MEMBER PROFILE: Craig F. Mitchell, CLVS

Currently resides in: Seattle, Wash.

Position: Founder and CEO, Harvard Bell

Member since: 2010

Studied: Taipei American School, University of Washington

Why did you decide to become a legal videographer?

I enjoy a combination of working with people and technology. Video and photography have always been a passion. Creating a cutting-edge firm that covers all aspects of litigation technology was a perfect match with my previous work in engineering consulting.

 How did you learn about the career?

A good friend owns a thriving civil law practice in Seattle. The very first conversations about legal video were with him. I researched the field and explored the practical and financial potential and quickly came to the conclusion that it was a great fit.

What was your biggest hurdle to overcome, and how did you do so?

My very first deposition was incredibly challenging. Just weeks before, I took a terrifying plunge and invested nearly $10,000 in gear. I studied and practiced intensely — day and night. I tried to learning everything I could about the field. Without a mentor, my solution was to over-engineer everything. Held in a 70th-floor Seattle office, that first deposition involved six attorneys, a Japanese witness, two foreign language interpreters, and a backup video device that went to “blue screen” four minutes before the scheduled start. I debugged and got everything working with a good 60 seconds to spare.

Had I not studied the CLVS standards, invested in top quality professional equipment, practiced, and intensely tested every aspect of what was expected, that first deposition certainly would have been my last. While I wouldn’t recommend that approach to anyone, the deposition went without a hitch.

 

What surprised you about your career and why? Would you tell us about that experience?
Going into this field, doing legal videography, and creating and owning a court reporting and legal video firm has been far more rewarding than I could have guessed. One of the many aspects I enjoy is how very social this work can be. In the years after starting and running Harvard Bell, I’ve often met a dozen new colleagues and clients every week. I enjoy getting to know and working with court reporters, attorneys, and paralegals — everyone in our field. And it’s the same at the national level. I’ve traveled to numerous NCRA conferences specifically to connect and to discuss best practices in depth with some of the most skilled people in the country. Bruce Balmer, CLVS, is someone who especially comes to mind — Bruce nearly single-handedly defines the value of the CLVS program.

What are you most proud of in your career? Can you tell us what that experience was like?

Perhaps having Bill Gates exclaim “It’s about time!” at a break when I mentioned a technical approach I had been routinely using for the previous five years.

What advice or tips would you offer to new videographers?

Start with a great, diverse, solid education. Get as much life experience as possible. Don’t be afraid of hard work. I especially like hiring people with a background or a strong interest in the humanities. Smart, well-rounded people will always be able to pick up the latest technology — it is constantly changing anyway!

Did you overcome a challenge in your career? Could you tell us about that experience?

Towards the end of my engineering-consulting career, I volunteered to do emergency management work in Louisiana days after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. I was one of 60 people working and sleeping in an office designed for 18. I managed a team analyzing geographic and environmental data around the clock to determine where it was safe for people to return to their homes as soon as it was known to be safe.

Have you accomplished something not related to your career that you would like to relate?

I had a great childhood in Taiwan, and I love to travel. As a kid, I visited East Asia extensively. As an adult, my career in consulting afforded me the time to travel on my own extensively. In my early 20s, I spent six months traveling in Western and Eastern Europe, where I read a lifetime’s worth of literature, studied art, painted, and met a number of lifelong friends. I continued taking a month each year traveling until I met my wife, Stefania, who is from Italy, and we started a family. While we visit Italy frequently, it is now the children of my European friends who have become the real world travelers and who, I hope, have experiences similar to mine in America.