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Old September 28th, 2009, 09:43 PM   #1
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Depostion Expenses

I just started doing freelance deposition work for Legal video firm. Is it unrealistic trying to get reimbursed for gas/mileage/parking? To give you an idea I just did one where I drove 1 hr each way and paid $15 for 1/2 day of parking. I mentioned it to him and he said he'd think it over but they don't pay for parking/mileage to their court reporters...

Since I'm unfamiliar with this type of business I don't know what's expected. I've done a lot of event work but 99% of the time I don't pay for parking and when I do its only for a few hours. Who cares about the occasional $5 but $12-15 on a regular basis really adds up.
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Old September 28th, 2009, 10:00 PM   #2
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These are the same people that bill by the quarter hour for a 2 minute phone call, right? I can't speak for standard practice in deposition work but in my freelance business, the client pays parking and mileage OUT OF TOWN. I don't charge mileage in town.
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Old September 28th, 2009, 11:02 PM   #3
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$15 for 1/2 day parking is pennies if you're charging a typical rate for depositions. The rates vary but video deposition is can be a high priced speciality.

Some people will charge $350 minimum (first two or three hours) and $100-150/hr or more. Then they charge for any additional dubs. If you're getting paid $400-$600 for 1/2 day work you build expenses into your billing rate rather than a la carte.

This is a typical rate
APS - Legal Video Production Services
another example
ABLE LEGAL MEDIA > Video Depositions
and I think they're on the low side
This Chicago rate is typical of what I see in a major metro area
Video Production Chicago - Legal Deposition Videos
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Old September 29th, 2009, 08:06 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Craig Seeman View Post
If you're getting paid $400-$600 for 1/2 day work you build expenses into your billing rate rather than a la carte.
That's right in the ballpark of what I DO charge for a half day with camera, audio, tripod and a small light kit in reserve. I still choose to pass along parking expenses. It's only fair - or else the kind folks that gave me a nice parking lot outside their building are paying too much.

Again, every business model is different, every market is different and every producer will (and SHOULD) do what is necessary to keep GOOD clients happy.

And remember: court reporters don't show up completely encumbered with gear like video folks do. I can't take the bus, it's just NOT an option.
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Old September 29th, 2009, 08:25 AM   #5
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And remember: court reporters don't show up completely encumbered with gear like video folks do. I can't take the bus, it's just NOT an option.
And that's exactly why you should build in the cost. You KNOW you will need to use car, gas, parking, for EVERY job. Don't give it away free. Build it in to your rate. For some clients, itemization may be perceived as nickel and dimming them.

Although I don't do depositions (although I considered it and was also a notary public) I do live in an area where sometimes I can take public transportation. I have a rate for Camera, mics, tripod within 3 counties that are public transportation accessible. I have another rate that includes lights, jib, etc. which is much higher and requires car, gas, parking. Of course if a client WANTS itemization, they get that (but don't get a reduced rate). That's just me of course.

If you have to do significant traveling outside a give radius then of course have a travel rate which may include miles, time, tolls, parking.

Some clients will be peeved though if you add $15 to a $500 half day bill. With many clients it's better to bury the cost as part of the rate. The objective is for you to make the money and for the client to be happy. Is it worth losing a client over $15? NO. Should you charge to cover the $15? YES. Increase your rate $5-$10/hr to cover parking and gas costs. Allow for "a la carte" pricing if the client requests that (and make sure the total bill would be about the same).
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Old September 29th, 2009, 08:39 AM   #6
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Craig: interesting that you have a rate within the area that you CAN take public transit. I'm preparing for a move to Vancouver, British Columbia Canada which has an excellent light rapid transit system. Perhaps I should look into preparing "Transit Corridor Pricing" whereby any clients that I can take the SkyTrain to will have a slightly reduced rate to "thank them" for allowing me to leave the production vehicle at home.

Thanks. And THAT is why I love open discussion of differing viewpoints on this forum.
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Old September 29th, 2009, 08:47 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Craig Seeman View Post
For some clients, itemization may be perceived as nickel and dimming them.
And perhaps this speaks to differences in locale as well: people HERE (the Dollar Store capitol of the world - in Winnipeg, people don't think they EVER have to pay retail...) want to know EXACTLY what they are paying for so my invoices are VERY itemized - tape is separate from camera rental, which is separate from my labour.

It also keeps people from grinding me on the price. If I gave you a budget quote for 2 shooting days and 16 hours of edit and you changed your mind and added two more days of shooting and 2 weeks of edit revisions (don't laugh - it happens here MUCH more than I'd like to admit...), I can explain WHY you've just blown your budget.

Of course, it's a little different if you're "just" freelancing - my clients know what I charge for labour (many want me to use THEIR cameras), for me AND one of my cameras as well as what I charge to bring along my light kits, boom pole/mic/mixer package.

Again, each market is different. Mine just happens to be... um... THRIFTY. Very, VERY thrifty. And clients here really WOULD ask why they are being charged as much as the client that requires parking if they are providing a parking lot
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Old September 29th, 2009, 10:55 PM   #8
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I wouldn't be complaining if I was getting paid as much as you're talking about. Because I'm working through a firm, its their clients, they do the editing, dvd burning, etc, they're providing me with a mixer and the media (83min tapes $6), and I'm new at this. I'm only getting $250/full day -$125 1/2 day. I just did two half day depositions this week and had to pay total of $30 parking and $10 gas. So $40 out of $250 which is gross without taxes taken out is a good amount to me.
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Old September 29th, 2009, 11:01 PM   #9
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If the firm is taking a cut than they should cover your parking. The client might be paying a lot but has no idea how much is going to the place actually hiring you.

IMHO it's your firm's responsibility to bill the client but they should cover your parking either way.
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Old September 30th, 2009, 01:20 AM   #10
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All I can tell you is this: when I use videographers at depos, I pay a flat fee for the video. If I received an itemized bill that included reimbursement for expenses, I would not use that videographer again. Note, however, that I book depos through court reporting firms, and simply tell them what I need, i.e. real-time transcription and video. I receive a single bill from the court reporting firm. I don't know what arrangement they have with individual videographers.
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Old September 30th, 2009, 08:09 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Paul Tauger View Post
If I received an itemized bill that included reimbursement for expenses, I would not use that videographer again.
I'm interested in this, Paul. I just received an itemized summary from a lawyer looking after something for my family that included photocopy costs (at a significant markup). Is this something you would do and if so, how is this any different than charging for tape?

I offer this question in the spirit of trying to understand other peoples' perspective, NOT to be antagonistic.
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Old October 1st, 2009, 05:54 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Paul Tauger View Post
All I can tell you is this: when I use videographers at depos, I pay a flat fee for the video. If I received an itemized bill that included reimbursement for expenses, I would not use that videographer again.
Isn't it interesting how people that bill in 15 minute increments and itemize charges for expenses get a case of the a** when another professional treats them the same way? After 25 years in the business rule #1 is never work for lawyers. Do it once and you'll never do it again.

BTW it's industry standard practice in the freelance world to charge for expenses. Perhaps deposition videographers should do the same? My clients at Discovery, Nat Geo, Office Depot, etc. are never put off by legitimate expenses - tapes, mileage, food, hotel, parking and other expendables.
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Old October 1st, 2009, 11:30 AM   #13
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I think a distinction should be made between travel expenses for gas, tolls, etc in your "home" area (however that's defined), travel expenses outside your home area, and other expenses such as special equipment rentals, materials, etc. For travel within a normal commuting distance, say a 50 km or 30 mile radius, thereabouts, of your regular place of business, gas and parking are just part of your overhead and not billable (but remember to track them to claim the tax deduction!). But if the job requires you to drive 200 miles and stay overnight in a hotel, then mileage, hotel, meals, etc should considered billable expenses.
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Old October 1st, 2009, 01:45 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Shaun Roemich View Post
I'm interested in this, Paul. I just received an itemized summary from a lawyer looking after something for my family that included photocopy costs (at a significant markup). Is this something you would do and if so, how is this any different than charging for tape?

I offer this question in the spirit of trying to understand other peoples' perspective, NOT to be antagonistic.
Understood.

Yes, law firms almost always charge for costs, though, in my opinion, it is unethical to use costs as a profit center. And, yes, charging for costs is something I would and do do.

How is it different? I'm not sure how to answer that. Deposition services have always been offered at a fixed rate, i.e. so much for page of transcript, so much extra for real time, so much extra for video, so much extra for syncing, etc. I've paid some expenses for deposition services when travel was involved, e.g. taking a court reporter and videographer to Hong Kong and China. In that instance, however, it was negotiated in advance, along with a per diem. We paid for airfare and hotel. We did not pay for a passport application, the cost of tape, parking at the airport, etc.

As I mentioned, when I book deposition services, it's a one-stop shopping kind of thing. I call the court reporter service, tell them where the deposition will be and what I will need. They are responsible for supplying the personnel. I don't know whether they use contract people or captured employees, and it really doesn't matter to me. If the service were to hire a videographer (or court reporter for that matter) that had to drive 100 miles to get to the depo site and then charged me .50/mile for travel expenses, I would not be happy -- my response to them would be, "Why didn't you send someone local?" Perhaps the difference is this: What I'm really "buying" is a product, i.e. the transcript and the video. When people hire lawyers, they're buying a service. I know this sounds like a weak distinction, but the only other answer I can provide is the one we used to use in aerospace: "There are two reasons for not changing: (1) we've always done it this way, and (2) we've never done it that way."
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Old October 1st, 2009, 02:00 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Rick L. Allen View Post
Isn't it interesting how people that bill in 15 minute increments and itemize charges for expenses get a case of the a** when another professional treats them the same way
First, I've never billed in 15 minute increments, and I don't know any major firm that does. Everywhere I've ever worked bills in tenths of an hour, i.e. 6-minute increments. Moreover, I would never charge for a quick phone call, to look at and respond to a quick email, etc.

With respect to expenses, as I explained above, when I book a deposition it is with a national court-reporting service. The national service has relationships with local services throughout the country (and, for that matter, the world). If I'm not taking a court reporter and/or videographer with me, I don't expect local service providers to charge travel expenses (though it would be different if, for some reason, the deposition was way out in the boondocks somewhere). When I hire a videographer, I am buying, primarily, a product -- the finished video. I expect any expenses incurred to be included and, in fact, they are; I pay more for a videographer to tape a full-day deposition than a half-day deposition. I don't pay per videotape used, though I do pay per copy of the final video, i.e. the videographer usually keeps the master, I pay extra for a copy and, if opposing counsel wants a copy, she has to pay for hers. It is the same with court reporters. I pay for each copy of the transcript, as does opposing counsel. I don't pay extra to those reporters who make their own audio tape copy, nor do I pay per roll of paper tape used. I do pay more for a full-day depo than a half-day depo.

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? After 25 years in the business rule #1 is never work for lawyers. Do it once and you'll never do it again.
After 17 years in the business, it is my rule never to work with videographers with attitudes. If your rule works for you, fine. My rule works for me and I have, in the past, fired videographers (well, one, anyway) for giving me a hard time.

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BTW it's industry standard practice in the freelance world to charge for expenses.
First of all, I'm not the one hiring a free-lancer -- the court reporting service is. I work with a single court reporting service, I have a contractual obligation to pay them, and not either the court reporter or the videographer; it is the court reporting firm that bills me, the court reporting firm that is responsible if a court reporter or videographer doesn't show up, and the court reporting firm from whom I order and pay for transcript or video copies. If a deposition videographer feels that he should be paid his expenses, he should take it up with the entity that hires him, i.e. the court reporting firm. I didn't hire you and neither did my firm.

Quote:
Perhaps deposition videographers should do the same?
That's up to deposition videographers. As I said, take it up with the court reporting firms that hire you. As I said, however, I will not use a court reporting firm that passes on to my client things like mileage, the cost of blank tape, etc.

Quote:
My clients at Discovery, Nat Geo, Office Depot, etc. are never put off by legitimate expenses - tapes, mileage, food, hotel, parking and other expendables.
Do wedding videographers charge for tapes, mileage, parking and other expendables? I was under the impression they do not. Nonetheless, when I book deposition videographers, I am not producing a film -- I am buying a visual transcript.
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