Page rates - what to ask - things to consider when you're first starting out

Ah-ha!! I know everyone is thinking, finally, she's going to talk about something good. But in the interest of not giving anybody a heart attack in the court reporting community, I will refrain from posting my rates. If you're truly interested in the rates that I get paid, feel free to send me a message and I will tell you what my going rates are. These would be my personal rates that the various agencies pay me, and they vary. Honestly, no agency pays the same.

But what does this mean, when you're the new reporter? I remember when I first started out, I did not have a clue as to what the "rates" were. And I didn't really know that much about the agencies. They are all different. You've got big ones that are a little more "corporate" in nature. Then you have the "sole proprietorships", that are basically one-reporter shops that need reporters for overflow. Trust me, you can get shafted by both as evidenced by the recent E-S controversy so poignantly written about by another member here. But that's another rant and rave!!

We're here to talk about rates. Now, when I started reporting, I came from a background of resume, interview, get hired. That's not quite how it works in the world of court reporters. Rarely will you get asked for a resume. Rarely will you interview. Once you've been doing it a while, you'll probably get jobs from referrals.

But there are things about the old resume, interview, get hired that has its advantages. I sent out a load of resumes. I just randomly faxed them to whoever agency. I got a lot of calls. I went on interviews. Now, these interviews were to check to see if the agency was a fit for me, and if I was a fit for an agency. You don't have to do this. You may already know what agency you want to work for or be ready to start your own.

However, this is a great way to get an idea of the rates. Sometimes I'd go to an interview, they'd tell me their rates and say can you take a job for us tomorrow. I'd say let me think about it.

A lot of agencies would just hand me a sheet and say, these are our rates. This is what we pay for such-and-such. Those are like gold. Grab it and run. J/K sort of.

There are agencies that would say, well it depends on the client. I'm not saying that that's a bad thing. It's just harder to pin down what you're going to get paid. From these agencies, I urge you, before you take the job, ask them what is your rate for this client if the job is difficult, if it's easy, if it's blah blah. And you've got to do it for each and every job you take from them and try to get an e-mail confirmation w/the rates discussed. It will make it much easier down the road.

I know it can be a pain, and you don't want to have ask every time, but do it. I know a lot of calendar people will say, "Oh, I don't know the rates."

Well, then, you say, "Well, I don't really feel comfortable taking the job until I know the rates. Most agencies send me a rate sheet, and I don't seem to have one from you." Please find out what the rates are and e-mail me back. Of course, you run the risk of not getting called back. But if they really need a reporter, they'll call you back. Pretty soon you won't have to do this bec. you'll have a group of agencies that you regularly take work for. And you'll only have to do this for new agencies or one's with "special" clients.

Here comes the meat, what you should ask before taking the job:

Page rate for easy, medium, difficult jobs
Rough draft?
Minimum transcript?
Copies? Paid upfront or paid as paid?
Wait time?
Over time?
Per Diem?
Early morning per diem for jobs that start very early in the morning. This could fall under wait time.
Cancellation fee? How far in advance does the attorney have to cancel and I will still get paid this fee?
No show fee?
Affidavit of nonappearance fee?
Reimburse parking? (Yes or no question)
When do I get paid? What's your pay schedule?

I think that's pretty comprehensive. If I missed anything, please let me know.

Here's the thing though. One agency may have a crappy rate, but they pay every week and they will guarantee your copies. Another agency might have a great rate, but they don't pay you for 30 days until after your job gets turned in to them and produced and sent to client and the client is billed. Another agency may pay a great rate, but they don't pay anything extra for interpreters. It's your call.

Another agency may say, well, we only charge such-and-such attorney so much(lower rate) bec. he is a good, long-term client, and we love him. You know what? Feel free to say. Great I'm glad he's your client. Feel free to send me to jobs for other clients bec. if you send me to that client, then I would like the regular rates.

Workers' comp jobs are different as well. Be sure to ask if it's workers' comp. You're getting paid for an O&2 whereas for regular jobs, you're getting paid for an O&1. That's why the rate is so much higher (should be). You get quoted 4.00 for a workers' doc. You think, oh, that's good. Nope, that's bad. You're getting paid $3.00 for the O&1 and $1.00 for the copy. Your base rate is $3.00/page bec. a workers' comp job is an automatic O&2. Of course, the corollary here is that workers' comp doctor depos rarely break the minimum so it's very important to ask what the minimum transcript is. They usually go about 1/2 an hour to an hour, the doctor talks very quickly, like a bat out of hell, and your set up and pack up time is probably longer than the whole deposition.

What's the big secrecy about rates? I'm not sure. I mean, eventually you're going to find out what the agency pays. I think sometimes it's because he reporter has negotiated different rates than what the agency is paying other reporters. Why? Bec. they asked. You can ask too.

So know the market and ask for what you're worth.

Minimum transcript - the minimum amount you will get paid even if they just go on the record for 10 minutes and you only get 10 pages.
cancellation fee - You're driving to the depo and you get the call your job has canceled, what will you get paid?
No-show - The witness doesn't show (hopefully this is more than the cancellation fee bec in this scenario you've actually shown up and have set up and have been waiting)
affidavit of nonappearance - The witness did not show up and the attorney wants to go on the record stating that fact.

If you have any questions, let me know.

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Comment by Marty Herder on January 21, 2013 at 20:07

Thank you, Kynug.  It's rewarding to see others reaching out to our newer professionals.  "Service Above Self."   Here's more:

Have a great week! 

Comment by Patricia Babits on March 21, 2008 at 7:32
Thanks Kynug. You have a very generous spirit.
Comment by Tracy Perry on March 20, 2008 at 15:01
Kyung, great post, and I love reading your blogs. Keep 'em coming. It's people like you that make this site very interesting and fun. And...the day at a slow depo more eventful! Ha!

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