Happy New Year! Just wanted to start off with a fun anecdote on rates. I have written about the importance of negotiation and sharing information before. Recently a friend of mine hit kind of a jackpot and was asked to take on a job with something like 25 attorneys. We’ve all been there. Anyway, he or she was asked to abide by a sliding scale, also known as accepting a lower rate for every copy over the Nth copy. Well my friend did some math and basically said, oh wow, if I do my rates and this job is 100 pages, I make like 2,000 more dollars on this job. Friend refused the sliding scale, and was offered the job in spite of that.
By accepting the sliding scale model, the reporter would’ve made 2,000 dollars less. There’s some merit to the sliding scale model in that it can encourage attorneys that would not have ordered to order, but I think we as reporters should be very clear with ourselves about how it impacts us. First, less money. Okay. But second: Are you guaranteed that that sliding scale is being applied to the job you’re taking? This should be a primary goal for us. If you want us to take a sliding scale, we want to see some proof this is what’s being offered to the clients. We want some assurance that the agency isn’t making tons of money by charging full price on copies and then binding us to a sliding scale. The power of no can be the difference between getting your full rate and being bound to a sliding scale. And remember, the slide is downward!
While we’re on the topic of the power of no, let’s touch up on contracting again. Contracting is the idea that these big box entities make big sweeping contracts with insurers to only use specific agencies for specific insurance work. Very much litigation is funded by insurance money. People who’re against this are basically against it for two reasons: One, if you hand a big box a lot of market share, they can dictate rates easier because they have so much work. Two, it binds people who are not a party to the contract to the contract. Basically defendants protected by their insurer are forced to use the court reporting company at their deposition. This can be an issue because defendants whose insurance do not ultimately cover the full cost of litigation may end up paying the cost of reporting services they didn’t agree to. And here’s a great point: If the big box people can’t fill those jobs, it might force them to raise rates or end any exclusive deal they have with the insurer. That said, it is imperative that stenographer agencies compete for these contracts. More competition in the market means more money off to individual reporters. Think about it. No more concentration of market share equals agencies competing to attract and keep the talent. The power of no can reset the whole damn industry to a place where reporters are winning.
If you’re a freelancer, you’re going to bump into the sliding scale model eventually, or asked to do contract work for a low rate, and you’re going to have to decide what to do. Do yourself a favor, and remember the power of no.