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Preparing For That First Court Reporting Assignment

Preparing For That First Court Reporting Assignment

Planet Depos wishes to share with court reporting interns the following tips to help them transition from their student role to the official reporter on any assignment:

  • As you begin your internship, prepare to upgrade from your student version of software to a professional version (Case CATalyst, Eclipse/Advantage, ProCAT, StenoCAT, DigitalCAT).
  • Learn how to run the Audio Synch feature of your software. Create a practice assignment and listen back to the Audio Synch to ensure that it is running and that the volume and quality are satisfactory.  If the quality is not sufficient, consider adding an external omnidirectional microphone to your equipment and use it on every assignment.
  • After your assignment, practice reading back as though you were the official reporter.
  • While interning, edit every assignment you take to hone your editing and proofreading skills.
  • Learn the benefits of creating and using auto-include files and how to create templates for title pages, appearance pages, certificate pages, etc., and perfect those during this internship opportunity.
  • Check your state’s notary public rules and get your notary certification and seal in preparation for becoming the official reporter, if your state requires these.
  • Memorize witness oaths/affirmations as you will need to administer one or the other before each witness. Here is an example of a combined oath/affirmation that you may wish to adopt:
    • “Do you solemnly swear or affirm, under the penalties of perjury, that the testimony you are about to give, shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”
  • Seek advice from your mentor on the job about marking exhibits so that you will be familiar with how the process should be handled when you are the official reporter.
  • Learn when to interrupt and know that even veteran reporters find they may have to interrupt from time to time.
  • Always dress the part of the professional that you are.
  • Continue to practice every day and remember to practice before each and every job – even when you become the official reporter.
  • Feel free to ask your mentor questions. If you are in need of a mentor, please consider Planet Institute and simply fill out an application.

These tips are intended only as a brief guide for students entering the court reporting profession.  The National Court Reporters Association and state reporting associations can provide more extensive guidance in these areas.

Court Reporting: An Under-Marketed Profession (Updated)

Court Reporting: An Under-Marketed Profession (Updated)

Some unsung professions simply don’t get the spotlight they deserve. It’s obvious that we need talented doctors, dentists, and teachers. But there are other indispensable professionals who have amazing mental processing skills in essential positions. A court reporting career showcases those stars. Planet Depos offers an incredible path in court reporting.

Along with lawyers and paralegals, court reporters are the lifeblood of the legal discovery and depositions business. It is a role that is essential to the legal process, and it is catastrophic that it isn’t marketed enough to young adults choosing their career path. We aim to shed a light on the basics of court reporting and the court reporter career outlook. We hope to inspire and locate the talent to pursue this career, or encourage another excellent fit.

Court Reporting Career - Planet Depos

What is a court reporter?

A court reporter, sometimes known as a stenographer or shorthand reporter, transcribes the spoken word/testimony at court hearings, depositions, trials, arbitrations, or any official proceeding. While there are several types of tools and technology used to make the record, the primary method today is a steno machine, a word processor with a modified 22-button keyboard, upon which words are “written” phonetically.

A certified court reporter must be able to write at, minimally, a 95% accuracy rate at 225 words per minute, though higher level certifications require rates of up to 260 words per minute. Elite court reporters can offer a service known as realtime, where their record is streamed as it is created to laptops and tablets in the room.

Often court reporters will take work outside the courtroom, providing captioning services at events, for broadcast TV, or even radio broadcasts for the hearing-impaired. Court reporters working in closed captioning often provide realtime captioning for corporate events, live concerts, sporting events, and conventions.

Why are court reporters so important?

Think of court reporting and its impact on society. At Disney’s EPCOT, there is a ride called Spaceship Earth, which takes riders through the history of civilization. One of the very first things seen is an ancient Phoenician recording history in shorthand. From early civilization to now, recording history has been essential to building society.

Court reporters are an integral part of the legal process. They are responsible for recording and preparing verbatim transcripts of proceedings to be used by attorneys, judges, and litigants. Court reporters also serve the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities by providing realtime captions for live television programs, as well as one-on-one personalized services in educational and public environments.

How long is a court reporting program?

Typically, court reporting schools are 2- or 3-year programs, but it can take up to 3 to 5 years to complete the court reporter training coursework. It is highly dependent on the amount of effort put into developing the skill set to become a reporter.

Check out the list of certified schools and programs on file with the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) to find the right fit for you!

A court reporter at work at a steno machine

A court reporter at work

Is certification required for a court reporting career?

In some states, certification is required; in others, not. The most recognized certifications are those offered through the NCRA. The entry-level Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) requires passing a skills test with 95% accuracy at 225 words per minute. There is also the advanced Registered Merit Reporter (RMR) certification, which requires 95% accuracy at 260 words per minute. According to the NCRA, the highest level of certification available is the Registered Diplomate Reporter (RDR). The Diplomate Reporter differentiates the advanced, veteran reporters as the elite in the profession.

What personality traits and/or interests do court reporters typically possess?

  • The court reporter’s primary responsibility is to record the spoken word as quickly and as accurately as possible, so it’s important to have a passion for words and strong language skills.
  • Discipline, a strong work ethic, and a quest for knowledge are three key traits among successful court reporters.
  • Court reporting requires a high level of technical performance, so an interest in cutting edge technology is a plus.
  • If you’re a procrastinator, then court reporting is probably not the direction for you. Great court reporters thrive under time and deadline pressures.
  • Reporters must be exceptional listeners and can concentrate for long periods of time. Accuracy and attention to detail may impact a case and, ultimately, a life.
  • History has shown that playing a musical instrument, particularly the piano, is another commonality in successful court reporters.

How much does a court reporter make?

Just as anything else in life, what you get out of something is the product of the effort you put into it! Court reporting is no different, and salaries can range depending on your situation. Many reporters work as independent contractors at their own pace, taking jobs to match their lifestyle. Other reporters work in fulltime positions within the court system.

As of April 2019, the average annual salary for a court reporter was $56,865, with an average range of $41,029 – $74,428. Reporters who have invested in continuing education, advanced certification, and cutting-edge technology typically earn $100,000+.

What types of court reporters are there?

Again, it is important to remember that there are different types of jobs for those who master the skills required to become a court reporter. A freelance court reporter is an independent contractor, or one who works for one or more court reporting agencies. Their work primarily consists of recording testimony taken in the discovery phase of a case (depositions), as well as meetings, arbitrations, and hearings.

An official court reporter is typically hired by a court system and works inside the courtroom. These reporters are generally fulltime employees of the court and work regular hours. Have you ever watched Parks & Recreation? Ethel Beavers is an official court reporter who utilizes a steno machine in her job.

Interested in politics? Have you ever noticed the person recording the proceedings of Congress, or reporting the State of the Union address by the President of the United States on television? These are yet other opportunities for those who have the brains and stamina to make it through court reporting school and to take their career to the greatest heights!

And speaking of television, do you know how closed captions are generated for live programs such as the news? The captions for all live programming are generated by the amazing talents of a court reporter.

What is the court reporting career outlook?

In a word: Strong. There is a critical shortage of stenographic reporters across the nation. In 2013, the NCRA commissioned a report on the impact of the shortage to the profession and to the industry. The Court Reporting Industry Outlook Report, published by Ducker Worldwide, concluded that the demand for court reporters would exceed the supply within five years (2018); that nationwide, an additional 5,500 stenographic reporters would be needed to fill the void. The profession fell woefully short on meeting the demand and many stenographic schools closed, resulting in fewer enrollees, and fewer professionals entering the field. These numbers also do not consider the number that have and will continue to retire.

Due to the necessity of court reporters in legal proceedings, it’s a profession that is at its prime to enter. Large metropolitan areas are in desperate need for new professionals, and agencies will often move you to locations with more jobs than you could ever hope to cover. The areas that are seeing the greatest demand for new reporters are California, Texas, Illinois, New York, and Washington, D.C.

There has long been speculation that technology will take over the court reporter’s job. Many courts and court reporting agencies are implementing new technology, such as digital reporters, to fill the deficit of stenographic reporters. These new technologies are unable to provide many elite services that experienced stenographic reporters deliver, such as realtime. Stenographic reporters are, and will be, an essential piece in the legal landscape. The profession is here to stay and joining now can provide you with a fascinating career for the rest of your life.

Join Our Team

If you are a court reporting student and thinking of joining our team, check out Planet Institute, our court reporting mentoring program. We will match you with an experienced court reporter for you to shadow.

Are you an experienced reporter looking for your next adventure? We’re hiring court reporters around the world. Fill out our reporter profile.

Hire a Court Reporter

For more information on scheduling a court reporter, contact Planet Depos at 888.433.3767 or scheduling@planetdepos.com. If you are ready to schedule, we have easy online portals for domestic scheduling and international scheduling.

Original Post By Brittany Davies & Updated by Julia Alicandri

An Interview with Kaylee Lachmann, RPR

An Interview with Kaylee Lachmann, RPR

A Planet Depos interview with brand-new court reporter, Kaylee Lachmann, RPR.

Kaylee, can you tell us about your journey through court reporting school?

After I graduated from college with a foreign language degree and realized it wasn’t doing much for me, I started working as a legal assistant. I was considering going to law school, but I wasn’t totally sure I wanted to be an attorney, so I started researching other careers in the legal field, and that’s when I stumbled upon court reporting. I was living in Oregon at the time, and there were no court reporting schools in my area, so I opted for the entirely online program through Clark State Community College. Going to school online was tough because I didn’t have a lot of other classmates to commiserate with, but in retrospect I think it really helped keep me focused. I wasn’t comparing my progress to anyone else, and I just kept my head down and worked as hard as I could. It took me a year and a half to get through school, and that was largely due to the fact that my then-boyfriend (now husband) helped support me, and I was able to quit my job about halfway through court reporting school so I could focus on gaining speed. We pinched pennies there for a while, but it was worth it! Court reporting school was by far the hardest thing I have ever done, and it is my proudest accomplishment.

What were your job options or considerations once you completed the program?

After I started court reporting school, we ended up moving to San Diego – which I was free to do, thanks to the online program. As I neared the end of court reporting school in the summer of 2018, I wanted to try my hand at the California CSR, but I was ineligible since I did not attend a California-approved court reporting school. They require students who did not attend California-approved schools to either be RPR-certified or have a year of experience as a working reporter – both of which I didn’t have. I scrambled to obtain the RPR in time for the November 2018 CSR, and I received it in October. However, it takes 4-6 weeks for the RPR certification to be officially processed, so I was still ineligible to take the November CSR exam. After working so hard to get through court reporting school as fast as possible, I was discouraged and felt bogged down by bureaucracy. I just wanted to start working already, so I started looking into other options, such as transcription and relocating to work out of state. That’s when I stumbled upon a great offer from Planet Depos to bring me out to Washington, D.C. to start working. Moving across the country was a big undertaking, but it has been a great first step for me. I am still planning to go back to California for the next CSR exam, and I have plans to eventually move back. It’s crazy to think that the first CSR exam I am eligible to take will take place about a year and half after I reached 200wpm in school!

You passed your RPR before you began working!  Very few reporters do.  What do you feel was the secret to your success?

I took each leg of the RPR a few times. When I took the first few, I would be sitting there, thinking that it sounded slow compared to my practice dictation, but my fingers would just freeze, I would stop breathing, and I would get dizzy. What helped me the most was getting into the habit of purposely breathing slowly and deeply when I was practicing and just focusing on the words flowing into my ears and out through my fingers. I also prepared for each test by getting used to dictation at way higher, insane-sounding speeds and just trying to get a stroke for every word. I am also a musician, and I have played piano and other instruments since I was very young, so that definitely helped me through my court reporting school and certification process. I already knew what it meant to spend hours upon hours in the practice room honing a skill, and I think that is probably the number one skill you need to build speed!

You’ve had just a few weeks’ experience as a brand-new court reporter.  Any surprises?

Not really, but I have really been enjoying the variety of subject matter that I’ve had to cover so far. The variety was one of the things that drew me to court reporting, though, so it’s not too much of a surprise!

Any advice for students nearing graduation?

Court reporting school was tough and required maintaining a very high level of motivation every single day. What helped me was finding a practice routine and sticking to it no matter what, but taking breaks is also so important. I find that the quality of my practice sessions goes down if I don’t take breaks, so it’s better to just take a break in the first place and make the most of the time I do put in.

Probably not fair, but where do you see yourself in five years?

Hopefully still freelancing, and maybe even traveling for a few international depos!

About Kaylee Lachmann

After completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Oregon, Kaylee Lachmann decided to attend court reporting school online through Clark State Community College in Ohio. Kaylee recently obtained her RPR certification and launched her court reporting career in Washington, D.C., where she lives with her husband, Kyle, and cat, Phoebe.

7 Questions You Need to Ask Your Transcription Vendor

7 Questions You Need to Ask Your Transcription Vendor

It seems inevitable that attorneys, doctors, corporations, and even government entities will need audio or video files transcribed into text. These files can range from court hearings and trials, voicemails, examinations, meetings (board, annual, financial, town hall, etc.), to interviews, investigations, and even podcasts or webinars.

It is important to select a quality transcription company to avoid disappointment in the end product. But how do you ensure you’re selecting the best transcription company for the task? Here are 7 questions you should ask before you make your final transcription vendor selection.

Who is doing the transcription?

If you search for transcription jobs, you may notice there are thousands available with very little in the way of experience required. Some companies will require their transcribers go through a vetting process, but many others will hire anyone just to keep up with the demand. When you’re relying on the accuracy of the transcription, you need to make sure they’re only hiring the best. Find out if your firm is using court reporters and other experienced transcribers; it may save you in the end.

Where is the transcription being done?

The economy is global, for better or worse. While many projects are great to outsource, your transcription may not be one of them. You may save a few dollars if you use an overseas transcriber, but the results may not be what you expect, or what you need.

How are the files being transmitted?

While this may not seem as important, since practically everyone uses email these days, you may want to find out exactly how you’ll submit and receive the files. Can your provider send via encrypted email, or a secure portal or form? With the constant fear of hacking and unsecured communication, this may need to be higher on your list than you thought.

What types of files can the transcriber handle?

Qualified transcribers should be able to handle practically any format, and they should have the resources available to convert and enhance the files if necessary. Make sure your transcription company can handle more than just MP3 and MPEG files. They should, at a minimum, be able to handle those, plus CourtSmart (used in most courtrooms), FTR Gold, AAC, MP4, and many others.

How much will the transcription cost?

This can depend on several variables, including the length of the recording and the clarity, as well as how quickly you need the turnaround. A good rule-of-thumb for quality transcription companies is a standard 10-day turnaround, with quicker turnarounds at an extra fee. Once your transcriber receives the files, they should be able to provide you with an accurate estimate.

In what format will you need the final transcript?

Final transcripts should be deliverable in a wide variety of formats, not just a Word doc or PDF. Check with your transcriber to ensure they can deliver in the format you need. Popular formats include PTX, PDF, ASCII, Word, LiveNote (LEF), TextMap (XMEF), Case Notebook (PTZ), Summation (SBF), and trial software such as Sanction (MDB) and Trial Director (CMS).

Will the transcript and audio/video be searchable or synched?

A searchable deliverable can make finding the information you need quick and easy, especially for lengthy transcriptions. It’s not going to help you to receive 100+ pages with no way to search through them easily. Similarly, if you’re planning to play the audio or show the video with the transcript, you will want to receive a transcript that is synched to the original file.

With these seven considerations, you should be in a much better position when searching for your transcription vendor. Any high-quality provider will be able to answer these questions confidently, and you can feel secure knowing your transcription is being handled by a qualified vendor.

As a leading provider of transcription services, Planet Depos and our team of transcription project managers, transcribers, court reporters, and back-office technologists can support projects of all sizes. We’re well versed in handling file conversion, enhancement, and providing deliverables in many different formats. For further information, assistance, or a quote, just fill out our easy and secure online transcription request, or call 888.433.3767.

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.

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.

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

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