Contracting with Public Entities: Diamond’s 2010 Renewal With City

I had written a recent article about competing for contracts, and in that article, I got into a pretty detailed description about how to access public records. Succinctly, I believe that the more we talk about how to compete, and the more we facilitate an environment where people feel they can compete, the more competition we will see. This competition has a decent chance at spilling over into the most important competition of all: Attracting talent.

Ultimately, market share allows companies to have more power in negotiations with their reporters. If reporters feel empowered to seek work elsewhere, or even grab some market share for themselves, there’ll be more of a push to treat people well and attract reporters who are in it for the long haul. So if you have not read my article on inflation¬†or accessing public records, I suggest you do just for the knowledge and experience.

That all said, I’m going to get into why I’m writing today. This has become a place for information to be given out. This has become a place for people to spread ideas. This has become a place for me to post a little piece of history. In or around 2010, Diamond had renewed its contract with the City of New York, the Law Department, or Corporation Counsel, and sometime later, I got a copy of that renewal. I also, at around the same point in history, was doing research on other companies’ public contracts, though I do not have them to post today.

To be blunt, per my interpretation, in 2010: The appearance fee was set at $26, the regular Law Department delivery was $3.65 per page, $5.20 per page for a rush, $5.75 per page for an overnight, $78 for a bust fee, $5.20 for a disk or CD ROM of the transcript, $5.20 for a compressed transcript, $5.20 for an electronic transcript, $5.75 per page for realtime and regular delivery, $7.30 per page for realtime and rush delivery, $7.80 per page for realtime and overnight delivery, $1.60 per page of rough draft, $78 for obtaining clearance to a prison, $130 fee for appearing at a prison, $21 for a multi-file disk.

Plugged into an inflation calculator, these 2010 dollars would be worth the following in November 2018: Appearance fee, $30. Regular Law Department delivery $4.21 per page, $6.00 per page for a rush, $6.63 per page for an overnight, $90 bust fee, $6 for a disk or CD ROM, $6 for a compressed transcript, $6 for an electronic transcript. $6.63 per page for realtime and regular delivery, $8.42 per page for realtime and rush delivery, $9 per page for realtime and overnight delivery, $1.85 per page of rough draft, $90 for obtaining clearance to a prison, $150 fee for appearing at a prison, $24.33 for a multi-file disk.

To be clear: This is ostensibly a contract for a large amount of work. This says nothing of what could be charged in copy sales to private plaintiff attorneys. Remember that there is no limit on what may be charged by a company on copy sale. Some reporters that get sent on contracts lose companies money, and that’s compensated for from the reporters that do not know to ask for more. Take an interest in your business, getting clients, and staying stable.

Recently I was informed that Diamond may have increased its rates to attract talent. This is an important development, and if true, wonderful news, a great move, and definitely something that reporters should consider in their negotiations and in how they coach student reporters.

If you like this sort of public information spread, feel free to donate today, or donate copies of public information. Helps cover simple costs related to domain hosting and potentially upgrading this blog, and creates incentive to write similar articles.

 

Veritext Buys A Diamond

In a perhaps not-so-surprising move Veritext bought Diamond. I wish every reporter a great deal of luck and success, but I do want to talk a little bit about why I think this is overall bad for us.

Corporations are entities made to create a profit for their owners. That’s their legal and primary purpose. There’s nothing really wrong with this, it’s kind of how things work. When you buy a stock in a public corporation, generally you can rest assured that the Board of Directors has a duty to protect the value of your shares. Yay.

But this poses a unique problem for reporters. Their duty is to their bottom line. What’s one of the biggest expenses? Labor. What’s labor in reporting? Our fees! So ultimately, Veritext, which I now nickname Gobbler Corporation, has bought its way into having what I imagine to be a pretty hefty book of business. This is bad for the following reasons:

If the reporter shortage continues, they have an incentive to push audio recording. It is cheaper and it will always be cheaper to get someone to take notes during a proceeding while it’s being recorded than hiring a stenographic reporter. This savings isn’t likely to be transferred to the lawyers and litigants, but added to Veritext’s bottom line.

If the shortage does not continue, Veritext has a larger market share of New York and will have a better ability to dictate prices to its reporters.

Honest solutions? We need to be better on our information game. We need to keep instructing reporters on what we are worth and encourage them to be powerful entrepreneurs. I’ve written before in this blog about how people can negotiate or seek information on government contracts. Perhaps soon I can write about becoming an NYC Vendor. Now is the time! More than that: We need to start fighting harder. As they start shifting to recorders, resist. Call up your favorite law firm and offer your services. Become the competition. Make them buy you out too. Reach out to law firms and tell them, hey, they’re cutting us out, and they’re not passing those savings to you, so hire a stenographic reporter today for a better deal!

This is the best damn time to be a reporter that I’ve seen in New York. The court system wants you. The unions want you. The association wants you. The agencies want you. Your skills are in real demand. But your willingness to step out of your comfort zone and really connect with customers, clients, lawyers, and the end users of our services really can alter how everything plays out. What you do actually makes a difference. Why? Strategy. Envision the whole thing as a game of chess. In Chess, if you refuse to move, you concede the game. Most of us are not wealthy, can’t concede and stop working. If you let the other player take all your pieces off the board, the sources you rely on for work, pulling off a win grows ever more challenging. If you start making moves, you force the opponent to react. Their game gets thrown because they can’t account for every move you make. Every dollar an entity gets is a dollar that makes them stronger. What do you think happens if the hundreds of stenographers in the city start taking dollars away by being real competition?

And we’re bothering people that want stenography to fail big time. The fact that we’re catching on and creating a plan to fight back is hurting them so bad that they’re gloating at me in anonymous e-mails about how our days are numbered.

So the choice is simple. Concede and let the current shotcallers decide how things are going to go, or step it up and take the time to read about how to draft responses to city RFPs (requests for proposals) and become true entrepreneurs, and introduce true competition to a needy, living market. Remember that a market is not just “oh, they want to pay me this”, but an amalgam of buyers and sellers, all seeking the best deal for themselves. Remember that as a provider you are the backbone of the market, and it’s your action or inaction that dictates tomorrow.

Veritext bought a Diamond. There’s no reason we can’t build ten more.

When An Agency Won’t Collect

Often agencies that are not paid by a lawyer give up on collecting the debt. Stenographers often have contracts with agencies as opposed to lawyers directly. This opens up a world where lawyer doesn’t pay agency, agency doesn’t pay reporter, agency writes off the debt. This is a vicious cycle where the stenographer is ultimately saddled with 0 despite it being the stenographer’s time that’s used up. The response? I think we should start looking into writing off debt too. It’s time to start breaking out those 1099s and sending them right along to agencies. Financially it is always better to make a dollar than to write a dollar off, but it is better to write a dollar off than not make a dollar.

And I’m going to come right on out and say the agency that began this post was Veritext. I saw the story of another reporter online, and this was the agency’s grand solution. Mind you, it’s actually a really good solution, but in my opinion, they should not be writing off debt and then not paying the reporter immediately. It’s disgraceful. And I hope in the future should a representative of Veritext come across this site, you’ll either report to us that you’ve changed your policy to pay your reporter in the event of bad debt, or you’re considering altering the policy.

Regardless, it’s time to take a stand on this issue as individuals. The very least we can do is make writing off the bad debt of agencies ubiquitous so that we are not left with zero. In an ideal world, perhaps we would press agencies and collect from them, but the time spent and financial expense of even the smallest lawsuit or claim is too great for many stenographers.