Five things to know if you want to own a firm someday

When NCRA members talk about the benefits of becoming a court reporter, captioner, or legal videographer, one of the top responses is that they can be their own boss. But the business side isn’t something that comes up in most court reporting program curriculums. If you’re interested in becoming more business-savvy, you can take small steps today to position yourself for the future.

Know your worth
Monyeen L. Black, RPR, CRR, owner of MB Reporting, Inc., in San Ramon, Calif.

Knowing your worth is the start. I know what the minimum rate that I want to make for a day of work is. I learned long ago what I thrive on and what types of jobs are just not for me. I have now learned to say no to the jobs that are not of interest to me and what jobs/items were not negotiable. For instance, I choose not to report certain types of cases and have just learned to say no when they are offered to me. This keeps me happy. You must not view your business as a “court reporter” or “freelancer” but instead as a company that needs to be profitable in order to stay in business. You must know what you make on each job. Numbers do not lie.


Always be learning
Angie Starbuck, RDR, CRR, CRC, owner of PRI Court Reporting, Columbus, Ohio

I started learning more about business topics by reading everything I could get my hands on! I have read (and still do!) countless blog articles and books, and I’ve listened to many podcasts. I quickly joined the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) through our local chapter and have gained access to many more informative webinars and classes. I have also made connections within the court reporting world and have been fortunate to have a few people I can ask business questions of and share information. I met some of my first firm owner friends at the NCRA Firm Owners Conference in Dana Point, Calif. Those relationships and that experience proved to be invaluable to me.


Make connections with others in your business
Lisa A. Knight, FAPR, RDR, CRR, Knight International Court Reporting, Littleton, Colo.

Don’t be afraid to ask people questions and don’t be afraid to talk to people. Talking to people is how you build relationships, not just with your clients but with other professionals. Join your state court reporting association and NCRA, and serve on committees. You learn so much through committee connections that you don’t get otherwise. You get to know people and learn about how you can help other people. But the incredible thing is that you get so much back. Don’t be afraid to give back because you will get so much in return.


Focus on your ideal client
Debbie Bridges Duffy, RPR, Bridges Court Reporting, Chicago, Ill.

Decide who your target market is, and focus on that one ideal client. Don’t waste your time on clients that are high maintenance. Focus on your bottom line and profitable clients. If you are a court reporter, you should try to work for those who share your values and support and encourage you.


No matter where you are in your career, realize that you are building your own brand
Andrea Couch, RDR, CRR, CRC, Associated Reporting & Video, Boise, Idaho

Whether you work for a firm as a freelancer or as an official or a CART provider or captioner, whether you are a subcontractor or employee, whether you aspire to own your own firm one day or not, you are always building your personal brand in everything that you do. Every piece of work that you put your name on builds your brand. Every interaction you have with clients builds your brand. Be mindful of that. Be protective of that. What you make of your career is up to you and you alone. So work hard, get your certifications, never stop learning. Position yourself to be able to go out and do whatever you want to do. Take ownership of your brand and take pride in it. Be fierce in the pursuit of your goals, and amazing things will happen.

The many rewards of professional certification

From the desire to get ahead in the profession to just having a passion for learning, professionals know that there are an array of reasons to earn valuable certifications.

In any field, professional certifications are clear indicators that the people who hold them are committed to their chosen paths and believe that taking the extra time to earn them are worth it. Many professional organizations, from accountants to doctors, offer certifications. Certification gives people seeking specific services a way to recognize that someone meets the standard level of skills for a particular job.

Because of how important certification is to the profession, NCRA has designated May as “Celebrate Certification” Month. We celebrate all NCRA members as they show pride in the certifications they have earned, are working to earn, or are intending to earn. The month-long campaign is also designed to help encourage those who haven’t considered earning one of the Association’s many nationally recognized certifications to rethink their decision.

The campaign also offers members the opportunity to share with their clients and potential customers the reasons why choosing a professional who holds one or more professional certifications helps guarantee the delivery of high quality products and services.


“I think professional certification is important because it shows a commitment to the profession and sets one apart from the ‘average’ reporter,” says Angela M. Mathis, RPR, from Jacksonville, Fla., a 23-year veteran of the business who also provides CART services. She notes that she earned her certification as a way to solidify her commitment to the profession and for personal achievement.

“My certification has helped me earn the respect from fellow reporters and to have preferred job opportunities at the company I work for,” adds Mathis, who is currently working toward earning her Certified Realtime Reporter certification.

Jennifer L. Peirson, RPR, of Eastville, Va., says she earned her RPR straight out of school, taking the WKT while actually still in school. She passed the skills portion about a year after she graduated and says earning the certification that quickly was drilled into her while in school so that she could take advantage of still being used to taking speed tests.

Professional certification not only helps those who hold them to enhance their professional skills and stay ahead of the competition, they also keep professionals current on trends, up-to-date on the latest in technology, and enable movement into other areas of the profession.


“As a freelance reporter, I’m not sure that having a certification has actually gotten me a job that I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten, but it has been commented on favorably to me personally by attorneys (that they prefer to use NCRA-certified reporters),” Peirson says, who worked as a freelance court reporter for nearly 15 years before recently making the switch to providing CART. “As a CART captioner, it has gotten me to the higher pay scale for one company I work with, and I know there are companies out there that only use certified captioners,” she adds.

“I had always planned to move to Florida after completing court reporting school in Texas, but once I learned there was no minimum standards set for court reporters in that state, I felt it would be best if I did something to distinguish myself in some way, so the RPR was one of my goals early on as a student,” says Kimberly Xavier, an official court reporter from Arlington, Texas.

After returning to live in Texas, Xavier said she tested for the RPR as a way to practice for the state’s required certified exam. “Once my boss knew I had set that goal, he offered me a cash bonus out of the goodness of his heart if I passed the RPR and that was the beginning of what would be a continuous journey of test taking and improvement for me,” Xavier says.

Not every employer offers bonuses for earning certifications, but many states require certification to work in the state, and some courthouses offer bonuses for certifications, especially realtime-related ones. In fact, numerous NCRA membership surveys have found that court reporters, captioners, and legal videographers who hold NCRA certifications make more money and are often in higher demand than their competitors. A 2015 survey performed by NCRA showed that 51 percent of the people who earn RPR are more than likely to earn $75,000 annually than those who haven’t earned the RPR, and 81 percent of those who hold the CRR credential are likely to earn at least that much. Earning higher certifications and specialty certifications is highly correlated to increased earning potential.


Professional certification gives you confidence in yourself and encourages a greater piece of mind for the person who holds it and the organization they work for. Earning a professional certification also offers a personal challenge.

“More than anything it has increased my confidence in my own abilities, just to know I can provide a stellar service. I was appointed to report a high-profile change of venue case years ago due to my realtime capabilities and having advanced certifications definitely made saying yes a lot easier and stress free for me,” says Xavier.

“I’m one that does feel that certification is important. I know that’s a hot-button issue with reporters, but I feel it’s important to strive for certifications for myself as well as helping me get my foot in the door with new companies that I want to work with,” says Peirson.


Whether you are a student or a working professional, earning a professional certification can be tough. But advice from those who have earned certifications agree, just do it.

“There is so much self-gratification when you achieve a professional certification. You are not confined to a specific region. You can travel the world and everywhere you go your credentials signify a high level
of competence and expectation that you know what you’re doing,” Mathis says.

“If you get knocked down, get up again!” says Peirson. “I recently bombed the CRR which was supposed to be my slam dunk so I’d be more relaxed for the CRC skills test. The second it was over, in my head I screamed, ‘Wait, let me do it again!’ It’s a lot riding on five minutes. I’m still trying to conquer my nerves, but I’ll be back,” she adds.

“I believe professional growth is important,” Xavier says. “In order to stay excited about any career choice, I think you have to have room to grow. Advanced certifications offer court reports a way to quantify that
growth and a way to identify weakness and measure improvement.”

NCRA has made available resources for state associations and individual members to use to help Celebrate Certification Month at For more information about the campaign, contact

HLAA kicks off the 2018 Walk4Hearing


Bethesda, MD: The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), Bethesda, Md., announced in a press release issued April 23, that the organization has launched its 2018 Walk4Hearing program. The Walk4Hearing raises awareness of hearing loss and provides strategies and information on topics such as hearing loss prevention, the importance of getting your hearing screened, treatment of hearing loss, and maintaining good hearing health.

Read more.

2018 class of Fellows of the Academy of Professional Reporters announced

NCRA has announced the 2018 class of Fellows of the Academy of Professional Reporters. The recipients will be recognized during an Awards Luncheon at the 2018 NCRA Convention & Expo in New Orleans, La., being held Aug. 2-5.

The 2018 class of Fellows are:

  • Mary P. Bader, RPR, an official court reporter from Eau Claire, Wis.
  • Allison A. Kimmel, RDR, CRR, CRC, an official court reporter and broadcast captioner from Marysville, Ohio
  • Donna Karoscik, RDR, CRR, CRC, a freelance court reporter from Pickerington, Ohio
  • Jen Krueger, RMR, CRI, CPE, a freelance court reporter and instructor from Strongsville, Ohio
  • Yolanda Walton, RPR, an official court reporter from Norwalk, Ohio

Membership in the Academy symbolizes excellence among NCRA members. The designation of FAPR represents an individual’s dedication to the court reporting and captioning professions and expresses the highest level of professional ethics.

To be nominated for membership in the Academy, candidates must be a Registered Member of NCRA with at least 10 years of professional experience and have attained distinction as measured by performance in at least three of the five performance categories. This performance could include publication of important papers, creative contributions, service on committees or boards, teaching, and more.

LADB expands captioning services, adds industry vet Schuster

M&E Daily reported on April 24 that digital media and content services facility Los Angeles Distribution & Broadcasting (LADB) has named closed captioning specialist Deborah Schuster as its new EVP of accessibility services, a role that will see her spearheading LADB’s expansion into the live captioning business.

Read more.

Captioners: Olympians captioning Olympians

Andrea Couch, RDR, CRR, CRC

Ask any captioner and they’ll tell you the most exciting thing about their jobs is the variety of assignments they get. From providing CART in a university classroom to captioning for live theater, each assignment is as varied as the preparation it calls for. The JCR Weekly recently reached out to NCRA member Andrea Couch, RDR, CRR, CRC, owner of Associated Reporting & Video in Boise, Idaho, about her work captioning the Olympic Games. Here’s what she shared.

JCR | How long have you worked as a captioner?
Couch | I worked as a captioner from 2006 until 2011.

JCR | Which Olympics have you captioned?
Couch | I captioned the 2008 summer Olympic Games and the 2010 winter Olympic Games. I was fortunate enough to have been assigned to caption both the summer and winter games, so I got to caption a wide variety of Olympic sports. In the 2008 Olympics, I remember I captioned women’s volleyball, archery, baseball, basketball, triathlon, weightlifting, rowing, diving, and swimming. In the 2010 winter Olympics, I captioned alpine skiing, biathlon, bobsled, luge, skeleton, ice hockey, speed skating, and curling.

JCR | How did you prepare for this assignment?
Couch | It was an enormous undertaking to prepare to caption the Olympic Games. The way scheduling worked when I captioned the Olympics, I would be assigned a two-hour block of time. All of the Olympic Games were aired on NBC and its affiliate networks, so I would go to their website to see what events would be broadcast during my two-hour block. The problem was, there would only be very generic descriptions with a list of maybe 10 different events that might possibly be aired during those two hours, but if something more exciting popped up, they would immediately jump to that.

So for a two-hour block, it may say that they were going to air part of a women’s volleyball game, cycling, men’s diving, some women’s weightlifting, and synchronized swimming, and you would be given general details about which countries’ athletes may be participating. So for that two-hour block, the prep was enormous to get all of your bases covered.

I remember when I was captioning the 2008 summer games, I made it through my first two-hour block, and they aired everything they said they were going to: a women’s volleyball game, some cycling, some synchronized swimming; everything that I had prepped for. I was feeling pretty good about myself! And then all of a sudden, with 20 minutes left in my two-hour block, they decided to switch to men’s rowing, an event they had given absolutely no indication that they would be airing. Of course, there were no Americans in the race (that would be far too easy). Every single race participant had a last name that I swear was 20 letters long with no vowels. So I found myself finger spelling every single name in that race for the last 20 minutes of my block. Ten years later, I still develop a facial tick when anyone mentions men’s rowing.

The other incredibly challenging part about captioning the Olympics is that the prep material is so vast. Not only do you have to prep for the specific events happening during the times you are assigned to caption, you also need to keep up on who has won medals that day and who will be competing later in the coming days because during transitions from sport to sport, they will always give a recap of what’s been happening and what’s coming up.

And then there are the human interest pieces that they jump to about an athlete who grew up in a tiny village deep in the heart of some country you’ve never even heard of, and they throw out names of relatives and close friends and geographic locations where the athlete has trained for their sport, all of which you have received absolutely no prep material for.

There is also an incredible amount of prep work to be done about the country hosting the Olympics, all of the prior countries where the Olympics have been held, and the countries where the Olympics are set to be held in the future. It’s also imperative that you make sure you have in your dictionary the names of past Olympians who have competed and won in each sport because you never know when their names might pop up. You also must prep for each commentator involved in the event you are captioning as they are often past Olympic athletes themselves and will talk about their experience in the Olympics: where they competed, who they competed against, etc.

JCR | What was the most exciting part of this assignment for you?
Couch | Well, to state the obvious, it’s the Olympics! It’s history in the making! It’s intense competition highlighting the sheer will and determination of these amazing athletes to stop at nothing to accomplish their goals. Throughout my career, I have always enjoyed competing in speed and realtime contests, and so I always felt I shared the same mentality as these competitors, albeit on a much smaller scale. That drive to work tirelessly to be the absolute best you can be at whatever it is that you do is an amazing thing to watch unfold before your eyes. There are no words to express what it feels like to play a role in the broadcasting of these events to the world.

JCR | How was this job different from other captioning assignments you have had? For example, what was the stress level if any?
Couch | Oh, my goodness, the stress level. There is just nothing quite as intense as knowing that the entire world is watching your work. Sure, that’s the case most any day you’re on the air as a captioner. But the Olympics, that is the greatest stage of them all. It was both one of the most stressful things I have ever done but also the most rewarding and exhilarating. There is absolutely nothing better than pushing yourself to the limits of your abilities and coming out victorious. Although, I must be honest with you, after that incident when they switched to men’s rowing and I had to finger spell every name for the last 20 minutes of that block, I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “Oh, my heavens. Please just put me back on the Weather Channel!”

Reporters who caption the Olympics truly are Olympians themselves. Every year I watch the Olympics with my captions turned on, and I stand in absolute awe at what my colleagues are capable of. It is truly astounding the skills and abilities that we have. The training that we do to be able to accomplish such feats is incredibly similar to that of each one of those competitors. We train our whole lives for this, constantly improving and never settling for “good enough.” We invest endless hours of hard work, tears, frustration, picking ourselves up and dusting ourselves off after a hard day to make ourselves the best at what we do so that when we reach the biggest stage of them all, we can perform at such incredibly high levels of proficiency. What an amazing skill we possess!

JCR | Is there anything else you would like to add?
Couch | I captioned for five years, and it was the best thing I ever could have done. It improved my writing immensely, it changed my perspective on how I write and why I write the way I do, and it gave me a hunger to never stop challenging myself. That experience has opened incredible doors for me throughout my career, and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity that was given to me.

Yes, captioning is very difficult. But the rewards you receive from making that leap are vast and immeasurable. Have you always wanted to be a captioner? Do it! Take the leap. Sign up for training. Work on your realtime. Challenge yourself to always be better. You just might find yourself captioning the Olympics someday. The hard work is absolutely worth the reward. No question about it.

VITAC captions quest for the Stanley Cup

The Sports Video Group reported on April 18 that VITAC Captions will provide captioning for the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup playoff games.

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Court reporters – legal videographers: How to change time in Windows 10 for syncing 

A blog by Kramm Court Reporting that was posted April 19 by JD Supra, provides the steps necessary for court reporters working with legal videographers to follow to sync time before every deposition to ensure that timestamps on the transcripts match those on the video.

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Court reporting firm Rhino Reporting launches on-time transcript initiative

Rhino Reporting, based in Ft Lauderdale, Fla., announced in a press release issued April 19,  the launch of its On-Time Transcript initiative that focuses on a 10-business-day turnaround for all transcripts.

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18 Deposition Tips from Court Reporters

A blog posted April 18 by JD Supra offers 18 tips from court reporters to help attorneys and paralegals make sure a deposition goes smoothly.

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