This is very important, because the attorney trying a case never knows just how far up the judicial ladder the case will be appealed before it comes to a final resolution, and what works effectively in a local municipal court may be thrown out as inadmissible in a higher court. Certified Court Videographers are usually the highest-paid video producers in the legal video profession, and they are worth every penny they receive.
When the legal videographer is called on to video-record a deposition (testimony under oath), this simply opens the door for the fully trained and certified legal videographer to assist the attorney from “conception to completion” of any lawsuit in which they may be involved.
Legal videographers will see a case differently from the attorney, having been taught that they are “the eyes and ears of the jury.” When producing the video, if the videographer does not see it or hear it, and he is not convinced by the evidence the video is meant to present, neither will the triers of fact.
The trained legal videographer has become a storyteller who uses video as a method of conveying facts to those who must make the decision regarding a case. If they use the old system of “tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you have told them,” the jurors will have instilled in their minds facts that will be retained when they are asked to render their verdict.
There is so much opportunity in the field of legal videography that any one videographer cannot begin to cover all the possibilities that this exciting profession affords. In almost every case, videographers will migrate to the areas that interest them the most and will end up specializing in that portion of the legal video field.
Best of all, they’ll find repeat business there; once a videographer establishes a relationship with a law firm, the business just keeps coming day after day, week after week, and—hopefully—year after year.
The key to success in legal video is just marketing your services once you are certified. The vast number of videographers that I have met do not have the experience or the foreknowledge to be able to operate a successful legal video business (or, for that matter, any other type of video business) and do so profitably. This is probably the weakest area in our profession. The worst way to establish your video rates (in legal video or any other type of videography) is to check what your competitor is charging and then cut it by 5% or 10%. What you are actually telling the prospective client is that you are not “as good” as the guy down the street, therefore you cannot charge as much. I tell all of our members that they should be the most expensive videographer in their entire marketing area and, if not, shame on them!
Let’s talk about the right way to go about setting your rates for your services. You actually have two sources of income when you become a legal videographer. The first is what you charge for your time and expertise. This is based on several factors. One is your years of experience and your track record of successfully achieving the desired outcome in a case.
As you know, law firms have senior partners and they also have newly licensed attorneys that have just passed the bar exam. One can charge $750 per hour and the other $75 per hour. What’s the difference? Both lawyers received the same schooling, but the senior partner has gained significantly more knowledge as a result of many years of experience.
The other important factor is the equipment that you possess; it must become a “profit center” for you. If you have invested $10,000 in equipment, your hourly rate must return you a sum that’s commensurate with the investment you’ve made. That includes paying for the equipment, covering the overhead, and returning a profit on your investment.
When investing in equipment, you need to charge for the use of that equipment. What you are really doing on a job is renting your equipment to your client and then being paid to operate that equipment.
What you charge for your time and expertise is the difference between what you charge for your equipment rental and what your ultimate bill is. This simply means that you have two sources of income: your time and your equipment.
Your hourly rate should pay for your equipment in just one year. Remember, your equipment is going to be obsolete before you know it, so be sure to factor into your rates the cost of equipment upgrades and replacement so you can utilize state-of-the-art equipment and remain competitive within your market. A minimum fee for you and your equipment doing legal video should be $125 per hour—$50 for your equipment rental, and the remainder for your expertise.
Gayle Marquette, Ph.D., CSCV, CLVI, is founder/administrator of the American Guild of Court Videographers, LLC, based in Casper, Wyoming.