I’m opening up a 6-question survey to the public, as well as court reporting providers, for court reporting rates.
Associations are allowed to collect and distribute aggregate rate data. I’ve provided information on how newbie court reporters are taken advantage of, sometimes working decades behind inflation, due to the dearth of data about the court reporting & stenotype services industry. It is very clear to me that we must move beyond the fallacy of being unable to discuss rates that has been drilled into court reporters’ collective conscience. We must replace it with a more nuanced truth: Discussions and historical data are fair game. It is collusion and the appearance of collusion among competitors that is problematic for those of us that are true independent contractors and associations. Failing to approach this with some nuance allows our silence to be weaponized against our new people, who are told their skills are worth much less than they actually are. They try to make it work and end up leaving because they’re working too hard for too little money.
Associations also risk falling behind if they do not have this data. A lot of players are scraping up court reporter data today, including Capvision, LEK Consulting, Dialectica, and Guidepoint. I cannot yet say conclusively say how the data is being used, but I can absolutely say that it is not in the hands of court reporters, and therefore we are once again playing “catch up.”
This survey focuses on California, Illinois, New York, and Texas. As of the Ducker Report, those states had the highest court reporting demand (page 13). If you’d like to take part in the survey, please do so. You may also submit your e-mail for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card.
I am hopeful that the data collected will be a useful start to understanding the current state of the market. If nothing else, it should provide a base for discussion. Results should be announced sometime in Q3 2022.
I was passed a transcript excerpt by a source that wishes to remain anonymous. As a note, the redactions weren’t done by me. It was a short deposition, and looked like any other.
There were three parties and a videographer.
Now, maybe some of my Texas audience can fill me in on this, but apparently there’s a certificate in Texas that tells us how much the deposition officer gets. I do not know for sure if the deposition officer is verbiage for the reporting company, the reporter, or something else. I tried to connect to the court reporter on LinkedIn, but she didn’t respond. This certificate listed, on a 39-page transcript, a grand total of $1,457.31. That’s about $37.37 a page. Even if we assume the videographer took half, that’s about $18.69 a page.
I can’t figure out how the cost gets that high. I have to look at New York officials for comparison. Assuming a daily of $6.50 and two copies of $1.25, they’d be looking at $9 per page. Freelancers out here have been doing about a dollar a hookup, so even if we assume there were three hookups, we’re still talking about $12 a page — and there’s no evidence to suggest any of that is true. I’m just trying to add calculations to get to $37 a page.
If nothing else, I hope this annihilates the argument that court reporters are in danger of pricing ourselves out of the market. Such a thing is often said to break our newbies into accepting very little money for the important work that they do. It’s a disgusting corporate tactic to make the bottom line look better. Maybe the middleman model has outlived its usefulness to our profession.
Notably, Veritext also seems to be normalizing adding a kind of corporate certificate that doesn’t actually certify anything. What’s the point of this?
I’m done chasing people and companies for answers. If they care to comment on the blog, I don’t censor comments. But good luck explaining $37 a page to a field of stenographers that are often told lawyers won’t pay more than the measly $4 or $5 we pull in.
The bottom line of this story is going to be, “you need to ask for a raise.” What was quite common in my New York freelance years was many of us accepted, year after year, what agencies handed out. It is time for us to step out of our court reporting skins and be business people.
There’s something called inflation. The really low level summary of inflation is that as more money is produced the value of existing money decreases, meaning item values go up. That’s why you could live off less money back in the 50s or 60s, and why everything is so expensive now.
The buying power of the money in the bank goes down every year, and every year, the services you provide need to be charged at a higher rate so that you have the same buying power.
Try it for yourself. Get an inflation calculator, type in your very first page rate or salary, the year you started, and the year it is now. A reporter told me that in 1989 they made $2.50. That’s worth $5.11 now. If they aren’t making $5.11, their buying power is shot.
I did it myself. I sat down and said what’s a good starting rate for 2018? I was given $3.25 in 2011. Inflation calculator says that’s worth $3.66 now. I had a few friends who started at $4. That’s worth $4.50 now. But who wants to work for the same exact money every year? No. We want a raise. So what would a raise of 3% a year look like? Year 1, you start at $4.00. By year 6, you should be making $4.60. Look at those numbers again. Just to have the same exact buying power 2011 to now, you need $4.50 a page. To give yourself a $0.10 raise after six years, you need $4.60. Your cost of living is going to go up, and unless you make more money every year, your quality of life is going to go down.
That’s really it. This is my case and my explanation for why we have to start talking about our rates. We have to start informing each other about simple business principles. We need to keep an eye on that inflation rate. We need to really take a close look at what we make on all our services and ask ourselves why our money for our associations, charities, and causes are so tight. We need to admit one thing: You need to ask for a raise.