Received these two attached lawsuits from colleague. Allegation is Esquire/Gallo is
charging full page rates for word indices in addition to transcript pages. Any info anyone has
on this would be appreciated.

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Great points in all your posts, and as a reporter, I completely agree with you. But if Esquire
in fact is engaging in these practices and is required to reimburse the plaintiffs, I wouldn't be surprised if they seek reimbursement from the reporters they paid for the Index pages based on the alleged conduct in these lawsuits. California has the same issues with Esquire that the other states do, and I agree with MaryAnn most of the time the clients are forced to use them, and while not happy about it, eventually accept the reduced service and lesser quality transcripts as part of doing business in today's times.

The decisionmakers at the insurance companies and corporation plaintiffs need to be shown these lawsuits to find out what they're really paying . . . .
In my home town of Clearfield, Pennsylvania, the best ice cream in the world always came from Miller Dairy, where you could get a chocolate milkshake that was hand made and delicious. Recently a newcomer opened up in town. FWIW, it's called The Meadows. We never, ever thought it would be successful ... but it has been, despite the fact that it has the absolute suckiest electronic scrolling sign out front that I've ever seen in my life. When you drive past and the sign scrolls, the letters are so large that you can be stopped at the light for two clicks and have to really concentrate to read the flavors of the day. It actually takes a while to realize that it's a sign for any business at ALL, because it's hard to notice there's an actual sign there. Yes, it IS that bad!!! And I always make the same comment when we drive past ... the salesman who sold Meadows in Clearfield, Pennsylvania, their scrolling sign must be the BEST salesman on the entire earth, with the greatest sales pitch ever.

I do know that once those contracts are locked up for court reporting services, they're air-tight, and attys don't dare even think about using another firm. It simply can't be done. Must be the sales force, eh?

M.A.
I may be wrong, but because of some of the comments I've heard about Esquire in particular, and the attys who must use them, and why ... well, I always give the benefit of the doubt, and I believe when these things come out to be general knowledge for litigators all around the country, I don't believe it will show a bad light on our profession as a whole. I think the dust will settle and the offenders identified. And what great opportunity for the straight-up agencies to do some serious marketing on the strengths of their agencies, things like ethical business practices, on-time delivery, skilled and certified professionals, and superior realtime writers.

M.A.
Personally, I think it is about time that this sort of fraudulent practice is coming to the forefront. I am shocked that it wasn't brought to light before as reporters, at least in Boston, have known they've been doing this. So why didn't the law firms catch it?

Tricia
Hi, Tricia. Your question reminds me of a time about a dozen years ago, when contracting was just becoming to be very popular. My very good friend, owner of a reporting firm, took some transcripts in to an insurance adjustor's office and sat and pointed out the discrepancy between a 21-line Baltimore, MD standard page, and a 25-line full page width NCRA standard page. It was right there in black and white! She did the math and tried to explain to the powers that be there at the insurance agency that pays the bills that formatting DOES make a difference.

She was met with basically the sound of crickets, along with the explanation that the ONLY think the people there at the insurance company were interested in was the firm with the LOWEST PAGE RATE. It didn't matter what was actually ON the page, just that it was the lowest page rate. So hence, firms started that 21-line, short margin, 6-line index entry, blurb for everything kind of formatting to squeeze as many pages out of the transcript as humanly possible.

My friend was just shocked that no one cared that the REAL bottom-line numbers were going to be astronomically high when the only consideration was a low page rate.

I guess the law firms were busy doing other things, Tricia.

M.A.
Mary Ann,

Interesting response. I can remember back in the early '90s or late '80s when a "newcomer" in town opened up her own agency and sent a letter to just about every law firm in town stating she would beat any price. That was my first intro to what was soon to become contracting. She eventually sold to what was then known as LegaLink.

What gets me about the whole issue of the bottom-line numbers is I know a lot of attys are not doing depos because of the added cost of the transcript in this economy; yet, we have the "bigger firms" laying staff off and not giving a hoot as to what they pay to the likes of Esquire. Baffling.

Good response! They (the law firms) must be doing other things. I'm just glad a few have the b**ls to take them to court. Seems there is some justice in this industry.

I just re-read your post and laughed at the lowest page rate comment. There is absolutely no sense to that at all, at all, but who am I!?!? LOL

Be well,
Tricia
Hi, M.A. The variation of transcript page formats in the D.C. area is mind-boggling, to say the least.

I do know of one Glen Burnie court reporting firm who uses 21 lines per page. I usually see 23 lines per page in Virginia. Of course, in D.C., anything and everything flies, depending on who you work for. Most importantly, though, is the character spacing on these pages. With left and right margins (usually 1.75 and 0.75, respectively), the transcript page may look the same to one's eye, but, when EXPANDED CHARACTER SPACING is applied, there are only 45 characters per line as opposed to 60 characters per line. Believe me, 15 characters per line do add up to extra pages for the court reporter, especially if the transcript is over 100 pages.

I have learned from this forum that California industry folk adhere to the California transcript guidelines for format, and so they may not have this problem. However, I am also aware from reading this forum that they get, on average, 35 to 40 pages an hour. In D.C., utilizing the 45 characters per line, 22 lines per page, it is not uncommon at all to get 50 to 60 pages per hour, ESPECIALLY in a deposition with Q and A.

It is for these reasons that I think the per-minute rate is a good payment option. I realize the court reporting industry may not ever change the traditional per-page rate as a payment option, but the per-minute rate puts everybody on a level playing field. Just food for thought! :-)

I cannot tell you how many times I have received a phone call from a prospective customer shopping around, looking for the best page rate. I then have to explain to them that they need to compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges, as not all transcript page formats are created equal in my neck of the woods.

To throw out a random number, say you are charging 3 bucks a page using both above-referenced formats. One format (21 lines per page, 45 characters per line), you're going to make $180 for one hour of being on the record, and the other format (25 lines per page, 60 characters per line), you will make $105 for 60 minutes on the record. Therein lies the rub.
Hi, Jennie. You've got a great suggestion there ... but how to get past the "But we've always done it this way!" block. We attended a firm owners conference several years ago, and NCRA warned back then that the entire profession should be bracing for, and looking for, alternative billing methods for what we do. Since there's no uniform standard format for most of the country, and everyone can't agree on that, even if some switched to per-minute or per-hour billing, we probably all wouldn't agree on that either. It's tough.

M.A.
I'd like to see uniformity as well. Personally, I'd love it if reporters adopted the interpreter's billing model: Half day or full day? If they say "Half," by golly, then the reproter can book something else that day and can walk out of the office with a clear conscience... exactly like interpreters do!
Hi, Judy. Unfortunately, sometimes attys think they own us until the dep is over. Well, I guess that's true. I'd never dream of walking out of a job that interfered with something I'd planned unless it was egregious ... way past working hours, or the event was something I couldn't miss ... like another job! Attys never like to commit to a time limitation. I hate it when they can't pin it down. If it's a full day, just freakin' say it's a full day. I don't experience much of the after-hours BS now as I used to when covering PI work. I think it was more of a power play than anything else.

M.A.
What amazes me is when it goes after 5:00 and no one seems to be concerned that the reporter may have children at day care. I don't have kids; but if I did, staying after 5:00 might very well be a problem unless I made prior arrangements. You would think when they book one that they feel will go later than five, they make sure the firm sends a reporter who does not have to leave or at least gets the heads-up. And, yes, they don't always know, of course--but at least, in that case, a "Can you stay?" or "Is this an inconvenience? Do you need to...?" would be nice.
I sympathize, but it does go with the territory, perhaps more in the SF Bay Area than others. This is one of several aspects of court reporting that I'd like to see made very clear to prospective students. It is very common for attorneys to fly in from elsewhere to consult with experts based here, and they need to get the depo done while they're here.

Certainly, a reporter can make it clear to hiring agencies that there are childcare issues, and he or she does not want jobs that are likely to run late. If that's out on the table, then it's up to the agency to honor that request and not book this reporter on jobs that, for example, fit the description of the above. I believe that with that sort of depo, there is always at least a 50/50 chance of having to stay late. So both agency and reporter need to keep this in mind and be willing to say no to these opportunities if they create a hardship.

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