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Reporter shortage in Bay Area (rates are rising)

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  • Reporter shortage in Bay Area (rates are rising)

    I have been SO BUSY, absolutely INUNDATED with work. (That's why you haven't seen me around this board very much lately.) Is it the same for anyone else? Agencies I've never contacted somehow have my contact info and are e-mailing out banks of job offers each day. It's annoying to get so many e-mails. I know several reporters who have stopped accepting work from the big contracting/low-pay agencies, or they accept the work but are demanding and getting appreciably higher rates. One firm actually e-mailed out new and higher rates for the Bay Area (but they are still way too low for me to consider working for them.)

    On the one hand, I'm really happy to see rates go up. Many agencies haven't raised their rates to the reporters in over 10 years. On the other hand, I feel overworked and am also wondering what's going to happen when attorneys just can't find enough reporters to cover the work! I know a lot of reporters who are planning to retire in the next five to ten years, and there don't seem to be so many new reporters in the pipeline.

    Has anyone else also noticed an uptick in work and pay rates?

  • #2
    Yes, there's been an uptick in my area too. We need reporters!
    Elsa


    Years ago my mother used to say to me -- she'd say, "In this world, Elwood, you must be" -- she always called me Elwood. "In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant." Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me. [From the movie Harvey.]
    Left the CS CRF with 21364 posts.

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    • #3
      I agree with you about the problem of a lot of reporters getting ready to retire and no new reporters coming out of schools. Our last school has closed. (St. Louis, Missouri Metro area) Around here, agencies are between a rock and a hard place with trying to expand their businesses because it's useless if they go out and hustle to get the work/clients if they can't get enough reporters to cover the work. I think it is going to get competitive between agencies to get reporters and the rates will increase for reporters because of that...and I think that will be a good thing because I think reporters getting a raise is definitely a good thing.

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      • #4
        There are several things at play here.

        All of a sudden, I'm being bombarded with emails from agencies trying to cover multiple jobs for the next day. I don't take work from agencies, and politely reply saying so. I think they're desperate because they have low-ball contracts, and freelance reporters have decided not to work under the conditions imposed or the paltry fees, so they're sending the emails to every reporter certified by the state who's within X miles of the job(s).

        Schools aren't attracting students (thus closing) because the skills needed just to enter the field haven't been taught to our youth for years (grammar, spelling, punctuation, parts of speech, basic typing, etc.).

        Our income has been stagnate for so long that other less-skilled jobs (that don't require financial input, dedication, and unpaid overtime) now have comparable salaries.

        Some states now expect the reporter to work for salary and benefits alone, with transcript fees being paid to the entity they're employed by, yet the reporter still has to absorb the costs of their equipment/software/supplies/maintenance/CLE/licensure.

        There are states that have gone to electronic recording to save money by eliminating reporter positions (and benefits), and they're just now having to deal with incomplete records and retrials.
        Gini
        "We could learn a lot from CRAYONS; some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, while others bright, some have weird names, but they all have learned to live together in the same box."

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        • #5
          Gini, thank you for explaining that. I'm so bad at saying all that I think all in one place.

          AMEN on the part about the skills needed just to enter the field haven't been taught to our youth for years (grammar, spelling, punctuation, parts of speech, basic typing, etc.). That is one reason that, I'm so sad to say, young people today JUST. DON'T. HAVE. what it takes to be a court reporter.

          And then I'll add to that, that MOST younger people in general don't want to take the time to learn the skill of court reporting. That's not a slam. My own young 33-year-old daughter, love her to pieces, I'm including in this comment. She has a master's degree, but it's not in court reporting.

          My opinion is that young people came into this world not knowing a world without technology and most think, "Why do we need somebody taking anything down? Why can't they just record it all and transcribe it later?" I would be rich if I had a dollar for every time I've been asked that question. HOWEVER, even if they did go to straight recording/transcription, still remains the problem of grammar, spelling, punctuation, parts of speech, basic typing, etc. And I wasn't going to go here, but just for a second...how about work ethic and not really giving a crap about the transcript? That is something that is sorely lacking these days, too. (Okay, I said it...ahhhhh, done with that...)

          Gini, when I was talking about 'agencies' I WAS NOT talking about the low-balling agencies. I was talking about local agencies, not 'big box' agencies. I'm talking about lawyers calling and saying, "Hey, we've seen you a lot on the opposing side as the reporter. Our court reporting agency retired and decided to sell out to a national court reporting firm and we're not going to do business with them. We want to stay local. We'd like to offer you our business."

          And then, as the agency owner, you're thinking, geez, that's friggin' great! Wow! Thanks! New business! I can't wait to tell the reporters! And then five minutes later, you're thinking: How the h*ll am I going to get the reporters? It's a big problem. You know you're swamped. You can barely cover the deps you have now. You'd LOVE to expand, but... (That's what I meant)

          You're so right....a lot of things at play...as you mentioned, our income...another story...

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          • #6
            We are seeing the results of the "No Child Left Behind Act," and lack of parental involvement in children's education.

            For years, I've observed handwriting that is unintelligible. Many of today's adults don't know cursive, print like a first-grader, and scrawl their signature. Makes me cringe!

            The time our youth spends on social media would be better channeled to striving to be the best that they can be. But they don't have to, because we've spoiled them. And they have no clue about planning for their future, content to get by from day to day. We've done them a terrible disservice!

            That aside, have you considered increasing your rates? Now would be the time. I did that quite a few years ago (with no regard for rates of others in my area), and ended up with a much greater income, yet producing less pages. It culled my slow-paying clients with low volume.

            My philosophy is that A students, B students, and C students can all (eventually) graduate and get certified, yet the quality of their work product is different. So it doesn't make sense that the same rates apply to all.

            Food for thought!
            Gini
            "We could learn a lot from CRAYONS; some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, while others bright, some have weird names, but they all have learned to live together in the same box."

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            • #7
              Gini,

              Yes, it really, really bugs me about what we've done to our youth.

              About your suggestion to increase rates, you're absolutely right! Now would be the time to increase rates! But I didn't mean to imply that I was having trouble generating business/income. What I meant was quite the opposite...having trouble "generating" reporters because of the business coming in.

              My rates are (and always have been) higher than most in the area. Like you, I set my rates without regard to the rates of others in the area. Not to mention it's a big, hairy secret to discuss rates, so how would I know, anyway? (wink//wink) And as you also said, my reporters are A Students/L'Oreal/Worth It.

              NOW...there is another discussion that can be brought in here that pertains to rates and raising rates and that's about networking with other 'mom and pop' firms. And the problem is this: I have gotten calls from other court reporting firms who have asked to "network" and what I mean by networking is they will need to borrow court reporters from us sometimes and we will need to borrow court reporters from them sometimes to cover jobs. It happens sometimes when the balance is just off

              And here's where the problem comes in: They will say, "Our rates are not as high as yours, so if we use one of your court reporters to cover a job, you'll need to come down on your rates for our jobs."

              Well, I've been thinking about this and I'm thinking that maybe I don't agree with that. Why is that good for my reporters (except for volume maybe, if my reporter would otherwise be sitting home that day?) Should I have to ask my reporters to take less pay for the other firms' jobs?

              So I'm asking....am I being unreasonable? Does anybody have a good solution?



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              • #8
                Bethblkbrn I'm not a lot of help here, as I've always been solo. Years ago, I took overflow from local firms (as they did from me), since we all double-booked as a matter of practice. But each job was a "give" just to get it covered. So rates & production were as usual, and no involvement of the "giving" firm. I've never taken a job for a "national" firm, and have never had an invoice questioned.

                ETA: My version of "networking" is:

                "You're double-booked? No problem. We'll take the job." Period. The end. The job is handled as usual, and no kick-back to the firm that "gave" you the job. You covered their over-booking butt and don't get involved with doing/billing the way they do. Be firm! And prepared for them to take the same stance with you.
                Last edited by Gini Smith; 04-13-2018, 12:22 AM.
                Gini
                "We could learn a lot from CRAYONS; some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, while others bright, some have weird names, but they all have learned to live together in the same box."

                Comment


                • #9
                  I don't (and won't) cover jobs for national firms, either. I'm talking about local, mom-and-pop-type firms. We still have a few of those left in Missouri. Hi, you guys!!!

                  You know what, Gini, you're right. Thank you for getting my thinking back on track. My definition of networking is, "Help...I'm out of reporters for this day and I need somebody to cover this job, please!" And then the other firm says okay and they cover it, send their reporter, bill it. That is the way I want to do it. And vice versa. If they are out of reporters and they call me and I can cover, I take the job, send a reporter and I bill it.

                  I don't ever overbook on purpose, but sometimes it happens. I hate that because it's very stressful. If I have to give a job away to another firm (that's rare) I do let the client know so they know and so that they will be expecting a bill from another firm.

                  I guess this "other way of networking" thing is not for me. So I'm just going to say no to this negotiating rates bull****. I'll offer the jobs and they can take them if they want them and they can bill them. I'll take their jobs and bill their clients for my rates.

                  I'll be firm...like you said. Thanks, Gini!!!

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                  • #10
                    Bethblkbrn Sounds like you understand me. Cover jobs for each other by "giving" the jobs, not sharing reporters with each other. That'd be a HUGE can of worms. And no kickback.
                    Last edited by Gini Smith; 04-14-2018, 12:38 AM.
                    Gini
                    "We could learn a lot from CRAYONS; some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, while others bright, some have weird names, but they all have learned to live together in the same box."

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Yeah, I DO understand you. Apparently there is this "other" type of "networking" out there that I'm just not interested in.

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                      • #12
                        I know some interpreters whose minimum is higher than the minimum some agencies are paying the reporters. That is just WRONG. I don't mean to say that interpreters' skills are less valuable than ours. What I mean is that when the depo is over, it's over for an interpreter, but for the reporter, the work is just beginning once the depo ends. We put in WAY more time, and it's an outrage that we'd be paid less. Well, finding this out has given me more leverage to use with agencies when I request higher rates.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Moellaella View Post
                          I know some interpreters whose minimum is higher than the minimum some agencies are paying the reporters. That is just WRONG. I don't mean to say that interpreters' skills are less valuable than ours. What I mean is that when the depo is over, it's over for an interpreter, but for the reporter, the work is just beginning once the depo ends. We put in WAY more time, and it's an outrage that we'd be paid less. Well, finding this out has given me more leverage to use with agencies when I request higher rates.
                          You're not comparing apples to apples. Transcript production should not be involved in your comparison of a reporter who gets paid for their transcript and an interpreter, who has no transcript.

                          The only true comparison you can make is the charge of the interpreter versus your fee if no transcript is ordered.
                          Gini
                          "We could learn a lot from CRAYONS; some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, while others bright, some have weird names, but they all have learned to live together in the same box."

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Bethblkbrn View Post
                            Yeah, I DO understand you. Apparently there is this "other" type of "networking" out there that I'm just not interested in.
                            That's not "networking." It's borrowing reporters from another firm to fulfill orders under your criteria, making it appear that your staff is greater than it is.

                            "Networking" is when agencies work together to cover each other's a** when they've overbooked, discuss current issues, etc.
                            Gini
                            "We could learn a lot from CRAYONS; some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, while others bright, some have weird names, but they all have learned to live together in the same box."

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                            • #15
                              I like how you think. I totally agree!

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