What my perfect court reporting scheduling world would look like:
Agency sends me an email and says, "Good Morning, hope all is well. I have 2 depos coming up that I wanted to see if you are available to take? They are set for __ and __, 2018, at 9:00 a.m. at _____. Set with realtime, rough, and standard delivery on the finals, they will be videotaped, and both days are expected to go all day. Please let me know if you can take these depos? Thanks."
Then my response would go something like, "Good morning! All is well in my world, thank you. I am available. Attached is the same rate sheet we've been using. I'll pencil you in for those dates and wait to hear! Have a great day, Michelle"
Response back from agency: "Great and I will send you over the worksheets! Thanks." _______________________________
And then 10 minutes later, the worksheets for both days are emailed to me.
The above scenario is often the case for me these days. It doesn't take a lot of words or a lot of time to get this done efficiently. On the other hand, few words that don't paint an entire picture of what needs to be covered on the part of a scheduler is a waste of time for most reporters even though it may seem "efficient" at first glance on the part of the scheduler:
Networking Agency: "10am Tampa Thursday. Are you available?"
Reporter: "Do you have any other job information you can send?"
Networking Agency: "Oh, it's been covered."
Are you available? DATE: 02/22/2018 TIME: 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM WITNESS(ES): xxx LOCATION: xxx
And then when the reporters asks for more information, the response back is that it's been covered.
It's great if these settings are getting covered in the meantime, but if agencies are going to reach out to reporters, then giving a sufficient amount of information in order for the reporter to determine if the job is a good fit for them is *always* a good idea! Several responses back to the agency that, yes, I'm available for that particular setting rather than several responses containing only more questions and with only maybe one reporter stating that they can take it gives the agency one quick answer to fill the job slot with "a body."
However, giving reporters as much information as an agency has about a job setting not only likely gives an agencies several options for reporters to assign to that job but also ensures, to a great degree, that the reporters replying back to that job setting are able to sufficiently meet the needs of the clients. And that is the end goal, of course.
Assuming that a scheduler is sending the appropriate details for a particular job assignment, reporters themselves also can consider several things when answering a solicitation for a job assignment in order to make their responses efficient:
* First and foremost, are you available for that date and time, yes or no?
If you are not available, that needs to be the first thing you tell a scheduler no matter what other
information you might wish to also communicate.
* If your availability is contingent upon the rates and terms of your rate sheet being met, or other contingencies,
then the more clearly you are able to state those things, the easier the process will be. If you have more
questions to be answered before you accept, state them clearly, and don't mix feelings into those questions,
so that the scheduler understands exactly what your questions are and so that you have a much better chance
of having those questions answered directly and fully.
* The negotiation process, if there is to be one, is "just business." Always. As a reporter, there may be personal
feelings involved in some of your decisions or in some specific justifications you feel you must mention, but
the better you are able to present these things succinctly, matter of factly, and with a business tone, the more
likely you will come to an answer for both of you more quickly.
* Whatever the negotiation process or agreement process may be for a particular job assignment, reiterating those
back to the scheduler so that there are no misunderstandings on the part of either of you -- and also so that you
have a clear outline of your agreement, should you need to refer to it with their billing department on the back
end of the job assignment -- is *always* a good idea!
My preferred way to lay out what that negotiation process has been is to take my rate sheet and cross out the
things on my rate sheet that have been negotiated and write in above it the negotiated numbers or terms. I
send it back to the scheduler for their inhouse approval; and once we have a clear understanding and a clear
agreement, then we have it all laid out clearly in that one document attached to that last email. It is very easy
to forward that to anyone in billing or in management after the fact, should that be necessary. And if we have
agreed to something that is not typically the agency's norm or contains terms that may be considered a bit
unconventional, it is so very easy to get this matter cleared up on the back end in a very short amount of time.
Most of the time, this means the reporter will get paid without a delay, so it is in everyone's best interest that
proving up anything that is unclear be a short process!
In a business world where time is money, and in the current reporting world where both agencies and court reporters have little time to spend communicating in email with regard to all of these settings that need to be covered, efficient scheduling is a must. It ensures, as much as is possible, that the right reporters are scheduled for the right jobs, and it ensures, as much as is possible, that the rates and terms agreed to for said setting are clearly laid out and agreed to.
Here's to a future of clear and efficient scheduling!
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.