NCRA Saving Center adds new benefits

NCRA’s Saving Center has expanded to include new personal benefits in addition to the current business discounts. The new benefits have been automatically added to NCRA’s program and will be featured on the Saving Center soon. New benefits include:

  • Savings up to 60 percent on tickets to top attractions, theme parks, shows, sporting events, movies, and more as well as discounts on dining and hotels
  • A downloadable RX discount card that can save users up to 75 percent on prescription drugs not covered by insurance; the card is accepted at more than 68,000 pharmacies nationwide and covers the cardholder, family members, and pets
  • Free membership in the Rewards Mall that offers cash back on online purchases from more than 1,200 stores along with stack coupons and store offers
  • Discounts on car rentals from Avis and Budget, including waived additional driver fees, airport surcharges, and late fees as well as Avis Preferred and Budget Fastbreak services for counter by-pass amenities

NCRA members can sign up for the Saving Center for free and save on an array of products and services provided by nationally recognized vendors. The Saving Center is administered by Windfall Savings.

To learn more about what the Saving Center offers NCRA members or to sign up, go to NCRA.SavingCenter.net. Alternately, contact the Windfall Savings member care team at 888-868-4030 or membercare@savingcenter.net.

NCRA member’s CART work featured in local paper

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyOn July 11, the Northwest Boomer and Senior News posted an article featuring NCRA member Elizabeth Archer, a CART captioner in Portland, Ore. Archer is the owner of Archer Captioning.

Read more.

You never know where your next tip will come from

By Cathy Busa

Tips and tricks for writing realtime are something all working court reporters could use more of! So, for that reason, I canvassed some of my fellow officials for realtime tips that they swear by for improving their writing and translation rates.

The first response I received was from a coworker at the courthouse (who also is a part-time broadcast captioner). For her, the key to becoming a more expert realtime writer is learning to fingerspell. While it may seem that this activity would slow you down, it actually keeps you from slowing down because instead of hesitating over an outline that you may or may not have in your dictionary, you can rapidly fingerspell the word and ease on down the road. If you aren’t in the habit of it, start when testimony is not too onerous and just fingerspell little words like “that” and “who” to get the feel for it. Along this line, she suggests also using the brief suggestions from your software. As an example, after recently fingerspelling the word “tonsillectomy,” she immediately requested a brief for it so if it was said again, it would be much simpler and ready for her to use instantly.

Another writing tip I received includes being sure to use the number conversion feature that is now found in virtually all of our software programs. This may take some time to go through your dictionary and remove all entries with numbers attached to them, such as “in ’97” or “$1500” or “two or three.” But if you are willing to expend a little bit of effort to work on your personal dictionary ahead of time and then tweak the settings within your CAT software to correspond with your number-writing style, you will find that your numbers will translate almost always correctly — and that will save you precious editing/scoping time from now on.

Word boundary issues are the dreaded area that I think realtimers always have to be prepared for. A couple of examples that I have personally encountered were “how to figure outweighs to do new things” and “keep your ion the situation.” While I have changed my writing to correct these two particular mistranslates, I now rarely define homophones as I did here, but try to actually write and define them differently to eliminate them altogether.

Finally, there are several sources of briefs according to the subject matter and case you are going to be working with, such as legal, medical, asbestos, financial, and so on. Take advantage of your JCR articles and learn and utilize the briefs others ahead of us have found to be helpful. Join Facebook pages and network with other reporters also for writing tips. A favorite part of our state association’s annual convention is the steno swap session, where people ask for and others assist with shorthand briefs for those pesky phrases and long words that invariably try to trip up even the best realtime writer.

If you really want to accept the challenge to improve your writing and become the best and most professional realtime reporter that you can be, stretch yourself and begin to implement small changes to your dictionary and your writing one step at a time. Perhaps the final and best word of advice is this: “If nothing changes, nothing changes.”

Cathy Busa, RPR, is an official court reporter from Plantersville, Texas. She can be reached at cmbusa@sbcglobal.net.

Task force to consider court reporter shortage

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyThe Nashvillepost.com reported on July 12 that the Tennessee Supreme Court has created a task force of judges, clerks, and court reporters to study a continued shortage of court reporters to record trials in criminal courts. Among the group’s members is NCRA member Anita Polk, an official court reporter with the 21st Judicial District.

Read more.

Coash & Coash announce recipient of first annual court reporting scholarship

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyOn July 17, Coash & Coash, Phoenix, Ariz., posted a story on its website announcing that Jordan Jackson of the GateWay Community College court reporting program has been awarded the first annual $1,000 Coash & Coash court reporting scholarship.

Read more.

Court reporters in demand in Bexar County

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyOn July 18, KSAT Channel 12, San Antonio, Texas, aired a story about the need for more court reporters in Bexar County.  NCRA members Erminia Uviedo, RDR, CRR, CRC, and Tonya Thompson, RPR, are featured in the piece.

Read more.

O’Brien & Bails announces partnership with Pohlman Reporting

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyIn a July 13 press release posted on its website, O’Brien & Bails announced its partnership with Pohlman Reporting Company. Dawn Houghton, RPR, CEO of O’Brien & Bails, said: “One of the driving factors behind O’Brien & Bails is my goal is to ensure we are the best resource we can be for our clients.”

“We believe that agencies built on integrity and ethics will continue to thrive. This partnership brings together two like-minded agencies with rich histories of providing stellar client-first services and positions us well for future growth,” said Deborah J. Walters, President and CEO of PohlmanUSA.

Read more.

NCRA Executive Director and CEO position posted on ASAE

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyNCRA has selected the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Executive Recruitment Concierge Service (ERC) to assist with the identification and selection of candidates to be interviewed to fill the position of Executive Director and CEO. The position has also been posted on ASAE’s career center.

NCRA’s CEO Search Committee, which is comprised of reporters with diverse backgrounds, career paths, and geographical locations, will work closely with ERC in the search process. Members of the CEO Search Committee include:

  • Tiva Wood, FAPR, RDR, CMRS, Mechanicsburg, Pa.
  • Chris Willette, RDR, CRR, CRC, Wausau, Wis.
  • Sue Terry, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, Springfield, Ohio
  • Christine Phipps, RPR, North Palm Beach, Fla.
  • Nancy Hopp, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CMRS, St. Louis, Mo.
  • Huey Bang, RMR, CRR, Pass Christian, Miss.
  • Chase Frazier, RMR, CRR, CRC, Murrieta, Calif.
  • Dave Wenhold, CAE, PLC, Washington, D.C.

The ERC is well known and respected in both the association and executive search communities as an excellent option for vetting executives. ECR will distribute the position announcement to various markets and communities, including the court reporting community, to solicit candidates to be considered for the job. Over the next several months, the ERC and the Search Committee will work in conjunction to identify, vet, and interview candidates. The Search Committee will then narrow the field down to two or three candidates to be submitted to the NCRA Board or Directors for the final selection.

Any comments or questions should be sent to the Interim CEO and Director Dave Wenhold at dwenhold@ncra.org.

Court reporting as a second career

The JCR reached out to several members of NCRA who made the decision to switch careers and enter the court reporting, captioning, or legal video professions and asked them to share what they did before, how they decided to make the change, when they knew they made the right choice, and insights they would share with others considering making a change.

Abby Cook
Pittsburgh, Pa.

Abby Cook

Abby Cook

CURRENT CAREER: Student at the Community College of Allegheny County; Plans to work as a freelance reporter
upon graduation in July 2017
PREVIOUS CAREER: Master’s level mobile mental health therapist for about 18 months

After I finished my degree, I was trying to get enough client contact hours to sit for the exam and earn my professional license as a mental health therapist. I was doing anything and everything for the company I worked for, even sitting as a secretary. But they would not fill my client schedule, so I left. I interviewed at another company for a similar position, and they informed me they needed someone with their professional license, which I was working toward, but in order to sit for the exam, you had to complete direct client contact hours. I knew I needed to do something that wasn’t dependent on what others thought I could do or doing something that others had to help me fill my schedule.

My cousin is a court reporter and currently reports on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. I contacted her to get more information because I knew she was making a good living, and I knew she enjoyed what she was doing. I am one of three girls, and my cousin tried to talk all three of us into going into court reporting after high school. It was always sort of in the back of my mind, but I never really knew much about court reporting as a career. But once I realized I wasn’t finding my way as a therapist, I decided to look into court reporting further.

I do think some skills from my previous work transfer. I continue with the need to listen to people, I continue to provide a service for people, I continue to be mobile with that service, and I continue to hear stories about people
(some more awful than others, but I feel my previous experience has prepared me for such things and to not be shocked).

I think I am most excited to be entering a field that is highly valued, highly in demand and highly respected. I look forward to having a full schedule because of a proven, black-and-white skill that I possess. I would say to look at all the options, talk to some people in the field (both new to the field and seasoned professionals), and learn as much as you can. I continued to work in my first career when I started school for the career change and, if it didn’t work out, I would’ve stayed with that job and pushed harder for my chance and what I wanted. It never hurts to try something new and make yourself more marketable.

After the first few weeks in school, I knew that making this change was going to be a good, positive, life-changing choice. I was picking up on this new (steno) language, and all the working court reporters that came to speak to
us about the field only had great things to tell us. Students ahead of me were getting their speeds and passed on advice. There is so much encouragement and happiness and excitement in this field. I can’t wait to get out there and
start working!

Carolyn Kerr, RPR
Buffalo, N.Y.

Carolyn Kerr, RPR

Carolyn Kerr, RPR

CURRENT CAREER: Working as an official court reporter for the state of New York Unified Court System, family
court in Niagara County
PREVIOUS CAREER: Worked in radio and television

I’ve actually had two careers before court reporting. I have my B.A. from the University at Buffalo in communications. Because of my love for music, I became involved with the campus radio station and was soon the program director. I also interned at a local radio station and, while still attending college, was hired full time as a disc jockey and promotions director at that radio station. The radio and music industry is very volatile, and I discovered that while I loved music and the fun of working at a radio station, I wasn’t enjoying the people I worked with very much. Many of my coworkers had drug and/or alcohol problems, had multiple marriages, were not particularly well educated, but they had huge egos. I was 23 years old and decided I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life surrounded by people I didn’t respect. But being in radio did give me a very important skill that I believe carries over to court reporting. That
skill is the ability to perform.

I lucked out and got kind of a weird job next, one that combined my skill in performing with the stability of a real job. I was hired as a traffic reporter, working for the local public transit agency. The bus drivers on the road would call
in the traffic delays they saw, and I would compile traffic reports and provide them to most Buffalo area radio stations and one TV station during morning and afternoon drive times. In return, the public transit system got advertising
on these stations. On some of the stations I would broadcast live; on others I would just provide the information to their on-air personnel, who would read it. I also appeared on the local ABC-TV network affiliate during their morning
show. For three hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon, I was typing up and churning out constant traffic updates to 12 to 15 media outlets. I could always type fast, but this experience really improved that skill. Again, another transferable skill to court reporting.

Eventually marriage and children came along, and I didn’t want to work the split shift this job required, so I bid on another job in the transit agency and became the supervisor of the customer service department. Essentially I ran a
call center and resolved customer complaints. You can imagine the types and amount of complaints a public bus and rail company receives! What I learned from that job is that I do not like supervising anyone and that I missed the performance component of my other jobs. I was a really good typist and enjoyed typing, but I knew there wasn’t much money in it.

While I was at a family party, I was complaining to my sister-in-law about my job as a customer service manager, and she suggested court reporting. It was one of those duh moments, as my sister-in-law was not only a court reporter but also owned a freelance agency. From there everything just fell into place, almost as if it were meant to be. The local school was not too far from my house, not too expensive, and worked with my schedule, and oh, by the way, they were having an open house the following week. I enrolled on the spot, and a little over two years later I began working for my sister-in-law’s company.

At its heart, court reporting is a performance job. The skills from my broadcasting career definitely have translated to court reporting. And while we do interact with judges, clerks, lawyers, the public, and other reporters, court reporters are essentially solo workers. It’s us and the machine, and then it’s us and the transcript. I found from working in customer service that I really like working independently, and court reporting fulfills that preference.

What most excites me about court reporting is my certainty that I am performing an essential but unique service. Keeping the record is one of the main principles of our legal system. The written word allows ideas and facts to be conveyed and shared through generations. In 2015 we marked the 700th anniversary of the Magna Carta, the document upon which our nation and many other democratic nations are defined as a nation of laws, not of man. Someone wrote that down. Scribes were the early court reporters. Without them, where would our understanding of history be? I am very proud to be a part of this institution. I also love that court reporting is both a physical and mental job. While our fingers are flying over the keyboards with a profound dexterity, our minds are working in dual tracks. One track is hearing and committing the spoken word to writing, the other is devising a way to create a shortcut or inserting punctuation. That makes our job feel like a craft or skilled trade to me, which I love and value.

The advice I would give to someone considering a court reporting career is to, first of all, do an honest assessment of what’s going on in your life. Court reporting school is difficult. In our class of 30, only two of us graduated, and I am the only one still working. I believe you must have almost no distractions to get through school. No small babies. No ongoing divorces. No financial problems. Secondly, I believe that you must be ambitious and committed. Once you start working, take the difficult job. It will make you a better reporter. Take the certification exams. Those letters after your name will make you feel so good. And finally, you must view court reporting as a profession, not just a job.
Professions require ongoing development, investment, and education. For a job, you just show up. If you view yourself as a professional, I believe you will have a more realistic understanding of what it takes to get through school and to succeed once you’re working. The point at which I knew I made the right decision for a career in court reporting was the first time I looked down at that old borrowed manual machine and hit that initial key. I knew immediately. It just felt right. It was me. Having said that, it wouldn’t have been the right choice for me at the age of 20 or 25. I needed that experience of working in radio and television, and I needed to learn I hated being a manager.

Angeli English
D’Iberville, Miss.

Angeli English

Angeli English

CURRENT CAREER: Freelance reporter
PREVIOUS CAREER: Secretarial

I am a freelance reporter, but I cover various courts sometimes if they need me and if I don’t already have a freelance job. I’m on the coast and I’ll drive up to two hours for a good job.

I had a secretarial background originally. I went to a vocational school and learned typing, shorthand, etc., in the mid-1980s. Then I just worked part time at various jobs while raising four boys. I always worked a secretarial job
full-time till I started having kids in 1990. After that, I took a few years off and had three more kids in two years (twins in there) and then worked part-time till 2010 when I decided to pursue court reporting.

When two were in college, I decided to consider a second career. My boys were getting older; I had more time, and I wanted a good paying job that offered flexibility. I had never been exposed to court reporting. When I was considering a second career, I did some online research.

I would say my secretarial background and good command of grammar, etc., helped in my career as a court reporter. Just know it takes self-discipline and constant practice and self-confidence.

I never know when I walk out the door what story I’m going to hear that day. It’s like being a fl y on the wall and getting a peek into someone’s life.

I never doubted court reporting would be my second career. I remember being on my first job and thinking, yes, I did it, and pinching myself!

Kerry Irizarry, RPR
Jacksonville, Fla.

Kerri Irizzary, RPR

Kerri Irizzary, RPR

CURRENT CAREER: Freelance reporter
PREVIOUS CAREER: AT&T customer service representative, 11 years

Our office was closed, and everyone was laid off. As part of our compensation, we were offered money to go back to school and/or start a new business. I had seen court reporting commercials on television and thought it looked interesting. And after my experience with corporate America, I decided I wanted to go out and get a skill that was valuable and that would give me flexibility.

I had no idea what court reporting was about. I was always fascinated with closed captioning and when I learned that captioners were court reporters, I was hooked.

Working customer service required we use a computer all day. I became very adept at typing and operating computer software, which is beneficial to our profession. I also got experience interacting with people and resolving problems. These skills come in handy when interacting with attorneys and judges.

I love to read back. Our profession is stressful and comes with a lot of responsibility, but I love it when I can help an attorney out with a question or answer they repeated. Audio recordings can’t do that. I would also like to move into captioning or providing CART services. Ours is one of the few professions that we can provide a service for those with a disability.

I love court reporting, but it was a very hard road to travel to become proficient. Court reporters have to be very dedicated and meticulous in their work. They need attention to detail, flexibility, and good interpersonal skills.
Someone who has these qualities would probably be a great court reporter.

I didn’t realize I had a thyroid condition, and my work was suffering. I believe it had been going on so long that it had prevented me from graduating from court reporting school sooner. I had trouble focusing, which is crucial in our job. It really had me doubting my decision to pursue this as my second career. Thankfully, I found a doctor that straightened me out. Now I absolutely love my job and have no doubt this was the right decision for me.

Dave Leyland, CLVS
Kansas City, Mo.

Dave Leyland, CLVS

Dave Leyland, CLVS

CURRENT CAREER: Legal videographer
PREVIOUS CAREERS: Director of a nonprofit and state child welfare administrator

I had formerly worked as a director of a nonprofit for more than 19 years, and before that I was a child welfare administrator in the state of Missouri. I am currently owner of Kansas City Legal Videography.

Soon after leaving my nonprofit job, I began working with a certified court reporter company as their manager of production. I became very interested in legal videography when scheduling and interacting with video specialists. I always had a fondness for the legal profession, videography, and technology, and I realized that I could pursue all of these as a video specialist. I soon started researching how to pursue this interest and one of the first things on my list was to become certified as a legal video specialist through NCRA.

I’ve always believed that you gain so much value by associating with people in your trade. Professionals of all kinds must also keep up to date with the latest technology and equipment to be used on the job. I successfully passed the written test and went on to also pass the production test in Chicago at last year’s NCRA Convention & Expo.

I’ve had a lot of opportunities to use the skills that were first taught to me at the three-day training in Reston, Va. I’m constantly learning new techniques and upgrading my skills as I gain experience as a legal video specialist. Every job that you have comes with its challenges. I still have so much to learn because I always want to deliver the very best product to the client.

I can’t say how much I enjoy this profession and the great interactions I have with other litigation professionals, especially the court reporters who are the hardest working people in the room.

Online registration for the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo closes July 21

Con collageTime is running out to register for the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo being held Aug. 10-13 in Las Vegas, Nev., at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. Online registration closes on July 21. After July 21, you will have to wait to register on site, and fees increase by $150 in some categories.

With a keynote speaker who promises to reignite the magic in your fingertips, new and innovative sessions, networking events, and the opportunity to work toward earning nationally recognized professional certifications, this year’s Convention & Expo participants can expect to experience an NCRA conference like no other.

Whether you are an official court reporter, freelance reporter, broadcast or CART captioner, legal videographer, firm owner, educator, or student, there’s something magical in store for you at this year’s NCRA Convention & Expo.