A recent poll asked 30 reporters how many different agencies they worked for in the year 2017. The average number was 18. The lowest responses were "1" and "2"; the highest responses were "43" and "50."
Clearly, networking firms are not the only ones who juggle volume and variety when contracting reporters to cover their work.
Mastering the issue of finding common ground between
the reporter and the agency will be paramount to the success of both in the near future. With the reporter shortage that is already becoming quite evident and the increasing number of national networking firms rising
up, the ability for both sides to find this common ground
in order to be able to service the client effectively is becoming more and more challenging right before our
eyes. The ability for both the agency and the reporter
to master efficiency while adjusting the parameters of
each job setting as it changes and evolves is a must.
Communication, respect, and professionalism become key components in being able to work alongside each other in order to meet the end goal. Every networking agency wants repeat business from good attorney clients, and every reporter wants to be called back by good networking agencies. The reporter and the agency working in tandem to make sure we both look good with the delivery of a stellar end product makes us all a lot of money, not just once but, ultimately, repeatedly. Being able to achieve this sort of working relationship with efficiency -- where time is money -- is to the financial advantage of all of us. Arguably, then, success or failure of the networking agency hinges on this now-changing relationship between the reporter and the agency.
When contracting a reporter for a job, communication starts with laying a foundation for what will be expected from both parties. This can sometimes be a difficult area to quickly come to basic understandings. Different areas of the country operate a little differently. Newer reporters, more experienced reporters, and seasoned (traveling) realtime reporters all operate a little differently as well. Reporters within these three groups also have quite varied levels of skill and abilities not always evident or determined by years in the field or number or certs. Their experience dealing with the many ways agencies out there may expect them to operate is also a huge factor in finding this common ground quickly. Indeed, the reporter experience level in this area is all over the board: Reporter No. 1 has only dealt with one agency this past year; Reporter No. 30 has dealt with 50.
Reporters trying to find some semblance of consistency in dealing with a considerable number of agencies by dialing in what they will and won't do may be considered divas. Agencies who have an overabundance of instructions and QC measures in place to ensure the job is done correctly and in a manner that helps them keep their finger on the pulse of each job and helps their agency keep their clients happy may be considered micromanagers.
A few basic items, however, make the list every time for attempting to find common ground:
* Comprehensive, up-front rate agreements
* Detailed outline of what this specific job entails:
> Start time and estimated length of proceeding, if known
> Location of the proceeding
> Type of proceeding and whether it is videotaped, videoconferenced, etc.
> Technical nature of the proceeding and basic case caption information
> Number of attorneys expected to be present and participating
> Any known realtime, rough draft, or expedited requests
* Concise and clear agency instructions for jobsite protocol and turn-in time and procedures,
including efficient worksheets/portal use
* Payment terms and conditions
The ability of each reporter and each agency to be able to successfully navigate the items listed above so that communication is effective means everything in the relationship between the two; and when reporters and agencies find an adequate, great, or perfect match, it is something worth continuing to nurture.
Continuing to respect each other as an intricate part in mastering the end goal of successfully servicing the client each time and doing it with the utmost professionalism helps to bridge the huge gap in both sides dealing with an incredible number of people week in, week out. It's an ongoing cycle of client relations amongst all of us, including the attorneys and law firms we service. The reporter and the agency need each other in order to make it all come full circle. Sometimes we need the other more than at other times, and that's okay; that's just the nature of the business. Respecting each other through that process and having the understanding that "it's just business" so that professionalism is the theme throughout any correspondence helps us all to make the daily decisions we need to in order to decide to work together on a particular job or that one or both of us needs to move on for a better fit.
Finding common ground in any facet of life is never about figuring out the best way to get your own needs met regardless of the cost to others involved. As our industry changes rapidly for all of us during this time, understanding both sides of the coin with as much flexibility as we can allow the other and with open and honest communication benefits all of us.
When we value each other and take the time to understand the basic business needs of the other, common ground is so much easier to find. Effort to adapt and change so that we continue to work as one unit to serve the client is just good business, and it can pave the way for much profitability and success into our futures as well.
Michelle Kirkpatrick, RDR, CRR, CRC, FCRR, CRCR (Colorado),
is a networking, traveling realtime reporter based out of
Breckenridge, Colorado, specializing in technical realtime,
immediate rough drafts, and same-day finals. She can be
reached at email@example.com.