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June 21, 2010 at 12:22 AM #43243AnonymousInactive
I read with great interest, an article in the June issue, regarding Legal videography by Dr. Gayle Marquette, founder of the American Guild of Videographers, one of the certifying agencies.
Sounded like a great idea. Awesome hourly pay, no real editing involved, minimal equipment, – nice gig. The article also mentions about recouping your ‘investment’ with your first ‘contract’. Sounds relatively easy right? I was rarin to get certified by AGCV & go purchase the required equipment after reading the article.
It really sounded very enticing until Iresearched further. In truth, it’s far harder to get started in the legal deposition business than the article makes it sound. As a beginner, the likelyhood of getting a ‘first contract’ to cover your ‘investment’ is slim and none unless you’ve only invested a few hundred dollars in equipment. The cost to get AGCV certified is almost $900 if you take the home study course. Not only would you have the expense of equipment and certification but a substantial expense in marketing since this is primarilary a marketing intensive business. At best,legal videography is more likely to be a supplemental source of income only. Few are actually making a full time living by exclusively doing legal video.
Again, this is all based on what I have found while researching this topic on line. My excitement was very short lived once I began to research this specialty. I am not a pro videographer YET, but after reading the article, I thought this would be a greatspecialty to start with.
Most major metropolitian areas thatrequest video depositionhave it done by court reporting agencies. The agencies use their own in house people toshoot the videos. On a ‘rare’ occaisions, they may sub out the work to an outside videographer, if they are very busy.
I felt the articlecandy coated what it takes to get established in the video deposition business. It appears in reality, it takes a few years before you recoup your investment based on what I’ve read online by those who have ventured into that line of work. One seasoned videographer said he does about 200 depo’s a year and has been in the business for 8 years. Others new to it say they do about 2 – 5 depos a month, with 2 seeming to be an average amount, for a few hundred dollars per month, which you’d have to spend on marketing anyway. I feel that the statement ‘ The small amount of money that is required will be back in the pocket of the videographer with the very first contract’was extremely misleading.
For someone who is already established, I’m sure this would be a great add on. For people like myself, it would seem a lot of money is required for marketing in a highly competive & political specialty for relatively little work, atleast in my state (NY) and not such a good idea to start out in a specialty such as this. You’d really need to have some very good contacts or connections to make this a worthwhile venture, in my opinion. I am just expressing how I interpreted the article vs how it works in my neighborhood.
Larger, established firms use court reporting agencies. Smaller attorney’s might be more likely a business resource for an independant, then getting paidtends to become an issue with the smaller firms and subbing for a court reporting agency could make you ask yourself why you even bothered wasting your time getting involved, after they beat you up on price.
My point : to others who read the article and like myself got their hopes up, in reality, it ‘aint’ as easy as it sounds. I’d still like to persue this specialty and I’d love to hear back from anyone who is doing legal videography, perhaps you could inspire me, optimistically.
Thanks for your ear,
June 21, 2010 at 2:55 AM #181236EarlCMember
While things certainly can be as easy, or hard, as we make them for ourselves, it’s a given that there’s no free ride. The saying that it takes money to make money is a truth, and I can see where a reader might be frustrated that something was written in a way that seems overly optimistic or perhaps a bit simplistic, only to discover that it takes a bit more in the real world to make it all happen.
That is a simple truth in life, though. I spell out a dozen or more ways to market and make money doing video on my blog and while I have a few people following me, and others who have had kind comments to share regarding its content, I hear from many others who blast me because the things I write about and marketing strategies I share “aren’t effective for me” they say – using the kinder, gentler negative remarks.
Nothing that generates money is necessarily easy. I kept one page of a desktop calendar my late Mom gave me years ago because that day’s quote is: “Great ideas won’t work unless you do.” How true.
Nothing comes free, my friend, especially in the lives of independent professional video services providers. It takes an investment of time to learn, to develop skills, to market, to identify resources, to make money to pay for equipment, and the list goes on, and on, and on…
One way or another there is an investment necessary to make something work, or work out. Such is the case with ANY method for pursuing the video business. Such are the realities.
So, while I hear and understand your personal frustration, being a writer on a number of levels – blog, letters, e-mails, career journalist and video magazine articles – I also can appreciate that if the purpose of an article or publication is to “encourage” people to consider a certain career path or video production idea/concept, then writing it as a highly technical piece or a doomsday advice column isn’t the way to strike a positive note with people.
There are FACTS available, as you’ve learned by doing your own further investigation, but that doesn’t mitigate the reality of the potential behind legal videography or any of the other of hundreds of ideas shared by people in the business, video magazines, bloggers and others who have walked the walk.
There is certainly more to making it in ANY profession than simply picking up a tool and putting something together. It often takes time, determination, commitment, experience, money and more money to make things come together. There ARE no exceptions.
Even lottery winners have to play, and keep playing, often for a long, long time, in order to win. While that might be a poor analogy it’s still closer to the realities than many of us want to be.
If, however, you have a STRONG desire to make it in the video production business, the opportunities are virtually unlimited provided you are willing to spend some money, invest some time, develop some skills and market your business, services or products.
Don’t let your disappointment in THIS particular video possibility discourage you from trying until you find what works for you – though it will still likely require some patience and investment of time and money, and energy.
June 21, 2010 at 2:57 AM #181237SteveMannParticipant
It’s a GREAT opportunity for AGVC. What they and others like them peddle may have been valid ten or fifteen years ago when court reporters still used stenographs, but more recently, and IN GENERAL, the court reporters discovered that they could point and shoot a camera to record their own videos for court just as well as any “professional”.
I say IN GENERAL because surely as I write this, someone will saythat I am full of cw chips because they paid for AGVC certification years ago and still make an income from court recording. But they will be the exception by a very wide margin.
June 21, 2010 at 6:11 PM #181238AnonymousInactive
Thank you for your input. I have read many of your posts and i have repect for anyone who has made a living in?a career that I have much to still learn. That being said, I have been self employed over 27 years in the service industry, in an industry that has amongst the higest attrition rate in the country, according to dun & bradstreet, 90% failure rate within 10 years. I need to make a career change and video is what I want to do having done it & photogrphy as a hobby for 30 plus years. Am I hungry? You bet! But I don’t have time to waste non productively.
As you say – it takes commitment, dedication & marketing to make it work. I fully understand business mechanics. I also know the value of good equipment vs. going cheap. I’m not a fan of having to buy? equipment twice. I know the value of good research as in ‘looking before you leap’. Misinformation or misleading information cost people money, some most of what they have. I’m a big fan of the truth and being honest. Never had a complaint in 27 years on what I delivered, which is almost unheard of in my business. I would rather lose a sale to honesty than spin the truth to get the business, it’s just how I operate.
My only complaint about the article I mentioned in my first post was the line I mentioned which I felt was misleading & stretching the truth. I have?recently invested in a course on legal video sold elswhere online, by an experienced pro. I am in the process of reading it. Unfortunately the video that was included was a bit dated, something I would not expect from someone in the video business, but that’s me.
I am now researching into video transfer & duplication service as a place to get started. The technology has greatly improved especially for converting old 8mm & super8 to HD DVD. I know a bunch of us hovering the half century mark and above have a bunch of thses old tapes in a box on a shelf somewhere.
Anyone willing to offer up what they’ve learned in this business as a result of experience I will graciously and appreciatively listen with both ears.
June 21, 2010 at 6:22 PM #181239
I read about legal video some time back on the Video University websiteand also thought it would be a good career option so I bought their how to course. Then I started marketing my services for many months and did not get any takers. Hmmm…
June 21, 2010 at 6:48 PM #181240AnonymousInactive
Thanks. I’m curious – who & how did you market? From what I’ve learned so far, who you market to is what makes the difference.
It appears that initial marketing cost for this type of service would be equal to the value of the required equipment, if not more, even if you market ‘creatively’. Again, based on research that I have done. It is alleged that having some sort of certification helps, yet the course I have states it’s not true. More research required … before I venture in.
June 21, 2010 at 9:55 PM #181241
I created a postcard direct mail to a mailing list for my region. I also dropped off flyers in person at lawyers offices. I wrote to their professional society to ask how I could make my services known and did not even get a reply. About then I gave up.
June 22, 2010 at 5:47 PM #181242AnonymousInactive
The course offered by Video University is the one I got, seems it’s almost 10 years old. I wasn’t happy with it, it’s going back. Much of the info is outdated, some still works in todays environment. Guess they had a bunch of them made up a while ago, have many left over& are trying to unload them.
As Earl mentioned, any venture requires an investment. Any business start up requires heavy marketing for atleat 16 months just to get the ball rolling. That does get expensive but it’s pretty much a requirement for a competive specialty like this. And unfortunately, even though it’snot a requirement(yet), getting some type of certification is pretty much necessary especially if your work is coming from or related to court reporting. The agencies have a monopoly on the market, more or less.
Direct mail requires regular send outs usually 1 a month in the beginning. It may take 6 or 8 mailings before you even get a nibble. Frustrating? You bet. Especially if you are like me and want some action relatively soon after starting up. With all that money going out, it’s nice to see it start coming back. Getting in front of people face to face, might annoy them but it shows how dedicated & commited your are. Going to BNI meetings might also help. Usually you can’t count on just one or two types of marketing to do the job. It takes a variety to make it happen. The more visable you become, the more likely the phone will start to ring. I have found that flyers don’t work, that’s old school theses days. Postcards seem to get a better response, if done creatively. Also timing the mailing is critical so your’s doesn’t end up being recieved on the same day all the junk mail goes out.
Having a connection or some quality contacts makes all the difference. My online research has brought me back to reality about legal video, the excitement pretty much gone. Not only is it not get rich quick (not into that stuff anyway) but it is a long slow uphill battle to get it running. An established company would have an easier time getting started due to the fact they are already established and in good standing (presumably), in my opinion.
I’m now leaning in the direction of doing something else related to video to get a name established, generate a cash flow in short order, and then maybe work legal into it. Either way, from past business experience, I know marketing will bigmy biggest inital expense (investment). Throw in perseverance, commitment and a little patience and we have a plan.
I don’t want to reinvent the wheel, just follow succesful examples of those who have made it work for them and give it my personal touch. The internet is a great thing !
June 22, 2010 at 9:53 PM #181243
I agree with your comments. As Earl knows, I am a firm believer in his direct mail approach. I have been doing it consistently and it has worked for me, except in the case of legal video. I still send out legal postcards because one never knows, but not as often as for the other video services.
Word-of-mouth is really important. If you do your job professionally you will get referrals.
July 3, 2010 at 4:08 PM #181244AnonymousInactive
This topic caught my eye because it is how I make my living and have for quite a while. First, a thumbnail about my background. Retired from broadcast television after 20+ years. A couple of years as a marketing consultant. Then a jump to private investigating, and yes, I know that sounds like a strange jump. From there into legal video and film in the late 80’s.
ADDRESSING VARIOUS POINTS THAT HAVE BEEN MENTIONED
Certification — Although most of my work is done in Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee I have worked for law firms repersenting clients on an international basis. I have NEVER been asked whether I am certified (which I am not). More about certification later under Experience.
Equipment — Obviously a rock solid, dependable camera. I happen to use a Sony miniDV and have three cameras as backups. I also have a DVD burner which records depositions simultaneously. The DVD is both a backup and a fast means of providing copies compared to real-time capture of tapes. Two Windows 7 beefed up computers. A host of software for everything from video and/or audio editing to format conversions.
Experience — Let’s go back to certification for a second here. I’m neutral on whether it is necessary or not. The one thing it can do is provide insight into how the legal system works and the requirements associated with legal video. If a course is mostly about video and doesn’t address federal and state Rules of Civil Procedure you are not getting all you need to enter the field.
Marketing/Competition — While some work can come from “advertising” in my experience legal video work is all about who you know and your reputation. Law firms doing work in unknown areas will often call local attorneys for recommendations as to whom to use. Their other choice is to depend on a court reporting service to provide video services. As to competition, for the most part, once a law firm begins using a videographer and finds that person able, reliable and knowledgeable they are going to add that phone number to their speed dial.
Summary I find it a great field to be in but I dont recommend it to novices as a career path because the likelihood of quick success is minimal. For more information about the field I suggest Yahoos Legal Video Forum (<span style=”text-decoration: underline;”><span style=”color: #0000ff;”>LegalVideoForum@yahoogroups.com</span></span>). It is a group of legal videographers that includes everyone from the Best to the Newest.
January 23, 2014 at 11:28 AM #209638AnonymousInactive
A lot of good information here for such an old thread. Mind if I add my perspective?
I consider myself "seasoned", having been in the video creation business for over 30 years. I backed into doing video depositions about 20 years ago by an attorney who sought me out, having been burned by a bad experience. My bread and butter at the time was shooting and editing corporate video, and before that, commercial television.
Over the years, I developed great relationships with just a handful of attorneys (all referred by the first). It was a very slow process and I could not have survived if it had been my only source of income. I continued to develop their deposition business, eventually fostering enough trust to begin creating settlement, mediation, and day-in-the-life videos for their big cases. All the while, I do other creative, non-legal related work that comes my way, some of which is attorney referral (see a pattern here?).
My quick list?
Audio is the most important part of any video.
You must get the deposition recording right. Every. TIme. No excuse is ever good enough.
If you are just starting out, offer to video a depo for free, perhaps one that the attorney may not have otherwise wanted videotaped. Show them you can do the work. Maybe they would let you watch one of their videos that they consider to be top notch work. It's all about relationships and trust (and referrals!).
Offer to help a seasoned pro (legal work or not) for free. Much better than spending money on "how-to" videos and such. Time well spent, but never bite the hand that feeds you.
Be extra nice to court reporters, legal assistants, secretaries, etc. They will steer work your way. Buy them lunch and a Christmas gift. Better money spent than on traditional marketing, IMHO.
The rules matter, but don't assume they all apply to you. I have no certification, nor do I shoot date/time stamp. I don't wear a coat and tie and rarely use a backdrop. Never a problem or even a question about any of this (caution: this may not be your reality. I work in a medium sized market).
Shoot HD. If you wind up doing a settlement video for the case, it sure looks better than SD. HD deposition playback in the courtroom is becoming a reality (great for compex medical exhibits). Although most of my clients are not troubled by such details, they count on me to lead the way and educate them on technology.
Try to develop the day-in-the-life, mediation and settlement end of the business. This is where the real money is to be made IF you have the chops and the patience So much of what I've seen is average or worse, following a tired formula dipped in cheesy music. This is where having worked on a wide variety of projects comes into play. If you can tell a compelling story via video, you can be successful in any arena (although this niche seems to be particularly ripe). Bringing me to my last point.
If all I did at my job all day was legal work I'd go crazy. A lot of businesses/non-profits need web, tradeshow, marketing videos and the list goes on. Why limit yourself? Story telling is what I do and variety is the spice of life.
Hopefully, I've not ruffled too many feathers with my post. Just the world as I see it.
September 24, 2016 at 9:26 AM #214581scottsimmsMember
I’ve been researching how to do legal videowork. i found this website that I thought was helpful: http://www.guidetolegalvideo.com
It was free and informative. After watching though, I’m debating on whether or not this is a career path I want to pursue. Seems like I’d have to buy mostly all new gear for this job. I don’t think my DSLR would be well suited for this work. Haha
Any updates from people who took the plunge and entered this field would be greatly appreciated. Even though it looks like you don’t need to buy the best equipment, I’d be curious to know if you got enough work to make it worthwhile?
September 27, 2016 at 5:13 AM #214586EddieValiantParticipant
For those of you that make an income from legal depos, God bless you! I spent one day with a depo guy and by the end of the day, I was ready to jump off a tall building. Talk about boring!
I admit, I’m more of a “type A” personality, preferring action to sitting still. I realized that at the end of that day, sitting through a deposition with two attorneys droning on, and a person who did not want to be deposed, was just not for me.
If you decide to pursue legal work, don’t waste your money on “certification” courses. I learned everything I would have needed to know after one day with someone who does this. I didn’t get paid for the day, although he bought me lunch! Z
I’m sure there are depos that are interesting, but you need to be prepared to blunt your mind and just get through the day. The deposition scenes in the movie “The Social Network” may make depos look interesting, but I suspect my experience is more typical of the average deposition.
August 21, 2017 at 7:24 PM #216032CARAMember
Why would anyone want to be a legal videographer?
I have recorded over three thousand depositions since 2000. One of the reasons I am fortunate to have been busy is because of the people represented by several of the writers on this forum. One writer stated you don’t need equipment that is anything special. Another said no one is going to hire you or give you contract because the jobs are all taken by agencies. Someone whined that it would take a lot of time and energy and MONEY to get into the business. Another said it was boring and you need to blunt your mind to get through the day. He also learned all there was to know at the end of his first day.
You all keep the same attitudes and non-enthusiasm and I and my successful, fellow legal video producers are assured of more work than we can handle.
August 22, 2017 at 9:49 AM #216036EddieValiantParticipant
Cara, if you have been successful at recording depositions, that’s great. The comments by me and others posted here represent our experiences with this type of work. Clearly, your success is due to your hard work but, as with any business, a little luck helps out too.
Are you near a major urban area? Some folks are lucky enough to be located near a big city where there will be hundreds if not thousands of attorneys. In a more suburban or rural area, whatever work there is may be taken by relatively few videographers. Acquiring an ongoing relationship with a law firm with several attorneys probably assures a videographer of success.
Many videographers, such as myself, have other clients that keep them busy in different businesses. I found depositions to be boring, but others may not. If you’ve carved out this niche for yourself, great! The OP wanted feedback. EarlC’s response is spot on, and the others simply provide other points of view. Your snarkiness is not appreciated.
August 13, 2019 at 11:42 PM #72021957kelstertxParticipant
I can’t speak to rural areas, but in large urban areas like Houston, I don’t think it’s hard to get started.
I was an in-house legal videographer for a few years, and after a different career took me away from it for almost 4 years, I decided to get back into it as a contractor around 2009. Perhaps it was the fact that I had prior experience giving me “luck”, but all I did for marketing was call local court reporting firms I found in Google, ask for the scheduler, introduce myself, get their email address, and send them my info PDF sheet with rates, equipment, etc. That’s it! Several firms booked me on jobs on that first introductory phone call without even seeing my info yet! I expected it to take a couple of months for firms to get to know me and trust my work. I half expected I’d have to resort to first-job-free type incentives but I never needed anything like that. I was working 4 to 5 jobs a week within two weeks just from those initial phone calls.
The Legal Video industry is plagued by the “brother-in-law video” issue. That’s the belief that anyone can pick up a camera and go out and shoot depos and it will be good enough. As someone who has run a video department since 2012 and processes / distributes the work of other shooters, I can tell you that too many shooters don’t know how to use zebras and audio meters and can’t get basic exposure and volume right. And that’s just the AV side of things. Technique, procedure, and attention to detail are also huge areas of concern. (ie, preventing problems, catching and reacting to them in seconds rather than minutes or hours, knowing how to resolve technical issues that come up, dealing with clients in a way that they enjoy having you at the depo, filling out paperwork correctly, etc)
So my biggest piece of advice for potential newbies is to work with someone who is good at the job and get trained properly so you don’t cause disasters. One way to do it is strike a deal with a firm or individual shooter who might like having another dedicated shooter on his team. Having more shooters makes it easier to give out YES when clients call, and that floats you up in people’s lists. You should be able to find someone willing to train you in exchange for being a dedicated member on his team, and then he’ll book your jobs for you and you won’t even have to do any marketing yourself!
October 18, 2019 at 8:13 AM #72027411trecParticipant
Old Thread but a good one!
I was a photojournalist right out of college(2012). Then a short stint in event video(2016/17). Then one of my old high school friends contacted me in the Spring of 2018 saying the company she ECRs(Electronic Court Reporter) for is hiring an in-house Legal Videographer. I had no experience with Legal Videography, actually most of my experience was in pro photojournalism for a local newspaper. I shot some web videos for it but not much. I interviewed and got hired at the litigation support company(one of the nations’ biggest, they are buying everyone up actually!$) in August 2018 and have been working the South Florida area ever since. Yes, a metropolitan area with three big counties of humanity and lawsuits helps keep us busy down here.
kelstertx; I am very interested in how you transitioned to Freelance/affiliate after being in-house. It is something I might want to do after being in-house for a few years. If one could get 2-5 videos a week(depending on your spending/lifestyle) it could be a great income and you dont have to spend all your time in the office– big perk for me!(not there yet tho)In-house has its perks too however.
It can be boring at times,yes, especially ‘in-house’ where you are riding a desk doing production on-top of covering depos in the office and out at law firms in the field. But if you are freelancer.. sitting in a 2 hour depo you still get plenty of your day if you are not expected at a desk anywhere after or before to do the production. The freelancers that come in here and drop off their videos with me always are doing cool stuff with their day on top of getting work. Their invoices arent to $habby either…
I have a degree in Multi-Media Journalism. But TBH I learned most of the skills unique to legal video while I shadowed a fellow experienced in-house videographer for 2 weeks. I feel very thankful to have walked into this industry with ease(i thank my friend all the time!)
It will just grow from here IMO. The schedulers in my office say video is requested more and more. Oyea, I’ve gotten to know the schedulers really well, so as to when it comes time for me to go spread my wings and go freelance/affiliate I can be on their list!Being a nice person to everyone before pressing record is a major part of it!
My advice: get hired as an in-house videographer(some luck/who you know required) then gain experience and contacts doing that. You dont only have to market yourself to the law firms themselves. More and more Litigation Support Firms hire freelance videographers all the time while still using in-house employees(its kind of overflow but we use them all the time). My office schedules them multiple times a week.
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