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Knockout Depositions: Gearing Up for a Winner

Knockout Depositions: Gearing Up for a Winner

Knockout Depositions: Gearing Up For A Winner

Image via Warner Bros./MGM

Did you know Creed II is coming to a movie theater near you this Thanksgiving?  You may remember, I’ll take any excuse to talk about my hero Rocky Balboa, and will happily weave his story into any topic, even your depositions.  If you don’t remember, here’s your reminder/warning.   Read on to get fired up about any upcoming depositions you may have and take them on like a heavyweight champ.

To many Philadelphians like myself, Rocky is a real hometown hero.  His appeal extends beyond the City of Brotherly Love, however, and for good reason.  Rocky is the gritty depiction of hard work and the big payoff – often not pretty, with little and big obstacles along the way, which in the end serve to make the realization of the goal that much more rewarding.  When the bell rings and you’re still standing, so to speak, the peals ring that much clearer and sweeter after such hard-won success.  Really, when you think about it, preparing for depositions, and your case in general, is not that unlike Rocky preparing for the big fight with Apollo Creed back in 1976.

Setting the goal:  Rocky is doubtful he can beat the champ, even when Mickey signs on board to train him.  However, he decides he will go the distance, something no fighter has ever done against Apollo.  This is his goal, and it spurs him on in his intense and unorthodox training (punching raw meat in a freezer?!), even when he is discouraged by the media’s portrayal of him as a loser.  In the same way, paralegals and attorneys set a goal with each case, discuss this with their client, and work doggedly to attain that goal.  The filing of notices, motions, preparations for depositions, etc., all lead up to the “fight.”

Assemble a team:  Rocky has Mickey, Paulie, and of course, his beloved Adrian, to train and support him as he gears up for his big day.  Similarly, attorneys have their paralegals, and their court reporting team.  It’s extremely important that the team works together, each providing his or her expertise.  The reporter provides realtime, instant rough drafts, and the final transcript, while maintaining confidentiality and providing redacted files as needed.  The videographer provides the high-definition video of the proceedings, with excellent audio quality, which can even be synced to the final transcript if requested.  The videographer can assist with video clips to be used as exhibits in a deposition, as well.  They can assist with additional tasks such as printing (and shredding!) of exhibits.  Interpretation may be required, and the trusted court reporting agency is an obvious choice to provide the best available interpreter with subject knowledge expertise.  This agency can also assist with trial presentations at the appropriate time.  See an example here.

In essence, the common denominator here is hard work.  Training for a fight against the world heavyweight champion is no joke, and neither is working on a case.  It takes committed professionals putting in the time and effort.  Reporters use any prep materials provided by paralegals to put together word lists, familiarize themselves with the terminology, etc., as do interpreters.  The court reporting professionals strategize to ensure they are at the location early to allow ample time for set-up, guaranteeing no delays in the proceedings.  They turn in their product on time, to assist the legal team in maintaining their schedule.  When it involves an expedited transcript and video, this is no problem for the best-in-class court reporting agency.

For your own knockout depositions, contact Planet Depos.  You can schedule online, or email scheduling@planetdepos.com or international@planetdepos.com to reserve coverage.

By Suzanne Quinson

18 Deposition Tips from Court Reporters

18 Deposition Tips from Court Reporters

There is a lot that goes into taking a deposition, and a lot that goes into making the record. We’re often asked by attorneys and paralegals if we have any tips for their depositions—what can they do to make sure the deposition goes smoothly. Our court reporters put together a list of tips to making a clear and useful deposition record for use in court and/or impeachment purposes.

  1. When scheduling the deposition, provide the court reporting agency with the Notice of Deposition or full caption. The court reporter needs this information to prepare the transcript. Providing it ahead of time not only saves time but eliminates the need for you to have it available for the court reporter at the time of the deposition.
  2. Introduce yourself to the court reporter, present your card and indicate whom you represent, e.g., “My name is John Doe and I represent the Defendant Samsung.”
  3. At the beginning of the deposition, take a few minutes to give the witness a complete set of instructions. For instance, you might say something like this:
    “Good morning, Mr. Jones. My name is John Doe and I represent the Defendant Samsung in this matter. I’m going to be asking you a series of questions today. The court reporter is taking down every word each of us says. Therefore, it is important that we both speak loudly and clearly so that the court reporter is able to hear and understand what you and I are saying. Doing so will result in a complete and accurate record of today’s proceedings. Please allow me to complete my question in full before you begin your answer; and, by the same token, I will allow you to complete your answer before I ask my next question. If you and I interrupt each other, the record becomes filled with dashes, which may cause confusion later. The reporter can only write one person speaking at a time. Therefore, it is important for all of us to avoid talking over one another so that the reporter is able to get a complete and accurate record of the entire proceedings and so that the questions and answers appear in the transcript without dashes and interruptions. When responding to my questions, please give a verbal response because the court reporter can only write verbal responses on the record. The court reporter is not permitted to ‘interpret’ the nod or shake of your head. Similarly, it is often difficult to understand the meaning of ‘uh-huh’ and ‘uh-uh’ in the transcript.  Finally, if you do not understand any of my questions, please feel free to ask me to repeat or rephrase it and I will be happy to do so.”
  4. Always ask the witness to state and spell his full name so the record accurately reflects the correct spelling.
  5. When the witness gestures in any way, restate in words what the witness demonstrated. For example, “For the record, the witness is indicating about three feet.”
  6. When reading documents, read slowly and indicate when the quoted material begins and ends, e.g., “In Paragraph 3 of Exhibit 7, it indicates, quote, ‘Please keep hands and feet inside car at all times,’ end quote.” Also, provide the court reporter with a copy of any documents that are read into the record.
  7. It is important that the reporter always be seated next to the witness (or next to the interpreter if the deposition testimony is being interpreted) to ensure that he/she can both see and hear the witness.
  8. Allow the court reporter to mark and keep track of the exhibits, which will ensure consistent and sequential numbering. Don’t forget to allow the reporter to completely mark the exhibit before asking your next question.
  9. When going off the record, please state, “Off the record” so it is clear that the comments are off the record. Remember, all parties must consent to going off the record. If one party objects to going off the record, the reporter is obligated to stay on the record in accordance with the Code of Professional Ethics of the National Court Reporters Association. When ready to go back on the record, please state, “Back on the record.”
  10. When going off the record in a video deposition, make it clear whether you are going off the video and/or the written record. For example, state, ”Off the written and video record” or “Off the video record.”
  11. For telephone depositions, always identify yourself before speaking so that you are properly identified in the transcript.
  12. Avoid asking the court reporter for his/her opinion of the witness or the testimony. Court reporters are Officers of the Court and must remain impartial at all times.
  13. The court reporter’s job is mentally and physically taxing. Plan to take a short break, about ten minutes, every 1.5 hours and at least 30 minutes for lunch.
  14. If you are having trouble hearing the witness, assume the reporter is as well and ask the witness to keep his/her voice up.
  15. If the deposition is being videotaped, be aware that microphones are very sensitive. Ruffling papers will distort the audio and quiet whispers will likely be recorded.
  16. Consider retaining the services of an interpreter if the witness’s English is poor or if he/she has a heavy accent. Doing so will ensure a clean and accurate record and avoid misunderstanding and disappointment at trial.
  17. The court reporter earns his/her living by selling deposition transcripts. It is inappropriate to share your copy of the transcript with other counsel unless you represent the same party.
  18. Remember that you and the court reporter have the same goal: to create a readable and useful transcript. Work together as a team.

Following these tips and working with an experienced court reporter will help your deposition flow easily and ensure a clean transcript for your case. Schedule your deposition today, or reach out to our scheduling team for more information.

A Recap of the NCRA Legislative Boot Camp 2018

A Recap of the NCRA Legislative Boot Camp 2018

Guest Post by Rebecca Stonestreet, President-elect of the Maryland Court Reporters Association

What a great Legislative Boot Camp 2018!  Following a somewhat different format this time (so I understand, as this was my first time) boot camp involved both prepping for meetings with legislators on Capitol Hill, and sessions with informative and thought-provoking speakers.

Marcia Ferranto, NCRA Executive Director and CEO, Chris Willette, NCRA President, and Matthew Barusch, NCRA State Government Relations Manager, all spoke about the state of court reporting both on a national and state level, and reporter certification as an important tool for keeping the profession viable.  National statistics show that certified reporters make more money than non-certified reporters, and certification brings consistency and respect to the profession.

NCRA Legislative Boot Camp 2018NCRA has a PAC that supports candidates and legislative initiatives that support reporters on Capitol Hill.  Individuals can contribute up to $5,000 to the NCRA PAC.  To be an advocate for certification in Maryland, there needs to be state membership consensus to start, then find a legislator in Maryland that would advocate for the profession, then draft language to introduce legislation.  Groups that have a shared interest in the quality court reporting services – i.e., Trial Lawyers Association, Bar Association, etc. – are places to start to drum up support for a certification requirement.  With the Trump administration emphasis on technology and technical education, it presents a new opportunity to push for more court reporting education, training, and certification.

John Brandon, Interim President of the Connecticut Court Reporters Association, who successfully advocated for and got licensure requirements for court reporters in the state of Connecticut more than 15 years ago, spoke about an unfortunate turn of events recently that, even with a lobbyist for the CCRA watching out for legislation that affects court reporters, an omnibus bill was passed without their knowledge that included language about revoking the licensure requirement.  Now Connecticut is pushing once again to get state licensure requirements passed.

Jacqueline Sly, Former State Representative for South Dakota spoke about grassroots lobbying and getting your voice heard.  Shelley Row gave an energetic session about effective
decision-making.

James Cool, who is an attorney and also a former president of the Arizona Court Reporters Association, gave an eye-opening session about ER and how it has affected Arizona.  I found him particularly informative, as he presented the point of view of both a reporter advocate and a non-reporter realist (attorney).  He was blunt about the fact that while court reporters are passionate about their beliefs that ER is not an effective means to capture the record, that non-reporters (i.e. court administrators and state government officials) just don’t see it that way; that money is the root of wanting to get rid of court reporters in courts; and that the way to advocate for a live reporter is to educate people on the fact that court reporters are not only trained in how to use a steno machine, but they have education relating to medical terminology, vocabulary, grammar, and technical terminology; that the educated court reporter is a much better alternative, for a WRITTEN record,  than electronic recording.  Because we don’t have much argument against the fact that the technology of video and audio recording today makes a great oral record, but we do have an argument that a readable transcript can really only be produced by an educated court reporter being present.  He made the point that while court administrators and legislators believe that replacing reporters with ER is a money-saving tactic, that in reality the mistakes and do-overs necessitated by faulty recording equipment and/or operators is not cost effective.

We then split off into groups and prepared for a mock hearing in front of pretend legislators.  An intense and hectic process, but very educational, and a great way to work with reporters from all over the country. We made our presentations in seven groups about the need for a re-funding of a temporary grant for court reporting schools in order to train realtime writers to do closed captioning.  While it was a hypothetical scenario with hypothetical names and places, it prepared us for our one-on-one presentations to state senators and representatives on the Hill the following day regarding a similar issue.

I met with legislative directors and assistants from Senator Ben Cardin, Senator Chris Van Hollen, and Representative John Delaney’s offices.  The goal of all of the court reporters associations’ state leadership meeting with their senators and representatives was to raise awareness for the Training for Realtime Writers grant, which is a part of the larger Higher Education Act of 2009.  This grant is funded every five years, so it is up for re-funding in 2019.  It grants $1 million each year for five years to court reporting schools around the country in order to train quality realtime writers to provide closed captioning.  The Telecommunications Act of 1996 is a federal mandate that all media outlets in top 25 markets must provide quality captioning, and this grant is in furtherance of that Act.

My takeaway from the boot camp and the meetings on Capitol Hill was pride in my profession.  While these types of events are inspiring and always give me an energy boost for court reporter advocacy, I was really struck by how passionate all of the other reporters in attendance were, and how receptive folks on the Hill were to hear about court reporting and the profession in general.  While I realize these elected officials and their staff are paid to listen to their constituents, I couldn’t help but feel like I was playing a role (however small!) in the governmental process by making my voice heard.  It was truly invigorating.

Rebecca Stonestreet & Senator Ben Cardin

Rebecca Stonestreet & Senator Ben Cardin

I got a quick picture with Senator Ben Cardin himself, and had warm and welcome receptions from all of the offices’ staff.  It was a fun, tiring, hectic, cold (!) day.

Selling Rough Drafts: 7 Tips to Increase Your Bottom Line

Selling Rough Drafts: 7 Tips to Increase Your Bottom Line

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.

By Darlene Williams

What’s So Great About a Realtime Feed?

What’s So Great About a Realtime Feed?

So, what’s so great about realtime court reporting?  A beneficial tool for attorneys, realtime allows counsel to view the proceedings in realtime.  Realtime reporting is the instant conversion of the reporter’s stenotype (shorthand) into plain English. As quickly as the court reporter can enter stenotype strokes, the jargon is translated to English and transmitted to counsel and their litigation teams – and the parties need not even be present!  Realtime can be streamed to remote participants as well.

Realtime is really a neat feature.  Pretty much, poof! there it is!  The written record of the proceedings in realtime means that testimony can easily be noted for follow-up, and inconsistencies flagged immediately for clarification during the proceedings.  All of this can be done without disrupting the flow, such as when the reporter is asked to read back the record, etc.  Realtime keeps the deposition running on time!

 

For additional convenience, some realtime software includes a sly little instant messaging feature.  Did an answer to a question inspire a new strategy or line of questioning?  Immediately pose that strategy to your team, in complete confidentiality, via this messaging feature.  This discreet capability means fewer or shorter breaks, again keeping the deposition moving along at a good pace.  If you want to use this messaging feature and aren’t sure if the program you’re using offers it, check with the court reporting agency.

Behind the Realtime Screen

Quality realtime is an exceptional skill.  Reporters able to provide usable realtime have worked diligently on this craft, honing their ability to speedily process information, as well as mastering the technology involved.  Not only that, an expert realtime reporter has built a full “dictionary,” or steno-matching system, composed of common words, names and subject-matter terminology.   This diligence, focus, and technical know-how enable the reporter to deliver an instant, verbatim record at near-perfect accuracy.

The more terminology relevant to the case that is crammed into this powerful word log, the better!  This is one of the (many) reasons court reporting agencies ask for case-related materials in advance of the depositions.    The more technical the case, the greater the value of these “prep materials” and the more you should send!  Send copies of notices, any previous transcripts in the case, copies of patents, complaints and corresponding answers, etc.  It’s all about packing that dictionary chock-full of the terms that will provide the best realtime for your depositions.

Quality Realtime = Seamless Interpretation

Not only are these prep materials of immense benefit to the court reporter, but they also help to better prepare the interpreter, as the interpreter oftentimes is following along with the realtime to do their job.  With the record scrolling in front of them, the interpreter doesn’t need to ask counsel to repeat a question quite so often.  If there is a check interpreter present and they too are provided realtime access, it can reduce the number of re-interpretations.  This access results in still fewer interruptions to the deposition, a smoother overall proceeding, and a cleaner transcript.

As mentioned in the dictionary discussion above, prep materials are beneficial to the court reporter and to the interpreter.  Whether or not realtime is to be provided, any materials that will be useful to the interpreter in preparing for the depositions should be sent as early as possible.  The effects are enormous when an interpreter is adequately prepared for depositions, particularly depositions in highly technical matters.  Sadly, the reverse is also true – an under-prepared interpreter can dramatically affect the flow and speed of the deposition.  Make sure prep materials for your interpreter are plentiful and prompt!

Anyone Authorized can follow Realtime – Anywhere!  Almost.

Is your deposition taking place in New York, and you want your colleague in Vienna to follow along?  Are you in Taipei deposing a witness and want your paralegal back home in Denver to have realtime access?  No problem!  Realtime can be streamed to remote participants anywhere.  Given the possible time differences involved, the remote parties can even follow along with the realtime feed from the comfort of their homes, or while sitting in a café in picturesque Prague!

Planet Depos has been providing realtime court reporting for over 10 years.  With offices and reporting teams worldwide, Planet Depos is uniquely positioned to make realtime happen wherever you need it.  For more information on realtime reporting, or to schedule your deposition email us at scheduling@planetdepos.com or call 888.433.3767.

Gifts for Your Court Reporter

Gifts for Your Court Reporter

If you’re looking for a gift for your beloved court reporter this holiday season, consider one of these ideas. Tis the season!

  1. Get your court reporter a gift certificate for a massage. All those hours spent at the steno machine and computer working furiously to provide an accurate record of your proceedings can take a toll on the muscles. Not to mention the stress of tight deadlines! Companies like Hand & Stone have storefronts across the country. A massage will go a long way in showing your court reporter your appreciation.
  2. Another thoughtful gift useful after a stressful day – a bottle of wine or spirits, depending on the reporter’s tastes. If your reporter isn’t one to stay at home, a gift card to a local winery may be ideal.
  3. Perhaps some fine chocolates to go along with the above-mentioned bottle of spirits? Chocolate pairs so nicely with several wines, as well as a smooth bottle of brandy or bourbon.
  4. On that note, and considering court reporters spend a lot of time indoors, why not give your reporter the gift of good food and fresh air, with a walking food tour of a convenient city? These tours are popular for good reason. Even if your reporter isn’t a foodie, he or she will enjoy some free food and festive atmosphere! A quick search online will yield a variety of tours in any major cities.
  5. If your reporter is a foodie, but enjoys cooking up his or her own food, cooking classes could be the ideal gift.
  6. The sarcastic reporter may enjoy a relatable mug, tote, or t shirt. Companies like Zazzle offer funny personalized court reporter gifts. Check them out here!
  7. Is your court reporter the adventurous type? A dinner cruise, indoor skydiving, or flight lessons may help him or her let off some steam.
  8. The technologically advanced reporter will enjoy an upgraded keyboard, a new pair of headphones, or any steno machine related items. The realist may be wishing for extra Cloud Storage.
  9. The artsy reporter will enjoy a painting class. Can’t decide between this and a nice bottle of wine? Pair a drink with a paint class. Companies like Paint Nite offer painting events accompanied by wine or cocktails.

Whatever you decide to get your favorite court reporter this year, your friends at Planet Depos wish you a happy holiday season, and a wonderful New Year.

By Julia Alicandri

7 Handy Tips for Scheduling a Deposition

7 Handy Tips for Scheduling a Deposition

By Micayla Charles

The process of scheduling a deposition can have several moving pieces, from counsel’s and the witness’s schedule to arranging for a court reporter, videographer, and/or interpreter. And then there’s finding an appropriate location, organizing exhibits, setting up special services, as well as planning for the necessary technology needed to make the deposition run smoothly. If you’re using a court reporting firm to assist in coordinating the logistics of a deposition, below are some tips and key points to remember when scheduling.

Determine the proper venue

Determining the proper location for your deposition is vitally important. Physical aspects of a deposition location to consider include:

  • the size of the space,
  • seating availability,
  • breakout room accessibility, and
  • the proximity to parking or public transportation.

It’s also important to consider the facility’s technology services, such as photocopiers, fax machines, scanners, and wireless or hardline internet connections. It would also be prudent to inquire about any additional cost for heating and A/C control for after-hours access.

Once the location is selected, you’ll need to include the specific information in the Notice, along with the requirement of court reporters, videographers, and/or interpreters.

Transcript and video delivery

The transcript turnaround time varies amongst court reporting agencies. If you know that you’ll need the transcript on an expedited basis, inform the court reporter or the agency as soon as possible. Doing so allows the reporter and the Production team to adjust schedules accordingly to ensure that the transcript is delivered to you on time.

Of course, if you think you might need a rough draft of the transcript, make every attempt to let the court reporting agency know in advance so that a qualified court reporter may be assigned. If a videographer will be present at the depositions, it’s important to be specific about any rush request for the video.

Digital video files are the easiest way to receive video depositions quickly. Many videographers also create DVDs during the deposition, and if you request in advance, they may be able to provide you with a DVD to take home with you.

Request realtime translation

If you would like to receive a realtime feed during the deposition, it is best to provide the request to the court reporting agency at the time of scheduling so that a qualified reporter may be assigned. The reporter will be prepared to transmit local realtime (within the deposition suite), as well as to stream the realtime to a remote location.

Attend depositions remotely

Traveling to depositions is not always convenient. But fortunately, technology easily permits for remote attendance. One of the most popular ways to attend remotely is through a videoconference. Traditional videoconferencing uses dedicated VC units that connect through a static IP address. This is the most reliable way to connect remotely to a deposition.

Another option for remote attendance is via mobile videoconference. Mobile videoconferencing allows remote participants to connect via most any device, including laptops, iPads, or smartphones, similar to Skype or FaceTime, which may be less stable and vulnerable to security breaches. Your court reporting firm can set you up with a mobile videoconference meeting that is both secure and stable.

If seeing the witness is not a priority, often the cheapest method to attend a deposition remotely is to have a conference call number provided, which will allow you to simply connect via phone.

Equipment rental

Your court reporting firm should also be able to provide you with loaner pieces such as iPads, projection units and Elmos, if requested in advance.

Sending exhibits in advance

It’s always helpful to send exhibits in advance of the deposition. Sending exhibits digitally can be the most convenient and efficient way to ensure the exhibits make it to the deposition. If you want to pre-mark exhibits, you can always include that information for the court reporter. But if you need to send original exhibits through a mail service, be sure to always retain a tracking number and confirm the proper receiving address for the exhibits.

Changes in time, venue, or services

Deposition details change all the time. Court reporting firms are generally very flexible, but it is vital to communicate any changes in the deposition time, venue, or services as soon as you know them. This ensures that every deposition starts on time, and it also helps to avoid any unnecessary charges.

There are many service options available when taking a deposition. Knowing your options and communicating your deposition needs are important to ensure that your deposition runs smoothly and that all participants are on time and prepared.

Our experienced scheduling coordinators are available 24/7 to assist you with scheduling a deposition. Reach out to us at scheduling@planetdepos.com or call 888.433.3767.

5 Considerations when Choosing an Audio Transcription Provider

5 Considerations when Choosing an Audio Transcription Provider

Choosing an Audio Transcription Provider

By Olivia Ignacio

Though it may seem like a simple process, there are several questions you should ask before hiring a transcriptionist to turn your audio file, whether it is a recorded hearing, meeting, or phone conversation, into a certified transcript.

Is the transcription being performed by a person or by a program that computer generates a transcript?

While it may sound quick and easy to simply load your audio file into a program that generates a transcript, the final product may not be what you expected. A human can pick up on words and nuances that computer software may not (for instance, the difference between an affirmative “uh-huh” and a negative “uh-uh”). A human can more accurately ascribe names of speakers to their voices, more accurately transcribe heavy foreign accents and low-volume/unclear speakers, and so on. You can also count on the error rate for computer-generated transcripts to be higher, due to a variety of factors including random noises on the audio, loud background noise, or software malfunctions.

If the transcription is being done by a person, is it being done by a court reporter or experienced legal transcriptionist?

The benefits of having your transcriptions done by a court reporter or experienced legal transcriptionist are numerous. To name a few, they are a truly neutral party, are familiar with legal jargon and court proceedings, and are familiar with transcript formatting/rules by jurisdiction–all resulting in a professional, easy-to-read, certified transcript.

In addition, having your transcription done by a court reporting service provider ensures they can provide you with the transcript file types you’re used to seeing, including ASCII, PDF, E-tran (.PTX), LiveNote (.LEF), TextMap (.XMEF), Case Notebook (.PTZ), Summation (.SBF), and trial software such as Sanction (.MDB) and Trial Director (.CMS).

Can the transcription provider work with the kind of audio file I have?

A quality transcription provider should be able to handle audio types ranging from standard .MP3 and .WAV files to commonly used courtroom software such as CourtSmart and other proprietary surveillance or video software. They should also be able to access audio from various forms of media you may have, including discs and cassette tapes.

How quickly will I need my audio transcribed?

Those in the transcription industry typically estimate that the time it takes for someone to effectively transcribe an audio is over three times the audio length, accounting for time spent proofreading, re-listening to certain spots, and researching to confirm a term or spelling. So to transcribe a three-hour audio, it will typically take over nine hours — more than an entire work day! Ensure your transcription vendor has the resources to get your transcripts done on time.

Will my transcript be accurate?

The court reporter or experienced legal transcriptionist will always try their best the make the transcript as accurate and complete as possible. Any words they cannot 100% hear or make out, they will simply mark it as “inaudible” or “indiscernible” in the transcript; any speakers they cannot identify, they will refer to them as “Male Speaker 1,” “Female Speaker 2,” etc. To aid the transcriptionist, a list of those you believe to be speaking on the audio would be helpful, as well as any special or technical terms/acronyms they may come across.

Planet Depos’ professional transcription team is at the ready to assist with your audio transcription needs and answer any other questions you may have. Request your transcription now, or contact us at transcripts@planetdepos.com or 888.433.3767.

How Do Court Reporters Transcribe?

How Do Court Reporters Transcribe?

This post originally appeared on the Cook & Wiley blog.

A court transcript is the record of every spoken word and who spoke it during court.  In order to capture this transcript, a court reporter must be able to hear the entire proceedings and set them down as they occur. At one time this was done using shorthand, which is an abbreviated way of writing that is able keep up with speech. An early version of the stenotype machine was created in 1877 by Miles Bartholomew, who was a court reporter and hoped to replace pen and paper with his invention. Today, court reporters get special training in order to understand legal terminology and process and use special equipment to create transcripts of court proceedings, as well as creating legal records of hearings, depositions, or other meetings requiring an official transcript.

REQUIRED TRAINING

Training to become a court reporter requires fulfilling the general requirements and standards at a certified court reporting school that has been accredited by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA). Required courses generally take around three years to complete, and applicants must have a GED or high school diploma to enroll. Some schools have prerequisites in keyboarding or data entry skills that must be met, as well.  Classes include information on keyboarding, machine shorthand, law, legal terminology, court reporting, vocabulary, proofreading, medical terminology, dictation, ethics, and more. A student learning court reporting must also take speed building classes and spend a generous amount of time practicing with the stenotype machine, because 225 words per minute is the minimum requirement to pass keyboarding.

Upon graduation, the student receives a Registered Professional Reporter certificate from the NCRA. A Certified Shorthand Reporter license is required as well in order to obtain work as a courtroom reporter. States have different license requirements, but an extensive written exam in addition to a performance-based dictation test is fairly standard.

EQUIPMENT USED

In order to be able to capture every word that is spoken during the courtroom proceedings, a courtroom reporter must be able to produce the transcript accurately and at high speeds. This is most commonly done with a stenotype machine. This machine, although much different than the one originally created by Miles Bartholomew, uses the same concept of keys that may be pressed simultaneously in order to create words, sounds, and phrases quickly. The stenotype has 22 black, unmarked keys set up in a way that resembles a piano’s keys more closely than a typical qwerty keyboard. These keys represent some of the alphabet, and combinations of keys must be used for the letters not included.

Rather than typing out words, a stenotype machine produces a phonetic code that relates to sound. The reporter’s left hand types the beginning consonant sounds, thumbs produce vowel sounds, and the right hand types the final consonant sounds. Various other key combinations that create both initial and final sounds can be made involving both hands. In this way, court reporters can keep up with conversations at high speeds. In the past, the record rolled out of the machine on steno paper, but it is becoming more common now for the stenotype machines to have a digital readout screen.

There have been several popular methods of producing and translating the phonetic record, but since the sounds produced were not standardized, court reporters could personalize their own method of keystroke combinations to produce and translate the report. This wasn’t necessarily a good thing, since it could be difficult to impossible for anyone but the original reporter to read the transcript. One of the more common translation theories has been used to create computer software that translates the code, so now reporters are more likely to use that method when typing.

A PC-compatible laptop can be connected to a stenotype machine in order to produce captions of the proceedings in real time for the hearing impaired. Since the report is usually digital now, the transcript can be uploaded to the computer to be translated, prepared, and sent through email. There are several different software programs that court reporters may find useful, such as scheduling and billing, in addition to the software necessary to link the laptop and stenotype machine, translate the transcript, and produce closed-captioning.

COURT REPORTERS: THE BEST CHOICE

Some people believe that electronic methods will eventually replace humans in the field of court reporting. This seems unlikely in the near future, though, because while computers do have the ability to document and reproduce in a record all sounds created in the courtroom when they work like they are supposed to, they are not able to interpret the difference between words that need to be recorded and random sounds, like chairs scraping the floor. Malfunctions and constant needs for updates have discouraged even the most pro-technology advocates. It continues to be both less expensive and more effective to hire a professional court reporter.

8 Tips to Save Time & Money on Depositions (Updated)

8 Tips to Save Time & Money on Depositions (Updated)

Who isn’t trying to be more economical these days? It seems everyone is tightening their belts just a bit. Law firms are no different, trying to cut costs for frugal clients looking for any expenses they can cut. Large cases are necessarily more expensive, and their court reporting budgets are not small – realtime, rough drafts, streaming and video alone tally up big invoices. To help save time and money on your depositions, keep these 8 points in mind.

Build a Relationship

This is true in so many arenas. If you take your car to the same shop every time, you see the difference in treatment, the willingness to give you a slightly better discount, etc. Establishing a relationship with one court reporting agency has the same benefits. You are seen as a valued client, which comes in handy when you need a court reporter at the last minute, or need an invoice reduced or even waived altogether. The firm may even be willing to offer you complimentary use of their conference rooms in situations where a reporter isn’t needed.

Have a Secure Repository

You should be able to access all of your transcripts 24/7. A secure repository provides this benefit, so you can log in and download a transcript, exhibit, etc. This can save time when preparing for a case and you find yourself in need of a certain file – it is accessible to you in the time it takes you to log in and download. Likewise, if you find yourself in need of an errata sheet or invoice, those can be easily downloaded from the repository. This saves time by enabling you and your team to locate pertinent information more quickly.

Obtain Court Reporting Agency Emergency Contact Information

Be sure to get a phone number and email address for emergencies. This is invaluable if you need to reach someone after hours to inform of a last-minute change, or schedule, or handle some other urgent matter.  Last-minute changes are part of the discovery process, and it is imperative to have a means of communicating them to your agency. The relationship mentioned in point one above guarantees an immediate, helpful response to those emergency communications.

Encourage Opposing Counsel to Use Your Court Reporting Agency

When all parties use the same court reporting agency, cost savings are passed to everyone involved. Additionally, the case calendar, transcripts, exhibits, errata sheets and invoices are all housed in that same repository with 24/7 access. This also ensures consistency and continuity of reporters, transcripts, and invoices, for both taking and defending attorneys.

Compare Rates Between Court Reporting Agencies

Obtain quotes from other court reporting agencies in the area to confirm the rates you are being quoted are competitive. Ask if the agency can cover in other states, or internationally, and verify those prices are competitive as well.

Get Quality Transcripts and Videos

Working with a reputable court reporting agency ensures there are no nasty surprises at trial. No need to worry about reading a transcript for the jury and stumbling over spelling and grammatical errors, or worse. No need to worry that your video clip has poor audio. Develop a relationship with the reporter who really wowed you, the videographer who demonstrated superior technology savvy, and request to work with them on all your depositions whenever possible. You cannot overstate the value of experienced, professional court reporters and videographers.

Utilize Electronic Delivery and Standing Orders

Receiving final transcripts in electronic format saves money, trees, storage costs, and space (don’t forget the secure repository with round-the-clock access!). Consider the high cost of storing transcripts at your office. Instead, rely on your court reporting agency to store and maintain all your transcript-related files. Be sure to check on the company’s backup and retention policies.

Ask about a Standing Order Form as well, to ensure the firm has your email distribution list for rough drafts and final transcripts, as well as your preferred file types. By providing your court reporting firm with your standing order, you will receive exactly what you want every time, regardless of where the deposition took place. This, in turn, eliminates the need to call the court reporting agency to make the request or to wait to receive the correct files.

Consider a Videoconference

This is a no-brainer for cost-savings. Eliminating expensive travel arrangements, and the time spent traveling, videoconferencing is an excellent option for a one-day deposition of a witness residing far away, even overseas. Check with the court reporting agency to see if this is an option, and if so, to get the ball rolling.

Ask About Free Conference Rooms

Finding an affordable and convenient location to take a deposition, whether locally or around the world, can be a challenge.  It takes time and valuable resources for the litigation team to locate an appropriate conference room. Your court reporting agency should have the ability to provide you with a location at no charge.

This can save you and your clients thousands of dollars every year. Whether you need a large conference room for a deposition in your home town or a conference room for your deposition anywhere on the planet, your court reporting agency should be able to accommodate your request.

Planet Depos has been covering depositions all over the world for over a decade.  For more information, cost-savers, or to schedule, contact Planet Depos at 888.433.3767 or via email: scheduling@planetdepos.com, or international@planetdepos.com.

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