By Kathy DiLorenzo
In February of 2016, in conjunction with NCRA’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week, Planet Depos announced the launch of Planet Institute, a program developed to bridge the gap between student and career.
Some of our “senior” generation of reporters may remember the training they received in court reporting school, but no doubt each of us can remember well the single person who trained and mentored us, who influenced us to be the reporter we are today. In most cases, it was a firm owner who took us under their wing, allowed us to shadow, read through every transcript we produced for upwards of a year’s time, and who instilled in us a commitment to excellence in our profession. What encompassed that “commitment to excellence”?
- Continuous speed development
- Insatiable passion for learning
- Thorough research
- Proper formatting, punctuation, and legal procedures
- Can-do attitude
- Continuing Education
- Adherence to our Code of Ethics
- Giving back
Just after the launch of Planet Institute, I was interviewed by Ari Kaplan on his program called “Reinventing Professional Services.” About Planet Institute, he asked, “Why?”
There are three particular movements that we have witnessed over the years that have dramatically changed the way students are educated and enter the workforce.
- The vast majority of students are learning court reporting online.
- Court reporters who would have served as mentors in the past are now working from their home office and, as such, opportunities for mentoring, coaching and professional guidance are often nonexistent.
- Unlike years gone by, new graduates are not working for a single local firm which impacts the agency’s desire to commit to onboarding fledgling reporters.
With these three factors in play, who is it then who takes on the nurturing and leadership role in laying a solid foundation to a successful career in court reporting? While there are individual court reporters and firm owners who understand the value of paying it forward and mentoring new reporters, there are simply not enough options for the next generation to be intensely and appropriately trained and mentored. Planet Institute is Planet Depos’ contribution to this effort.
As an international court reporting firm, Planet Depos is uniquely positioned to assess the broad spectrum of talent that exists within our profession, particularly within the profession’s newest entrants, as well as the general weaknesses related to writing skills, general knowledge, ethical considerations and overall professionalism. To that end, we created the position of Professional Development Specialist – a full-time employee dedicated to providing one-on-one professional development for new reporters.
Although there is no cost to enroll in Planet Institute, we realized at the outset that there needed to be minimum requirements to enter the program. Anything less would render the program meaningless and provide little incentive for students to “make it” into the program. In order to apply, the student must:
- Be in final speeds or have graduated within the past six months
- Complete an online application
- Provide a letter of reference from an instructor or working reporter
- Be proficient with CAT system
- Pass a 30-minute writing evaluation*
- Pass entrance exams (spelling, vocabulary, error-spotting)
- Undergo a personal interview
* Candidate is given five hours to write and produce a transcript of a 30-minute videotaped deposition, with full use of audio/video.
Once a student is accepted into the program, they are assigned shadowing opportunities with seasoned reporters in their area. Each of these reporters has an established professional relationship with Planet Depos and can be relied upon to provide guidance in all aspects of reporting. In working with several experienced reporters, the student is exposed to the various styles of interacting with clients, how the everyday is handled in terms of readback, exhibit handling, interruptions, as well as a peek at what their future might hold if they embrace realtime technology and enhanced skill development.
For each shadowing assignment, the student prepares no fewer than 50 pages for in-depth review, a verbatim evaluation comparing the transcript against the audio. This review will reveal weaknesses, if any, in the following areas:
- Word knowledge
- Research skills
- Transcript formatting
The ultimate goal with each student is to get them to “fly solo.” Do they understand the importance of their role? Do they understand their ethical obligations? Do they understand that if something doesn’t sound right, it probably isn’t right? Do they question words, phrases, terminology that they aren’t absolutely certain they know the meaning of? Are they their toughest critic? Do they ask questions? Do they improve with each transcript?
If we can answer “yes” to each of these questions, the student has then completed the program. At this point we provide advice on how and where to market their services. Several of the Planet Institute graduates are now working as independent contractors for various firms. Some have since passed their CSR, while others are still working toward that goal. Two of the Planet Institute graduates waiting to pass the CSR chose to relocate to begin their career until they were successful in passing the exam. It’s all about students taking advantage of the opportunities whenever and wherever they are.
Planet Depos is proud to announce at the end of one year that all students who were accepted into the program have either completed and are working court reporters or are still enrolled in the program awaiting state certification. Upon successful completion of the program, the student is awarded their first year of professional dues to NCRA, compliments of Planet Depos. Meet three successful graduates of Planet Institute.
Planet Depos acknowledges that we could not offer this program without the support of dedicated court reporters who have so willingly agreed to allow these students to sit in, observe and learn from their years of experience. We extend our sincere appreciation to the following mentors:
Maria Beesley, CSR
Judy Bellinger, CSR, RPR, CRR
Kathy Ferguson, CSR
Carrie Hewerdine, CSR, RDR
Cynthia Jyu, CSR
Michelle Knowles, CSR, RPR, CRR
Alda Mandell, RPR, CRR
Katherine Stride, CSR, RPR
Ashley Soevyn, CSR
Anne Torreano, CSR, RPR
Ashala Tylor, CSR, RPR, CRR
Kim Whitmire, CSR