Stenonymous Source: The Actual Per-Page Rate Comes To $9.44…

Stenonymous (anonymous) source provides redacted Imagine Reporting invoice.

Anonymous: “Imagine Reporting in San Diego was recently acquired by Lexitas – one of the latest monopolization/consolidation moves here in CA, hence the Dallas address on the invoice. The result? They bumped up the prices. The actual per page rate comes to $9.44/pp for this 143 page transcript, after factoring in all the add-ons. I wonder how much $/pp they paid the reporter…”

I have to point back to my research about tacit parallelism. Even where competitors are not actively colluding, they see that they can jack up the prices because everybody is jacking up the prices. I don’t believe that Lexitas or Imagine was a part of the Speech-to-Text Institute or the market manipulation there. But we’re seeing how the continued consolidation of the field is leading toward very high prices for attorneys. It seems page rates are being kept artificially low and some of these companies are relying on the add-ons and surcharges to make a buck. It’s pretty smart, since it can almost double revenue.

Just to drive this home — and I get it, I’m in a different state — reporters in New York City are 30 years behind inflation. If their rates had kept up with inflation, the rate would be around $6.00 per page. That’s on our automatic O+2s . Now, to put this into perspective, reporters aren’t generally making $6.00, and though I’m overjoyed when people come out of the woodwork to say they make more than that, I hate to tell you that you’re in the deep minority. When I came out of school I was offered $2.80 (2010). Many of my classmates were offered $3.25 and that was considered a good rate. Last year I had at least one person report that they were still being offered $3.25. Some say they’ve gotten $4.00. Some say they’ve gotten $4.50. Nowhere near $6.00.

And again, with all the add-ons, we’re looking at a charge of $9.44 or $9.46, so it’s basically taking what reporters should be paid, adding 60%, and sending out a bill. That’s in the context of a profession where previously there were 70-30 splits in favor of reporters. Then we look at what reporters are being paid, and just to be nice, we’ll take the $4.50. $9.46 – $4.50. $4.96. That $4.96 is 110% of the $4.50. And now just to complete the thought, $9.46 – $3.25. $6.21. 191% of the $3.25 attorneys might pay if we just cut out the middleman — or at least the middlemen charging high.

The skeptic says: So what? You’re New York. This is California — or Texas — or wherever. To that I say if there was a genuine shortage on the scale that it was advertised as being, agencies would simply be pulling New Yorkers to go certify, license, and work. And this can be mathematically shown. If the rate for New Yorkers should be close to 6 and is actually 4.50 (we’ll cut out the 3.25s and 2.80s and pretend everyone’s getting a decent O+2). 6 – 4.50 = $1.50. We’re talking about a 33% raise for some of the best-paid people and more than doubling the income of kids who get out of school and accept $2.80 a page because they just don’t know any better. And that $6.00 is still a heck of a lot lower than the $9.44. Even if we went back to the 70-30 splits with $6.00 to the reporter, it’d be around $8.58 a page. This also doesn’t account for places where the cost of living is lower than New York City, which would effectively be an even higher raise. Again, these business folks are all about numbers and money. If there was a monumental shortage rather than a desire to depress court reporter incomes, they’d be easily pulling people in with raises or a lower cost of living — unless everywhere in the whole entire country is as underpaid as New York City, which seems unlikely. They were paying us 25 cents on copies while Ohio was getting 2 bucks.

So thank you to my Stenonymous source. You not only helped me show my audience the heavy cost of court reporting add-ons potentially doubling attorney bills, but also help bring out the fact that the shortage that was advertised (70% of the field vanishing by about 2033) is not the shortage we got (coverage issues in the California courts that refused to use money earmarked for enticing court reporters),

The rest is up to the people that share this article and keep attorneys and court reporters informed.

6 thoughts on “Stenonymous Source: The Actual Per-Page Rate Comes To $9.44…

  1. Stenoymous: I wonder what this translates to a per-hour rate? Has any reporter figured out what they are making per hour to do the job?

    1. I do about 40 to 60 pages an hour so you multiply that by the page rate, take the appearance fee, divide by number of hours at the depo, and add the answer to the multiplied pages. That’s the hourly.

      1. 40 to 60 pages per hour – As a court reporter, that’s about how many pages I write with my stenography machine. Then I have to send to a scopist to work on or I have to edit the transcript myself. So for every 10 pages – add an hour for editing and proofreading purposes and you will see that our hourly rate will diminish.

      2. You’re absolutely right! We’re teaching more and more transcribers this fact every day to open their eyes up to the reality. Influencers are being used to get people to go into transcription but they don’t do the hourly breakdown for them.

  2. While there is no set “ideal” markup percentage, most businesses set a 50 percent markup. Otherwise known as “keystone,” a 50 percent markup means you are charging a price that’s 50% higher than the cost of the good or service.
    If court reporting firms pay court reporters at a rate of 70% of the service fees for their service, the firms need to somehow capture their own necessary profit margin in order to break even and then realize an actual profit, and I can tell you right now, 30% of $85 per hour + 30% of transcript fees alone do not cover the following costs: bricks and mortar office space in multiple locations, electricity, janitorial, dozens, if not hundreds, of Zoom rooms, banks of computers and servers and other office equipment needed to get production out, hard telephone lines, cell phones for staff, furniture, shipping, websites, secure portals for storing vast amounts of data, work product, video proceedings, exhibits, exhibit software, scheduling software, production supplies, educated support staff with communication and comprehension and quality assurance skills who can process complicated and complex litigation production and communicate with high level attorneys and legal assistants, medical, dental and vision insurance benefits for staff and firm owners, 401K plans, mandatory sick leave, maternity leave, FMLA, vacation pay for staff, paid federal holidays (most pay staff at least 8 days per year) professional service fees for IT, legal advice, accounting, state and federal taxes, mandatory labor and industries insurance, professional errors and omissions insurance for court reporters, malpractice and general liability insurance, key man insurance, cyber liability insurance, advertising, donations to professional associations, guaranteed payment of uncollectible invoices.
    Court reporting is now big business and it has big business expenses. The way firms are attempting to recoup some of the myriad of expenses I’ve listed above – and this is not an exhaustive list – is by adding additional fees for the services the court reporting firms provide (as opposed to the court reporter providing the reporting and transcript but not any of the many other services and expenses that go along with the inner workings and production of transcripts for depositions). When I first started reporting for court reporting firms back in the 80s, I personally used to print and produce my own transcripts, type up my own invoices, prepare my own correction sheet letters and file the depositions myself at the local courthouse. Times have changed since then.
    While I personally think the add-ons in the invoice you’ve included are excessive, I hope reporters can understand that firms now are hard pressed to utilize the business model that was based with the standalone mom and pop businesses operated from homes or small offices of the glory days.
    I share all of this as a medium-sized business owner who decided to sell our firm to a regional firm due to the daily nonstop stress associated with facilitating all of the above, after sweating bullets trying to keep afloat during COVID, and then post-COVID dealing with court reporters who simply prefer to be remote court reporters now and say no thanks to in-person depositions, reporters who send in their own rate sheets, prefer not to cover doctor deps or any dep lasting for an hour or two (waste of time), no video deps (too time consuming), no interpreter deps (not enough pages), can’t do realtime (too hard), don’t want to do same day roughs (I don’t write well enough), telephonic deps (can’t hear well enough and don’t want to get a speaker phone), don’t want to travel anywhere, and a myriad of other conditions we contended with as we tried to get our schedules covered daily. I hope this helps court reporters understand the firms engaged in court reporting service need to make a profit. We provide an incredibly valuable (also expensive) service. It’s not that we’re greedy, although I read that accusation constantly, it’s that we need and deserve to make money for our part of the service too. That’s all I wanted to say. LOL!

    1. It’s a mixed bag. I respect that firms need to profit. But the whole way they were supposed to make their money was volume. If they’re not making the volume to keep the lights on, it’s not necessarily reporters’ issue.

      But I certainly appreciate that some owners are just doing what they can to stay afloat.

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