Is "Legal" Video (Depositions) profitable? at
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Old March 30th, 2006, 09:39 AM   #1
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Is "Legal" Video (Depositions) profitable?

Anyone currently doing legal video ... depositions and the like?

What are some of the pluses and minuses someone considering pursuing this should be aware of? Can you make any money, generally what are the hours, prerequisites, qualifications, equipment needed, etc.?


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Old March 30th, 2006, 10:35 AM   #2
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I used to do some (not a lot but some). In no particular order-CAN IT BE PROFITABLE-yes it can after a while and you've established your reputation and have been able to garner a few clients.
HOURS-vary greatly. I've done some that were a couple of hours and others that ran days-very long hours in a day-10-12-14 sometimes. Depends on the case and mostly the lawyers.
EQUIPMENT-I originally used a JVCX2B and changed tapes when needed but when I made the switch to miniDV 1 hour tapes didn't cut it PLUS they wanted VHS UNTOUCHED so I set up a little recording station -I had 3 VCRs-a monitor for me-a little DA and a small Radio Shack mixer that I ran the wired lav mics into then into the DA then the DA to the VCRs-I also set up a dual cassette deck to record the audio for the court reporter (they loved that). I had a wheeled case that held everything on shelves-opened the top and front of the case wired up the electrrical, set up the mics and off I went.
QUALIFICATIONS -well Depos ain't Hollywood-the camera was set up on the witness on a medium shot and pretty much stayed there unless I was told to capture a graph or chart or whatever. I never took a class or got a certification for it but the lawyer that first hired me to do it had the opening and closing statement for me to use. There are a couple of organizations out the to get certified to do DEPOS-but I only personally know 1 guy that did that-the rest learned as they went. I think its called the CVPA but I'm not 100% sure.
The worst part for me was the last minute call for work and worse the last minute cancellation. Depo set for 10AM get ready to leave the house at 8:30 and at 9 while I'm on the road I get a call they cancelled OR even worse get to the office, haul my gear in and find out they cancelled....Oooops, sorry, we forgot to call you! Yeah no kidding. Of course I had a minimum that they paid regardless but it was a PITA. I did them for about 3 years and got out.
Anyway that's my story and I'm stickin' to it ;-o

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Old March 30th, 2006, 10:57 AM   #3
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Just curious, Don. Did you also have to appear in court to attest to the chain of custody, method of recording, authenticity or the recording, tape stops and starts, etc, of the video? If so, were the court appearances billable time? And was a time-of-day burn-in necessary on the final tape?
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Old March 30th, 2006, 11:08 AM   #4
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I actually never had to appear, although it came close a couple of times, because the cases were always settled out of court-they were mostly personal injury but there were a couple of malpractices cases. As for court time being billable I had it set up for that as the time in court would have been time I couldn't work so I had it on my rate card as billable time.
Time and date burn in are/were 100% necessary. Without that I don't believe the court will accept the tape. They also will not accept an edited tape UNLESS the court (judge) tells you to edit certain portions. IE, if you let the camera run while the lawyers are conferencing but generally they (the lawyers will state on tape to shut the video while they conference and then when you start up again you have to make a statement that you are starting again or something along those lines.

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Old March 30th, 2006, 03:32 PM   #5
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I never did it, but almost. I was working in radio at the time, covering the courthouse as a beat, and had a lawyer approach me. His whole thing was to use the dep as a settlement tool. He said it was near impossible to get a doctor to testify in court. so once he had them on tape, with the information he needed, the cases usually settled.

I never did it, because shortly after that I began working for the state judiciary, and it would have been a conflict.

Around here, many of the court reporting agencies do it themselves as an add on, since they need a court reporter there anyway, so if you are looking to get into it, network with the court reporting agencies.

As for certification might be a nice PR/Marketing tool, but afaik not legally necessary.

I was actually intrigued with one prospective job at that time, doing a day in the life video for a burn victim, a very young child who was very badly scalded when the plumber allegedly set the water heater too high. but as I said it never happened for me, and I don't think it did anyway.

*disclaimer-opinions expressed here are my personal opinion and do not reflect in any way, shape or form those of my employer.
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Old March 30th, 2006, 08:58 PM   #6
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Paul Tauger gave an awesome overview in this thread:
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Old May 2nd, 2006, 06:36 PM   #7
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I do legal video in the SF Bay Area for steady income to feed my family and me while waiting on more fun creative stuff.

Upside = people are always suing each other so I always get called to work, the per hour rate is not bad, I get a check every week, I can accept or decline work as my schedule permits, I work for someone elses company so I don't have to worry about booking my own work or any overhead.

Downside = I had to buy some equipment to get started, so depending on how much you already have have, you may have to make an investment. My gear is as follows:
-Canon XL-2
-5 Audio Technica lav mics
-1 dynamic mic (for me to do the read on)
-a mixer (I have a yamaha that has 8 channels of phanton power, you'll probably need at least 6 channels of phantom power)
-a dvdr/vhs combo (the place I work requires you film directly to two sources. To cut down on wear on my head, I record to dvd and vhs) JVC makes a nice combo deck. I can get you the product # if you like.
-You need a decent tape player (yes I said tape) for audio capture. The guy who I work for gives the dourt reporter an audio cassette of the preceedings so they can prrof to the tape. I have a denon that's good, but heavy.
- A monitor
- I have my mixer, dvdr/vhs, and tape player in a Gator Box. And I have a cart that I put everything on so I can get into and out of a job in one trip each way. I look like a gypsy but I don't have to make two trips.

Other downsides = although some of the cases are interesting you can't really talk about them outside the job (you'll most likely have to sign a confidentiality agreement), a lot of them are boring. I live in the Bay Area which seems to be high in IP infringement and high tech stuff which gets old after 10 hours. Sometimes you'll need the money from a long job but the long job turns into a short job. It's pretty unpredictable. You hear some crazy (read: people at their worst) stuff so it can get depressing.

Overall, it's a great way to make some cash in between other gigs or to fill in some space, but I would not want to build my own legal biz. I'd suggest hooking on with someone who's established and see what you think.

Feel free to ask any more questions.
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