Documents purporting to be US Legal and Lex Reporting rate sheets were passed to me by a source recently.
To be honest, these rates seem very New-York-City competitive. There are some stenographers out there making $4.50 on the originals. I will say that as a young reporter I only got paid $1.00 for roughs, and with the amount of work that goes into those, it would put me off to learn the agency was making exactly what I was for essentially a finder’s fee. The bust I used to make was something like $75. The minimum fee was the bust fee. So there are definitely cost savings to be had for attorneys that go agency or reporter shopping.
But the surprising part of all this was my Stenonymous source stated that copy attorneys were charged the same.
Now, the breadth of my information gathering is limited, because I have a full-time job and this citizen journalist stuff is on the side. But it really may be true. Years ago, I staged a call-up to Diamond Reporting (New York City, later bought by Veritext), and they told my caller that they charged the same copy and original.
Not these specific companies listed above, but in general, I have always thought that companies play games with some invoices and the attorneys they don’t regularly do business with. Charge ultra high. No complaint? Payday. Complaint? Cut the bill in half and make out like a bandit while looking like a hero to the client. That said, it’s actually nice to see that not be the case here.
That’s all I have for this one. Feel free to pass it around.
Given the nature of the action, in my view, it would be wrong for Stenonymous to publish the full transcript. But I have personally reviewed portions of the transcript. The certification, errata, and all that ends at 149, then the word index begins, totaling up to the 181 pages. It kind of goes to what the court was saying in that class action link I just posted. Paraphrasing heavily: “It would not be deceptive business practice if a restaurant did not itemize every item in a cheeseburger.” Basically saying that the word index can be viewed as part of the entire transcript or product and therefore need not be itemized.
But it is really an add-on, isn’t it? My whole career as a freelancer came and went without ever being paid for a word index. Other court reporters report not being paid for their word indices. Word indices are not a required part of the transcript in jurisdictions I’ve read about. It’s a convenience feature. A convenience feature usually added by “the agency.” The agency that is supposed to be a separate and distinct entity without direction and control over “the freelancer.” The agency that is supposed to be a litigation support service and not a court reporting firm, but flip flops whenever it’s convenient for them in court and/or makes them more money. Yeah, that agency.
Certainly, the word index has some value. But is it quite the same value as a caption page that often needs to be filled in manually? Is it quite the same value as a transcribed page? Those can have a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio with time “typing” versus time “transcribing” (typing/writing : transcribing). Said another way, there’s a lot more time and effort going into each page of the rest of the transcript. Not so much with the word index. It’s literally what we accuse the digital reporters of doing, button pushing. In my guesstimate, it takes about as much time to generate an entire word index as it does to produce one page of a transcript. So back to the judge’s cheeseburger statement, it’s more like if the restaurant subcontracted out their cook, and the cook said, “yeah, I’ll make this hamburger for you.” The cook does the laborious work of cooking the hamburger, which in our completely screwed up analogy takes about 5 hours to make on a good day. The agency takes the hamburger, adds a slice of cheese, which takes it a minute or two (0.67% of the time it took to make the hamburger), and charges around 20% more for the now-completed cheeseburger — and that’s on top of their cut from the hamburger itself*.
*Which has me thinking, maybe I could be a judge. Sometimes I read these decisions on the internet and I think to myself, “wow, this can easily be argued both ways and the court just happened to agree with the wealthier side of the equation.”I could do that(joke).
The funny thing about this is court reporters were so paralyzed by fear that none of this would have ever broken if the larger corporations had just been honest. It wasn’t until they started surreptitiously siphoning stenographer work to digital court reporters that people started to feed me information and stand up against the gouging of attorneys/consumers.
If anybody from U.S. Legal Support is reading, your staff asked me not to contact you anymore, so I generally do not, but you’re always free to leave a comment explaining your position. I do not censor unless something is clearly spam, abusive, defamatory, or impersonating someone else. We’re playing an interesting game of incongruence where you all have a lot more money, but I have a growing movement of people — small business owners, court reporters, attorneys, and members of the public — that believe it really does matter if things are done legally and ethically. That’s not even counting the people that follow and support me out of their own self-interest. I’ve seen firsthand how our message resonates with real people. Accountability media matters™️.
God forbid the New York Times figures out that people love this stuff or blog supporters start passing posts to journalists. If you believe in what’s happening here but can’t contribute financially, please consider passing a tip to your favorite news outlet. It’s a free online action you can take to support the cause. My suggestion is to use the post about the court reporter / stenographer shortage fraud. The more people we have standing in unity and saying this is a problem, the less likely we will be ignored.
P.S. I have a lot of posts to write and publish over the coming week(s). Please forgive me if something you’ve sent or we’ve spoken about hasn’t been featured yet. Feel free to double check with me that it’s in the pipeline.
I’m pretty sure all this speaks for itself, but I’ll point out that court reporters across the country are doing their part to educate attorneys on the actual status of the field. It’s not just New York, California, Illinois, and Texas. Every state has their leaders and activists, and as more of us stand up and say “this is wrong,” it will become an untenable situation for the organizations that lied to the public about the overall availability of stenographers, such as Veritext, US Legal, and Planet Depos, all of which were represented on the Speech-to-Text Institute board, the vehicle they used to lie to the public and make localized shortages out to be impossible-to-solve national ones. They used a simple trick. Knowing attorneys want stenographers, they told them we were unavailable to get them using digital court reporters.
If anyone would like to help advertise this post to attorneys, please donate whatever amount you feel comfortable donating at the front page of Stenonymous.com. Be advised that I do not receive your credit card info when you do. You can also PayPal ChristopherDay227@gmail.com, Zelle ChristopherDay227@gmail.com, or Venmo @stenonymous.
As reported by the New York Law Journal and Emily Saul, and shared by Paul Lucido publicly on LinkedIn, a suit has been filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, the state’s highest trial court, alleging that U.S. Legal Support managers would game software to “underpay commissions owed to salespeople and divert sales to certain friends or favored coworkers.”
Executives are charged with creating a “fake employee” in order to illegally retain profits for themselves, reports Saul. It boils down to a claim that the founder, Charles Schugart, undermined Lucido’s earnings and lied about stock options. The claim further alleges that managers Amy Williamson and Carrie Cosenza would divert sales by gaming the HubSpot tracking software. It’s claimed that over $150,000 in commissionable revenue was lost, according to the report.
Lucido’s lawyer is quoted, in part, as saying “only discovery will reveal how widespread US Legal’s fraudulent practices were…” As of writing I could not locate the case on WebCivil Supreme, so I have no idea whether a Request for Judicial Intervention or Answer has been filed.
Needless to say, I emailed Emily Saul. We’ll see if anything comes of that.
This comes over a year after my public complaints that US Legal was part of a scheme to defraud jobseekers and consumers by supporting the Speech-to-Text Institute’s bogus claims that the stenographer shortage was impossible to solve, and the post where I revealed U.S. Legal Rep Peter Giammanco’s comment, “does it really matter if done legally and ethically…?” This is how these people think. They don’t care about ethics. They care about winning money.
That leads me to my next ask. If you disagree with the corporate fraud rampant in our field, please consider funding media like mine that supports exposing and purging it if you haven’t already. My donation box is right on the front page of Stenonymous.com. I can also receive Venmo @Stenonymous or PayPal at ChristopherDay227@gmail.com. I promise that once we’ve defeated the foul play, we can turn to what truly matters, enhancing stenographic education and expanding opportunities for stenographers. Serving the public through production of the legal record. How long do you think the shortage would last if a guy like me had a fraction of the money all these other players have? That’s what I bring to the table.
Alternatively, to the corporations of the STTI Bloc, you have a chance to buy the blog for $10 million. That way I get to ride off into the sunset and you get to continue your fraud completely unopposed by anybody with any kind of power in this business and the government. I feel bad selling out for so little, but I have to be realistic about the amount of work it’s taking to take you guys down with my current bank balance of $59.95. If you do buy it, I hope you will still consider the points I’ve made in the past about potential harm to minority speakers. I would never even do what I’m doing if not for that unexplored harm. Also, if you buy me out, consider making Joshua Edwards an offer on creating a corporate training arm for stenographers. With the right resources, he could revolutionize stenographic education and breathe new life into the realtime initiatives we have fought so hard for. We could train stenographers in sales, marketing, and steno, set them loose on the market, and watch them produce revenue streams that never existed before. EVERYONE wants to be heard. Who better to listen than your local stenographer? Even if it’s an upper middle class hobby, shouldn’t those dollars be captured, shouldn’t those voices be heard? If any of you care, my math says $360 an hour will obtain, retain, and retrain talent.
Had the pleasure of viewing this interview between Stenograph and TransAtlantic about their new partnership. TransAtlantic’s David Ross, Secretary/Treasurer of the Speech-to-Text Institute, mentions during the interview that a machine will “never, ever, ever” replace the reporter. I found the interview to be seeded with more generalities about the shortage. It came across to me as trying to sell the idea of shortage.
Mr. Ross did have a lot of positives to say about stenographers, “And we’re very proud of them and honored to have them and I just wish there were more.” But the direction of the company seems clear, it’s going to be about digital court reporter integration. He even mentions the possibility of stenographers switching over to “try something new.” Towards the close of the interview he notes we should never be threatened by technology and keep an open mind. But those of us that dispute the severity of shortage are open minded. Most of us had to be convinced by math and science that there was a problem with the numbers and narrative being distributed to the public. Why has there been a push to get stenographers to go digital if digital is so easy to recruit and train for?
It’s tough for me. I personally see many companies coming and saying they have a shortage, but I see little in the way of communication. They’re largely not on our Facebook groups, not using PRO Link, not using recruiters on LinkedIn, and not asking our associations for help. This is why I am generally suspicious of the narrative being sold at every turn: “The shortage is insurmountable, you must change, or else.” It’s fear appeal propaganda. I do it too, but for truth.
I am happy about this. I am hopeful that it will be a change in direction for USL. I am wary of heaping on praise because companies in our field often do symbolic little gestures to appease us, only to turn around and continue to try to tread on the stenographic legion. It’s kind of like if someone smacked you every day for about half a year and then on day 181 apologized. Sorry doesn’t cut it. Continued recruitment and support of our existing profession is the only thing that will really mend US Legal’s image in the eyes of court reporters. The only court reporters I’ve met that disagree with me are friends of Rick Levy or among the precious few that USL treats well, and I’m not about to let the opinions of two people dictate the future of 30,000.
In many ways I feel vindicated. A few have balked about my methods or beliefs. But we have all collectively shown each other that we have the power to change things. If you follow me on social media, I said as much yesterday:
I remind every court reporter that while U.S. Legal, according to Owler, controls an estimated $100 million annually, court reporters control an estimated $1.7 billion. Over the course of my blogging and ads, you’ve all chipped in about $15,000 (guesstimate). About 0.0009% of stenographers’ annual revenue was able to meet the threshold for change. If you’d like the fight and my media work to continue, then I have to ask for donations at the Stenonymous.com home page.
My personal feelings are that we should turn our attention toward our treatment and end disparity in treatment. For example, if we look at USL’s cancellation policy, canceling a court reporter can be done at 5:00 p.m. the day before. Canceling an interpreter must be done 24 to 48 business hours ahead of time, which I’m going to take to mean 1 to 2 business days, since 24 business hours is a whopping 3 days.
Why does such disparity exist? Because we allow it to. Another example? Videographers, interpreters, and captioners all operate on a two-hour minimum. Court reporters are the only ones that have yet to figure out the value of their time and demand it. But it’s not long before people estimate how many pages they usually get in an hour multiplied by their page rate and realize that that is the true value of their time. Once stenographers know the true value of their time, they will start asking for it, and the shortage will take care of itself.
For anyone that hates math, as a young reporter that was being taken advantage of, I made about $3.25 per page and the layouts at that time gave me about 40 pages per hour. That’s $130 in 2011 money. That’s about $164 in December 2021 money. That would be $328 on a two-hour minimum. I was making $75 bust fees. This is simple economics. When we are busted on, we’re often scheduled at the exclusion of being elsewhere. We cannot have a functional field when people are being paid 22% of what they should be making, and this has arguably driven our shortage more than the games being played by USL and Veritext. Less money in our pockets means we cut expenses, like associations, and then our associations are in famine mode. A vicious cycle ensues and our death as a profession becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The only way out of that is to break the cycle and admit to ourselves that we have a problem with pricing. Our race to the bottom comes at a cost, the loss of integrity of the legal record. Are we willing to accept such a loss simply because corporate entities claim we are not worth more? And do not give me the false narrative that we would price ourselves out of the market. The rapacious behavior of multiple companies has not priced them out. It is a lie sold for one purpose: To keep the working reporter down.
A dozen years in the industry have given me the courage to stand up and say enough is enough. Demand more of the companies. Where they refuse to do better, compete with them. That is the way forward now that everyone knows that they can be beat.
For years in my industry it has been claimed that digital reporting expansion was only for emergency use due to stenographer shortage. It was only for jobs stenographers allegedly would not accept. That was largely a lie. In reality, these companies with millions in revenue are utilizing their market share to push stenographers out of the market, despite consumers’ preference for stenographers, which is reflected in the Court Reporting Industry Outlook 2013-2014.
As a reminder, U.S. Legal’s Chief Strategy Officer, Peter Giammanco, was kind enough to put in a Summer 2021 email, “does it really matter if done legally or ethically…” [if the products are the same, which they are not.]
Who does this hurt? African American Vernacular English speakers. How do we know? The Testifying While Black (2019) pilot studies told us stenographic court reporters understand the dialect at a rate twice as good as the average person and 1.5x as good as the average lawyer. The Racial Disparities in Automatic Speech Recognition study (2020) showed us that automatic speech recognition has 80% accuracy for white speakers, 65% accuracy for black speakers, and as low as 25 to 50% accuracy for AAVE speakers. This is something stenographic court reporters have been painstakingly fighting to bring to courts and lawyers since at least earlier this year. Nonprofits like Protect Your Record have been educating on the inappropriate substitution of digital in place of machine shorthand stenography for over two years. There is no good reason to believe USL is unaware of the data or my claims. If they are unaware, then we would all like to know exactly why the legal record should be entrusted to a company that can’t be bothered to keep current in the industry that was 70% of its business as of 2013.
After all, if you look at their public-facing materials, they consider the stenographer shortage to be a big deal. They must care about our industry (sarcasm font).
And yet in the face of an ongoing national consumer awareness campaign, they still cannot be bothered to attempt to recruit stenographers. But they know how to recruit digitals. They’ve got that down to a science. I get alerts on my phone to become a digital court reporter!
But they must promote stenography in some way to avoid being accused of not making good faith efforts to find a stenographer in accordance with consumer preference. Right?
So I can get recruitment notifications for digital court reporting, but by the admission of US Legal rep Rick Levy, the company was not using Sourcebook to recruit people. NCRA Sourcebook / PRO Link is a national directory of stenographers. It’s been in this field for over a decade. About one third of our field holds membership in NCRA and a large percentage of them are in that directory. It’s a great way to find stenographers. Rick Levy, a reporter of over 25 years and said to have been on the board of the National Court Reporters Association, asked me what it was!
But this politeness from Levy was a ruse and excuse to spend more time obfuscating the fact that USL was doing effectively nothing to build interest in stenography, as I later realized and called him out on.
It gets worse. Thanks to one brave person’s response to our national ad campaign, we know that digital reporters and transcribers are not being paid enough to care and they are being trained to obfuscate.
Meanwhile, stenographers are paid enough to care not just about our own jobs, but digital reporters’ jobs. I’m no longer willing to participate in any delusion that digital court reporting is an adequate solution to shortage. Remember, we got a glimpse of the digital court reporting future when Verbit posted a transcription template to the internet where they spelled “point” with a zero, spelled “court reporter” as “core reporter,” and spelled “state your appearances” as “state your up here.” That’s just three errors. How many can you count?
We also know that USL is not the only company committed to lowering the standards of court reporting. Naegeli, Veritext, and Planet Depos are all in on expanding digital reporting and transcribing at the expense of the consumer. The only question is whether they are actively working together, illegally colluding to screw the consumer, or whether they just happen to all be doing the same exact thing and using similar language (sarcasm font). If nothing else, investors are being misled to believe digital court reporting is the future when it is a clear regression and a rollback of the industry standards we’ve been shaping for over a century.