Norwalk woman nationally recognized for court reporting

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyOn Sept. 11, the Norwalk Reflector posted an article announcing that Marie Fresch, RMR, CRC, a freelancer and CART captioner in Norwalk, Ohio, had earned the Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC) certification. The article explained the requirements for earning the CRC, provided some background on captioning, and shared a few highlights from Fresch’s career.

The article was generated by a press release issued by NCRA on Fresch’s behalf.

Read more.

The JCR Awards recognize innovative business strategies and more

The JCR Awards offer the perfect way to showcase innovative and successful business strategies from the past year. For the third year, the JCR staff is seeking stories that bring to life new and inventive ways that NCRA members change the way they do business, serve their communities, and help promote the professions of court reporting and captioning.

Nominations are currently being sought for several subcategories, such as best-in-class stories for: Marketing and customer service; Leadership, teambuilding, and mentoring; Use of technology; Community outreach; Service in a nonlegal setting; and Court Reporting & Captioning Week (2017) initiative. In addition, NCRA is looking for a group and an individual who show excellence in more than one category for an overall “Best of the Year” award.

Any current NCRA member in good standing, with the exception of students, may be nominated for these awards. Court reporters, captioners, videographers, scopists, teachers and school administrators, and court reporting managers are all eligible for nomination as well as groups, such as firms, courthouses, or court reporting programs. Self-nominations are accepted. More information about specific criteria for each of the categories is available on the JCR Awards Entry Form.

To enter, submit a written entry to the JCR between 300 and 1,000 words explaining the strategies implemented and why they were successful. Ancillary materials, such as photos, may also be submitted with the nomination. Nominations will be considered based on the best fact-based story. Please be prepared to offer documentation, verifiable sources, or other assistance as needed to be considered for these awards. The stories of the finalists will be published as featured articles in the March 2018 issue of the JCR.

Nominations are due by Oct. 31.

Read about the winners from 2017 and 2016.

How to impress attorneys

By David Ward

Much like an umpire in baseball or softball, today’s court reporters are expected to do their job so well that they end up being a very quiet enhancer of the legal process, save for the barely audible clicks as they use their keyboards.  But that role, an essential as it is, can make it a challenge for reporters to create a memorable impression on the attorneys they work alongside. Yet impressing attorneys is an important part of the new business development for both independent contractors and firm owners – and to be good at it, reporters need to be seen as more than simply a professional with some cool technology at their fingertips.

“Personality always plays a big part as far as I’m concerned,” explains Frank Dunn, CLVS, owner of Boston-based Dunn Reporting Services. “You need to be able to relate to the attorney and have a good working relationship. But there’s a point when it’s time to be quiet and a point when it’s time to make conversation, and reporters really need to know when those points are.”

Tere Moore, RPR, CRR, CRI, owner of Cincinnati’s Top Quality Reporting Services, says: “The most successful reporters I have seen display charisma and have a happy and bright demeanor. They remember personal things about their attorneys and are able to chit-chat about sports or issues of the day. Most of all, showing attorneys little tips and tricks on their computers goes a long way.”

Small talk can break the ice and create a good impression in plenty of business situations, but Denver-based Lisa Knight, RMR, CRR, owner of Knight International Court Reporting, stresses it always should done judiciously.

“My experience is that attorneys are people and they’re human and there’s one thing that they’re focusing on when they’re doing a deposition and one thing only: and that’s surviving that deposition,” says Knight, whose husband is a lawyer. “I always try to feel out the room and develop a rapport with the attorney. But I also know that if he’s got two boxes of exhibits dumped into the room, he has his computer open, and he’s working, it’s not my time to talk.”

A friendly, outgoing business manner and knowing when it’s appropriate to engage attorneys will help impress attorneys, but if, and only if, that’s backed up with great reporting.

Dayton, Ohio-based Sue Terry, FAPR, RPR, CRR, says: “One thing that works in impressing attorneys is being consistently timely, professional, and especially knowledgeable about reporting, the transcript, the record,” she says. “When you help attorneys out with the little things, they remember that.”

Terry, who is NCRA’s Vice President, offers seminars where she provides advice and guidance for new reporters and says the thing she stresses during all these events is that on first impression, all reporters may seem alike to the attorneys and the support staff at a law firm.

“We come in the door carrying a machine, we pull it out and set it up, we pull out our exhibit stickers and we’re ready to go,” she says. Terry advises reporters to take advantage of the opportunities to do a little something extra when they do happen. This can help differentiate you from other reporters. “That means not just trying to sell the attorney realtime but also showing them how to use it, explaining how they can use it afterwards to generate a report, and then actually showing them how to generate that report. Those are things that can help you stand out.”

Jenny Ebner, owner of Ebner Reporting Services based in Springfield, Ohio, agrees: “Spending time with the client to explain what we do and how we do it has always been a tool I have used, and it has brought me business.”

Ebner says she recently helped a firm she was doing work for by staying after the hearing to explain to the attorneys exactly how the reporting software works and how to use the realtime output to their advantage. “Before I did that, they were very angry with our firm because they didn’t feel they were getting what they expected when, in fact, no one had explained how to use the output,” she says.

Going the extra mile may not work or can go unnoticed, leading reporters to sometimes feel that they’re being taken advantage of for little extras they provide.

But Ebner says every reporter should want to do those things, noting the best way to create a positive impression is to put the client and the job first. “That doesn’t mean staying from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on a job,” she says. “But it does mean not saying they can only stay three or four hours because they have another appointment.” Being accurate, timely, and the best investment for the client go a long way, she says, in offsetting any of the client’s concerns about hiring.

Using a client-centric approach to grab the attention of and impress both current and potential new attorney clients also means taking the time to find out exactly what the law firm wants from a court reporting firm, says Nancy Varallo, FAPR, RDR, CRR, who along with her husband Ed, owns The Varallo Group in Worcester, Mass.

“Court reporting is a service profession in a high-pressure, high-stakes business,” she explains. “When you show your clients that you understand their needs and when you show them you are willing to customize your approach and bend over backwards to meet their needs, that’s how you impress attorneys.”

Varallo also stresses the importance of thoroughly doing your homework, including researching if not the exact case, then at least the terminology used in that business or legal category. “I hear of reporters who don’t prepare, and then they take time during the deposition to question the attorneys about spellings and other information that they could have already researched,” she says. “Go above and beyond to do something special for the client that they didn’t ask for but that will impress them.”

This doesn’t have to be a time-consuming process, but it needs to be done for every deposition or trial. “If I’ve been given the case name the day before, I going to do a google search to see if it’s online because you can often pull up some of the pleadings from the court dockets,” Terry says. “For just about any category, you can find a glossary online for it — that can be a great way to prepare. You don’t know if any of the words will come up, but just glancing through that glossary can help you be better prepared.”

Terry adds many attorneys may seem too preoccupied to appreciate this preparation but says: “They may not notice that you know the terminology, but they’ll notice that you have a very clean realtime feed. And you’ll then be able to turn that transcript around much faster. And that’s one of the ways I’ve always been able to keep busy because [the attorneys are] not waiting on me.”

Most lawyers take pride in what they do, and they expect, but also appreciate, the reporters who work alongside them in the legal process do as well. “I think most attorneys do realize the value and benefit of hiring a skilled stenographer,” says Lisa DiMonte, RMR, CMRS, CEO of Planet Depos, which is headquartered in Washington, D.C. DiMonte adds that reporters should realize that in the current legal climate, the lawyers themselves often have little say in choosing a reporter. “Unfortunately, sometimes these decisions are coming from the client of the law firm, leaving the attorney’s hands tied.”

But DiMonte says it’s still important to impress attorneys by becoming invaluable as a service provider. “That means constantly enhancing our writing skills and knowledge through continuing education, certification, and CAT software training; using the latest technologies, including the latest stenotype machines, laptops and iPads for realtime, CAT and other industry apps; saying yes to difficult requests and assignments; and turning around work faster than requested,” she says. “I think having a genuine passion for what you do translates into a positive and memorable experience for the client. When you are no longer passionate about what you do, it’s time to think about doing something else.”

Much like the court reporting community, lawyers can run the gamut from some who are fresh out of law school to those with 50 years or more of litigation experience. While their age, or for that matter gender, won’t necessarily play a role in how easy or hard an attorney will be to impress, Moore notes the cool software, wireless tablets, and other tools of modern court reporting can catch the eye of younger lawyers.

“Younger attorneys are more impressed by our technology,” Moore explains. “We should make a point of getting back into the law schools and exposing them to it earlier, so that they know how realtime and streaming to their experts can be to their benefit.”

Varallo says reporters need to keep in mind that different attorneys will be impressed by different things. “I would guess that older attorneys are more likely to clutch hard copies of transcripts and younger attorneys are more likely to accept the latest technology, but I don’t know that we’ve heard that from court reporting firms,” she says. “Transcript turnaround time remains a key differentiator; to the degree court reporting firms can use technology to get transcripts in their clients’ hands sooner rather than later, that is something that attorneys of all ages appreciate.”

In addition to being great at your work, Dunn says court reporters can also create a positive impression by being active in the local legal community and caring about the issues that concern their clients. “My office in Boston sponsors the local Federal Bar Association annual reception. We’re basically the court reporting agency sponsor, and we’re allowed to invite 10 people from our office, and we get to see everybody,” he says. “Things like that are helpful.”

Dunn also advises that being there when an attorney is really in a jam can trigger respect from law firms. “We get last-minute requests from people,” he says, stressing the importance of having someone available to answer questions immediately. If the attorneys get your voice mail, Dunn says: “they just hang up. They want a live person, and they want to know when they ask, ‘Can you get me somebody?’ that we’ll do our best. You need to be reachable.”

Ebner adds that reporters should realize that while they provide a highly valued skill, this is a service business and that one of the better ways to impress attorneys while building that business is to be a great and friendly service provider — in essence, killing them with kindness. “It helps to always be nice and forthcoming with information they need and or want,” she says.

David Ward is a journalist in Carrboro, N.C. Comments on this article can be sent to jcrfeedback@ncra.org.

 

 

PROMOTING THE PROFESSION: My best reporting job ever

By Melody Jeffries Peters

1995 was the first year Professor Greg Munro at the Alexander Blewett III School of Law invited me into the classroom on the University of Montana campus to do a realtime deposition for 85 future lawyers. Though we’ve never kept track, we know we’ve done it for 15 years for sure, so I’ve been afforded the opportunity to address well over 1,200 students.  These students become attorneys, and I’ve subsequently encountered a large number of them in my work.

Each year we do a mock deposition about a real case that Professor Munro had involving drinking in a livestock barn and a subsequent horse accident. The demonstration is interactive, educational, and funny. When they talk about drinking only one beer, I quickly write: “Liar, liar, pants on fire,” and very quickly we’ve got the students’ attention. When the attorneys misspeak, I toss in: “Come on, you gotta spit it out.” Laughter erupts, and we are all truly enjoying this!

After we complete the mock deposition, I’m given the floor. This year, we handed out a number of iPads so the students could view CVNet and try their hand at it. Technology has changed greatly over the years, but I find it’s useful showing the deposition on a big screen of some kind. I explain the challenges of technology and how it’s not my forte and that, by default, since I sign the checks in my office, I am the IT department, but the first two letters are SH! They nod in sympathy.

This is also my chance to explain why reporters can be reluctant to do realtime. I share the story of covering court where the couple’s names were Yvonne and Al. Yvonne and Al did everything together. Yvonne and Al were good parents. My stroke for and is A-N. My stroke for al is A-L. The judge was seeing a number of creative uses of the word anal that day.

Working in Montana, reporters can wear a lot of hats. I get to familiarize the group with all the different kinds of reporting, and I touch on official, freelance, and CART work.

I grab their collective ears and tell them I have to know when the case involves Mr. Pierce and Mr. Pearce, and the key is I need to know ahead of time. “Ankylosing spondylitis”? Share that word with your reporter before the deposition, I tell them. Deadlines? Make sure you address those too, I say.

I cover a vast array of topics from marking exhibits to scheduling, and from enunciating to courtroom protocol. I remind them I’m trying to make a record, not set one, so they need to speak slowly. Videotaping, video conferencing … we cover it all at breakneck speed, violating my own aforementioned rule.

Handouts? You bet. We provide NCRA’s “Making the Record” brochure along with some swag and a few articles on who’s responsible for paying the reporter’s bill. [Ed. Note: The Making the Record materials have been expanded through the National Court Reporters Foundation. See sidebar for more information.] My office creates a legal-sized laminated list of every attorney and law firm in the county that we give to the students. This list is the best marketing tool ever. I provide a transcript of the deposition for the students to work with, which becomes a learning and teaching tool.

The presentations and transcript production I do at the law school are unquestionably the best pro bono work I can do as a firm owner. Because of this exposure, I’ve been asked to do seminars for lawyers, I did a PowerPoint presentation for the New Lawyers Group held at the law school, and I’ve been included as a sponsor for the Women’s Law Caucus, to name just a few. At the law school’s luncheon, I have been recognized, along with other volunteers, as a contributor to the success of the law school.

This year Professor Munro’s thank-you note said that he’d received the most comments ever about our demonstrations and he couldn’t thank me enough. However, I am forever grateful for the chance to strengthen the relationship between attorneys and court reporters. Every lawyer loves to win in court, but who doesn’t love a win-win situation? The law school gets a relevant presentation in realtime, I get to meet aspiring lawyers about to enter the field, we promote NCRA, and everybody is better off because of our collaboration. That’s a win in my book!

 

Melody Jeffries Peters, RDR, CRR, CRC, is an agency owner and freelancer in Missoula, Mont. She can be reached at mjeffries@montana.com.

 

 

Making the RecordNCRF’s “Making the Record” tools help reporters teach lawyers

The “Making the Record” brochure, originally created in 1937, has been updated over the years to help the bench and bar better understand the factors that make a clear record and is now housed as part of the Legal Education program materials provided by the National Court Reporters Foundation. The materials include not only a free, downloadable pdf of the brochure, but a Powerpoint presentation that can be adapted by reporters for the audience, outlines, and handouts that can be presented as part of a presentation. Materials are available at NCRA.org/NCRF/LegalEd.

NCRF’s programs are supported by tax-deductible donations to NCRF.

 

BUSINESS: How building a network got me where I am today

 

By Kathryn Thomas

The best and longest-lasting work relationships have been those I’ve gained through people I meet. Ever since I was certified, I’ve attended every state convention, and for the last eight years, I’ve attended every national convention.

My first relationship with an agency was with the very agency I interned with as a student. By that experience, the owner already knew I showed up early and dressed and acted appropriately.

When I moved to a different area a few years later, friends I had met online guided me to a few more court reporting agencies that put me to work.

When I decided to transition to CART, I told everyone — everyone — that I was looking to cross over. One of the deposition agency owners (who already knew that I show up early, do my best, and am professional) assigned me to a pop-up CART job lasting a day or two, and the seal was broken, so to speak. I gained more CART experience here and there, until I got hooked up with a captioning agency owned by someone (whom I had met at a court reporting conference) who put me to work full-time.

Now I’m doing all CART and some captioning with a few really good agencies, and my hook-ups with them emerged due to my connections! Of the agencies that I regularly work for, I didn’t just cold-call asking for work. Someone introduced me or referred me to them, or they’d heard of me already by that time.When you have connections, it’s easier, because then people already know you. You are not an unknown quantity.

Now, of course, you’ve got to be professional and have the chops to keep the working relationship going. I’m focusing just now on getting the relationship started. To keep it going, you’ve got to do what you’ve heard a million times — show up, work hard, be professional, don’t whine, learn from your mistakes, etc.

Get out there and meet people. It might be outside of your comfort zone, but outside the comfort zone is where all the good stuff is.

Kathryn A. Thomas, RDR, CRC, is a captioner based in St. Louis and Southern Central Illinois. You can follow her blog at http://www.stenoray.com.

Thomas wrote this article on behalf of the National Court Reporters Foundation’s Corrinne Clark Professionalism Institute. Established in 2015, the Corrinne Clark Professionalism Institute is dedicated to aiding the education of court reporting students and new professionals about professionalism, branding, and building a successful career. Named for the late Corrinne Clark — wife of the late Robert H. Clark, NCRA’s longest tenured librarian-historian — the Institute was made possible by a generous donation contributed by Donna Hamer, Santa Paula, Calif., Robert’s cousin.

 

Atkinson-Baker Court Reporters announced as sponsor for 2017 CLM conference

jcr-publications_high-resIn a press release issued Feb. 23, the Claims and Litigation Management Alliance (CLM) announced that Atkinson-Baker Court Reporters, Glendale, Calif., is a sponsor for its 2017 annual conference.

Read more.

Denver Court Reporting celebrates partnership with Spark Digital Marketing

jcr-publications_high-resDenver Court Reporting announced in a press release issued March 2 that it has partnered with Spark Digital Marketing to expand court reporting services across Colorado. The company is a subsidiary of Midwest Reporters, Inc.

Read more.

Five minutes with Realtime Champ Dee Boenau

Deanna Boenau_2016 Realtime ContestThe JCR reached out to Dee Boenau, RDR, CRR, CRC, a broadcast captioner in Sarasota, Fla., about her Realtime Contest win, the importance of realtime, practice tips, and using the spotlight to promote the profession.

What appealed to you about competing in the speed and realtime contests?

I’ve always competed just as a way to see how my skills have improved. It’s fun and exciting to see how the changes I have made to my theory over the years have increased my speed and accuracy.

 Do you have a preference on which one you would prefer to win?

I like to win the Realtime Contest because realtime writing is what I do, and I believe realtime translation is the lifeblood of court reporting and captioning. However, I would not mind adding the prestigious title of Speed Contest Champion to my achievements and having my name added to the historical list of greats in our profession.

 How do you find the two contests different?

I write both contests in the mind-set of realtime. There really is no difference to me other than the faster speed and the opportunity for editing in the Speed Contest. Nerves can be devastating, though, in the Realtime Contest. If the nerves creep in during the Speed Contest, I know I have a chance to edit it. I guess I am a little harder on myself just before the Realtime Contest because of nerves.

Have you been practicing for the upcoming contests?

I do practice close to the time of the contests. I simply don’t have the time to practice year-round. I prefer to actively use my skills in the real world and to further enhance my ability to make a living. Whether I am reporting or captioning, I always review my work. I can’t stress enough to captioners the importance of reading one’s work and looking up what one missed. Over the years, too, practice would be boring to me because it was always the same dictation tapes. Now there are new programs on the market, like ev360 Ultimate, that take practicing to a whole different level and make it fun, too. The last couple of years I’ve been practicing more because of the program.

What advice would you have for a person who has never been in a speed contest before? How can they get started?

Just do it. Sign up and jump right in. The contests may humble you and inspire you at the same time. You could be the next Jeffrey Weigl, RMR, CRR, CRC, or Julianne LaBadia,  RDR, CRR, CRC.

You’ve received quite a lot of coverage based on your wins in the past few years. What has that been like? Do you have any advice for other reporters or captioners who find themselves in the limelight?

When I found myself in the limelight, I spoke with passion. I love writing on the steno machine; it is my favorite piece of technology. Without the steno machine, I could not do my job as a reporter making a record and as a captioner providing communication accessibility to thousands of people. You can’t go wrong talking about what you love because it all comes so naturally. When I first won the Realtime Contest, I was thrilled with the machine I was using and enjoyed talking about it and the technology behind it. When a person speaks with such passion about his or her profession and the advancing technology, it can only inspire others to inquire about court reporting or captioning.

Is there any advice you can give to other NCRA members on how each of us can be an advocate for our profession?

Be the best you can be. Stand up for what is right. Keep the professional image alive.

Any questions we missed or should have asked?

I want to thank NCRA and the Contests Committee for continuing to support the contests. It is a huge undertaking and a sacrifice of convention time for the committee members. I’ve heard that they are often grading papers when people are returning from late-night festivities. Admittedly, the contests are a large part of the reason why I’ve attended the convention 17 years in a row. Yes, I learn from the seminars, but the contests give the convention the wow factor. Thank you, NCRA, past sponsors, and any future sponsors!

Read our interview with Speed Champ Jeff Weigl.

Firm Owners Executive Conference registration closes Feb. 3

The last chance to register for the 2017 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference is Feb. 3. The conference promises attendees the perfect networking and getaway opportunity filled with educational sessions, social events, and outings sprinkled with fun and relaxation. The event is being held Feb. 12-14 in Tucson, Ariz., at the Lowes Ventana Canyon Resort.

Attendees can also make the most of the conference experience by downloading the NCRA event app for Apple and Android devices to put event planning, learning, and social networking at their fingertips for all NCRA events. The app allows users to receive up-to-the-minute event updates, customize their schedules, access session documents, view speaker and exhibitor profiles, connect with other attendees, and more.

  • Keynote speaker Susan Solovic will take center stage and share with attendees her insights and secrets to becoming a successful entrepreneur. Solovic is an Internet pioneer who cofounded and grew one of the first video-based Internet sites to a million-dollar-plus entity. She is also an award-winning serial entrepreneur and best-selling author. Her experience also includes being a former small business contributor for ABC News and hosting the syndicated radio program It’s Your Biz. She appears regularly as a small business expert on Fox Business, Fox News, the Wall Street Journal’s “Lunch Break,” MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, and other stations across the country. She has also hosted her own PBS special called Reinvent Yourself Now: Become Self-Reliant in an Unpredictable World. Solovic is also a featured blogger on numerous sites, including Constant Contact, Entrepreneur, AT&T Business Circle, FoxBusiness.com, MasterCard, Intuit, The Pulse of IT (HP), and Samsung. Learn more about Solovic’s presentation.
  • Laurie Forster, one of America’s leading wine experts and author of the award-winning book The Sipping Point: A Crash Course in Wine,will host a special fun-filled networking sessionForster has been featured in dozens of publications and has appeared on Oz., Fox Business, ABC News, and other outlets. She also hosts her own show called The Sipping Point, where she explores recipes, wines, food, travel, and more. Attendees at this session will enjoy teaming up to identify wine selections and then battle to see who can really Name that Wine.
  • Mike Nelson, NCRA CEO and Executive Director, will present the findings from NCRA’s 2016 Firm Owners Economic Benchmarking Survey.
  • “Mobilizing Your Dreams: A 21st Century Strategic Plan,” an interactive session that The Varallo Group will present, is designed to teach attendees how to establish a long-term vision for their firm and more. The Varallo Group will also present “Journey to the Center of a Client Decision,” which explores the court reporter–hiring decision process.
  • Strategic Business Directs will lead attendees in two sessions: “Understanding and Using Financial Statements as a Management Tool” and “How to Compete.”
  • NCRA President Tiva Wood, RDR, CMRS; President-Elect Chris Willette, RDR, CRR, CRC; and fellow firm owners will also lead teams on a poker-run nature-hike networking event.
  • Attendees will enjoy a special Valentine’s Day comedy night and closing reception.

Only attendees of the Firm Owners Executive Conference can take advantage of the special resort room rates, which have now been extended to Feb. 11. Multiple registration discounts are also available as long as they are accompanied by one full-priced registration. These discounts include all education sessions, networking events, and access to the exhibit area.

Make this event even better when you arrive early or extend your stay, and take advantage of special room rates that apply three days prior to and three days after the conference, negotiated for attendees by NCRA.

Attendees can also take advantage of an array of amenities, including waived resort fees on self and valet parking, fitness center access, yoga classes, and tennis court rentals. Other amenities include a free shuttle service to beautiful Sabino Canyon, discounts on golfing, spa facilities, and more.

In addition to networking opportunities, award-winning speakers and authors, cutting-edge educational content, and vendor speed dating, the schedule includes more free time in the afternoons for attendees to network with each other on their own.

For more information or to register for NCRA’s most elite event of the year, visit NCRA.org/FirmOwners.

Steno Services partners with Mark Kelly on new search engine campaign

jcr-publications_high-resOklahoma court reporting firm Steno Services announced a new partnership with Spark Digital Marketing and Mark Kelly to launch a new campaign that allows for advertising management, according to a press release issued Jan. 30.

Read more.