information the better. If you are getting the runaround from accounting, ask to speak with their supervisor or owner.
Persistence is what pays off. If the accounting person or person in charge seems to be dodging your phone calls, then start sending certified letters.
You will need a paper trail that you have been trying to collect if you ever decide to take them to small claims court.
This is a business. Don't feel that you're being a nuisance. The nuisance is that they didn't pay you in the first place. They're making your life difficult.
When the agency chooses not to follow up on copy orders, then they are basically extending a line of credit to the attorney to fund their lawsuit. Last time I checked, Bank of America is not what my business card says.
When they say they don't want to upset the client because they won't use them again -- NEWS FLASH -- last time I checked, the copy attorney wasn't your client to begin with.
And why do you want to continue to work for attorneys who aren't paying you? Did I miss something in a memo somewhere where I signed up to work for a nonprofit agency?
Obviousness of the Week (22FEB15):
Know What the Industry Standard in Your Area is
Pricing - know what the going rate is. Oftentimes you will work for agencies and they will have a rate sheet or tell you what the rate is that they're offering for the job.
Other times, agencies will ask you what your rate is or what you want to be paid to take the job. You can't give them a good answer unless you know what others are charging/being paid in your area.
You don't want to undercut, yet you don't want to price yourself out of the market unless you're so damn good that they want you and only you. If that's you, you're the bomb.
How do you get an idea? Ask. This is where networking and talking to other reporters comes in handy. Reporting is a very solitary career. We're all in our little editing cave. Get out of the cave. Go to DRA meetings, CCRA, socials, and get-togethers. If an agency you work with has a get together, you should attend.
Call up agencies and ask them. Can you put me on your overflow list. What are your rates?
Obviousness of the Week (28FEB15):
Court Reporting Can Be a Very Lonely Profession
Other than going to depos, we don't really interact with other people. And we barely interact with the people at the depos except for maybe giving the oath and casual chit-chat (professional).
In this age of the internet, Facebook and CSRNation have made things much better. But still, we kind of work in a vacuum.
So what's my point? My point is networking. Get out there and meet people.
"But, Kyung, I can't afford to go the DRA or NCRA every year. I just don't make enough money."
Yeah, I hear you.
But that doesn't mean you can't get out and network with reporters. I think Marla Sharp has shown that there is a clear need and longing for people in our industry to meet and talk shop. Marla has held court reporter get-togethers for years, and they're always well attended.
Getting together for a casual night out is fun and relaxing. You meet other reporters and have time to talk to people who really understand your job. The "war stories" are hilarious. It can also be very motivating to see what others are doing. How do you know if your experience in the field is similar to what other reporter's experiences are if you don't talk with other reporters?
I personally like to chat with other reporters when I'm in the waiting area at attorney offices waiting to set up. Or if I'm set up, and I see another reporter, I'll pop in and say hello. Now some reporters are all business, and they're too busy to chat. I understand and respect that. But as I said, it's always nice to know another reporter.
So bottom line, court reporting can be a very lonely profession, but it doesn't have to be. If you're invited to a get-together or if there's a convention in the area, try to go. Even at conventions you don't have to go to the full convention to maybe go to some of the social gatherings that groups of reporters set up.
You will meet great people, become even more motivated about your career, see new goals that you can set for yourself, and maybe even learn something.
So go out and network. Don't let work be your excuse. All work and no play makes Jill a very dull girl/guy.
Obviousness of the Week (28MAR15):
Just because you're doing a buttload of work this week does not mean you will get paid immediately. And that is one of the hardest things to learn as a newer reporter. In your head, you're working so hard, but you're not going to see that money for at least 30-plus days.
So don't spend now what you're getting tomorrow or next week or the month after. (I'll be honest. I'm not the best about keeping on top of this one. I've got taxes looming and I'm in the hole. But, hey, learn from my mistakes).
Number two, this week may be so freakin' busy you're dying. Next week may be slow as hell. But that car payment, that rent money is always going to be due. Try to put aside something for monthly payments that will not go away (no matter how hard you to talk to the money fairy about that).
Number three, if you use a scopist. Pay them. Don't do to them what the agencies do to you. It's not cool.
Number four, pay yourself first. Put a little aside into some kind of long-term savings like for when your fingers give out or your shoulder gives out.
Number five, don't forget to put aside for your licenses and maintenance fees. Yeah, yeah. I know at this point, there might not be any paycheck left.
Number six, go buy yourself a treat (depending on if you have anything left.)
Obviousness of the Week (06APR15):
Payday is Not Next Week
Do you realize that if you turn in a job today and the agency pays net 60, you will not get paid until June 15th (maybe).
So for those of you who don't know how this works ...
If an agency has net 30 days payment terms, that means you will get paid 30 days after you turn in the job. BUT most agencies don't cut checks every week. They'll do it on the 1st or the 15th or the 30th.
So get out your calendars.
If you turn in your jobs today (which is technically Monday) April 6, 2015. Thirty days from tomorrow will be May 5th. You've missed the May 1st check processing date, so you probably won't get paid until May 15th. And unless you're getting direct deposit, you probably won't get the check until May 18th (if the agency is local). So you're looking at more than 45 days to get paid.
Net 60 means June 15th payment date.
Some agencies do cutoff dates, so if you have your jobs in before the 25th, you'll get paid by the 25th of next month. So if you turn in anything before the 25th of this month, you'll get paid by 5/25. But if you turn that job in on 4/26, you won't get paid until 6/25.
Some agencies pay every two weeks with cut off dates. So anything turned in before 4/6/15 will be paid on 4/17/15.
Factor these things in when you're start working for a new agency. I know some of the newer reporters can't wait that long.
I would advise against working for agencies that don't pay you on the Orig & 1 until you get paid. Ridiculous as it seems, there are a few agencies with that policy. You could starve to death. Don't do it.
Obviousness of the week (17APR15):
Tax season is over for the CPA. But is it over for you?
Many of us may have filed an extension for their 2014 taxes. Do you know what that means?
All that means is that you've filed an extension to get the paperwork in to the government. You still owe the money. And if you did not send in full payment on April 15th, you are accruing interest and penalties on the amount owed. So please get that paperwork filed ASAP and get that money in.
If you cannot/do not have the money, get on a payment plan asap. It's not going to go away. Remember Al Capone was brought down by the IRS, not by cops.
So remember to file your state and federal taxes and pay state and federal taxes. If you've missed the deadline, it's going to cost you $$.
Obviousness of the Week (29APR15):
If you want to do realtime, treat every job as if it is realtime. Write as if it is realtime, brief for it as if it's realtime.
Get your equipment and set it up for every job. Even if you are only writing for yourself, you will learn and improve a ton.
And when that first realtime job comes, you will be much more comfortable setting up and providing realtime because you've been doing it for months. When the agency asks you how long have you been doing realtime, you can say I've been realtiming for months.
When reporters talk about realtime, the two biggest worries are am I fast enough and what if my equipment fails.
If you are setting up every time you take a job, then you will have the opportunity for mechanical failures in a real-world situation. It will be much less stressful though. It will give you an idea of how fast tech support can return your call. It will give you an idea of what you're going to need to trouble shoot to get your realtime up and running for a depo.
Second benefit, when you see those words coming up on your screen, you will see, oh, I need to learn to paragraph, I need to work on numbers. Okay, that global is refreshing. Wait that word didn't refresh when I put in the edit. I've got to re-do it. Okay. It took that time. This will help you with concern number two, what if my writing just isn't good enough. You will see what the attorney sees. It will help you improve.
Obviousness of the Week (14MAY15)
Who do you Have on Speed Dial?
Well, mom, of course. But seriously. Here's a few suggestions.
CAT system tech support number
Realtime software support number
Main number of agencies you work for
After-hour number for agencies that you work for (emergencies happen)
Other court reporters that you want to refer out
You can use your phone for things other than Candy Crush. (I know that's a little sacrilegious, but that's how I roll.
Obviousness of the Week (25MAY15):
So you decided to take a depo on the weekend. Why? Just kidding. The money better be good.
But to be more helpful, make sure that you have contact numbers. If you are taking a depo on the weekend, the agency office will more than likely be closed as will the attorney's office.
So what happens when you get there, and the office is closed. Rarely do they take into account that we need to set up. In the law firm's mind, the depo is set to start at 9:00 a.m. I (or the person designated to open the office) can be there at 8:55 a.m. But I'll show up at 8:50, just in case.
In the meantime, you're either standing in the downstairs lobby or outside a locked door at 8:30 a.m. going, oh, good Lord, am I in the right building or location? Did they cancel at 5:20 last night and just fail to notify me. Where is everybody? I'm here; why isn't anybody else. If you're lucky, there will be a videographer to commiserate with.
So when you accept these jobs, please make sure that you have an after-hours number from the agency. Better yet, make sure that you have a cell phone number for someone at the agency and someone at the law firm (preferably taking attorney).
After-hour numbers are okay. But sometimes they go to voice mail.
Hopefully they will be checking it, but it can take up to half an hour to an hour for you to get a return call. Not helpful if your depo is starting in half an hour and you're in the wrong place.
If all you get is an after-hour numbers, ask the agency how long the response time will be. If they say they get an immediate notice, you're good. Otherwise, if they say they check e-mails, I would get a back-up number for the back-up number such as the taking attorney or paralegal's cell phone.
This is also a good way to cover your butt. You call in and you have proof, hey, I was there at 8:30, where was everybody else.
Because that attorney is going to be showing up at 8:55 expecting to go on the record at 8:59 and you're still trying to set up. Don't let them rush you. You were there early, notified agency, and you've done your job.
You can also send an e-mail. In this day and age, people usually get e-mails on their phone.
Obviousness of the Week (30MAY15):
Hey, it's the weekend. Get out of the house and away from your computer for an hour or more. Get some sunshine.
All work and no play makes Jack and Jill very dull. That transcript will still be there in an hour.
Obviousness of the Week (29JUN15):
Obviousness of the day - It's not if you will need support, it's when.
With today's increasingly technological depositions - video streaming, realtime, electronic exhibits, technical support is a must have.
Obviousness of the
Week YEAR (28AUG15):
Realtime Should NOT be Free.
Really what more can I say. But have you ever known one of my obviousness post to be supershort? And I'm not going to start here.
Why should realtime not be free?
I work hard to provide the attorney realtime. It's not as simple as throwing out an iPad on the table.
Good realtime involves me getting the caption at least the day before and inputting spellings and briefs. I usually ask for prior transcripts. I scroll through those transcripts and build a word list. IF the agency does not have a prior transcript, I will usually go online and do my research through Google. If worse comes to worse, I go to the website of the company and research what kind of businesss/service the company provides. I look up company executives, review resumes on LinkedIn.
If it is a patent case, I will look up the company and the patents. I will global the names of patent owners, do a quick scan of the patent to see what type of patent - pharma, software, product. I will come up with briefs for patent numbers.
I am doing minimum of an hour to two hours of prep before a realtime depo even starts. I am not compensated for that time. It takes away from time that I would spend on producing transcripts that I am being paid for.
In a regular depo, when they take a break, everybody gets up and stretches, hits the restroom. Me, I'm attached to my laptop cleaning up spellings, globalling, briefing. Every break I am working cleaning up stuff.
Hardware - Speaking of that iPad that I'm throwing out on the table, I paid for that iPad upfront. If I do not charge for realtime, then the IRS will more than likely not accept my writing it off as a business expense.
The realtime software that I use to provide realtime is not free. I pay a licensing fee every year. My CAT software that I provide was not free, and I pay a yearly fee for tech support so if I ever do have technical problems on the job I can call tech support. My CAT software is fairly updated. I am not three versions behind. You have to be fairly updated on your software so that it is working with the latest upgrades out there, i.e. Windows 7, 8, or 10 (pick your poison). I don't think you find a lot of reporters working on DOS doing realtime.
Computers - I paid for my computer. I upgrade every few years. We're asking more and more of our computers. That 586 (if you know what that is, you're old) probably can't handle wifi, router, Dropbox, and writer without crashing. We're on 7th generation and solid state drives.
I know reporters who have two realtime systems for backup. They have double of everything, a second laptop, a second writer, an alternative means of providing realtime. That's what the client is paying for.
The service we provide is invaluable. I appreciate my fellow realtime reporter and you deserve to be fairly compensated.
Training, skill, investment = compensation.
Obviousness of the Week (21OCT15):
Get Those Names!
Yesterday's depo, questioning attorney asked the witness if he knew or heard of roughly 30-40 proper Spanish full names. Of course, a good chunk of them, all I could do is write them phonetically. On a break, I asked counsel if he had a clean list of names that he could provide me that did not have anything but the names as I did not want anything with work product on it. Of course, his list did have notes on it, which rules out snapping a picture of each page of names. After conferring with co-counsel, his co-counsel happily agreed to e-mail me the list of names extracted from a column from his computer, likely Excel.
Moral of the story, it never hurts to ask and will save me a LOT of time and phonetics when editing the transcript.
Obviousness of the Week (03NOV15)
If You Don't Know What the Rate is for the Job You're Taking, Ask.
Don't say yes and then regret it later.
I'm not sure why anyone thinks it's a good idea to take a job without knowing the rate.
Is it the mentality that if I ask for the rate, that they'll think I'm too much trouble and won't want to work with me? News flash, they weren't working with you before, otherwise you would know what the rate is. You're not losing anything by not working with an agency that you haven't worked with before. Why would you want to work with an agency that doesn't have the common decency to tell you the rate you'll be working for?
I've been hearing more and more, I'll take the job first and then figure out how much they pay. Yeah. I know the rates, and sometimes it's still frickin' impossible to figure out the rate. What if you end up with that "special rate" client.
For those of you not familiar with this term, it's pretty synonymous with lower rate or cut rate. That means YOU are getting a lower rate. What if they don't pay for the certs. You're thinking wait a minute, why isn't this balancing out. What if they only pay for an Orig & 2, and you billed for an Orig & 4. Wow!! That's terrific. You have now lost out on income. Figuring out the rate afterwards is not the best way to run a business.
This is how the conversation will go.
YOU: Um, I see you didn't pay for the interpreter and videographer and you've only paid me for 200 pages instead of 201 pages.
THEM: Well, we don't pay for the cert page. We don't pay extra for videographers and interpreters.
YOU: Well, what was the rate for this job?
THEM: Oh, that's a special rate client. We don't charge them for expedites and they get free rough drafts.
YOU: Well, I don't agree to that.
THEM: Well, we've already billed the job and you turned it in. That's what we pay. You didn't say anything when you accepted the job.
(Moment of silence)
When Calendar asks you to take a job and you don't know what the rate is, ask them. Sometimes calendar says I don't know what the rate is. Then go ask billing and get back to me. Or they'll say billing has gone home for the day. Well, then here's my rates. If you need your job covered, here are my rates.
Yes. They might get the job covered by someone else. It's okay. I'm here to tell you it's okay.
Do you want to work for an agency that pays you when they get paid? I think not. By not getting the rate and payment practices upfront, that is what you're risking. I personally love busting my butt trying to take down an afaf attorney and constantly interrupting witness only to find out that, yeah, we don't pay for 90 days after you turn in the job or even better, you'll get paid when we get paid.
New reporters out there are going to starve to death. They've got beaucoup bills to pay.
Let me say this out loud as well. You are not a bitch or a diva when you ask for the rate. You are not high maintenance. These are basic necessities for you to take the job.
Obviousness of the Week (07FEB16): You Can Never Ask For Too Much (Originally posted on 07FEB16 in the socalcourtreporters blog)
So I got a call the other day from a colleague. She was worried that she was asking for too much.
I've had this call off and on throughout the years. I've even received judgment from fellow court reporters on my practices of actually asking what the rate is and turning the agency down if the rate is too low or asking for "too much." The term "greedy" has even floated past my ears along with the B word.
I think we need to get rid of this notion that we are being greedy when we ask for more than they're offering.
That's kind of an insane concept if you ask me. On the whole, I think that most court reporters are too eager to sell themselves short. They're afraid that they'll never work again, so oftentimes they'll accept the first job offer they get and don't bother to check the rates.
Or they hear the rates, but don't realize that it is very low or they're desperate for work. The agency will call and say, Hey. I got a great job, there will be tons of copy orders and there's going to be 20 depos, I'd love for you to cover them -- BUT the rate is going to be lower than what you're expecting. We had to give them a "good deal" so that we could get all the work.
Hmmm. Let me think. I'll be working harder and making less. Sounds awesome. Let me sign up.
STOP RIGHT THERE.
Is this great for you? How will this impact your industry? Is this a downward spiral? Well, we told them that for this case, they'll be getting realtime and rough and a five-day turnaround for one low, low price. But you'll still be getting volume and making a ton of money.
I feel that I am being sold a used car, and they don't want me to check under the hood. I feel like this is how the OC ended up being in the state it is with regards to page rates.
But back to my main point. Asking for more is not a crime. It is not something that you should be afraid to do or feel that it will reflect badly on you. In fact, let's get rid of this term "asking for more." You're not asking for more like Oliver Twist asking for more pudding. You are "negotiating."
You are a businessperson and you are negotiating your rates. The agency has their rates. You have your rates. Sometimes you will accept their rates; sometimes they will accept your rates. And sometimes the two of you will negotiate to come to a mutually satisfactory agreement.
Sometimes you will not come to an agreement, and then both sides will walk away. No harm, no foul. Just because you asked for more does not make you greedy. Just because they didn't meet your rate doesn't make them a "bad" agency.
If you hear the agency say, "We just can't pay your rates because they're too high." STOP.
Do not take this as a reflection on yourself that you're "asking for too much." It is a reflection on the agency that their salespeople did not properly negotiate a rate that takes into account that they will need to hire a third-party independent contractor who actually has to do the work and that we have worth.
That's not your fault. You don't need to "help" them out to cover the job. The agency can look around for someone who will do it cheaper (yes, there will always be someone). Or you guys can "negotiate" a rate that will work for both of you.
Here's a secret. The reporters who ask for more are never the reporters without jobs.
Wow!! Whoa!!! That seems entirely counterintuitive. If you're asking for more, aren't you working less?
Nope. If you ask for more, you can work less, and still make the same amount of money.
The reporters who take the lower paid jobs never seem to quite be able to make ends meet; right?
Think about it. They have to work five days a week to make the same amount as the reporter who negotiated a higher rate. They're maybe doing less lucrative work. They're having to produce more pages to make the same dollar amount.
Of course, I am assuming that you are a decent reporter and that you have agencies who call you and ask you to cover jobs for them. If you only work with one agency or never take overflow from other agencies, it's very hard to negotiate.
I mean, there's always the chance you'll price yourself out of the market, but I have not seen that happen yet with any of the reporters that I know. And I know many of the "high-end" reporters.
In fact, I know some reporters who are raising their rates this year. I even know one who says they raise their rates every year. Wow!!
They get some push back at the beginning. But then the agency still comes back to them. That's because they put out a great product and the agency knows they can depend on them to cover the technical cases.
So you need to build that into your rate. When you are negotiating your rate, they're not only paying you to sit there and take down the depo. They're paying you to control proceedings, interrupt when necessary, have a certain skill level in terms of vocabulary and expertise in order to take the material down, provide realtime, provide a rough, and get the transcript out.
Remember, you spend more time out of depo than in depo. Plus you must pay scopists and proofers. You have to factor in your costs into the rate that you are negotiating.
Just like the expert witness depo they're taking, they're not paying the rate they do because he's a nice guy. They pay it because of his expertise. We are professionals and should also be paid for our expertise. I think you rarely hear of an attorney or doctor or expert witness saying, "Well, you'll get to work on 20 surgeries or 20 cases, but we'd like you to drop your rate because we have to give the client a really good deal."
I think most doctors and expert witnesses would laugh their heads off. Most of the expert witnesses I know raise their rates.
The goal here is not to work more, but to make more.
Obviousness of the Week (08FEB17): "Must Pay Attention" (or "Ways Not to Shoot Yourself in the Foot"
When they sign the copy order form, look at it and see what they ordered.
Me, I got the signed copy order form and never bothered to look at it again until final was ready to be billed. Doh!! There was a rough draft order on there.
So I tell agency, you know, they ordered a rd (rough draft) and I didn't see it.
Agency says ask the attorney if they still want it.
Now, mind you, this is a two-day expedite. I took the job yesterday. Should have had the rough draft in last night/this morning. I'm thinking they're not going to want the rough now since final will be going out.
But I e-mail her and say, I didn't see your rd order, to be honest final has been expedited and will go out shortly, not today, but shortly. Do you still want it?
You'd think, "Nah."
Nope. 8:30 at night and the rough draft order comes in.
I'm going to get paid for that sucker too because I told her it expedited and she still wanted the rough. YES!!!!!! I have an e-mail.
Obviousness of the Week (10FEB17): Food for Thought:
"All reporters are not created equal and all reporters are not paid the same, no matter what your agency says."
"When I was an employee (and it was a positive employee relationship, for me at least), we were paid more based on certs and ability.
"I did not have my RT cert, but I did RT regularly. That got me a higher rate.
They could send me on anything, that got me a higher rate.
"Now in doing total freelance for one particular firm I know I get more than most (all?) of their reporters, even their employees (I was once their employee, not as positive an employment relationship) because I won't work for their rates. I only know this because --
-- 1) I told them I won't work for those rates and
-- 2) I have a personal life friend who works in their office and she tells me this and I believe her.
But I generally don't negotiate. They tell me their rates. I decide if I want to work for them or not. If I say no and they counteroffer, I will listen. But being semi-retired, I don't care if I work for them or not."
Obviousness of the Week (03MAR17): Food for thought:
"When a new agency asks you to cover a job for them and their rate is lower than the agencies you currently work for, why do you say yes?"
You're effectively giving yourself a salary cut.
Stop doing that.
Stop saying yes to the special contract rates.
Stop saying yes to the great deals where the page rate is lower, but you'll make it up in volume. Let me be honest, these are never in your favor.
Stop taking last-minute emergency jobs without extra compensation.
I'm going to give you permission right here and right now not to be "the team player."
"OMG, what did she just say?"
Yep. Stop "taking one for the team."
Stop taking the crappy job because they can't get anyone else to cover. It's a lie. They can get someone to cover it. They can get *YOU* to cover it -- if they're willing to compensate.
The word is "compensation."
"They" get jobs covered all the time for extremely crappy rates. I've seen them.
Yes, I know you love your job and you would do it for free if you could. (Feel that? That is me slapping you. I want you take that nasty four-letter word out of your dictionary right now.)
You have agencies that you work for that pay you a decent wage.
When you take a job from an agency that is not your regular agency for a lower rate, you are undercutting yourself and your current agency.
"Oh, this is a new client and we want to send the best reporter at a lower rate."
Hmmm. Where does that get me? Does this mean that my current agency will have to lower their rate to match this new agency? Hmm, I feel a downward spiral trending here. I don't like it.
Keep working for the agencies you work for. You obviously like them and they treat you well, or you wouldn't be working for them; right?
Don't add new agencies that pay you less. I think in the long run it will work out. Add new agencies that pay you more. Simple math at its finest.
Obviousness of the Week (17MAR17):
"You should not be paying to work. You should be paid to work."
If this is not happening, you need to re-think the agencies you are working for.
PSA: Top Tip for Reporters Who Are Getting Calls Out of the Blue From an Agency
Number one, ask how they got your number.
Number two, ask for their rate sheet or send them yours.
Number three, ask for job details
Number four, ask for referrals from reporters that they work with regularly
Number five, ask your fellow reporters about the agency.
Number six, do not take multiple jobs with said agency until they have established a pattern of behavior in terms of payment and responsiveness.
DO YOUR DUE DILIGENCE. This is a term you will hear often in depos; take it to heart.
"Usually when I ask for job details is when they don't respond again or they respond a couple of days later saying it's been covered, usually by someone who didn't ask for job details."
"Or they don't respond when I send my rates or ask for theirs. I guess they just want someone who will take it for nothing and not ask questions
Then you're better off not working for them. Thems the facts.
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