Oh, my, what a difference a year makes! With the global pandemic changing life as we know it, just think how much we’ve learned this past year. No one could have seen COVID coming, but once it hit, it was all hands on deck at Planet Depos to adapt and chart a course to a new way of doing business. The PD team stepped up quickly and launched hundreds of Zoom webinars to assist clients with the transition to remote proceedings. Anticipating the normal issues that come with videoconference depositions, though now the vast majority being done remotely, PD made the decision to hire and train a tech for every proceeding, allowing the court reporter to concentrate on what they do best – making the record. And within weeks, clients and court reporters were back in the saddle as this revolution in court reporting took hold.
But there was one group that found themselves stranded during the pandemic; literally, stuck with few, if any, options. This group was our nation’s court reporting students. While academics continued in a virtual setting, what was always taken for granted in the past now came with a whole host of issues: How and where would court reporting students fulfill their internship requirements? Few firms were holding in-person proceedings, so typical shadowing opportunities were few to non-existent. And those attorneys who had made the switch to remote proceedings were still adapting to Zoom and the attendant security issues, so requesting that a student sit in was out of the question.
So what were our students to do? Remembering myself what it was like to be at high speeds, fulfilling my own internship hours was so very exciting because it signified that I was close to seeing my career finally come to fruition. I was that much closer to being a court reporter. And with the shortage of reporters already, how could we stand by and watch these up-and-coming students fall through the cracks because of a pandemic?
Just like we pivoted quickly to bring remote depositions to our clients, we moved just as quickly to offer a remote solution to our schools’ instructors and students who were unable to find internship opportunities. And so we created a library of videotaped proceedings that would give students a realistic experience of shadowing a live proceeding. We worked to fill the library with hours of videotaped depositions and courtroom hearings and motions just as their internship curriculum dictates. The addition of the library made it possible for students to access real-world situations that otherwise would have been impossible.
Once students had exposure to our library, we took the extra step of inviting them to apply to Planet Institute for our one-on-one mentoring program. We quickly transitioned from simply offering a virtual library of content to students moving on to further mentoring and preparation for their careers in court reporting. Since the pandemic started, we have worked with 29 students, 23 of whom are currently enrolled at varying levels in Planet Institute, offering students the opportunity to prepare transcripts from the video library, and eventually live Zoom proceedings, for review and critique. As the students progress in the program, learning from the one-on-one mentoring, they ultimately reach graduation from Planet Institute and are ready to launch their careers.
As a follow-up to the program and to encourage other students to learn outside the classroom, we created The Modern Court Reporter, a podcast series for students and seasoned reporters alike. We tackle all things court reporting with the mission of providing content and advice for a successful career in reporting.
If ever there were a time for students to enter the workforce with nimbleness and fearless adaptation to change, this is certainly it! This round of new reporters will enter better equipped than most!