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.

Ly

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Both very large law firms I worked at - the phrase "cash cow" has been used. You all don't know it, but when a law firm has a BIG CLIENT, like Wachovia Bank, General Insurance - those corporations have hired people who have the responsibility to review the attonrey bill. Big clients give the law firms a manual spelling out exactly what can be and cannot be billed. Attorneys try to (if scam is a good word), but it's really legal, they bill to the max (unless the Watchers are watching).

Law firms have a huge problem of how to do expenses. If you have one case, and do four depos in a month, and they cost $1,000 each - then that's $4,000 out of the law firm's money. And that's just for one attorney's case.

Also, most corporations, if an expense isn't sent to the client within (60 days), they won't pay it.

At FWB, any expense over $250, when I got it, I sent it to the client for them to pay directly. But if you have several attorneys working on a matter, the super lazy secretaries will PRETEND they didn't get or see the bill, and toss it into filing - and the invoice doesn't get sent to the client or get paid.

Actually, for a court reporter, it's to your advantage to bill the corporation directly. You already have a contact person. You can expect your payment fairly quickly - far more quicker than you do with the system of sending your bill to the attorney, with a secretary opening the bill, and sending the bill to the corporation - when she has to.
Hi, Mary. The best thing I read in your post was "... and firm backed me up." It's a business decision, of course, whether to give things away for free. Reporters and agencies can choose to do that if they wish, to attract more business for themselves. I don't do it, and I don't work with firms who do it. I'd love to hear some response from some of the reporters and agencies who actually do give away rough drafts and realtime, the "why" part. Because it's so easy? Really? If it was so easy, schedulers wouldn't be pulling their hair out looking for qualified reporters who can deliver what their clients want when they want it. We talk about respect in our profession, and we want respect from our clients, and we also want respect from the firms we work for. To me, that includes respect on the lip as well as on the hip ... in the wallet. (My ex was a union ironworker, so I guess I'm reverting to my former roots of blue collar construction worker lingo.)

M.A.
My office took several depos in a CD matter recently. Hiring attorney told me the two other firms doing work on this case GAVE AWAY FREE ROUGHS. I called those firms (Monterey & San Diego) and told me they NEVER give away free roughs, and ALSO, knew exactly which attorney I was speaking of.

I called him to assure him he did not receive free roughs from the other firms (each depo was over 250 pgs) and that it was not as simple as 'sending just what is on the reporter's computer.' And that it required quite a bit of work for the reporter to send out a useable transcript.

He responded that "he would never ever use my firm again and next time he would use the firm that gave away free rough drafts." Don't know what kinda court reporters they have in Billings, Montana, where he's from, but I think he was talking out of the wrong end of his...well...boots.
Hi, Debbie. So you think he was trying that old "I get it free back home" ploy to get free roughs from you? You proved him wrong. Ha! It's no loss to you if he uses someone else. When we used to hear that so much when I was working in Richmond, Va ... the comment usually coming from California attorneys visiting the East Coast for deps ... they'd say, "Gee, you charge for realtime? We get it free back home all the time." So, uh, maybe next time your regular reporter from back home would like an all expenses-paid trip to the East Coast so you could get your free realtime, or rough, whatever.

M.A.
Mary Ann....

Little do counsel know, now that there is CSR Nation, we can know immediately that no one is giving away free roughs. When attys at me ask me at the end of depos 'is that free'...my typical response is What do YOU give away for free?"

Trust me...shuts 'em right up! This Montana guy was just sneaky by emailing his snarky comment outside of the earshot of the other local counsel.
I think a good response would be: Are you indigent? If you or your client are indigent, I believe there is an organization that will assist you with that. I haven't been informed that this case applies. So unfortunately, I will be charging for my services.

It's not as clever as some, but it makes the point.

V.
I wish this were just a rumor, but I'm afraid it's not. I work in Southern California and was asked by an attorney in Riverside to provide free roughs. I declined, gave my reasons why, and the attorney said she would use "Agency X" instead of me because they give her free roughs. That agency is reporter-owned and operated too. I just can't understand why they would want to hurt our profession like that...well, except for the fact that I guess it's working for them; they won the client because they're giving the freebie.

I also had a debate with a fairly green attorney during a lunch break a few months ago. He said he couldn't understand why there should be an extra charge for livenote. He said, "If it's right there on your screen anyway, why should I have to pay to look at the same thing on my screen? It's not costing you anything. You're not having to do any more work to just let me look at it. I don't get it." Sheesh! He got an earful...a kind, respectful earful, of course, explaining the difficulty of writing realtime accurately, the added stress, et cetera. He said he understood more afterward, but I'm not sure he really did. Maybe "Agency X" will give him that for free too. I should've given him their number.
Maybe Agency X is charging 8-year-ago rates, too! What a deal!! Agency X must have reporters who are living on Venus because if you're living on planet Earth, in the USA particularly, our expenses go up every year and we all need to earn a living. I hope you also included in your explanation of why we charge for RT (and roughs) the R&D costs of software and hardware including support contracts, up-to-date equipment, etc etc, not to mention the years of training and tweaking to get to the point of having something on our screen that's worth looking at. Good for you for standing your ground!!
Hi, Sharla. I used to feel that the best agencies in the court reporting world are those run by working reporters. I worked in the comfort of one firm for 20 years before hanging out my own shingle as a true freelancer working for scores of reporting agencies, and after a decade more of doing that, I've come to the conclusion that some of the worst offenders in the reporting world ARE agencies run by reporters and former reporters. The two worst? Well, one former reporter/agency owner built their reputation on beating anyone's price, anytime, anywhere, and ruining the market for reporting in their home market, which I won't mention. The other WORKING reporter/agency owner used fake rate sheets with their reporters that reflected a different rate from their REAL rate sheets, which they used with their clients. I (and other reporters) lost tens of thousands of dollars over the years ... because we trusted the firm owner. Yeah, right. I settled out of court for about 1/4 of what I lost, and I can't talk about the firm, but I sure can warn other reporters about the PRACTICE.

So ... ask even a fairly GREEN attorney a question like, "I'm going to rent out my vacation condo. Do you think I should have a written lease?" Or maybe, "I want to take on a partner in my corporation. Do you think I should have a written agreement for that?" Even if he's split-pea green, he's going to already know the answer to the question ... but if you're sitting across his desk from him as a client, he's going to charge you to say, "Uh, yes." Cha-ching. He won't have to think for a second to come up with the answer ... or the bill!

Because attorneys don't understand how we do what we do, and the difficulty of writing it right the FIRST time, some of them won't ever see realtime as any more than simply throwing out a cord to them. Very sad ... and made even worse by those agencies who, through their agency owners, do not respect realtime for the specialty expertise it is.

M.A.
Damn the day rough drafts arrived on the horizon! They have managed to gyp we reporters out of lots of expedites and I know many of my reporters are cleaning up the roughs as if they were the finished product.

I tell my reporters quite making those roughs look so pretty. If counsel are paying only one quarter to one half the price of an expedited finished product, let them get 3/4 to 1/2 of the untranslates. Let the SEE truly how rough a rough is.

A client just called "can you do us a favor and send the rough" Favor? Favors are free, roughs are not.

One client called and said "can I have a cleaner rough?" I said " sure, but that's called an expedite."

Reporters...quit making your roughs so darn pretty....let 'em see what we have to work with to clean up the transcript! Yeah, Yeah, I know...easier said than done:-)
Debbie, you're not the only reporter who's expressed that sentiment! Oh, I could go on and on, but mercifully, I've got huge pages in front of me. I love that, though ... "Favors are free. Roughs are not." Let me add, "Realtime is not." And if someone wants a rough draft like buttah, or pristine realtime, that most definitely is not free. I know where you're coming from, Debbie, absolutely, including the "easier said than done. I'll be out of the loop for a while, maybe a couple weeks ... here in thought, though!

M.A.
Will do!! From now on!

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