How to deal with the last-minute call.

The great thing about this profession is the flexibility. You decide to take jobs or not to take jobs.

Of course, there will come a time when you are called for a last-minute depo. And when I say last-minute, I mean last-minute. The agency is calling you at 9:30 for a 10:00 a.m. depo.

Now, a lot of agencies will tell you, we expect you to be showered and ready to go out the door whenever we call. Hmmmm . . .

Well, there are some days that I plan to stay at home and work on transcripts. I may not be ready to pick up and go out at a moment's notice. This is probably where the pleading and sad story come in. If you choose to take the job, then that's your decision. If you don't think you can take the job, for whatever reason, that's your choice as well.

If you do decide to take the job, there are certain expectations. Number one, if it's an agency you're familiar with, great. If it's not. Find out the rate. Find out what kind of job it is - technical, video, interpreted. In other words, treat this like any other job you would do for an agency.

If they've set you an insane timeline. The job was supposed to start at 9:30, but they're calling you at 10:00 and the attorney will wait until 11:30. Set expectations. If you start walking out that door and you're driving there and the attorney all of a sudden decides they don't want to wait anymore, are you going to be getting anything for your time and effort?

The story from the agency, well, you weren't working anyway, so why should we pay you a cancellation. My story, I was working at home and had to put aside things to handle your emergency, I should get something. Of course, if you only drive a block down the road and they called you back and cancelled, hey, that's your call.

Secondly, make very clear what your time estimate is. They're calling you to cover a job. You're the only one who really knows how long it's going to take you to get there. The calendar person may look on Mapquest and say, oh, you're only 20 miles away, you can be there in half an hour. Uh-uh. It does not work that way. Maybe at midnight you can be there in half hour, but this is Southern California. 9:30 in the morning is rush hour traffic. And that can be whatever that is. You drive the roads, you know what time estimate is realistic.

A lot of people don't do the math. Math is very important. If the job is 20 miles away, but the freeway is moving 10 miles an hour, that's theoretically going to take you two hours to get there. Oh, yeah. You never thought of it that way did you.

So tell them, I can be out the door in a few minutes or whatever, it will take me however amount of time to get there. So I will probably be there by such and such time. Are you sure that's okay with the client? If they say okay, then go for it. If they say let me check, then you've probably got a 50/50 chance of going on the job. Either the attorney really doesn't want to wait or the agency will find somebody else who can get there quicker.

Also, very important to remember so you don't feel like the weight of the world rests on your shoulder., whether this is a last-minute job bec. the attorney's office failed to schedule a reporter or because the agency didn't schedule it or because the reporter originally assigned had a last-minute emergency themselves, everybody is scrambling and panicked. You are not the only person that is being called for this job. The attorney's office is calling every agency in town to get the job covered. The calendar person is calling reporters from their overflow list. They may get the job covered between one breath and the next by somebody else. If you can't take the job, don't let the agency make you feel bad.

And finally, because the law firm is calling different agencies, you could end up getting three different calls from three different agencies to cover the exact same job. In that case, it pays to know your rates. I'd take the job with the agency that pays the most.

That being said, I've picked up some great last-minute jobs. I've picked up some horrible last-minute jobs. It's all the luck of the draw.

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Comment by Judy on September 15, 2008 at 19:36
I met my current husband at a how-soon-can-you-be-there last-minute call-in.

Go back 25 years ago, I had just married my first husband a few days before. I took off the next week to get settled. Of course, my agency had a last-minute call and I was the only one available. Sure, I went. I've had that client for the last 25 years.

That call could be the call that'll change your life.

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