This morning's coffee just wasn't doing the trick. My body wasn't awake yet. Until I opened my email. An email from a reporter who works with our firm was more impactful than three cups of coffee when she alerted me to a conversation at her deposition yesterday that went something like this:
OPPOSING COUNSEL: I haven't received my transcript from the last deponent yet.
VISITING ATTORNEY FROM OUT OF TOWN: Oh, well, I'm not opposed to getting the transcripts on this case and sharing them with you.
So it went down like that, but to a court reporter, it sounds more like this:
OPPOSING COUNSEL: My office is on a COD basis because we have a reputation for not paying our court reporters, and it took forever and a day to cut the check for our transcript which hasn't even been mailed yet, so I don't have the last deponent's testimony in hand.
VISITING ATTORNEY FROM OUT OF TOWN: No problem. I'm glad to steal from the court reporter and just give you my transcripts, because court reporters don't have overhead and love to work for free. She'll be happy as a pig in mud if I just give you a copy of the transcript I paid for and screw her out of a copy sale.
In fact, the truth is:
- We do not like it when you steal our product and give it away.
- We do require payment for our services because that's how we make a living.
- We work extraordinary hours, frequently without breaks for the restroom or for food.
- It's theft of services. Plain and simple.
Recently, I had the good pleasure of reporting before The Honorable Judge Carr in the Circuit Court of Cook County, who strongly urged both sides of a matter to purchase their own copy because "Otherwise, it is stealing from this lovely lady seated next to me." (Said at 9:15 p.m. on a week night after lengthy proceedings.) That's a State court judge.
What do we hear from the Federal court?
"FORWARDING OF EMAILED TRANSCRIPTS IS STRONGLY DISCOURAGED."
Litigation is painful, I'll admit it. If you find yourself in litigation, it's costly. Very costly. So either don't find yourself in litigation...or assume you'll incur fees from attorneys and court reporters.
Only when you find yourself staying up all night to meet insane deadlines, cancelling family events, cancelling vacations or editing transcripts in the middle of your vacation can you begin to understand the pressures court reporters endure in the transcript preparation process. So until you've walked a mile in my moccasins, don't feel so comfortable engaging in theft of services.
And when you are a visitor in my neck of the woods, from, say, Kansas City, you need to adhere to our local customs. Maybe you're comfortable stealing from your local reporters, but that doesn't mean it's looked upon fondly in Illinois.