Show Me The Money.
There can be some confusion, even among new graduates, as to how we get paid. In this little article, we’re going to just skim over how different parts of the industry make money.
Typically, deposition reporters are paid in New York with a page rate and a small appearance fee. The appearance fee is basically the fill-in for any time spent waiting, and to pay you for your time there, since you are excluded from being elsewhere and making money elsewhere. When waiting times are unusually long, sometimes an hourly fee is charged on top of the appearance and rage rates. Though other posts may get into numbers, I will not suggest numbers here.
Let’s get to the page rates. Generally, you have your original rate, your copy rate, and your upcharges. Your original rate is also known as your base rate. Let’s say your base rate is $4.00 per page, and it’s a regular two-attorney deposition (see Billing Simplified). Let’s say it’s a 100-page deposition. You’re going to take $4.00 per page, multiply it by 100 pages. $400 + your appearance fee is how much you bill on the job.
But what about copies? There are two ways to calculate copies. The first way is to simply add your copy rates to the original rate and then multiply. For example, let’s say your copy rate is a whole dollar, and your base rate is 4 whole dollars. Let’s say you get two copy orders. That means you would take 4, add one dollar for one copy, add another dollar for another copy. That’s 6 dollars. Multiplied by 100 pages, that’s $600 dollars + your appearance fee. The second way to calculate copies is to first do your base rate, then add the copies separately. So, for example, you have the same deposition, 100 pages, 4 dollars original rate, 1 dollar copy rate, 2 copies. That’s $400 + $100 + $100 + appearance. It all adds up to the same number and is just different ways to do the same math so that you know how much you’re getting paid.
Let’s touch on upcharges. Oftentimes, reporters get and/or demand extra per page for video depositions, expert testimony, medical testimony, dense testimony, expedite, daily, or overnight. These are calculated in the same way as copies. Add them to your original rate before you multiply by the amount of pages. Let’s assume you get 75 cents more per page on expert testimony. Your base rate is $4.00 per page. 100 pages of testimony. That’s $4.75(100) + appearance. That’s $475 plus your appearance.
Firstly, always feel free to ask your boss or coworkers if you have questions. They will always be a little more familiar with the court rules than random friends from the internet. That said, I do want to quickly go over the fact that, in New York, typically you are paid a salary on top of your minute money (pages). As of writing, the court rules set the page rate that court reporters can charge in New York. It’s something like $4.30 for a regular, $5.40 for an expedite, $6.50 for a daily. The court rules may be found here. Just be generally aware that federal court does not follow these exact rules. Generally, there are no upcharges here. You get what you get.
Many captioners and audio transcribers do not charge by the page. Many charge by the hour. For captioners, the reason for this is there is often no transcript. What I will say about audio transcription and captioning is that the reporter must factor in how difficult the work is and how much time they will spend on it total. For example, as a captioner, you’re not making a transcript, but the work commands a high hourly rate because it is very taxing and you need a high level of skill to do it. Audio transcription, on the other hand, is “incredibly easy” because you can rewind a million times, but that said, you should assume that every hour listening to audio is one to two hours transcribing. Every rewind is time that is costing you money. That means whatever you charge per hour of audio really needs to be worth about three hours of your time. It’s not unusual for transcribers to ask for up to $100 per hour of audio or more. This is because that $100 per hour actually represents the hours the reporter will spend making the transcript.
We Got A Dollar Hey, Hey, Hey.
That’s about it. Whenever you set your rates or accept anyone else’s rates, consider the amount of time and effort you are putting into your work. If the rates are not properly compensating you for the job you are doing, it is time to fight for more or look elsewhere for work. If you’re a deposition reporter, captioner, or transcriber, network with people to look for the hottest agency on the block. If you’re a court worker, stand with your union. Support the companies that do right by reporters, and make sure the rates you’ve got support you so that you can afford to give back and help a student from time to time. Stay committed to yourself and you cannot go wrong.