NCRA member’s judge moves into new office space

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyNCRA member Marcia Chandler, RPR, an official court reporter from Charles Town, W. Va., was mentioned in a July 16 article posted by Heraldmailmedia.com that featured a tour of Circuit Judge Brdiget M. Cohee’s new office in the Jefferson County Judicial center.

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Court reporting firms join forces

The St. Louis Business Journal reported on July 14, that PohlmanUSA, based in St. Louis, Mo., has acquired O’Brien & Bails, a court reporting firm with 11 offices in Michigan.

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A realtime tip that I will never forget

By Felicia Coleman Jordan

One of my favorite realtime tips came about due to a CART assignment at a college in my area. Upon arriving at the classroom, I set up my laptop realtime software and netbook for my student. I taped down my extension cord and cables to make sure that no one would trip while walking around the classroom. After hooking up, I checked my laptop and the student’s netbook to make sure that there was a proper connection on both computers. Initially, both computer screens were connected. A few minutes later, however, I noticed that my student’s screen had gone blank. I went to the student’s netbook to try to troubleshoot the issue and was unable to immediately resolve the problem.

It was important that I get the student’s netbook up and running, so I had to quickly decide how to troubleshoot the issue. I knew if I moved my computer in front of the student, she would be able to read my screen and join the lecture. As my extension cord and cables were currently taped to the floor and class was getting ready to start, I realized that this may not be as simple as I first thought. I had to make sure not to disturb the professor or the rest of the students while troubleshooting the problem. Time was of the essence at this point, as the lecture was only seconds away from starting.

I quietly pulled the tape up from where my cables ran and swiftly moved my laptop over to where the student was seated. I placed my laptop in front of the student so that she was able to read from my screen. She was now up and running. I was so thankful that I was able to resolve the problem before the lecture started — I must admit, my student was, too!

Immediately following the lecture, the professor approached me with a wonderful compliment. He indicated that he was very impressed with how quickly I was able to resolve the issue and that the student was able to continue the lesson with the rest of the class. I was pleased with the professor’s compliment. However, this was something that I was determined to avoid happening in the future.

I was aware that realtime was done with or without cables, so I researched available products to determine which one would work best for me. I also reviewed material that I had gathered from realtime seminars and finally decided

to go with a product called ME2U from Stenocast. This piece of equipment allowed me to write realtime in a safe and secure way. Using ME2U at my next CART assignment, I was able to transmit my realtime feed from my computer to the student’s netbook without a problem. Its quick USB connection took away the pain of taping down cables and cords and gave me more time to do other things in preparation of the student’s lectures. I may not choose to write wireless realtime in the courtroom, but for my CART assignments, this was the way to go!

Felicia Coleman Jordan, RPR, is a freelancer based in Detroit, Mich. She can be reached at feliciajordan@aol.com.

New Mexico court reporting firm announces entire state coverage

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyIn a press release issued July 3, Trattel Court Reporting & Videography, Albuquerque, N.M., announced that the firm is now providing coverage across the state.

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Staffing crisis at Sonoma County Superior Court

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyA drop in the number of court reporters, as well as additional inadequate staffing and increasing workloads at the Superior Court of Sonoma County, Calif., is resulting in long waits and limited access to court, according to an article posted July 9 by the Press Democrat.

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Esquire launches a program to help law firms make the most of their pro bono budgets

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyIn a press release issued July 11, Esquire Deposition Solutions, Atlanta, Ga., announced it launched a new pro bono court reporting program that creates partnerships with law firms across the country to offer discounted court reporting services to allow more individuals equal access to justice.

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The 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo is the place to earn new certifications

Professionals seeking to add nationally recognized certifications to their résumés can choose from several opportunities to work toward them at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo being held Aug. 10-13 at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nev.

Programs and certifications opportunities available this year include the Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR), Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC), Certified Reporting Instructor (CRI), and Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS). Note that many certifications require multiple steps to earn, so one or more components of testing may not be available during convention.

Certified Realtime Reporter Boot Camp

For those interested in learning how to pass the CRR, a three-hour long boot camp is available on Aug. 12. The CRR is recognized in the industry as the national certification of realtime competency. Taught by Kathryn Sweeney, FAPR, RMR, CRR, who helped develop the boot camp program, the course has enabled many to successfully pass the test on the first take. Sweeney is a freelance reporter and agency owner from Action, Mass.

Convention learning2In the course, Sweeney explains the testing requirements, covers NCRA’s What is an Error?, discusses what is not an error, and talks about the new online testing process. She also offers tips for self-preparation, including what to have on test day, what to do and not do on test day, and how and why candidates fail. Participants in the session should bring their equipment with them so they can take a couple of practice tests and learn how to adjust their system settings and dictionary entries. Skills testing for the CRR is offered online.

“I strongly believe taking the CRR Boot Camp will increase the chance of passing this test. When I finished my presentation in Georgia, a woman who already had her CRR came up to me and said that she wished this seminar was around when she was preparing for the test; that it had all of the information and steps that she muddled through on her own. She said it took years of figuring out what was being asked of her and then changing her writing and learning her equipment and software in order to pass,” Sweeney said.

“With this boot camp, I can help you in three hours,” added Sweeney, who also served as a beta tester for NCRA’s online testing system and as CRR Chief Examiner on behalf of the Association for 17 years.

Certified Realtime Captioner Workshop

Convention participants seeking the CRC certification can attend a 10-hour Workshop held Aug. 10-11 and take the Written Knowledge Test on Aug. 11, completing two of the three steps to the certification. (The third step, a Skills Test, can be taken anytime online.)

Leading the workshop are: Deanna Baker, FAPR, RMR, a broadcast captioner from Flagstaff, Ariz.; LeAnn Hibler, RMR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner from Joliet, Ill.; Karyn Menck, RDR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner from Nashville, Tenn.; and Heidi Thomas, FARP, RDR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner from Acworth, Ga.

Convention learning“I know you will learn something new, no matter how long you have been captioning,” said Carol Studenmund, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, a broadcast captioner based in Portland, Ore. Studenmund heads the Certified Realtime Captioner Certification Committee. “Then take the Written Knowledge Test right after the workshop — while the material is fresh in your mind — and before you know it, you are two thirds of the way to earning the certification.”

Certified Reporting Instructor Workshop

Educators interested in earning the CRI can attend a two-day Workshop, Aug. 10-11, designed to expand their level of knowledge for becoming more effective realtime reporting instructors. The Workshop covers information about the learning process, how to develop court reporting syllabi and lesson plans, and how role playing a variety of courtroom scenarios can aid students’ understanding.

“Those who attend and participate in the CRI Workshop will gain wonderful insight and skills for training the future of our profession,” said Dr. Jen Krueger, RMR, CRI, CPE, who will lead the session. Krueger is a full-time faculty member at Cuyahoga Community College, Parma, Ohio,

“The CRI credential demonstrates excellence and dedication in teaching, assuring students they are benefiting from the best instructors available and others that the court reporting profession is in good hands as those learners prepare to continue the noble and fine work of court reporters and captioners everywhere,” she added.

CLVS SeminarCertified Legal Video Specialist Seminar and Production Exam

Participants interested in earning the CLVS certification can attend the required three-day seminar from Aug. 11-13. The CLVS production exam is also available on Aug. 11 and 12, for those who are qualified. The CLVS program sets and enforces standards for competency in the capture, utilization, and retention of legal video and promotes awareness of these standards within the legal marketplace. Legal videographers often partner with court reporters to ensure the integrity of both the video of legal proceedings and the official transcript.

“Attending at the CLVS Seminar is beneficial to both experienced legal videographers as well as novices to the profession,” said Jason Levin, CLVS, with Virginia Media Group, Washington, D.C. Levin is one of the instructors leading the seminar.

“Our goal is to prepare videographers for the production and written exams, and on the last day of the seminar we actually conduct mock depositions where the attendees can operate the equipment in a deposition environment. Earning the CLVS certification sets yourself apart from noncertified videographers.  The networking opportunities of attending an event like this are well worth the investment,” he added.

 

Don’t miss the savings on lodging at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, the host hotel for the 2017 Convention. Attendees who register to stay at Planet Hollywood on Friday and Saturday nights are eligible for free breakfast and to win one of six new Kindle Fire tablets in a giveaway. Visit NCRA.org/Convention to register now.

Share your love for your profession: Participate in NCRA’s member video contest

Girl holding a camcorder in front of her face; she seems to be smilingNCRA is calling on all members to submit a short video sharing their career, what they do, and why they love it. The deadline is Aug. 4. All videos will be reviewed, and a winning video will be selected and announced in the JCR Weekly. The member submitting the winning video will also receive a new NCRA RTIC travel mug.

Contest rules are simple. All videos must be less than two minutes in length and include the member’s name in the file name. The video file must be uploaded with a completed NCRA video release form.

Tumbler with NCRA logo and text: WHA HAPS TPH STEPB-O STAEUZ TPH STEPB-OBe creative! Bust out your camcorder, digital camera, or even your smartphone. To help members capture the perfect video clip, NCRA suggests showing what a typical day of work is like for your or talking about your best day ever at work. Members are also encouraged to share why they love their career, showcase a piece of equipment they use and explain how it works, or share tips for others to get started in the profession.

Get filming and remember that the deadline is Aug. 4. For more ideas about video content, visit the NCRA member video contest page.

NCRA members reflect on transcribing oral histories from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

An elderly man is in the middle of speaking. He sits in front of a German newspaper projected behind him.

U.S. Dept. of Defense photo by Marvin Lynchard

Nearly 20 years ago, Michelle Keegan, RMR, CRR, of Quincy, Mass., and her husband visited the Dachau concentration camp in Germany. It was an unforgettable experience.

“There was very little talking amongst all of us tourists as we walked around the camp that day,” Keegan said. “Everybody seemed to keep looking at one another hoping that somebody would speak up and make sense of it all. Nobody did. On the bus ride back to the city, there was no light chatter. People were too overwhelmed.”

Years later, Keegan transcribed the account of one of the American soldiers whose battalion liberated Dachau.

“There were about 17,000 people still [in the camp] when they arrived,” Keegan said. “The horrific things that he relayed about some of the surroundings were what we had seen on our tour. He recounted that the battalion that had moved into the camp before his had been very overcome with emotion. He relayed about the soldiers, ‘They were so upset about what they saw that they actually lined up about 40 or 50 of these Nazi guards and just mowed them down with machine guns.’”

Transcribing this interview was part of the National Court Reporters Foundation’s (NCRF) agreement with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to have NCRA members preserve oral records from the museum’s collections. Since 2014, NCRA members have transcribed parts of more than 100 interviews from the museum’s collection of more than 200,000 records.

Hearing these eyewitnesses’ first-hand accounts puts a different perspective on what is taught in school and from history books.

“The most meaningful part of transcribing these interviews was actually becoming immersed into their life story as they’re describing the events that had happened to them,” said Megan Orris, RPR, an official from Beaver Springs, Pa. “The part of the interview I had to transcribe dealt with what this man endured right before he was liberated and then following his immigration to America and the life he had here. It was very interesting to listen to a real-life story and not something from a history textbook. It gave me a whole new perspective on life and being appreciative that I never had to go through what this man and others had during the Holocaust.”

Transcribing survivors’ accounts is a way to honor the victims, says Karen Shelton, RDR, CRR, a freelance reporter from Fort Worth, Texas.

“I have read the stories of Holocaust survivors for years and have visited Holocaust memorials in several places and have always found them deeply moving.  When the opportunity arose to transcribe the oral histories of survivors, I knew it was something I wanted to participate in.  As much as I have learned from educating myself about the history of that time and the plight of so many victims, I felt that transcribing some of their stories was something tangible I could do to honor their memories and to provide a written record for future generations to read,” Shelton said.

Some reporters who have never transcribed an interview of a Holocaust survivor may be hesitant to do so for emotional reasons.

“I was very anxious when I hit the play button on my first Holocaust interview. Would I be able to contain my emotion and get through whatever story I was going to hear?” Keegan said. “Just like in a deposition, I automatically switched into court reporter mode and listened for the words rather than the content the best that I could.”

Keegan and many other reporters are happy to have participated.

“I cannot fully express the gratitude that I have to be able to be a part of transcribing these stories.  I am humbled by the strength and courage of these men and women who sit and recount their stories so that the rest of us may understand this part of our history. The overwhelming appreciation that I have always had for the men and women of our Armed Forces has been strengthened by these interviews. In just a very tiny way, I feel that I have helped to preserve the stories of all of these people,” Keegan said.

Orris concurs: “Another meaningful part of transcribing these interviews was preserving their story. I think that has a whole new meaning in itself that we as reporters get to transcribe these stories, and they’re saved forever in the archives for people to read years from now. It gives you a special feeling to be able to have done something like this.”

For more information on NCRF’s Oral Histories Program and to get involved, visit NCRA.org/NCRF/OralHistories, or contact April Weiner, Foundation Manager, at aweiner@ncra.org.

Always go the extra mile — it’s never crowded up there

Runners wearing athletic apparal in a race down a narrow paved road with grass on either side

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexy Saltekoff

Practicing, staying motivated, meeting target speeds. Networking, handing out résumés, taking skills tests. Court reporting students have a lot on their minds. And getting ready to graduate adds another whole dimension to school life. Students reflect on the challenges they are leaving behind and look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead.

Attending a court reporting program can sometimes be a lonely road, but students find the camaraderie of their classmates to be a good source of motivation. “The most difficult thing about being in school,” explains Sara Simoni, a student at Bryan University in Tempe, Ariz., “is that the people in your circle don’t quite understand what you’re going through. Even though you may explain what it’s like time and time again, they will never quite understand.” Perhaps friends and family may not be able to relate, but nearly 40 percent of students answering a poll in April’s issue of Up-to-Speed reported that their court reporting classmates are “a great source of inspiration.”

Ask just about any court reporting student what his or her biggest hurdle in school is and the answer is usually speed plateaus. Most students also agree on the way to overcome that hurdle: Put in more practice time. Students differ on the details, however. “Maybe instead of writing at only 20 wpm above my goal speed for 5+ minutes, I do short bursts of 40 or 60 wpm over,” says Lauren Mancusi, a student at the College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind.

Simoni takes the opposite approach. “I would take a one-minute exercise and work it 20 wpm below my target speed … then bump it up in increments of 10 all the way up to 20 wpm above my target speed.’

Of course, there is more to staying motivated than just getting over speed plateaus. “The best tip for getting though school is to forget the bad days,” suggests Celeste Poppe, a recent graduate from Bryan University. “Cry for only an hour, and move on and keep going. It’s hard not to get swallowed up by the ‘I’m not getting it’ or ‘I’m stuck’ feelings, but you just have to keep your eyes on what’s in front of you and keep on stenoing.”

Simoni also says to focus on the positive. “The best tip for surviving school is to remember to reward yourself for even the smallest accomplishment. With all the tests you will fail during your court reporting school journey, you have to take time to celebrate even the smallest achievements.”

Focusing on the positive also means looking to the future. One of the best ways to get a jumpstart on a career is to start earning certifications, like the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) or the Certified Shorthand Reporter (CSR), while still in school. The experience of regular testing, in addition to the wide range of resources available in the school environment, makes this the perfect time to take those tests. “I am currently a licensed California CSR and working as a freelance deposition reporter. I also obtained my RPR during the time I was waiting for my CA CSR results, having passed each leg on the first time starting with the 225 leg and ending with the Written Knowledge Test leg,” said Poppe. Simoni found her internship to be an invaluable experience in preparing for her certification. “I loved interning. I had friends who were officials at my local courthouse. They couldn’t wait for me to start my interning journey, and they placed me right in on a jury trial. It definitely uplifted my confidence as well. I remember passing one of my last 225 tests right after interning.” She is planning to begin her RPR testing as soon as possible.

Those last few months of school are also the best time to search for a job. Students suggest getting out of the classroom and into the courtroom. “I am currently job hunting!” Simoni announces. “I am handing out résumés, and I am sitting in court with my friends who are officials. I’m working on my professional wardrobe and trying to gather all the necessary things to help me succeed as a new reporter. I know networking is huge in our industry, and I can’t help but be overly excited to hand out my new business cards!” Mancusi and Poppe also recommend attending state association conventions and seminars as a way to network with working reporters who can connect them with jobs.

For some students, the last piece of the puzzle is graduating from court reporting school. Every student takes a different path through the wickets of dictation, speed tests, internships, and graduation requirements. Often, the trickiest thing about graduating may actually be the timing. “To me,” admits Mancusi, “the hardest part of being in school is trying to explain to others why I don’t know my exact graduation date.” When Up-to-Speed polled readers about how important it is for them to graduate from court reporting school quickly, about 34 percent replied that they had people depending on them to graduate as soon as possible. But an almost equal number responded that they had “set a goal to graduate by a certain date, but things may change.” The remaining students were split almost evenly between a determination to graduate by a certain date “no matter what” and the more laid-back approach of “I’m in no rush. It will come when it comes.” Lauren Mancusi is firmly in the “no matter what” camp: “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”