As most court reporters are well aware, selling value-added services is an effective way to increase your bottom line. But are you selling a service that actually has value? Is your rough draft actually worth paying for?
Seeing rough draft transcripts every day, I can attest that most reporters make the attempt to present a rough draft that is usable by clients. But here are a few tips for making sure your client never questions the value of your rough draft:
1. Proofread Against The Audio
Take the time after the job to proofread the first 10-20 pages of the file against your audio. Counsel shouldn’t have to pay for your warm-up session, so by taking this step, the reader can immediately feel confident in the product you’re selling. And this holds true whether you are a newer court reporter, or a reporter of 20 years.
2. Clean Up Your Notes
If you are someone who makes lots of notes to yourself during the job, take the time to search your notes and clean up those sections in advance. If the reader sees *CHECK/CHECK, their first thought may be, what did the reporter miss here? The fewer visual cues you leave behind, the less likely the content will be challenged.
3. Check The Read-On and Introductions
If the job is videotaped, make sure you edit the videographer’s read-on and introductions by counsel. Reporters typically struggle with this, and since it’s relatively short, it’s worth the few minutes it takes to ensure counsel feels like it mattered to you to get their name correct, as well as their firm and who they represent.
4. Turn Off Your Timestamps
Be sure to turn off your timestamps before submitting your rough draft. If you had a significant drop for any reason, your timestamps on the rough draft will give you away.
5. Prepare For The Technical Edits
If the job was technical in nature and you were unsuccessful researching terms during breaks, have a list ready to ask the witness for clarification at the conclusion of the day. Then make those edits before turning in the rough draft for distribution. This goes a long way toward instilling confidence that you are conscientious and diligent about providing a tool worthy of the additional cost.
6. Work With Your Scopist
Consider working online with your scopist on days you know you will be producing a rough draft. By the end of the day, your rough will look like a million bucks, counsel will be incredibly satisfied to have that rough delivered within minutes of the conclusion of the job, and you may find yourself being requested for the entirety of that case because of your impeccable attention to customer service.
7. Spell Check!
Finally, be sure to spell check the file before you send it to your agency for distribution. You may be surprised what your spell check finds that could save you an embarrassing explanation later.
With Internet access available virtually anywhere, there’s no excuse for providing a rough draft that has untranslates or phonetic spellings because you are of the opinion that, well, this is a rough draft, I’ll clean it up when I edit it. Go the extra step and solidify your place with your client that you are competent and reliable in every aspect of your approach to their case.
Do research ahead of the job to get case-related terminology. Build a job dictionary ahead of time so that you are as prepared as you can be on the day of the assignment. Then when you go on the record, you’re already mentally prepared for the terminology of the day and have a head start on the editing that will be required in order to provide your best rough draft in a timely fashion.