Veterans History Project, stenographers work to collect stories

Radio station WTOP in Washington, D.C., posted an article about NCRA’s and NCRF’s involvement with the Veterans History Project program.

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Why realtime is wicked awesome: Exorcise your demons with these tips

Happy Halloween from your NCRA Tech Committee! This is a spooktacular article with tips and tricks on how court reporters can boo-st their expectations and relieve fears about realtime. Realtime fear is not a grave issue when you can implement some of the fangtastic ideas from our committee members. Don’t be frightened — start your realtime journey today. So creep calm and carry on!

Realtime is a ghoul’s best friend!

Don’t fear impostor syndrome

Realtime trick or treat

Fight the realtime monster by being prepared

Realtime captions are pure magic in the classroom

Realtime is a ghoul’s best friend!

By Lynette Mueller

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR

Lynette Mueller

Court reporters need to embrace the future of court reporting and move ahead — the future is realtime! Realtime is “wicked” awesome, for sure! The benefits of realtiming for your clients and yourself are many:

  • improved skills
  • less editing time
  • improved translation delivery
  • quicker transcript turnaround
  • job satisfaction
  • name recognition (people will ask for you specifically)
  • increased income
  • readback is phenomenal

Fear ~ an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

Fear is normal for everyone. Even the best of the best in our profession, I’m sure, experience that tug of fear every now and then. We must not let fear hold us back, though. As the definition of “fear” states, it is a belief that something dangerous may happen to cause pain or a threat. There is no physical pain when providing realtime. Remember that we are the guardians of the record and provide an essential and valuable tool for our clients and participants receiving our realtime feed. There are many resources available to attain your realtime potential and become the most important person in the room!

Like with many activities in our daily lives, trepidation and exhilaration go hand in hand. Those two emotions definitely happen with me for every realtime assignment. But with some helpful tips from experienced realtimers, those court reporters who are on the fence about providing realtime can break through the fears and start embracing the beauty of this tool. Just as you salt bland food, realtiming for yourself can turn your work life from dull to delicious! Overcoming your fear of anything will give you the focus to achieve great things and to do what you really want to do. It takes much effort to strive to become realtime-proficient, but the rewards are worth it!

When I do start having that feeling of fear, I take a step back and remind myself to do a few things in order to control the situation – and these are simple steps that you can take too:

  1. I do my realtime testing and job dictionary building the night before in order to be ready for the next day’s job. A detailed prep session will relieve the perceived stress.
  2. I control my breathing. It has a calming effect on the whole body.
  3. I don’t overthink my realtime sessions. Fear and anxiety thrive when I imagine the worst. I go in the deposition setting with the confidence that I will do the best job I can. I’ve already prepared and done the testing — I know I’ve got this!
  4. I think about the last realtime session I provided and how well it went. Yes, the fear was present, but the client was extremely pleased with my output. I get a “high” for a job well done!

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, is a freelancer based in Memphis, Tenn. She chairs NCRA’s Technology Committee.

Realtime captions are pure magic in the classroom

By Amy Marie Yarbrough

With each new semester, there’s a cauldron of frights. What if the professor lectures like an auctioneer? What if there’s only one plug and it’s in the back? What if all the students around me are banging on their keyboards, making it impossible to concentrate? Messy realtime is no longer the apparition of my nightmares. Realizing their fears can be far more intense, working with deaf and hard-of-hearing students relieves my anxiety in a very organic way. Walking into a room full of hearing people can cause goosebumps! The mere presence of their onsite captioner is a cloak of security and comfort.

Realtiming in the classroom doesn’t have to be terrifying. If you utilize the hocus pocus of your software, your consumer will appreciate your captions for what they are: Pure magic.

My biggest ally in conquering realtime demons is the BriefIt pane in Case CATalyst. If you fingerspell a tricky word, for instance, it will immediately suggest a brief, avoiding the need to resort to pronouns if the lecture is dense. Right-click on devilish words/phrases and choose Suggest a Brief when one does not appear.

You may have also noticed in your Brief It pane the (1), (2), and (3) followed by words you wish you had correctly stroked. Those are Live Suggestions, and they are nothing short of supernatural. Familiarize yourself with your Realtime Commands dictionary, which is found in System Files. It’s full of goodies!

The best way to know you’re not writing like Frankenstein is to show your translate statistics. Are they ghastly? Perhaps they are not so terrifying after all. Are you misstroking words or phrases the same way every time? If there’s no conflict, define them. The evolution of your skills depends on your ability to write shorter and more efficiently.

Many of us begin steno school aspiring to caption and then realize how spooky it is for someone to see our realtime feed. We are far too hard on ourselves! Let’s say there are make 25 mistakes out of 5,000 words. Sounds like a lot; right? That is 99.5 percent accuracy. What do we do? We dwell on the 0.5 percent errors rather than celebrating the 99.5 percent success. Manage your expectations and always be striving. Knowing you gave your all can alleviate feelings of defeat.

Harness your fear, howl at the moon, jump on your broomstick, and disguise yourself as a fearless, enchanted writer who does not dread a cobweb of mistakes.

Amy Marie Yarbrough is a CART captioner and freelancer court reporter based in Atlantic Beach, Fla. She is a member of NCRA’s Technology Committee.


Fight the realtime monster by being prepared

By Deborah Kriegshauser

Deborah Kriegshauser

Realtime stage fright: Will I be prepared? Will my equipment hook up to the judge? Will it hook up to the attorneys? Will it translate appropriately? What will they think when there’s a steno outline or a mistran? Oh, yeah, we all fight those demons. We are all human; remember?

Being a federal official, we have the capability to log onto our federal docketing system and can pull up the briefs written by the parties as well as the charging documents or complaints. Take advantage of that opportunity. You truly will get a feel for the terms and spellings you need to have in your steno dictionaries, be it the job dictionary or your main dictionary. Nothing’s more satisfying than to see people’s names translate correctly, especially on the attorneys’ laptops. Pull up those witness lists as well, as the exhibit lists that are filed ahead of time. They’re a wealth of information! Get those case-specific terms entered into your dictionary ahead of time. You can fight this monster!

I freelanced previously in my career. In the deposition setting, you never know what you’re walking into. What a nightmare in itself! The best thing you can do is keep up with your steno dictionary entries. Improve on your prefixes and suffixes. Practice your number drills. There’s lots of phone numbers and addresses and Social Security numbers in depositions.

While we all strive to have everything as perfect as possible, remember that realtime is still considered a rough draft but that rough draft can be of benefit to all parties. Your judge is going through voir dire and when approached about striking a witness for cause, he cannot recall the prospective juror’s answers; pull up the realtime and do a juror number search. Your Spanish-speaking interpreter is interpreting the spoken words to the defendant and they lose their place reciting the commentary and questions that were sped through by the judge and counsel; consult the realtime on the screen at the podium. Realtime is so valuable! I need spellings of people’s names mentioned as witnesses or DEA/FBI agents; pull up the realtime file and plug in those spellings with counsel right there on the spot!

By using reverse psychology, I conquered the fear of my realtime not being perfect on the screen. As I would tell my judge, that’s a sign that that person is just speaking way too fast or maybe it’s because my hands, fingers, and shoulders are just exhausted from writing so long without any break. I have actually scored a break by the judge realizing there were suddenly more untrans on the screen. He realized it was suddenly time for everyone to have a break. He truly does not have an evil spirit!

Invest in your realtime skills! In our profession, it’s simply a matter of life or death. We need our realtime skills to maintain this great profession and keep it alive and well!

Deborah Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CRC, CLVS, is an official court reporter based in St. Louis, Mo. She holds NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator certification. She is a member of NCRA’s Technology Committee.

Realtime trick or treat

By Alan Peacock

Alan Peacock

As many seasoned reporters and captioners know, any realtime assignment can be a nightmare, filled with ghosts and goblins, or it can be a treat, filled with all of the joy and pride of a top-notch steno superstar. Whether your realtime experience is a “trick” or a “treat” depends on you.

If you want to make sure that your experience is a treat, there are a few things you need to know. The first and most obvious task is to use your time in advance to your advantage. Be sure to thoroughly prep each assignment.

Contact the assigning agency or law firm and ask for previous depositions in the case, as well as indexes from other reporters. You can scan them for quick dictionary building. If there are no depositions available, then ask for the complaint filed in the case. If nothing is still available, use your savvy online research skills to find similar cases and vocabulary. Always be at least prepared with the witness’s name, counsels’ names, their law firm’s names, subject matter specific vocabulary and anything else you can think of. The more armed you are in advance, the better your realtime will look.

Take the time to really think through the subject matter. If there are several multisyllabic high-frequency words, then do your best to find one-stroke briefs for your job dictionary. There’s no need for two- and three-stroke briefs if you have the time to prep. Your chances of mis-stroking a brief are cut by 50 percent by decreasing the number of strokes for each word. So do your best to keep prep as simple as possible. If your software allows you to generate a report of the most frequently used words, use that to your advantage. Create single strokes for those high-frequency words, even if they are not difficult to write.

Another tip you can use is to make a checklist for each assignment that you must check off the night before your job. That way you can always be sure that you have your tablets charged to 100 percent, that all of the necessary cables and chargers are in your bag, and that you have everything you need. There’s no worse feeling in the world than arriving to an assignment and realizing that the one thing you left at home will prevent you from working or from providing the best realtime. So even though it sounds simple and redundant, checking your equipment needs off of a list can actually save you a lot of time and trouble and keep the goblins away!

Alan Peacock, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, is a freelance court reporter and CART captioner based in Mobile, Ala. He hold NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator certificate. He is a member of NCRA’s Technology Committee.

Don’t fear impostor syndrome

By Lisa Knight

Lisa Knight

Who isn’t afraid of mistrans or untrans when writing realtime? I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I am always a little nervous for the first five minutes of any deposition – especially when they enter their appearances for the record at an unintelligible 400 words per minute with their eyes glued to the realtime screen (just to see if you got it right)!

I always felt terrified that if counsel saw my mistakes, I would be exposed as the fraud that I truly was. I’ve later come to realize the Imposter Syndrome is quite common! Of course, no one is perfect, but if I have errors in my transcripts, will they think I am not competent to handle the deposition/arbitration/trial?

Part of my confidence-building plan from the very beginning of my career was to get every certification, accreditation, or training offered to help me be the very best realtime reporter I can possibly be! NCRA has helped me every step of the way, whether with the CRR (Certified Realtime Reporter), the Realtime Systems Administrator certificate, or the many seminars/webinars they offer. I consider myself a lifetime learner, and NCRA gives me the tools to accomplish that and more!

Lisa Knight, FAPR, RDR, CRR, is a freelancer and agency owner based in Littleton, Colo. She hold the Realtime Systems Administrator certificate. She is a member of NCRA’s Technology Committee.

NCRA Board Member participates in elementary school mock trial

NCRA Board Member Cindy L. Isaacsen, RPR, an official court reporter from Olathe, Kan., participated in a mock trial with fifth- and sixth-graders hosted on Oct. 10, by the Santa Fe Trail Elementary School in Shawnee Mission, Kan. The students sat with Johnson County judges, attorneys, a deputy court administrator, and Isaacsen, who helped the students determine if Goldilocks, from “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” was guilty of a crime. These professionals visited the school to talk to students about the Constitution and branches of government.

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NCRA members top list in USCRA realtime contest

NCRA members Sherry Bryant, RMR, CRR, of Harrisburg, Pa., and Doug Zweizig, RDR, CRR, of Towson, Md., both competed in the United States Court Reporters Association (USCRA) Realtime Speed Contest. USCRA, which is an association dedicated to federal court reporters, holds an annual contest with five minutes of recorded two-voice Q&A at 230 words per minute. To qualify, participants’ files must achieve a 96 percent accuracy. Bryant and Zweizig were the only two qualifiers this year: Bryant took top honors with 99.65 percent, and Zweizig followed closely behind with 99.48 percent.

Sherry Bryant

Bryant won NCRA’s 2018 Speed Contest; Zweizig placed second overall in NCRA’s 2018 Realtime Contest and won the 2015 contest. The JCR asked Bryant and Zweizig about the contest and their experience attending the USCRA convention.

How long have you been a reporter?

SB | I have been a court reporter since 1981.

DZ | 29 years this year, I think. It starts to run together.

Doug Zweizig

How long have you worked in a federal court?

SB | I worked in the Eastern District of New York from October 2013 through July 2016.

DZ | Four years this month!

How long have you been a member of USCRA?

SB | Since the end of 2015.

DZ | Four years.

Why did you decide to go to the United States Court Reporters Association convention this year?

SB | Since I live and work so close to where the convention was being held in Tysons Corner, Va. , I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to attend. Other factors were: A friend from Eastern District of New York was attending; Chief Reporter Melinda Walker, Deputy Chief Damien Jackson, and two reporters from the U.S. House of Representatives where I currently work were presenting one of the seminars; plus the chance to compete in their realtime contest.

DZ | It was very close to my area. About an hour away (well, two in the crazy Washington, D.C., traffic).

You said this was your first time. What were you expecting? 

SB | I was unsure what to expect other than something similar to other conventions or contests I have attended and entered.

DZ | I was not at all sure, honestly.

Was it what you were expecting?

SB | It was similar to the NCRA convention in some respects: The seminars were interesting and well-presented; lunch was provided; CEUs are awarded. There were not different seminars to choose from as there is with the NCRA Convention. I enjoyed all the seminars, though, so this was not an issue for me. There was a buffet lunch that we ate in the same room as well. I was pleasantly surprised that the venue was so nice and the food was excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience attending the convention and competing in the realtime contest.

DZ | I will say that the USCRA contest was extremely orderly. We were instructed to meet in the lobby, and we’d be taken to the contest room. Once in the room, just pick a seat, take an envelope with your number. A bit of practice was next and then the contest was played. The room for the contest was small, so it was easy to hear with the Bose speakers.

How is it different from the NCRA contests?

SB | NCRA gives you special terms or proper names in order to create a job dictionary after you set up at the contest site, while USCRA gives them to you in advance of arrival. At the NCRA contests, you can set up approximately an hour in advance, while with the USCRA contest it is 15 minutes. After you are set up, they play warm-up material for 15 minutes or so. The NCRA Q&A realtime contest is 225 words per minute, while USCRA’s is 230 words per minute and is based on Federal Court transcripts. It was a challenging contest.

DZ | The USCRA contest had a relatively small number of contestants, and there was only one leg instead of two (230 Q&A). During the NCRA contests, we are able to use radio headsets to assist with hearing in a large room with sometimes high ceilings. It didn’t matter in this instance, because the room was small and I had no issue hearing. And the contest, to me, was extremely difficult, which is fine. I like a challenge. But I practiced a CD I ordered from USCRA that consisted of old contests, and I was making anywhere between zero to three errors. The actual contest material was considerably more difficult, and I had to hang on for dear life through the whole thing. Again, it was a challenge!

Any advice on contests – USCRA’s or in general?

SB | The key advice I have is to practice as much as possible with a variety of fast, difficult material several months in advance. Working in court or depositions, no matter how difficult, is not a substitute for practice.

DZ | Always read the rules beforehand. The USCRA contest was only one take, and printing in all caps was allowed. If that’s something that’s permitted, always do it! In the NCRA speed contest, you cannot print in all caps. In the NCRA realtime contest, all caps is only allowed in the literary take. So definitely read the rules and use something like all caps to your advantage. It can make a big difference or it could also mean the difference between qualifying and not qualifying or winning or not winning.

Realtime and the network firewall

Kelli Ann Willis

By Kelli Ann Willis

I travel around the world covering realtime assignments. In August, I set out for an assignment in Seoul, South Korea. I wasn’t prepared for the technological enigma that presented itself on this assignment.

I flew to Seoul and arrived the day before the job was to start. That is one of the unique aspects of international work: You must arrive and be ready to work the next day. I showed up at the location one hour early to set up, as I always do. I was escorted to the conference room and walked into a dark room. They apologized, but they had no idea how to turn the lights on. The videographer was already there, trying to set up in the dark. I went with it!

I unpacked my writer, computer, LiveLitigation router, microphones, and all my tablets. I booted up my computer and connected to the wireless guest network. So far, it was all going well.

Next came the LiveLitigation router. I plugged it in, just like I normally do. I turned on my Luminex and connected to the computer via Bluetooth. I pulled out the iPad that I use for the main interpreter and the four Galaxy Tabs that I use for everyone else in the room. I started my realtime and proceeded to connect the tablets.

At that point, I ran into an unusual error. I received an incorrect password error in the LiveLitigation software. I knew my password was correct because it never changes. So I tried again and again and kept getting the same message. When I moved on to the Galaxy Tabs, I received an “authentication error” message.

It was now 15 minutes before the deposition was to begin. I quickly changed over all the tablets to the Internet through the firm’s wireless guest network, with the iPad and three tablets connected to the Internet. I restarted my realtime and ran Bridge Mobile for the day. We started on time, for which I was grateful!

Prior to the start of the deposition, I emailed support at LiveLitigation to let them know I was having a problem.  LiveLitigation was great and replied to my email, which I so appreciated, especially considering the significant time change between Seoul and the U.S. As often happens during depositions, time was my enemy, and I could not troubleshoot the issue during the deposition.

After the deposition was over, I took all my equipment back to the hotel to set up everything again, and it worked perfectly. I sent another email to LiveLitigation advising them that the problem was resolved.  Except it wasn’t.

The following morning for day two of the deposition at the law firm’s office, I received the same error messages. Sensing my frustration with the same network problem as the day before, one of the wonderful attorneys on-site said to me, “You know, I was in the firm’s Washington, D.C., office and the reporter there had the exact same problem.” That piece of information made me realize that the network problem was inside of the firm.

I called LiveLitigation immediately and told them. My representative set me up with codes so that I could run the LiveLitigation through the Internet. It worked great, and I was able to report the testimony of the entire job using the provided codes.  The only remaining issue I had was that one tablet would not connect to the Internet. I tried everything I could think of to connect it, but nothing worked.

I decided to look into what it was that the firm was using to block the intranet, so that I could add that bit of knowledge to my arsenal. In researching for this article, I spoke to the LiveLitigation Development Operations person. He informed me that there is a security measure known as WIPS – Wireless Interference Prevention System. For instance, Cisco has a product called Air Marshal. It prevents 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz ad hoc networks, which are what LiveLitigation and CaseViewNet are, from connecting inside the protected WIPS environment.

I also spoke to the Director of Technical Support at Stenograph. Like LiveLitigation’s representative, she agreed that this is a very rare situation. I was informed by the Stenograph Director that the company has not received this particular support call from other users, while the LiveLitigation representative said he has heard of this network problem a handful of times.

The other challenge that network firewalls at law firms can pose is the blocking of the particular port that is needed to stream text outside of the law firm. That is more common and is solvable, as long as the IT department is available or has been made aware of this situation.

Both LiveLitigation and Stenograph can overcome this challenge with Internet-based realtime. Stenograph has Cloud Session codes, and LiveLitigation has Remote Realtime codes.

Kelli Ann Willis, RPR, CRR, is a freelancer and agency owner based in Hutchinson, Kan., and can be reached at She also holds NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator certificate.  Willis is also a Kansas Certified Court Reporter. She is a member of NCRA’s Technology Committee.