Hi,
Just had a crappy job where one attorney (out of 5) wanted a dirty ASCII. When I asked the other attorneys if they would like one, the ordering attorney said she would just email her copy to everybody. This pissed me off on more than one level. What do you think? Hope this doesn't start a trend, since 14 of my last 20 jobs had dirty ASCIIs ordered. Does anyone know how to get around people just emailing our work and getting out of paying for the rough (and the copy)? Also, are we reallllly charging enough for a rough? Like some reporters, I also think this is a cheap way to almost get an expedite, and it is not worth the buck or so a page to drop everything to get these out. Please let me know your thoughts...

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Mary Ann,
Thanks for saying what you did. I really liked reading your post. I'd also like to say that I think this has been read by many, but that so many are too uneasy about touching this topic. All of us would benefit in so many ways, from a professional level to a personal level, if we all just thought about this and found a way to secure our future. I don't have any strong opinions one way or the other regarding a union. I haven't thought about that, quite frankly. Whether it's a city association to a state association (of court reporters), there needs to be direct actions to change what has been done to eliminate court reporters from being accurately, fairly, and timely compensated for the work we do.
Has anybody really worked through the entire concept of unionizing freelance court reporters? I'm assuming it wouldn't be a mandatory act for every single reporter to join, therefore leaving the lowballers still outside. Then, when the attorney need to set a depo, who's he going to call, the union agency with sky high rates, or the non-union reporter that's willing to deal and has lower prices? At least that's how I envision how a union would work. Tell me where I'm wrong, please.
I just wish there could be some law passed where you cannot lowball to the extent that the larger firms are doing. Maybe even give the reporter a little raise!
Jennifer, you're right when you say, "There needs to be direct actions to change what has been done to eliminate court reporters from being accurately, fairly, and timely compensated for the work we do." That's money, honey. The money went away because the loss leaders of the industry, the big 1-800 firms, decided that bigger was better and THEY could still make money by charging cheap rates if they strong-armed law firms into giving them all of their work. Those low-ball contracting practices are what's put us at a great disadvantage going into the economic mess we're in today. Once you drop your rates for something, no matter WHAT the reason, it's almost impossible to recover from that.

There's talk of a union now because reporters are desperate for SOMEONE to lead them out of the mess we're in on so many fronts ... low page rates, no respect, unethical agency practices, unfair treatment ... but nowadays, people equate "union" with "high wages," and there are so many reporters who are grateful to have a job, ANY job, at ANY rate, that they would never dream of rocking the boat by joining a union. Never, never, never.

So instead of posting a separate reply to Judy, who talked about nonunion workers, the other side of the union coin is that there are probably as many non-NCRA-member court reporters in the country as there are NCRA members. If there was a Reporters Union, there would be tons of nonunion reporters as well, all willing to work for cheap rates.

My ex was a Union ironworker, and he often talked about rat workers willing to work for cheap wages and how they cranked out cheap, shoddy work, and also because of their own ignorance created very dangerous work environments for themselves, didn't tie-off when working on high floors, etc. What would be the difference between Union and rat workers in a court reporting shop, I wonder? I remember one of the "big deals" between the Union and non-Union ironworkers was on the non-Union side, "Hey, I work EVERY day!" and on the Union side, "Yeah? I may not work every day, but at least I get paid what I'm WORTH."

Come to think of it, even without a union, that could probably be the conversation with reporters even today.

One reporter might say, "Yes, I work EVERY day! I'll work for any firm, any time, and I'll take whatever they want to pay me. Hand out rough drafts for free? No problem! You're not paying me for copy sales? I can live with that. Just give me a job! I'll do anything! I'm not a realtimer, but I'll even do that for nothing. At these low rates, I need to work, work, work to survive, so bring it on!"

Other reporters might say, "No, I don't work every day. I don't even work every week. And that's fine, because when I DO work, I'm paid very appropriately. Yes, I provide realtime, and I'm paid very well for what I do, because I'm very good at what I do. I've worked hard to get where I am today, and few other reporters can do what I do. So why give these valuable services away for free? I'm paid what I'm worth, and my self-respect is intact."

Harsh reality. With the increasing quality of what's now called DAR, or Digital Audio Recording, tape transcribers can turn out an "adequate," if not totally accurate, transcript. Obviously, even transcripts that WE would consider horrible are passing for "okay," or electronic recording in courtrooms would have ended shortly after it appeared. And it's still going strong. I'll get pounded for this, but many times a transcriber's transcript made from DAR is equal to or better than a machine steno's transcript. So many reporters can easily be replaced by electronic recording.

Jennifer, you said, "If we all just thought about this and found a way to secure our future." I'd suggest that the best way to secure a court reporter's future is for them to find a way to offer something that electronic recording can't. There's only one answer: Embrace realtime, and become a topnotch realtime writer. And realtime starts with a conflict-free 99-plus percent translation rate and goes UP from there. Just my opinion. That's worth something, and reporters who can stand up for themselves and their special skills will do just fine.

M.A.
Well said Mary Ann, compared to you I know very little about being a court reporter. (I just sit next to them during depos.)
I didn't know this subject was such a hot subject.

Unions aside though, someones product whether it is music, videos or transcripts should be protected under the same laws.
every industry has there protectors, RIAA protects the music industry for example. I believe reporters should have one.

But I wont be the one to take the heat for it, ha!
RIDICULOUS!!!
Attorneys are something else. I understand when they are being nice, and saving money; but when it comes to "taking food" out of someone elses mouth, that draws the line. I'm just a scopist, want-to-be reporter but I learn a lot from reading the input you guys write on this site.

I'm not 100% sure, but I used to work for (many moons ago) a paper manufacturing company that (if I'm not mistaken) produced a special kind of paper that when copied, the copy would either be blank or blacked out - not sure which. Anywho, if the cost of this paper is not that exhorbitant or makes it financially feasible, I would suggest you all use this type of paper when you are distributing hard copy transcripts (rough or final). The other suggestion is perhaps purchasing an encryption software similar to the CD/DVD distribution companies that block transferring of info from discs.

If anyone would like to join me in researching these possible options, it would not only be appreciated, but it would save us all a lot of headache in the long run.

Monti - since you are the "CSR GURU", and computer afficionado, let us know if you are hip to any of this.
Maybe if we made up this stuff as sort of a novel, but, in all honesty, we're just taking dictation at high rates of speed. How can that be protected with a copyright? It's not our original work product. We didn't generate it from scratch. It's not our original idea.
Judy, I am no lawyer but from what I know about patents and copyright laws your final product is or should be protected by the copyright laws.

I will ask my patent attorney when I get a chance. (I have submitted 3 pattens through him)
Monti,
I believe it's already been decided we don't have the ability to copyright a deposition. But I'd love to hear your attorney's opinion.

Judy
Judy,

There was a case brought in Massachusetts re: the Chapaqudick (sp?) Inquest by the Court Reporters. The judge determined that the transcript was the CRs work product and could NOT be given away unless sold by the CRs.

I know it's not a "patent issue," but it certainly is a court citation. I used to work for one of the CRs till he passed away.

HTH,
Tricia
Judy, thanks for this info.
I am almost sure reporters own the transcript.. the fact that they can sell it, means they own it.
if reporters didnt own the record they couldnt sell it to begin with.
also, the sale of a transcript only gives the attorney the right to use it on a limited bases, so they cant re-sell it or distribute it with out the owners consent.

again, i am no attorney.
Judy,

I meant to say court precedence. I couldn't figure out how t edit my first response.

Tricia

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