We’ve had fairly extensive discussion in the past about page rates and pricing. We have basic math tables showing a rough guesstimate of the amount of work that goes into making your “goal salary.” We have had posts on supply and demand when demand was high. We’ve talked about attempting to price in risk. We’ve also had heavy discussions on the economic principle of inflation, and that, succinctly, rates must go up periodically to keep any job or field healthy. All of these things kind of coalesce into my opinions on our field’s prognosis. With the coronavirus outbreak, the field has seen a sharp drop in demand. Depositions just aren’t going through for so many of our colleagues across the nation. There are many of us scared to death about keeping business afloat, and so it seems a good time to talk about the flip side of supply & demand.
Right now many states are in lockdown status. People aren’t supposed to be going out, and even those who are, essential employees, are at serious risk. The demand for depositions isn’t there. This may have the impact of causing prices to dip. Gas prices are going down in some areas. Restaurants are offering specials. Some essential employees, generally underpaid for the valuable work that they do, are receiving raises to ensure they turn up to work. In their case, their essential labor is in high demand. We are not immune to the supply and demand principle. Many of us will feel the pressure to offer discounts, offer specials, basically offer to do the same work for fewer dollars. People need to eat. People need to feed their families. There’s really no shame in partaking in whatever tactic we need to partake in to get our clients to buy into taking deps over Live Litigation, Zoom, or whatever our preferred platform. Even before the outbreak, it was not uncommon to hear of “first dep free,” or “X off of Y deps,” type of deals. It’s a business starter and foot in the door for entrepreneurs and companies hungry for work.
The important thing is to try to be forward thinking. Check local courts. For example, here in New York, Lawrence Marks encouraged parties to postpone proceedings for not more than 90 days from 3/20/20. What does that tell our New Yorkers? If we’re going to do a special or contract, it probably shouldn’t lock us in for more than 90 days because demand can be reasonably anticipated to rise around that time. We have to remain on top of the market and keep an eye on civil court news to try to feel out when demand will spike back up again. At that point, when the calls are coming in again, it’s appropriate for our rates to go back to what they were pre-outbreak. Many of us are introverts or individuals with no special business training. It is very easy to convince a group like that that they are low value, replaceable, and so on. That’s not true. And in fact, many of us need help with confidence, communication, and leadership to help us in our business pursuits. That’s why we have vendors out there like TALLsmall, Katen Consulting, and Outfluence. There’s never a good time to stop relaying just how valuable we actually are.
It is true that this is an emotionally stressful time. Just like with stock trading, we will feel pressure to make decisions that may not benefit us in the long run. It’s okay to be emotional. This is a scary and unprecedented moment in history. But when it comes to our livelihoods, it’s worth distancing ourselves from those emotions, sitting down with the latest press release from the local court, and trying to determine about when we can expect things to bounce back in a state so that we can make arrangements with creditors, clients, utility companies; keep the bills paid, and our credit intact. People are hurting. This is a time for spreading solutions and ideas without shame and without shaming. From big picture economic articles like this one, to smaller nuanced technical solutions, everybody has something to bring to this table of survivors and steno stars.