By Susan Imperial, Director of Digital Reporting at StoryCloud
Like you, my fellow reporter, I know the court reporting world well. I spent over 22 years as an independent California certified shorthand reporter reporting mainly depositions in the Bay Area and always scoping my own work. In hindsight, entering the world of court reporting in the last decade of the 20th century and working in it steadily for the first 18 years of the 21st century has given me – and perhaps you as well -- a clear eagle's eye view of the sobering state of our profession, what has contributed to its problems, and how another business model employing technology and scalability offers solutions to these problems as we move further into the 21st century.
To put it simply, deposition court reporters are being treated unfairly and have been for quite some time. Deposition court reporters work hard, long, and often inordinately stressful hours to ultimately produce as accurate a transcript of legal proceedings as possible. Nobody outside of our profession understands or appreciates the gravity of nor the painstaking labor engendered in what we do.
The primary problem besetting our industry is that the means by which legal proceedings have been recorded for over 100 years – via stenography, either written or spoken – is no longer viable in our fast-paced, digital world. In the days before the Internet, artificial intelligence, and voice recognition, stenography offered a practical analog means by which to record and produce transcriptions of legal proceedings.
But let's be honest, my fellow reporter. For us personally and for our scopists -- if we use one -- it is all too often a very stressful, time-consuming, and inefficient means of producing a record. Proceedings vary widely in level of complexity and difficulty, and therefore, hours spent on producing transcripts also vary widely. And at the end of the day, the resultant pay for such efforts is ultimately capped by -- you guessed it -- the page rate.
What is clear is that the page rate paid to reporters has remained essentially flat for over 20 years. Fierce agency competition for business has essentially capped reporter page rates and in many instances has reduced them. Reporters often have to wait months for pay on copies, if they get paid for them at all. Being solely responsible for one's own equipment, software, process, and all expenses associated with our work – including time and expenses related to travel and scoping – has become financially tenuous for many. Incidentally, have you ever taken the time to actually calculate your hourly pay, taking into account all that you do (and spend) to complete a job? (I think you’d be shocked.) Not to mention all of the uncompensated time figuring out the formats and production protocols of ten different agencies, an onerous but necessary task when you have no idea who will have the next job available for you.
The agency/reporter relationship has been a challenging and uneasy one for quite some time. Because of a deposition reporter’s independent contractor status and pay by the page, the agency is not concerned about the process nor the time and resources expended by the reporter to complete a job, as long as the product -- the final transcript -- is satisfactory to their client.
Yet the bills for deposition and other litigation services to attorneys are an increasing source of frustration, confusion, and even outrage to court reporting firm clients. Costs dictate and control the manner and efficacy with which plaintiff firms can litigate a case and defense attorneys are under constant scrutiny by the insurance companies they represent down to the penny.
The bottom line is that the economics of the analog reporting world do not support sustainably fair compensation to reporters – or their scopists – through time.
So I have to ask you, my valued peer: Are you tired of the chronic – and worsening – stress and anemic pay of DIY'ing as an independent reporter? Are you physically tired of reporting? Are you feeling isolated, taken for granted, unsupported, marginalized, or undervalued as a reporter despite your years of service and experience? Are you burned out?
I suspect your answer is “yes” and rightfully so. And that’s where StoryCloud comes in.
StoryCloud has your back.
For far too long, both the process and the business model have been the problem. StoryCloud has stepped in to provide a solution that incorporates your experience and skills and integrates them in concert with 21st century technology.
StoryCloud is an innovative litigation support company offering both deposition reporting and legal video services to attorneys nationwide. StoryCloud uses a different process that yields a first-generation transcript of 98-99 percent accuracy using software, which means much less stress endured by the court reporter and the scopist.
StoryCloud digital reporters monitor high-quality cloud-based audio recordings of legal proceedings while intervening for those essential human and administrative activities during depositions such as swearing in witnesses, marking and collecting exhibits, and reading back testimony upon request, while StoryCloud scopists edit highly accurate first-generation transcriptions of said proceedings.
If you are interested in leaving the stress of the steno world behind and being paid a very fair rate for your work, we hope you will consider StoryCloud.
Susan Imperial is the Director of Digital Reporting at StoryCloud. She has over 22 years experience as an independent California Certified Shorthand Reporter in and around the Bay Area.