Reserving reporters far in advance - and then the job cancels!

Am I the only one who has been suffering from this syndrome?  Certain agencies reserve you a week or even two weeks beforehand.  They tell you just enough about the job to get you to take it, like, it's supposed to be a full day, this lawyer "usually" orders a rough at the end, etc.   So you turn down jobs, sometimes better jobs, that are offered to you as late as the day before.  Then, Bam!   At 3:30 or four p.m. on the day before, they tell you it's canceled, and they're "sorry."  

Does it strike you that there's something unfair about this?  When it happens, the agency has no obligation to the reporter at all.  They're "sorry," and that's all you'll get from them.  Meanwhile the reporter is left with no work and no recourse.  But if you turned the job back to them because you got offered something better, there's hell to pay!  They'll never use you again, etc., etc.  I think there's something lopsided about this.  Why  is all the onus on the reporter?  If they've tied you up for a week and required you to turn down other work, and then when the day comes, they have nothing to offer you, shouldn't they have some obligation to you?  How do others handle this?  I'm really getting tired of it.

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I am starting to think you are right that we need to get together and work for ourselves!!!

I am still following this conversation wanting to see how many more reporters are experiencing the same things.

Karla, I'd love to know the name of this agency you're talking about, but you didn't give an e-mail address so there's no way to reach you.  You can e-mail me at


Yes, David, I agree with you!!!

It is an awful situation for the reporter and the agency owner.  I never try to pre-book anyone for "iffy" jobs or just to have enough coverage for any given day.  Half of the stuff will cancel 80% of the time and I don't want anyone losing work just to make my life less stressful :-)  When I do have jobs that I cannot gamble on, I will secure someone ahead of time.  If they get another offer for the same day, I will call my client then to make sure the job is still on as of that time.  If so, they usually will turn down the other job.  If, despite my best efforts, the job does cancel last minute, I will do everything possible to offer them something comparable.  Unfortunately, last minute changes are part of the business that is probably not going to change.  Even with a late cancellation fee, the reporter is probably going to lose money that day.  Seasoned reporters are really understanding about this which is much appreciated on my end because they know it is not my fault.

I found this article when searching for info for a student reporter:

"we" are the 'other clients'!!

here's an excerpt for those who don't have time to read the entire article:

 With court reporters retiring in droves and fewer new reporters entering the profession, at least in the short term, firms in some areas of the country are competing for the best court reporters in the marketplace. This scenario is likely to be further exacerbated in the coming years as the court reporter shortage deepens across the United States, according to the 2013-14 Industry Outlook Report by Ducker Worldwide. If court reporting and captioning firms are not treating their freelancers as customers, they will find that their best reporters are increasingly turning to other firms for their assignments, according to a new study NCRA conducted of court reporters who work primarily as freelancers. Waning are the days when freelancers will stand in the proverbial line with their hands out, happy to accept any job assignment on the schedule. Talented, credentialed reporters are being more selective about the work they take, and they aren’t interested in having professional relationships with firms that treat them as just another reporter on the roster.

link to Drucker Worldwide report referenced in article:

Now we just need to charge for what we are worth!!!

one last excerpt:

On the whole, freelancers indicate that the single most important factor that influences their decision to work with a particular court reporting firm is the way that the firm owners and schedulers treat them and consider their needs as an individual. In other words, the relationship matters. On a scale of 1 to 5 (with 1 being not at all important and 5 being very important), the way freelancers are treated by owners and schedulers ranks a weighted average of 3.7. This factor is followed by the types of jobs the freelancer is generally assigned by a firm (which ranks 3.59 out of 5) and the pay being offered by the firm (which ranks 3.58 out of 5).

Thank you for posting this article, Kathy!

Anytime!!  Please keep me informed of any updates.

and if you know the name of that agency, please email 




If we accept jobs that far out in advance, we accept the fact that they may cancel at the last minute. It's just the nature of the beast in this industry. I personally don't like to book that far ahead. Agencies confirm jobs the day before, and working reporters know that jobs may confirm and then cancel later that day, the day of, en route, or even on-site. We are independent contractors, and the agencies have no obligation, nor are they able, to give us any guarantees that a job will go forward. That's just usually not possible. This is an industry where there are many factors at play that will determine whether an assignment will go forward or not: traffic, illness, unforeseeable emergencies, last-minute scheduling conflicts. Cases may settle. What I ask of the agency, when they book me that far in advance, is that they notify me as soon as they know if the job cancels. They have so many things going on, they may not remember. So, as the date approaches, I would contact the agency. "Hey, is the job still on?" It's a quick and simple e-mail.

If you've accepted a job, you should be committed to it, and it should be your first priority, even if a better job offer comes up. That has happened to me MANY times.  But if you get another job offer in the meantime, be honest and tell the agency: "Is the job still on? If not, I have another job offer I am interested in." We should be proactive and responsible for protecting our own financial viability. 

I agree that last-minute cancellations, and settings, for different reasons, are the nature of the industry.  BUT I think if rptrs and agencies take the time to educate their clients, we can lower the frequency of this happening.  

If there is no consequence to the agency or atty from canceling at the last minute, why bother to let the agency know in advance?  But if the secretary causes the law firm to incur a fee everytime she fails to let the agency know timely of a cancellation, that might make a difference.  And if reporters, as independent contractors, begin charging agencies a late cancellation fee, and that gets passed down to the attorney, then maybe they'll start paying attention.  The atty can always add it to his expenses or take the other side to court to get reimbursed, if it's the other side's fault.  I've just added a late cancellation fee (after 4:30 the day before) to my rate sheet.

Every firm I've worked with has had a late-cancellation fee. Although minimal, it's not of "no consequence." Perhaps reporters ought to insist on higher cancellation fees. I know some interpreters' cancellation fees are $600+.

How do interpreters enforce this?  And I refer you to one of the comments I wrote about the agency that refused to pay a late cancellation fee when I was on a two-day job and the lawyers cancelled the second day at the end of the first day.  The reason?  That wasn't their "policy."

I understood quite some time ago that an interpreting service will charge full rates for whatever time they are booked for if not cancelled more than 48 hours ahead of time.  That might have changed, but that was the way it was in the '90s.  This is why I never run an interpreter through my agency.  I will make arrangements, but I don't pay them and then pass the charges along to client.  I have interpreting service invoice law firm directly.  I don't think they're "getting away with" anything.  They know their worth.  They bill accordingly.  Now, whether the individual interpreter, if working for agency, is paid this, probably not.  Like reporting, the person doing the job probably makes far less than the charges (if anything at all, when it comes to cancellation fee).


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