Everybody knows the story about the Pied Piper. A town has a terrible vermin problem and the Pied Piper comes, promising to do away with the problem. The Piper uses his or her flute, pipe, or whatever musical instrument the story calls for, and plays a magical tune that lets him or her lead all the rats to the river to be drowned. Upon the Piper making good on their promise, the town refuses to pay the Piper, and the Piper uses that magical tune to lead all the children away. The moral of the story is pay your debts — or else!
When I was a newbie, people had no trouble telling me I needed to pay my dues, accept whatever an agency was willing to toss me, and move forward. Those people were right. In the beginning, one needs to be hungry and establish themselves. So it’s with some amusement that I get to say now to all of you: Make sure after that initial starter period that the Piper is paid. Court reporters, you are the Piper. The agency is not the Piper. The agency went through the trouble of marketing and receiving work to dish out to you, but if any one particular agency didn’t exist, the depositions would still be occurring, the demand is more or less fixed.
In the face of fixed demand and a fairly specialized skill set of deposition or stenographic reporting, it makes sense that as the supply of court reporters goes down, the price must rise. Here in New York we were pretty depressed on rates. Agencies were offering $3.25 a page and 25 cents on a copy, if that. Things were bad. Now the shoe is literally on the other foot, and it’s time for reporters to demand to be paid, and for agencies to pay them before the reporters take your children away.
I have to say, one starter company that seems to get this shifting paradigm is NexDep. It looks like they want to pay Reporters 4 a page and 2 a copy. 2 dollars, just so you know, not two cents. I reached out to Daniel Perelman, ostensibly NexDep’s founder, just to get a little more insight on what they’re doing or things they’d like reporters to know about their company.
My very first question was whether they had a referral program like many of the success stories out there, and he confirmed that NexDep does have a referral program where a percentage of every job from the referred client would go to the referrer.
Next I asked about wait time, and Mr. Perelman explained they don’t currently bill for wait time, but also stated he was open to it and understood the need to bill for wait time in the event a reporter was sitting and waiting for hours on their time. He did also mention to me that the reporter’s full-day appearance fee is always given, even if the deposition is a half hour long.
Asked about RFPs and whether NexDep was taking a step into any of that territory, Mr. Perelman stated that they were open to any business opportunity, but also noted that his experience with RFP contracts tended to result in low pay for reporters. My takeaway was that if it wasn’t getting his reporters paid, he wasn’t going to take it.
Finally, asked if he had anything he wanted to tell reporters or the field about his company, he wrote, “Nexdep is the first to market on-demand court reporting platform. We’re popular not because of our low rates, but because we make scheduling incredibly fast and simple on the client end, while also making the accepting of jobs fair and easy on the reporter end. We’ve made freelance court reporting a truly freelance career again.” Honestly, I first met Mr. Perelman at the Plaza College Court Reporting Symposium, and he was honest and upfront about not being a reporter, but his company policies tell me he knows who we are and the value we bring to the table.
Now all this said, I have definitely had some anecdotes from reporters who said “I signed up for NexDep and haven’t gotten anything yet.” So that indicates to me that there’s definitely a larger market share for NexDep to go out there and grab — but maybe this is an opportunity for all the other agencies and all reporters to figure out that one sure route to retain reporting professionals is to make sure they’re getting paid for doing the lion’s share of the work.