By Deborah J. Walters
When parties share copies of transcripts, it eliminates the cost-share business model that court reporters enacted decades ago. This ultimately decreases the income of talented court reporters. How does this affect you? Should copy sales of transcripts diminish over time, the result will be an increased cost of the original transcript to adequately pay reporters and/or not enough court reporters available for each deposition or trial. Court reporters proudly serve as officers of the court. With this role comes many responsibilities, one of them being to fairly distribute the costs of services between all involved parties. When clients share copies of their paid transcripts with other parties (who have not paid for a transcript), this prevents the neutral party (the court reporter) from carrying out their designated duty.
Court reporters produce accurate, timely transcripts in an easy-to-use and printable format to make it easy and efficient for lawyers to collaborate with their client and others in the law firm. The downfall of this process is that it provides the opportunity for an individual to easily distribute the paid copy of the transcript to other parties in the case whom have not paid for the rights to view or utilize the copy.
It is common for a court reporter to choose what depositions to take based on the complexity including the number of parties involved. This is how the reporter forecasts their potential payout in the case and how they potentially allocate their professional time. When transcribing a deposition with many parties, the reporter may also choose to hire a scopist to assist in typing, proofing, or preparing the final transcript, including deciphering multiple voices. If the court reporter does not then get their expected compensation for this job, based on selling multiple copies, they may prefer to take a job for a different firm in the future and may actually be paying their scopist out of pocket, losing money on this job.
How can you prevent the costs of transcripts from rising and ensure you receive the high standard of court reporters you are accustomed to? It is simple. Once you receive the electronic version of your draft/final transcript, do not reproduce, copy, distribute, or publish the transcript (in whole or in part) without first compensating the court reporting agency the standard charges. Remind your team including all attorneys, paralegals, and expert witnesses to do the same and not share the transcript copy with other parties. If you find that you wish or need to share the transcript with others, please contact the agency directly or have the other party contact the agency to pay for the copy.
Maintaining the fairness of the court reporting profession is important to the legal profession, and in keeping clients’ long-term total costs to a minimum.