From time to time we get asked the question, “How much does it cost to hire a court reporter for a legal deposition?” Often this question comes from a new attorney, a legal assistant, or a plaintiff or defendant not familiar with litigation practices. To answer the question, let’s first define “legal deposition.”
A deposition is testimony given by a plaintiff, a defendant or witness in a lawsuit before the case actually goes to trial. The person giving the statement is called the deponent. At the beginning of the deposition, the deponent is asked to swear or affirm that the statement will be truthful. The deposition is taken by a lawyer asking questions of the deponent. Usually, the lawyer for the plaintiff will take the deposition of the defendant, and the lawyer for the defendant will take the deposition of the plaintiff. However, other people with knowledge in a lawsuit may also be deposed. Either lawyer may take the deposition of these other people who have knowledge important to the case.
The deposition is taken down stenographically and transcribed by a court reporter. The court reporter’s fees will often include an hourly appearance fee, a fee for each page of the transcript produced after the deposition, as well as other costs such as fees for copying and attaching exhibits that were marked during the deposition.
The appearance fee is typically an hourly fee charged for the time the court reporter actually spends at the deposition. If neither party requests that the transcript be prepared after the deposition, then the fee to the noticing party will usually include a non-write hourly appearance to cover the court reporter’s time during the deposition.
The larger cost of hiring a court reporter is often the cost of the transcript. When one party orders the transcript, the court reporter will prepare a written record of the testimony, as well as charge a fee per page of transcription.
The attorney who orders the transcript will be charged a higher fee for the “original” transcript. Other parties may order copies of the transcript for a lesser page rate after the “original” has been ordered by a party.
Page rates for depositions in the North Central region, specifically Michigan, generally range between $3.25 to $3.75 a page for an original transcript. Page rates for copies can range from $2.15 to $2.50. There is normally a higher page rate for hearings and arbitrations and sometimes a higher rate for technical/medical testimony.
In Michigan, there is also what we refer to as a two/thirds rule, i.e., in the Revised Judicature Act of 1961 (excerpt), Act 236 of 1961, 600.1491, Section 1491 (2) states: “A court reporter, court recorder, stenomask reporter, or owner of a court reporting firm shall not do any of the following: (b) Charge more than 2/3 of the price of an original transcript for a copy of that transcript.” This is something to keep in mind when you are the “copy” attorney ordering a transcript.
Let’s say an attorney orders the original transcript, which will be 100 pages when finished. That means the attorney will be charged $325 to $375 for the transcript pages. A copy would cost $215 to $275.
If a transcript is ordered on an expedited or rush basis, the per-page rate can increase by 40% to 100% per page depending on the time of the requested delivery. It will be more expensive to order daily delivery of a transcript versus two- or three-day delivery. If you do need a transcript in a hurry, be sure to inform your court reporting agency as soon as possible so they can make the necessary arrangements. They will be able to tell you what the expedited page rate will be.
Most court reporters will provide a transcript prepared according to industry standards. On average, a standard deposition page is 25 lines per page, and 50 to 65 characters per line, although each State may have their own format rules the court reporters must follow.
In the State of Michigan, court reporters are provided with the standard format to follow that is outlined in the Michigan Manual for Court Reporters and Recorders which they must adhere to. There is not a specific character per line stated in the Manual, but from our calculations when using the instructions provided from the State of Michigan, we believe the characters in the longest line on the transcript falls in the 65 characters per line range. This can be a very important distinction when calculating how much your transcript will really cost. For more information on this particular topic, you might also be interested in reading “How Much Does Your Legal Deposition Really Cost?”.
There are additional charges which may be incurred during a deposition. Most court reporters will retain any exhibits marked during the deposition and make copies to attach to all transcripts and usually will attach the original exhibits to the original transcript. Copy charges can range from 20 to 40 cents a page for black and white copies to a dollar per page or more for color copies or oversized copies. These rates are set by each court reporting agency and may vary.
Shipping and handling charges may also be included in the price of transcript. These fees can vary from agency to agency as well.
Some court reporting agencies also charge fees for condensed transcripts, ascii versions of the digital transcript, or keyword indexes. At O’Brien and Bails Court Reporting, we do not charge extra for these items.
When calling your court reporting agency to schedule a deposition, it is a good idea to ask about these charges as they do vary from agency to agency, and it is important to be aware of the format the agency is using in order to accurately compare the page rates.
To learn more about court reporting pricing and costs, download our guide, “How Much Should I Expect to Pay for Court Reporting Services.”