It’s always a good day when you can teach your clients a thing or two! Here’s the scenario: Mr. Attorney walks in the door for a video-conferenced deposition. Deposition goes beautifully and runs into the night because we’re connecting with India and had to start at a time that was convenient for the deponent. At the end, Mr. Attorney says, “My ‘regular’ reporter gives me a free rough draft four or five days following a deposition without divulging that information to opposing counsel, and I’d expect you’ll do the same.” I very politely inform Mr. Attorney that (1) we do not give out free rough drafts, (2) we would typically send out a rough draft by 8 am in the morning but it will not be free, (3) he can have the final in four or five days if that’s what he needs, and (4) we do not provide rough drafts or expedited finals to either side of a case without also offering that same service to all counsel involved. Once he removed the look of wide-eyed look of shock from his face, we sat down and discussed why each of those options is available to him and how each would work. Here’s what I told him.
(1) Our reporters work very hard to get the skillset to provide a clean rough draft, particularly when the deposition was over video conferencing with an Indian doctor who has a very thick accent and a very prestigious degree in chemical engineering. Therefore, that rough draft is not free.
(2) We send rough drafts out either the same night as the deposition or the next morning. Given that this deposition ended at 9:45 p.m., he’d have an email with this file sometime before noon the next day. Again, however, not for free!
(3) Or, if time is of the essence, we can have the final to him within four or five days. That, too, comes with an additional cost, but probably not much more than getting a final within that same amount of time. Who takes five days to get a rough out??
(4) We are impartial. Period. You may have a friend who is a reporter, but once we are in that deposition room or that courtroom, we are impartial. We’re not ever just working for you or for them. Impartial means impartial. It’s black and white, not gray, and can never be gray.
Mr. Attorney and I do some math with the numbers and he decides on a final in five days and walks away with a new understanding of how reporters work when they follow ethical working guidelines. He tells me that he thought he was helping out his friend by having him providing his reporting services. He now realizes that, by receiving free “whatever” in a case, whether it’s a rough draft or a scan of the marked exhibits or a no-additional-charge expedited copy, that, in itself, can pose a potential conflict and one on which he shouldn’t risk his client’s case.
Mr. Attorney leaves my office at 10:18 p.m. His paralegal calls the very next morning and sets a three-day deposition with us for the first week in April. This firm hadn’t booked with us before, so apparently he was appropriately “schooled” on some of the nuances of ethical court reporting and took the information to heart. And though that call made my day, he still isn’t getting a free rough draft!!