Skilled for Success

Wendy Hill Ballroom Dancing
There are many court reporters who partake in activities outside of the courtroom. Sure, some of these activities may have started out as a hobby to unwind after a long day at the office. But as time passed, the skills gained from these activities have become a great benefit. In many cases, these skills have kept reporters focused or even helped to improve dexterity and posture. From sign language and yoga to knitting and ballroom dancing, these skills have made a difference in and out of the courtroom.

KNITTING FOR DEXTERITY AND CONCENTRATION

Freelance court reporter Susan Heierman, RDR, CRR, from Shelby Township, Mich., has been knitting since she was a teenager. But last August, she started knitting lace shawls. As Heierman describes it, the complex lace-pattern shawls are extremely challenging and require a lot of concentration. She has to be on her toes for the twists and turns that can come when working on a pattern. “I think I’m a better reporter and knitter because of my ability to concentrate. The two go hand in hand,” she says. She adds that having it handy allows her to knit just about every day. “I often keep smaller projects in my car to work on while I’m waiting to go in for my deposition.”

The dexterity of knitting also keeps her fingers nimble, an advantage to her as a court reporter. Heierman adds that it also helps keep both her profession and her knitting skills in perspective. “Like reporting, knitting can be frustrating. It’s like those days when you have a witness who wants to talk 350 wpm, you just have to hang in there. You know you will be a better reporter and knitter because you have persevered.”

QUILTING PUSHES NEW TECHNOLOGY

Helga LavanHeierman isn’t the only reporter who has affinity for fabric. Helga Lavan, RPR, from Hicksville, N.Y., has been a court reporter for 20 years and a quilter for almost as long. A neighbor introduced her to quilting, and Lavan has been at it ever since. “Sewing helps me become a better court reporter by keeping my mind sharp. With quilting one is always wondering how to piece a project together, as well as trying to keep on top of the latest gadgets and gizmos in the sewing market.”

When she compares her growth within the field of sewing to her career as a court reporter, she relates it’s important to embrace the changes in technology. “It is in this way I can produce a beautiful quilt and an accurate transcript with ease. As I sit before my sewing machine, I am immediately transformed.” Lavan says her mind lingers and often thinks about a job that may have caused some anxiety or a situation that arose on a job that frazzled her. She uses the time while quilting to think how she can address those situations the next time she is faced with them. “With each project I tackle — either producing a transcript of a proceeding that included a fast-talking, mumbling witness or creating a new quilt with challenging piecing — I learn to be patient and forgiving. If something doesn’t work well, next time I will remember to do it differently.”

It seems as though with each machine — whether it’s for sewing or writing — Lavan finds similarities. When she goes to quilt shows and sees other’s finished pieces, sometimes she thinks, “I could never do that.” But before long, she’s buying the kit or pattern to tackle the project herself. She used to think, “I can never be a realtime reporter,” and while she’s still mastering her skills for certification, she now fully believes it’s an attainable goal.

SIGN LANGUAGE TEACHES COMPETENCY

Pic_Plexico
Lucinda Plexico from Atoka, Tenn., is a CART provider at the University of Memphis and has worked as a sign language interpreter for 11 years. In 2010, she started providing CART and is currently pursuing certification. She recalls when she began offering educational CART at the university: “I was first given the opportunity when one of our hard of- hearing students enrolled in the law school. I followed him through all three years of law school, and it was an amazing experience.” Her sign language skills have helped prepare her for CART work, and she states it’s the same general idea of listening followed by the mental process of translating the spoken word. “I believe both skills require a great deal of hand eye coordination and memorization, and a high degree of language competency such as grammar and vocabulary.”

Plexico adds that interpreting gave her knowledge of the educational setting and environment, as well as what to expect. “Physically, both jobs incorporate the same long hours of sitting, listening, and language processing, so I felt better prepared for those aspect,” she explains. aspects.” And it comes in handy when communicating with the hard-of-hearing and deaf students who need CART. “I do believe it would have been more of a challenge to gain CART skills if I didn’t have the interpreting skills first because the two are so similar. Interpreting has enhanced my skills in the areas of manual dexterity and listening and has given me access to collegiate-level terminology I might not have otherwise had,” she says.

PILATES FOR PERFECT POSTURE

Vicki Britt, RPR, from Sacramento, Calif., is a freelancer who is also a certified Pilates instructor. What started out as a hobby turned into a skill she uses to help others when she teaches Pilates. Not only has it been a big stress reliever, it has increased her posture in the court, helped the tension between her shoulders after a long day of reporting, and helped her stay calm by using correct breathing during tense or fast situations in the court. She took her first Pilates class more than 15 years ago and was hooked immediately. Seven years ago she started teaching after getting her certification. “Our court reporting profession and lifestyles are sedentary. We commonly carry stress in our shoulders, neck, and lower back. Conscious breathing and connecting your movement with your breath helps the body relax. All of this helps me keep a clear, quieter mind when I am working,” she says.

Even though she has been dancing and exercising most of her life, she didn’t realize how much exercise helped after a long day in the court until she started taking Pilates. “I’m very aware of my posture when I’m working. I’ve also used the stretches to release tension when I take breaks or have been sitting for long periods of time. Pilates has also given me a better balance between work and life and made me a much happier, healthy person.”

YOGA FOR FLEXIBLE BODY AND BRAIN

Britt isn’t the only one who has taken to the mat and found it helpful with court reporting. Kimmel McDiarmid, RPR, an official court reporter who lives in Pittsboro, N.C., swears by yoga. McDiarmid has been doing yoga for close to two years and her only regret is that she didn’t start ten years earlier when another reporter recommended it. “I wish I’d listened, and I hope that lots of reporters who read this give it a try,” she says. But she recommends taking it slowly, advising that beginners shouldn’t jump into it too fast and, as she puts it, turn themselves into a pretzel. “I’m talking about learning to breathe to be calmer, to stretch to be healthier, and to give yourself some of your time and attention every day.” The great thing about yoga, as McDiarmid points out, is you can do it anywhere since you don’t need special equipment or a lot of space. “I find times like, for example, brushing my teeth to do tree pose. If I’m at the stove or doing dishes, I do my breathing or stand on one leg to build bone density.”

In addition to relieving stress, yoga has taught McDiarmid to be calmer. Before doing yoga, she said she was less able to cope with stress or let it dissipate. “I still work hard to get the record exactly right and get every single word, but my overall platform is just a little calmer now,” says McDiarmid. It combats stiffness because when the body becomes more flexible and stronger through continued practice of yoga, the muscles are more elastic. “An added benefit is that when I do get stiff from sitting in the courtroom in a static pose at my machine, I have great tools to loosen my body quickly and gently.” Her yoga teacher has even taught her and other court reporters inconspicuous stretches they can do during a 30- to 45-second pause in proceedings while the attorneys are consulting or meeting at the bench. McDiarmid also notes, “When there’s no chronic pain, it’s easier to report and sit. When the stress is lower, it’s easier to clear the mind and just write.”

BALLROOM DANCING FOR STRENGTH

For Willi Hill, retired court reporter, from Orange, Calif., her career would have likely been cut short if she hadn’t found ballroom dancing to keep her back and shoulders strong. Thanks in part to the dancing, she worked for Los Angeles County Superior Court for 25 years before retiring in January 2001. She remembers vividly how her introduction to the dance floor began. It was 1985 and she wanted to lose 30 pounds, so she went to her doctor for diet pills. Her doctor agreed to a one-month prescription but also told her to start an exercise routine, and not just any exercise. He asked her to choose an activity that she really enjoyed in hopes she’d stick with it. Shortly thereafter, she saw an ad for a free dance lesson, which Hill describes as a one-hour free dance lesson along with a sales pitch. She signed up and was hooked right away.

At first, Hill went alone but her husband began to join her. “When dancing, I was able to put everything out of my mind except the music and movement,” she says. Hill remembers the tips provided, such as keep your back straight, shoulders strong, and be sure to get your weight on each foot as you turn in order to keep your balance. “In the courtroom, because of my stature (under five feet), I always made a special effort to secure the right-sized chair and backrest so that my feet touched the floor and I could maintain a straight back.”

Hill adds that she sometimes joked if she hadn’t found ballroom dancing, she would have been on the psychiatrist’s couch. “Ballroom dancing was very therapeutic for me. It was physical exercise as well as an emotional outlet,” says Hill. In fact, she enjoyed dancing so much that she started dancing competitively and over the years collected quite a few trophies as well as costumes. Now 72, Hill no longer competes or does shows, but dancing will always be part of her life. She and her husband, who passed away in 2009, took to the floor for years. “We met many wonderful and inspiring people. I will always be grateful to have found it and to have finished out my career with Los Angeles County.”

TENNIS FOR KEEPING YOUR COOL

Linda Wolfe, RMR, from Sarasota, Fla., started playing tennis in 1991 and over the years began captaining United States Tennis Association teams. Wolfe mentions that tennis and court reporting are not only physical but mental. “I love tennis because if you make a mistake, you have to mentally move on and not dwell on your bad shot. Much like court reporting, if you miss a perfect stroke, you either try to correct it immediately or move on. You can’t dwell on what you just heard in a deposition or the bad tennis shot you just made,” says Wolfe.

Wolfe has owned her court reporting company since the early 80s and found owning the business has helped in many ways when it comes to working with tennis teams. “Court reporting requires you to be organized, and recruiting team players, organizing matches, and then playing the match requires skills the average team captain does not possess. I found owning a court reporting business helped me juggle the demands of tennis teams.” But it’s not just about being organized. It’s about keeping cool under pressure, especially in court reporting. “The room is filled with tension, but you have to write on your machine under intense pressure,” she says.

She also believes her skills as a tennis player affect her court reporting. When she doesn’t play tennis for a week, she feels sluggish and not as acute mentally when, for example, five attorneys are making their point in a deposition or courtroom. Wolfe says without a doubt that tennis has been a wonderful stress outlet. “All the angst in the courtroom disappears when I am outside playing next to a pond with lily pads (like our public courts in Sarasota), where birds are chirping, the sun is setting, the cool breeze is relaxing and all the pressure of the day disappears when I am playing.”

Secrets of success: Positive thinking, Discipline, and People Skills

Positive Thinking, Discipline, People Skills
Diane Hromek, RMR, CMRS, has been in the court reporting field for more than three decades. Born and raised in Illinois, Hromek splits her time between Cape Coral, Fla., and Lake Tomahawk, Wis. After seeing an ad for court reporting school at age 16, she received her parent’s permission and started Bryant-Stratton College in Chicago between her junior and senior years of high school. Hromek went on to graduate with a court reporting degree in 1968. She is the owner and manager of Diane Hromek’s Court Reporters and runs her business with the help of her handy BlackBerry, Verizon Hotspot, laptop, and high-speed printer.

How important are credentials and continued education in becoming successful?

Generally speaking, I have never had an attorney ask me about special credentials I have received. They are interested in what I can do and how fast I can get it done. They assume I can do my job accurately.

However, the more education a reporter has, the better. When a reporter is at a job site, attorneys and witnesses expect court reporters to know the basics about a subject. That is why I have always advocated that a reporter take a course in a certain area they may have an interest in, such as securities, real estate, construction, medicine, etc. Also, reading the paper and keeping up with spellings and world events is mandatory. Even sports.

As an owner of a small business, I have needed support or courses addressing how to run a business and related subjects, such as Quickbooks, marketing, taxes, etc. Getting to go to an owner’s seminar would be great.

What would be your advice on building up business in several locations?

Building a business in new locations was tricky. I remember one court reporter who I trained right out of school. She is a great gal. She came from a small town in Illinois far from Chicago. After I trained her, she went home and started her own business in that same small town where she grew up. I understood that and wished her well. Still, my business suffered a loss.

I thought it would be an interesting idea to start a business of taking students from school and then teaching them the ropes for a fee. It takes lots of time to train a new reporter. In our industry, time means money. Just think of how much time it takes to edit a transcript and how much time it takes to train a new reporter. So, to answer the question, establishing a new business in strange places just takes time.

I am now a business owner, primarily, and a court reporter, secondarily. I have owned my own business since 1974. At the time that I made the decision to have my own business, I did the math, thought about the clients who always liked to work with me, and thought if I opened my own business, I would be better off financially. (That is not necessarily true, because being a business owner is way different than being a court reporter. Both need the proper training.)

What are the challenges and rewards of owning a business?

The challenges: Not enough work; too much work; not enough money to pay the bills; trying to make a profit; making sure to follow the rules and regulations or guides for the court reporters; knowing where I stand with the attorneys so as not to get pushed or pulled in the wrong direction; training court reporters; ensuring quality control; meeting deadlines, especially when typing transcripts, which was how transcripts were made at the time. Being a woman business owner alone and dealing with male attorneys.

The rewards: The pride of saying that I own a business, especially for many years, and of finishing contracts honorably; being able to help other reporters; speaking to schools and encouraging student reporters; working as a reporter on amazing cases and meeting people affiliated with them; being in the heart of Chicago politics and Illinois politics and keeping my mouth shut; traveling around the world to report; and earning the monies to live an enriched lifestyle, including the ability to buy airplanes, fly them, pay mortgages on them, and grow to the next airplane – five of them as of this time, one at a time.

What personal traits have contributed to your success?

First, my parents were always there to support me in every way. My father had a business, a used car lot and auto body shop. Ex-Army, he exhibited some traits that I have inherited without realizing where they came from.

My mother, a homemaker, encouraged me every step of the way in everything my sister and I did. She was always there for us, cooking, cleaning, and loving us. We didn’t have to clean or cook so that we could concentrate on school and piano. The philosophy worked so that we wanted to cook and clean and be like mom as we grew older. We didn’t have to be told.

Also, training and discipline to become a concert pianist. Internal drive. The power of positive thinking and my Christian beliefs. Discipline, from playing the piano, to practice.

How has court reporting changed over the years?

We used to type transcripts. I can remember one time, I had several copies that were ordered. I had to use hectograph paper. When I made a mistake, I would have to stop, separate the sheets in the typewriter, take a razor blade and scratch out the error, and then put the sheets back together, hope they didn’t slip, and hit the right key to correct the transcript.

At that time, we had a note puller with a foot pedal. One would step on the foot pedal, and it would activate the notes to progress upward on a slanted easel, over the top, and, if one was lucky, the notes would fold nicely on the other side. If a breeze blew, the notes would scatter all over. It was a lot easier than flipping the steno notes over as we finished typing from them.

At that time, no self-respecting court reporter ever used a tape recorder as a backup. If you dropped, you interrupted. If you interrupted too much, that was a big problem. The attorney was apt to call for another reporter or even interrupt the proceedings to get a different reporter.

Steno machines used to be really light to carry. I think, perhaps, that is why people thought of us as secretaries versus court reporters. As our equipment became more intriguing and our ability to do amazing things with it grew, we earned the respect of being court reporters and were more respected for charging the rates we do now.

There was no such thing as a “dirty disk.” There was an unproofread transcript. That is what was used when doing daily copies when there was no time to proofread transcripts – such as when we typed transcripts through the night to be in the hands of the attorneys before court began the next morning.

Believe it or not, I remember a time before fax machines and copy machines. What wonderful inventions!

Notices of deposition. I suppose those were always there. But now, when I get a phone call or email requesting a court reporter, before the client has a chance to start dictating the job information, I simply ask him or her to fax or email the notice of deposition and the service list with all the information possible about the attorneys of record. I save all the NODs in my computer and send them as attachments to the court reporters who accept the job. The procedure used to be for the court reporter to arrive at the deposition and, after setting up the steno machine, ask the attorney for the caption. By hand, we used to copy it word for word, thus taking long periods of time while the attorneys made small talk and waited politely for the court reporter to finish. We had to ask each attorney for his or her name and who he or she represented. After we assigned symbols for the attorneys for our steno machines, then, 15 minutes later, we were ready to start. At the end of the deposition, we would ask on the record who was ordering a transcript. Now, many reporters use an order form. At that time, it was easy. “Do you want a transcript?” “Yes.” Now, the choices are so many: “Do you want a mini? A concordance? An ETran? A pdf?”

There was a time when smoking was allowed in the deposition rooms. One time, there were five attorneys, a witness, and me. All but one person smoked in that small, closed-door room. I wondered how I would survive such situations in the future. I was 18 and intimidated by just being among attorneys. How was I going to ask them to not smoke?

Attitudes of attorneys toward reporters have changed with the times. There were times that I would rather burst than ask for a bathroom break. People are more relaxed now, such that asking for a recess should be totally acceptable.

What kind of skills are needed to be successful?

People skills! Also dealing with clients. I always lean their way, if at all possible, even if I take a loss. Also with court reporters. If they charge a little extra, even if it is not what my rates are/were, I don’t quarrel. I am so grateful they are willing to work with me. Most are humble and wonderful to work with and willing to bend.

Other skills: Math. You never know when a customer will call and ask for a bid to do a big job. You have to know how to do fractions, percentages, and know your costs so that you can make a profit. Personal temperature control: Always stay calm about everything. Tongue control: Measure what you are going to say. “Treat wisdom as a sweetheart.” (The Bible.) Acknowledge and praise the reporters. We all work so hard! Advertising: Be smart where to put your money. Savings: This is one of the most important things I learned from my accountant: Save. I started a savings account and try to put aside 10 percent of every deposit, just for a rainy day. (Thank goodness, it doesn’t rain too much.) I also dip into this fund at Christmas. Nice to have. Thank yous: Very important key to running a business. Just a little note, handwritten, is all it takes – usually.

What advice would you give a student who is about to enter the field?

Get with an agency that is very busy, one that takes all different sorts of work. Be willing to go to court, take meetings, do things over your head so as to grow. Read at least 50 transcripts from that agency so that you will know their format and clients. Know software for various computer programs like Microsoft Outlook, Quickbooks, etc. Take computer courses. Have your own technician. Hire your own scopist. Start together and grow together. Two of them are even better. That way, if you have a daily copy or a huge amount of transcript to get out right away, there is no delay, and no one gets tired out. Always remain loyal to the agency and be grateful. Be positive. Dress and act professionally. That is half the fun of this job. Allow clients quiet time when you arrive on the job unless they engage you. You are there to serve them. Be half an hour early. Get transcripts in way before they need them. Read the newspaper. I offer my work to the Lord. I am doing a service to mankind when I do a good job, helping people who are in trouble or quarreling over something. The law keeps peace. There were scribes back in Biblical times, and I think there always will be.

What type of advice would you give to an established court reporter who is considering getting out of the field due to changes in the business?

The right answer is to go where your heart is. Right? Still, if you can help someone, keep on going. Life is short. Do what makes you happy. Help others. Maybe the right answer is to close the business.

See what fits each individual person. It takes money to keep an agency going. There are many things to consider: advertising through NCRA or individual websites, the cost of keeping your license or upgrading your software or servicing your hardware. Illinois requires continuing education points. In Florida, I need to renew my notary license at a cost of about $250. The cost of steno software is $750. Quickbooks costs about $220. The cost of my BlackBerry and Hotspot, $340 monthly. Other advertising. Binders. Office supplies. Business cards. Brochures. Other promotional gifts – under $100 per client yearly. It takes time, too, as you (or someone) must be present to take phone calls and respond to emails in a timely manner.

To answer the question again, I believe digital recording in the courthouse has some merit for smaller cases, especially with budget cutting. I understand when there is a fender-bender case, it may not be appropriate to spend a thousand bucks when the total costs of the accident don’t amount to half that. And I could see how important it is to spend the dollars necessary to hire a court reporter for a high-end medical or product case. As a reporter, one better be ready for exciting reporting on cases of more sophisticated matters, which is not a place for a beginner. Also, this is a situation where experience and knowledge come into play. Reading numerous finished transcripts by experienced reporters would be very helpful for young reporters.

Where do you see the court reporting profession going in the future? And how can reporters to prepare for that?

I thought about 10 years ago that reporting would end. But the technology kept it going. I love all the new things I know about computers and technology. I attend seminars to learn the latest. To respond more directly to the question, I believe reporters who are chosen to work on depositions and trials will have to be the most professional ones available, with good speed, accuracy, dependability, professional conduct and appearance, a proper work ethic, so that they can get the job done on time or ahead of time.

I encourage reporters to work three weeks and take off the fourth week every month or at least a long weekend to rest. Lenore Weiss, an agency owner in Chicago who has passed away, said: Never give up an important event in your personal life for court reporting. In summary, I am grateful for the opportunity to share some of my experiences as a court reporter and an agency owner.

Music to our ears

Court reporters chime in on how playing musical instruments helped with their careers.

1307_Music

When kids learn an instrument, teachers sometimes tell them “you’re a natural” or “you have a great ear.” It’s true that many are born with talent, but for most, it’s a combination of talent and hard work. In other words, it doesn’t come easily. There are endless hours of practice to hone skills and become great musicians — which is also true about court reporting.

So this made us wonder — does it make a difference in how reporters get through school and get a start in the field if they have a musical background? Does playing an instrument help with finger dexterity on a writer? Does the experience of hearing notes, reading music, or playing in a band help with captioning the spoken word? To get to the bottom of this, we spoke to several court reporters who have spent years playing instruments.

A HEAD START

Linda Fritsch, RMRLinda Fritsch, RMR, from Largo, Fla., has worked as a deputy official court reporter and has done depositions and civil court work. Fritsch started playing the piano when she was eight years old and continued studying music in college after playing in the high school orchestra. When she started court reporting school, she found playing music gave her a head start in the program.

“I definitely think learning to read music and developing finger dexterity in playing the piano were a big help in learning court reporting. Learning and practicing steno theory requires the same skills needed to read music and play an instrument,” Fritsch says. She adds playing chord formations on the piano is like writing out phonetic words. “In learning to read music, you look at symbols on a page, and then you translate those symbols through your fingers to different keys on the instrument. In learning reporting, you study steno theory, which involves memorizing the letter formations that produce phonetic sounds. When writing, you hear the phonetic sounds and, in turn, translate the phonetic sounds through your fingers to the appropriate keys on the steno keyboard.”

Fritsch adds that if you love what you do, as in theory and the steno writer, this should provide students the determination to keep practicing. In fact, she says the quicker you are to recognize notes or sounds, the quicker you will be able to respond to the keyboard. Even so, she thinks practicing is the important part. “Repetition is what builds one’s reflexes, both on the piano and the writer,” Fritsch says. “Practice makes perfect, as the old saying goes.”

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

Victoria (Tori) PittmanWhen it comes to playing, you either stick with one instrument or you play several. In Victoria (Tori) Pittman’s case, she started with piano then picked up the oboe, violin, baritone sax, and bass violin. Pittman, RPR, from Wake Forest, N.C., was in the school orchestra and was also in an allcounty band as well as an all-county orchestra and the Mohawk Valley Symphony. To say she’s accomplished is an understatement. She no longer plays these instruments due to the time needed to practice, but her musical experience has helped in many ways when it comes to court reporting.

“Having the manual dexterity and the hand-eye-ear coordination definitely helps. You can feel and hear when your fingers are in the wrong place,” Pittman says. She also mentions a rule her high school band leader kept. “He always said, ‘If you’re on time, you’re late.’ Meaning your music is up and ready, and you should be ready to play when the time for brand practice hits. I was never late for class. Ever!” Pittman adds that because she had to practice to get a piece right, she knew it wasn’t going to just magically hap ; she knew that it would take a lot of effort.

Pittman is not sure about the correlation between music and court reporting in regard to attaining her skills faster, but in other ways, she thinks it has helped.

“The fact that I already had the ability to not watch my hands and let them do what they needed to do (as when reading music) made it easier for me when I had to listen for words but not watch my fingers as they tried to write them (trusting one’s notes, if you will),” Pittman says. This background has also helped overall in her profession. Having punctuality drilled into her head while in band class made her very conscious about being early, setting up, and being ready to go before anyone gets in the room. On a final note, Pittman says, “After a good performance, you don’t really remember what you did, you only remember how it felt. If someone were to ask me the topic of a hearing/deposition, I probably could only give the very basics. I get subsumed by the ‘music’ as it were and let myself flow with it. I no longer think about it.”

LEARN LIFE THROUGH MUSIC

Michelle GrimesJust like the variety of court reporting professions, there are also a variety of types of musicians. Michelle Grimes is a freelance court reporter from Joliet, Ill., who has been a drummer since she turned eight years old. She started taking lessons and had formal training during grade school.

After a while, she wanted her own drum set, but her parents weren’t too keen on the idea. So she waited, and at 19 years old, with determination and a little luck, she bought her own after selling a fax machine she won in a Chicago radio contest. Once she got the set, she started playing in a few rock bands at festivals, benefits, and clubs in the Chicago area. Then, she took time off, but for a good reason — court reporting school.

“After a five-year hiatus of not playing so I could get through court reporting school and begin my career, I have recently returned to playing for myself, not in a band, and I am working on honing my hobby with more technical stuff as my time and schedule allows,” Grimes says. She adds that playing the drums is her reward for getting work and other necessities done.

“The biggest lesson playing drums has taught me is that in order to become very proficient and skilled at something, it takes a lot of practice, dedication, concentration, discipline, and perseverance. It’s hard work. There is no easy way to get there. It has taught me discipline and dedication, and it has helped my concentration. All of that is necessary, I believe, to becoming a skilled and proficient writer,” Grimes says.

This thought actually helped with her decision to put playing on hold while in school. Grimes says, “I knew that if I had my drums around, I’d be more tempted to play them than practice on my steno machine, so I had to put them away, which was really difficult for me. I missed them dearly. Thankfully, we are happily reunited.” While some people think that musicians might listen better, Grimes points out a different similiarity: “I notice that there is a natural cadence or tempo in which most people talk. The drummer is the keeper of the time for the whole band. I often connect with a person’s cadence of speech while I’m writing. Syllables are to words as notes and beats are to drums — for me, anyway.” Grimes also sees how reading music has helped. In fact, she mentions punctuation and grammar author Margie Wakeman Wells’ theory that reading the written steno notes creates “grooves in the brain” and improves muscle memory.

“Muscle memory is taught in both court reporting and drumming. It dee s as our eyes see and recognize the steno outlines and music notes. I think reading music creates grooves in a similar way,” Grimes says. Even though at one point she wanted to be a professional drummer, she chose the court reporting field because the Bureau of Labor Statistics said there were more jobs than people to fill them.

After her five-year hiatus of drum playing, Grimes is happy to be back on her drummer’s throne and comments how drumming has taught her a lot of lessons about life and court reporting. “Playing set the foundation to help me get through many challenges of court reporting — dedication, determination, overcoming defeat and disappointment, celebrating successes, facing new challenges, and relieving stress,” she says.

EAR-HAND COORDINATION

Lori Judd, RMRFor Lori Judd, RMR, a freelance reporter from Las Vegas, Nev., it wasn’t as much about relieving stress as it was about learning something new. So when she turned 40 years old, she bought a harp. Even though she had a lot of music experience and a degree in music performance, Judd confesses to being a beginner.

“I knew from my previous music study that I needed to practice at least a little every day,” Judd says. This practice paid off because now, 15 years later, Judd plays gigs all over Vegas and is the principal harpist for the Henderson Symphony Orchestra. “More than anything, I think the skill that reporters develop is an ear/hand coordination. Musicians have the ear/hand coordination, too. Musicians have to learn a new language — reading music — and become proficient at thinking in terms of notes and chords, and reporters also learn a new language — steno — and become proficient at thinking in steno,” Judd says.

Judd adds that she doesn’t think reporters are eye/hand coordination experts. She thinks they’re ear/hand coordination experts. “Yes, we often watch the people producing the sounds that we capture, but we take the spoken words using our ears and convert them to written words. And playing an instrument certainly helps me listen more carefully.”

Learning the harp as an adult has affected Judd differently from learning other instruments, and is an inspiration to court reporters who have taken up the profession as a career change. “It can be daunting to start something difficult later in life. The best advice that I could give is to just keep showing up to your lessons (or to classes) no matter what, and you need, need, need to be sure that you get some time on your machine (or instrument) every day, even if it’s just five minutes.” Judd says that she was disciplined, and that made the difference. It wasn’t always quality practicing, but she played nearly every day and still does. “Even when I didn’t feel I was ready for a lesson, I would still show up.”

DRILL IT IN

Rich GermosenRich Germosen of North Brunswick, N.J., readily recalls how music helped when it came to court reporting school. As a saxophone player since the fifth grade, which included participation in the concert, marching, and stage bands, Germosen vividly remembers the first week of court reporting school.

“We were all doing finger drills, and when we got to the ring finger, everyone was moaning and groaning at how hard it was to drill the ring fingers. I was doing the ring fingers pretty quickly, and I remember looking around wondering why everyone else thought it was so difficult,” Germosen says.

Even though he no longer plays the saxophone, Germosen be lieves playing has continued to help him in his career. “Playing an instrument is sort of like writing on the steno machine. The more you practice, the better you get. All that practicing an instrument sort of set the stage for practicing on the machine in school. But I think I didn’t notice all that until after I was out of school and reflecting back over the years,” says Germosen. It also taught him how to practice consistently, and as he states, court reporting school is all about building skills on the machine by practicing a lot.

He successfully finished school in just a little more than 22 months and passed the New Jersey CSR on the first try. “I wanted to pass the first CSR I took so I did a total of five hours a day of practice on the machine from June through October.” He’d wake up at 5 a.m. and do two hours before school, then practice for three hours at school from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. All that practice has paid off, and he has been busy with work ever since.

“If you ask me, I was supposed to learn how to play the saxophone to prepare me for a lifetime of writing on my machine. And here I am, almost 21 years later,” he says.

STRIVE FOR PERFECTION

Diane HromekSome of our musicians never really thought they’d make a profession out of it, but Diane Hromek, who splits her time between Florida and Wisconsin, wanted to be a concert pianist. That meant a grueling practice schedule that included repeating classical music 15 to 20 times daily. “I was the piano soloist at Riverside-Brookfield High School in Illinois. I sometimes memorized more than 80 pages at a time,” Hromek says. But one day, her mother said something she’ll never forget: “You know, dear, you are not going to make a living doing that.”

“I was shocked!” Hromek recollects. “That’s what I thought I’d be doing.” She took what her mom said to heart. Soon thereafter, she spotted an ad in the Chicago Tribune talking about court reporting school.

“When I was 16, Mom and I, with Dad’s approval, went to visit the school. I signed up,” Hromek says. During the time she went to court reporting school, she had to stop practicing piano, which broke her heart. But since she was used to practicing the piano 3 to 5 hours a day, she put that energy into her steno machine. Those years of playing the piano, especially preparing to perform, caused Hromek to strive for perfection. “Everyone can hear if I make a mistake. That comes pretty close to writing realtime, as I do for every job. So, I believe there is a close correlation between the two,” she says.

Hromek still plays the piano, but mostly at her home. It gives her a relief from stress that builds up with life or work. “Even after many hours of writing on my steno machine or editing on my computer, even if my back is aching and my head is tired, I still find myself sitting down to play a song. In fact, ‘play a song’ is a phrase I used daily. I say to my retired husband, ‘I think I will go play a song.’ He says, ‘Go play a song.’ [But] I seldom only play one song,” she says.

Now at age 63, Hromek believes the exercise from playing the piano has given her hands and arms exceptional durability. And she fondly remembers how much she loved playing at a younger age. “When I moved away from my childhood home to Chicago, my first piece of furniture was a brand-new Chickering baby grand piano. I didn’t know how they would get it up to the 47th floor in the elevator, but they did. I bought that before I bought a bed. I knew I could always sleep on the floor, if I had to, but I couldn’t live without a piano,” she says.

IT TAKES DISCIPLINE

Linda Breech, RPROur list of musicians wouldn’t be complete without a clarinet and guitar player. Linda Breech, RPR, from Santa Clarita, Calif., is an official reporter for the Los Angeles Superior Court. She started out with piano at age six, then moved on to clarinet and guitar in middle and high schools, where she, like Germosen, played in the marching band.

“Learning the theory of reading music and finger dexterity and coordination gave me what I needed to adapt easily to the steno keyboard,” Breech says. And the discipline built in to practice made it come naturally. “I think the musical background very likely helps to create neural pathways in the brain to process sound and have it come through the fingers more accurately,” she says. After she saw an ad for the court reporting program, Breech progressed quickly through school. She said a light bulb went off. “I was interested in law but did not want to be a lawyer. I had excellent English/grammar skills, and I had the finger dexterity from my instruments, so I took to the steno machine very easily.” She says that music is still her first love, and it’s her favorite avocation. “It helped me launch quickly into a vocation that I still enjoy 20 years later and look forward to doing for the next 20.”

After speaking with our musically inclined court reporters, we can see how a combination of finger dexterity and hand-ear coordination played a part in helping them get through school and become successful reporters. But one thing is even more evident — s ding years practicing an instrument every day set the stage for court reporting school and passing the exams. It was, in a way, knowing what to expect, having s t all that time practicing something to perfection. In other words, even with capturing the spoken word, there are no short cuts. Would Rachmaninov, Joan Jett, or Miles Davis have been great reporters? Most likely — if they practiced for hours, were dedicated and highly disciplined, and could persevere.

Capturing the spoken word and each other’s hearts

When we think of couples, more than a few come to mind. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Sonny and Cher. John Lennon and Yoko Ono. In the court reporting world, we have several couples who have captured the spoken word — and each other’s hearts. Some have met while on the job, others through mutual friends, and some even while visiting an online forum. Whether they’ve been together for decades or just met within the past few years, these court reporting couples have made a mark in the industry and have been there for each other along the way.

Louise Becker and Tim Regis

Tim Regis and Louise Becker

Tim Regis and Louise Becker, Tacoma, Wash.

Louise Becker, RMR, CRR, CBC, CCP, and Tim Regis, RPR, met when they were in court reporting school in 1988. Becker started freelance reporting in 1990 and is a broadcast captioner for her local ABC affiliate. Regis, who currently works as an official court reporter at his local courthouse, followed Becker’s footsteps by joining the profession in 1993. Looking back, they realized they had a lot in common, such as a similar sense of humor, religion, work ethic, and financial compatibility.

In Becker and Regis’s case, the advantages of being in the same field are numerous. They mention that even though the economy has been unstable for the past few years, their jobs have been fairly stable. With Regis working as an official reporter, he’s able to get benefits and regular income. Since Becker is self-employed, she can take advantage of certain tax benefits, such as contributing to a 401k or an IRA.

But there are also a few disadvantages. Regis says, “When both of us worked as freelance reporters, it was pretty tough financially because we were either both busy or both slow because of the feast-or famine nature of freelance reporting. That was one of the reasons why Louise switched to broadcast captioning in 1995.” And they mention one other issue — their work schedules. Since TV is 24/7, Becker often works evenings, weekends, and holidays, whereas Regis has more of a 9-to-5 work schedule except for transcripts.

Neither one has ever considered leaving the field, but they do mention there are good days and bad days. Becker says, “Except for other reporters, no one really understands how this job works, so it’s nice for Tim to be able to complain about fast-talking attorneys who refuse to slow down, and I can complain about technical problems. And the conversation stays at home.”

When asked what words of wisdom they’d give other couples in court reporting or ones who were entering the field, they say, “Celebrate the milestones with a pat on your back. Don’t let others put you down or discourage you. Take criticism in a constructive way and use it to improve your skills.” They talk about the future of court reporting: “We’re hopeful that our jobs will take us into retirement. Folks have been saying our industry was a dying profession for years, going back to the invention of the tape recorder, but we’re still here and able to make a comfortable living.”

Gene and Jo Ann Betler

Gene and Jo Ann Betler

Gene and Jo Ann Betler, Huntington, W.Va.

Gene Betler, CLVS, and Jo Ann Betler, RDR, CRR, CBC CCP, CPE, CLVS, from Huntington, W.Va., met in September 1990. It seems they agree on one aspect of their introduction — the actual date they met. The rest tends to change depending on whom you ask. Gene insists that Jo Ann sent three of her friends to kidnap him and bring him down to Huntington to meet her. Jo Ann offers a slightly different recollection: “A co-worker of mine was dating a friend of his. On a Saturday night of dancing, he and I were introduced.” Jokingly, Jo Ann adds she was having a weak moment. “He’s like that puppy you let in the door. After a while, you realize that he’s here to stay.”

Jo Ann, who has been in the field since 1982, has always loved court reporting. And having Gene in the field to lean on has been great. She adds, “Knowing that I have his support when I look at improving myself professionally is a great comfort. The advantage of him being in the same profession is that, when I set my goals, he often can help me map my way to achieving those goals.”

Gene adds, “I believe the greatest advantage is in simply understanding what the other is going through. There are times in every relationship that stress will enter. When you work with your spouse, you really have two relationships with that person: personal and professional. This doubles your chances of stress.”

And the stress could be plenty, considering how busy they are. This couple wears many court reporting hats. In addition to owning Betler’s Reporting & Legal Video Services, LLC, Gene is a videographer, and Jo Ann is an official court reporter for West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals as well as a freelance reporter for their firm. Gene started his second career in the legal video profession in 2007. Initially, the business was just the two of them, but it grew quickly, and their business now has a staff of 15.

Working with your spouse can be a very rewarding experience, but there has to be more. They both advise: “What you do for a living is not why you fell in love with that person. Do not make your profession all that you have in common. Keep your dreams outside of court reporting. Keep exploring the world around you and working for the day when all of this is a very pleasant memory that you still share together.”

On a final note, when asked if they’re competitive with each other, Gene responds with generous praise of his wife. “Let me think. Jo Ann Betler, RDR, CRR, CBC CCP, CPE, CLVS, Realtime Systems Adminstrator, Trial Presentation Professional. How about if I just say ‘uncle’ now and let’s move on.” Jo Ann quickly retorts, “I win!”

Dee and Jack Boenau

Jack and Dee Boenau

Jack and Dee Boenau, Sarasota, Fla.

Dee Boenau hasn’t been in the field quite as long as her husband, Jack, but she still has 20 fantastic years in the business. As a realtime captioner, CART provider, and convention reporter, Dee, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, is also vice president of AmeriCaption, the firm Jack, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, founded in 1990. Jack, who has been working in the field since 1969, adds, “It was long after the rock-andchisel days but somewhat before erasable paper and electric typewriters, so during the era of reel-to-reel practice dictation tapes and carbon paper days.”

When it comes to discussing how they met, Jack recalls the exact details. “I remember this cute, professionally dressed, determined young lady coming up to me after I had presented at our state convention, asking if I was hiring.” Dee chimes in with a few more details: “I think he said no at first because I was wearing orange, which is one of the team colors of the University of Florida Gators, and he is a huge Florida State Seminole fan. It’s a good thing I didn’t tell him right away that I hold a degree from the University of Florida.”

Being together for this long in the same field has been really helpful to both of them. Jack teases Dee that she’s at least onethird computer because she understands the technology so well, but much of that is just her determination to learn.

Dee says, “We can back each other up. Jack will make me a snack and feed me if I’m captioning a meeting that’s gone through lunch and/or dinnertime. He also brings names that are ‘hot off the press’ over to my desk as I’m captioning the news. We understand the hard work and dedication the field requires and why our lives must revolve around our broadcast news, which results in some very, very long workdays.” Jack agrees, saying that having a partner who totally understands the work schedule, offers support during the occasional pitfalls, and helps to celebrate the many successes are great advantages. “While she wears the proverbial cape, I strive to hear, ‘you’re my hero!’ at least once a week,” he says.

As they talk about their competiveness, Jack brags about, of all things, his culinary skills. “She knows when to stand back and marvel … when I’m in the kitchen! But in the office, everything I accomplish, she one-ups me.” As Dee says, Jack waved the white flag a long time ago as far as competing against her on the steno machine. And Dee sees their differences as a positive thing. “Jack is a procrastinator, and I sometimes get tired of reminding him to do some things. But I always remind myself that his procrastinations combined with my get-it-done enthusiasm creates a balance.”

When asked if they have any words of wisdom to share for other couples in court reporting, Jack keeps it real and simple: “Be supportive and encouraging. It’s often little acts of kindness that help relieve the burdens of a trying day. Laughter helps. And adopt a cat! I believe one cannot be tense while watching a cat sleep by your desk.”

Ann and Breck Record

Breck and Ann Record

Breck and Ann Record, El Paso, Texas

Ann Record, RPR, CRR, CMRS, and Breck Record, RMR, CRR, who met in June 2008, have actually known each other since 1996. They are both official court reporters in El Paso County, Texas. When Ann tells the story of how she met Breck, it’s as if she’d met a rock star. “I ‘met’ Breck around 1996. I’d get on the Eclipse forum to ask questions. He was always helpful. I thought, ‘What a great last name for a reporter, Record.’ We officially met in person in June 2008 at the Texas Court Reporters Association annual convention. As I was checking my email, he came up to me, sat down, and said hi. I looked at his name badge and thought, ‘Oh my God, it’s Breck Record!’ I didn’t say this out loud, though, because I didn’t want to embarrass him.”

Striking up a conversation seemed to work, because they’ve been together since. Court reporting brought them together, but as Breck says, having his wife in the same field is priceless. “I wouldn’t be what I am today without her there by my side.” Ann feels the same way: “It’s great being married to another court reporter. We always support one another. He lifts me up daily.”

They help each other out with work, such as transcript loads, which is a great advantage. Plus, they know what the other is going through when they have a good or bad day. But they say there are also disadvantages, such as when Breck is in trial, and it goes late. Since they carpool together, Ann has to wait until he’s done. Breck says, “My poor bride has to stay up here when my trials are running late. She’s a trouper in that regard.”

But it’s not — or can’t be — all about work. Breck proposes fun along the way. “Life can pass you by in an instant, and before you know it, it’s over. Always take time for your spouse, and do fun things together when you can. You can’t work all the time. When it’s slow, that’s the time to travel and get out of town and have fun.”

Adam and Pat Miller

Pat and Adam Miller

Pat and Adam Miller, Middletown, Del.

Even though a mutual friend set them up two years after meeting, Adam Miller, RPR, CRI, CLVS, and Pat Miller, CRI, CPE, caught each other’s eye in the classroom. That’s if you ask Adam. Pat says she was totally oblivious, and it wouldn’t have happened if her friend hadn’t played matchmaker. After all, it was Pat’s theory class in Philadelphia, and Adam was one of her students.

By the time they started dating, Pat was already encouraging and helping Adam get through school. Adam says, “Absolutely no one else can support a student going through steno like someone who’s been there, who knows the hardships and successes and what they mean, who knows the need for excuses and the ways to cope with regular and devastating failures and what it means to recover from them.” Pat says the same goes for getting transcripts out. “Adam knew, having been my student, that I’d work as late as necessary to get the work done.”

Currently, Adam is the managing member of Miller Verbano Reporting, and Pam is the proofreader for both partners of the business. They both love the profession and, in their words, it’s a vocation, a hobby, and a shared passion for the play of words of a living language. Even though they consider their careers a hobby, they’ve added some non-reporting interests. Pat works one morning a week as a Community Supported Agriculture worker/harvester, and they both foster greyhounds through Greyhound Pets of America Delaware. In fact, they solve and share many problems, issues, and ideas on walks with their dogs.

When asked about the future of a profession they’ve spent decades to build, they’re optimistic and realistic at the same time. “We still believe that this is the best profession there is. We see a stultifying resistance to change in many professions, certainly not just in court reporting. From making changes in the way education happens to being current with what the client needs to perform his or her profession so that a court reporter is always part of the professional team, it is up to us to design, create, and even earn a future in translating the spoken word.”

Gail and Bill Verbano

Bill and Gail Verbano

Bill and Gail Verbano, Boothwyn, Pa.

Gail Verbano, RDR, CRR, who has her name on the door at Miller Verbano Reporting, has been in the profession for close to 23 years. When she met her husband, Bill, in 1995, there was music playing. Literally. They both played clarinet in a community orchestra in San Diego. That was their common thread since Bill was in a totally different field at that time. Gail says, “When we were first married, Bill was a carpenter, and I was a reporter in San Diego. When we had children, Bill stayed home with the kids for several years.”

When they made the move to Delaware and she went into business with Adam Miller, it was a natural fit for Bill to get involved with the business. Gail says, “We got busier and needed a videographer on staff. He was looking for a new line of work and was always a photographer and audiophile. It was a natural fit. He was also interested in becoming involved with the business that had his name on it.”

But with any type of business or career, there are a couple of disadvantages. They mention that 2012 has been a very slow year. Gail says, “When I’m slow, he’s slow. When I don’t have work, he doesn’t have work.” Another problem she mentions is getting the kids taken care of. “I don’t always know when we’re going to get home from work, so the kids have learned to be pretty flexible about it. But we do need to impose on our grandma or neighbor once in a while to take our son to band practice. Or I have paid significant amounts of money to the college student up the street to make dinner for them and take my kids to piano lessons in the evening when we can’t make it in time.”

When asked if they’re competitive with one another, they say, “Never! Whether it’s court reporting or playing the clarinet, it’s something we enjoy being able to do together. We are lucky enough to be best friends and enjoy each other’s company.” You’d think spending so much time together, that when they’re not working, they wouldn’t want to talk shop. But that’s not the case. “We do a lot of asbestos work here, and some of the plaintiffs are so sick, some with young children. It’s impossible to go to their homes and see the pictures of their beautiful families on the walls and not be moved by that, and it’s impossible not to talk about it later.”

But it wasn’t always like that. When Bill was a carpenter, he didn’t know that much about being a court reporter. He didn’t quite understand why Gail had to stay late or miss the dinner party they were planning to attend or why it was so important to get that transcript done on time. Gail says, “Now that he’s in the legal field, working with attorneys and witnesses who often travel long distances or overnight, he understands the ‘let’s just finish tonight’ mentality. And it’s so nice to be able to talk about work now! I never did before because he didn’t really understand what I was talking about, what realtime meant, or why it was a special skill that required me to be there instead of someone else.”

G. Allen and Diane Sonntag

Diane and G. Allen Sonntag

Diane and G. Allen Sonntag, Oro Valley, Ariz.

This couple’s story is about as close as you get to a romantic comedy movie script. Meet G. Allen Sonntag, RDR, CRR, and Diane Sonntag, RDR, CRR, CCP, CPE, from Arizona. Allen, a freelance reporter through Colville & Associates, and Diane, a Pima County Superior Court official reporter, met in 1994 online in the Court Reporters Forum. Diane recalls, “We met on the Sunday night chat. We spent a lot of time getting to know each other over the phone and email. I got to know the person before I met the court reporter.” The truth is they met because of court reporting, and it has been a huge part of their lives. Allen has been in the profession since 1959 and Diane since 1978, and not once have they considered leaving the profession. Diane adds, “Court reporting has been a wonderful career. It has given us a front row seat to life. We get to see the good and the bad. I prefer court because I get to see the whole case, not the bits and pieces. Allen prefers freelance because it is always different.”

But the two admit there’s a little competition in their house. Allen says, “In the past, I’ve competed in the speed contests at the state and national levels. I’ve won bronze medals in the past. She beat me in Las Vegas in 2011. Now I’ve got to get cracking and try to get back ahead of her in Nashville in 2013.”

Diane mentions how taking her married name brought about certain expectations. “I found out when I became a Sonntag that one of the requirements was to compete in speed contests. I can say it’s the most frustrating and exhilarating experience.”

Setting aside the healthy competition, the Sonntags offers some words of advice. Allen says, “You need to be flexible in your plans. Sure as you’ve made dinner or planned an out-of-town trip, one or the other will get a rush job that can’t be turned down. When the judge, lawyer, or client needs the transcript, we are duty bound to produce it, even if it’s inconvenient. In today’s economy, you need to be willing to work, provide the services, and do what is required in spite of any wishes on your part.”

Diane mentions something more personal and unrelated to the actual work: “Remember to stop and smell the flowers. This profession has been good to both of us, and I don’t think either one of us would trade it for anything. The key, though, is to make sure you have hobbies and things you enjoy that are not related to court reporting.”

Realtime Tips & Tricks

Why are you trying to perfect your realtime feed? Are you branching out into providing CART? Are you trying to earn certification? No matter what you are trying to do, check out the tips below and see how they improve your writing.

TIPS FOR PASSING THE REALTIME EXAM

Barbara Tokuz, RDR, CRR, from Rockwell, Texas, gives these tips on how to pass the realtime certification test:

  • Work out all of your prefixes/suffixes in your dictionary.
  • Delete all conflicts from your dictionary. This will force you to find another way to write the words.
  • Practice on yourself.
  • Work on increasing speed with speed tapes and realtime seminars.
  • Incorporate great briefs and use them regularly.
  • Practice realtime on a trusted attorney or judge.
  • Make sure your equipment and software is always top notch.
  • Stop being scared and just do it.
  • Act like a pro and be confident no matter what. No one is perfect all the time. The more you do it, the better you will be, and the nervousness will subside.

SECRETS OF REALTIME

Teri Hansen Cronenwett, RMR, CRR, who has gotten her Realtime Systems Administrator credential, is from South Jordan, Utah. She says the secret to realtime is consistent practice. Here are some of her other suggestions:

  • Set up realtime at every deposition, whether they want it or not. The more you do it, the more confident you will be, and the more likely you will be to have all of your equipment at hand.
  • I suggest having extra cables and extra laptops. If you have an extra laptop and the attorney can’t get his “feed” to work, you can say, “I have it working on my extra computer. I think the problem is on your end. Do you want to just use this?”
  • I used to use cables. They worked every time for me, for 15 or more years (except the time my computer got dropped). Now I use CaseViewNet and a wireless router, a Cradlepoint. I love how it does the instant refresh, and you don’t have to mess with cables. The price is steep initially, but it pays for itself over time. I have also started providing captioning at church using this method.
  • I usually have more than enough work because I am proficient in realtime. Not all attorneys want it and not all cases warrant it, but if you offer it, they will often ask for a rough draft, which is also an up-sell.
  • As far as untranslates, the attorneys are used to it not being perfect. Just do your best! Get the caption and define some words beforehand, especially the speaker identifications, and put some briefs in that you will be using. You’ll be surprised at how nicely it does come up!
  • Just work on one or two conflicts each week. Figure out a way to write each one, put up a little sticky note on your machine and go through them every day, and they will become automatic.
  • As you go through each deposition, keep an eye on your untranslate rate. Compete with yourself, trying very hard to get that error rate down and write clear notes. You will love the shorter editing time!

IN THE CLASSROOM

A CART/captioner shares tips for providing realtime to hard-of-hearing clients in the classroom. Here are some ideas from her experience that may be helpful:

  • I overcame nervousness by digital audio recording every lecture beginning the second semester of the first year of CART, and correcting each transcript against audio after lecture was over. I delivered a perfect transcript as if I had caught everything first crack. I recommend Olympus brand digital audio for good quality sound.
  • I mark text with asterisks in realtime — in my notes, a single asterisk means to “come back and edit a mistake” (something not immediately obvious: (a) like a wrong word three lines ago that you just now understood the pronunciation of, or (b) a typo that is so close in spelling to the correct word that the eye will not see it when skimming during proofreading). I use double asterisks to mark hesitations for practice later.
  • When filling in dropped segments from listening to audio recording during the first year, I used steno to type drops and copy/paste back into the transcript. Then I compiled and saved them as a file of drops and hesitations to do focused practice later on.
  • Some troubleshooting tips: Since the transcript needs to be sent out after the job, some mishaps can be very frustrating. I learned after two mishaps to always ASCII rough copy immediately after the job, so at least I’d have something to work off of if anything befalls the Eclipse file. The first mishap was accidentally deleting the realtime file, but not the note file, whereupon I had to retype the whole job from readback. Another time, I accidentally deleted the whole file, realtime and notes, and had to do the entire job from audio backup. The possibility of a laptop getting stolen before you’ve sent out transcripts contained in it is also an unpleasant thought. So, emailing rough ASCII files to yourself immediately after a job is always a good precaution.
  • Also, don’t be afraid to work hard. That is probably the single biggest idea that helps in the area of realtime, I think. From the beginning, back in 80 wpm, I took the advice of Phoenix Fast Track author, Carol Joachim, to focus on accuracy before speed. I agreed with that concept 100 percent and have applied it thoroughly. The result is buying back future time by investing in practice now, meaning every reduction in future clean-up time on transcripts equals more time to do whatever else. It makes the self-imposed demand of realtime perfection seem worthwhile.