Dear Colleagues:
There's a nasty rumor going around that firms are giving away FREE ROUGH DRAFTS to attorneys. Now, I know times are tough out there, but this is a highly slippery slope! This could cause a landslide of freebies given away, not to mention page rates going down.

I BEG OF YOU: Don't give away a product that has value and that you've worked so hard to attain a level of expertise to be able to produce. Our work HAS VALUE. If the reporters refuse to give away their roughs, I'm not sure how the agencies would get around that, but reporters (staff and freelance) need to come together on this issue.

I know it's really hard to get work right now, but this isn't the answer. I'd love to hear if this is going other than in my little corner of the world.


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I cover work for many agencies and I know many more. No one that I know or know of is giving away rough draft. This is a value-added service, a reasonable and customary billable.

The few people that are willing to give it away, they suffer from exceptionally low self-esteem. Let's assume their work product is as bad as their sense of self-worth.

I'm not worried. It'll never be an issue for me come hell or high water. YOU PAY YOU GET!!
I'm from NorCal, and I don't know of any firms giving away roughs. If reporters want to be facilitators and are working or continue to work for firms that give roughs away, that's their own fault. I would never knowingly give away a rough.
I work in Chicago for many agencies. So far I've never been asked to give away a free rough draft. I would not knowingly take work from a firm that did that and would not accept a job under that circumstance.
I was recently asked by a SoCal firm I was covering a job for if I could give their client a free rough (he was asking for it) because he was a new client and they wanted to keep him happy. I refused. I'm not sure how they handled it ~ I think maybe they gave it to him and raised his 0+1 rate, which was an idea they tossed around that seemed silly to me. I just know that I still got paid what I normally make on roughs(and the 0+1). I hope it's not a trend and I REALLY hope reporters don't agree to it. As is often said, if you give attorneys an inch, they'll want a mile ~ heck, probably 100 miles :)
Good for you, Stacy! I'm in SoCal so I'm glad to hear you didn't give in. :)
I'm in So Cal (Oceanside, to be exact. You're just up the 78 from me!) and I've never heard of a So Cal agency giving away roughs. Maybe you could e-mail me who it is, so I know to stay away from them:

I don't give away free roughs. But how are agencies giving away free roughs if the reporter is not doing it? Are the reporters just sending in an ascii of what they took that day? That's the only way I could imagine that an agency has the rough to give it away for free to begin with.
Yeah, this was the first time I was ever asked that from a firm anywhere. I was asked by the woman in the billing department because the attorney had called her and said he wanted a free rough because he always gets one?!? (from where I'm not sure ~ be interesting to know) He, of course, just asked me if he could have a rough, and I said no problem. It was during the lunch break that the firm called me asking if I was okay with the rough. I again said no problem. She then asked if the atty had told me that he wanted it for free ~ of course he left that part out! The billing woman asked if I was willing to do it this one time as a special for this new client ~ well, I nicely explained that I'm not okay giving away my work and who's to say that he won't order the rough and then turn around and try and cancel his production of the O+1. After the job when I spoke with the owner of the firm, she agreed with me, but she felt like she needed to compete with the big 1-800 firms, so was trying to figure out a way to make him happy and to keep him and his firm as a client. I don't know the outcome, but I do know, like I said, I got my rates for my work. I would hope in an ideal world, she said no way; it's her work product and she deserves to be compensated for it.
I have no right to be giving an opinion here - but something struck a nerve. ..."wanted to compete with the big 1-800 firms".

I worked for two very large law firms as a legal assistant. Mostly for an attorney to get hired, he starts out as a summer associate -but to get that summer associate he HAD to be at a certain level in his class (top 10). Or he had to be an established attorney - and had something to bring to the firm.

Most small law firms have quality attorneys.

Sole practitioners and personal injury - questionable. I worked for one sole practitioner (I needed the job) who always had someone calling because he didn't pay a bill (like an employment placement agency). One time I saw something - his Lexus was going to be repossessed because he was two months behind on his $800 a month car payment.

The high quality attorneys in the big firms don't ask for anything for free. They are more inclined to give you something for free. (I went to a lot of Devil Rays and Buccaneer games - real nice seats).

The loser attorneys - want free.
I'm not sure what she meant by the 1-800 firms. I assume she
meant contracting large firms, but I don't know. I work with mainly small CSR-owned firms and am lucky to have mainly positive experiences over the years. But I agree, large or small, there are good and bad in every industry.
Hi, Mary Jo! I read this, and I have to comment: "The high quality attorneys in the big firms don't ask for anything for free." I guess we could all tell stories, and someone could come along to tell a story that's directly opposite of it ... but yes, I did have the opposite experience just within the last 3 weeks. I was setting up 4 laptops for realtime, and the defending atty (or should I say the 'offending' atty) came into the deposition room attitude-first. I asked if he was going to use realtime, and he said, yes, of course. I said, realtime is a premium service, and there IS an extra cost for it. He got all big-eyed and said, "Aren't THEY (gesturing to the other side) required to pay for my realtime?" Uh, no, sir.

At the end of another day, I was getting orders signed. An atty said, "I'll take a copy." I said, do you want to expedite? He said, oh, I see the other side's expeditng, so I'll get mine when he gets his, right? I said, sir, with this reporting firm, everyone pays for their own expedites. Oh, reeeeeeeeeeally? he said, like The Church Lady. I said, yes, sir. He said, Do you mean to TELL me that you're going to have the transcript all done and ready for THEM tomorrow, and you're not going to semd ME a COMPLIMENTARY COPY for free? I said, oh, no, I could never do that. He kind of harumphed, and said, well, I'll have to speak to the firm about that. Uh, you do that, 'k?

I'll agree that MOST quality attys in the big firms do NOT ask for anything for free ... but that doesn't mean there aren't some very cost-conscious (that's trying to be kind for "cheap") attys who are watching every penny of their client's money. One, when I tried to get him to sign the order sheet, said, oh, no! You're not trickin' ME! I know you're trying to get ME to commit to paying your bill, but here's what I do ... and he signed the order sheet "CLIENT FIRM NAME, with his own name in parentheses." He said, that means that my client is responsible for the bill. Uh, whatever.

The thread topic is "Free Rough Drafts," and I hope everyone knows how I feel about that. I'm pretty exhausted tonight -- just did one post on each board -- but I'll have more to say about that tomorrow. Yes, it is a very dangerous trend that will spread like wildfire if fanned by the flames of ignorance and short-sightedness.

I agree with everything you've said, Ly!! It's happening here in Mississippi, too. But it's been going on for years now. I had an issue years ago with reporters/reporting firms giving away condensed transcripts, indexes, and copies of transcripts via email or eTran. Free rough drafts are just the newest thing to be added to the list of freebies, and it harms us all, financially, as freelance reporters. The attorneys/law firms expect ALL of us to give them freebies after one reporting firm does. Some of us haven't had that much work lately and can't afford to GIVE anything away. The attorneys are sitting there racking up $150/hour from their client. They can afford to pay our charges which are all very reasonable for the amount of work we put in. The only freebie I can think a law firm or attorney needs is a 2010 calendar with your reporting firm's pre-printed contact information on it. :-)


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