Exploring alternatives to the legal life

An article posted May 15 in The Daily Campus, the student newspaper of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, notes that careers in court reporting and as a legal videographer offer two viable options for someone interested in entering the legal profession. The article cites NCRA as a resource to learn more.

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Alaris reopens downtown St. Louis office

In a press release issued May 14, Alaris Litigation announced the grand reopening of their office located at 711 N. 11th Street in St. Louis, Mo., to celebrate a complete renovation and remodeling of the space.

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Hit me with your best webinar

Since hitting the scene in the mid-1990s the popularity of webinars to share information has defied all communications trends. Their use has more than rapidly grown, thanks to the platform’s ability to allow presenters a cost-effective mode to reach large and specific groups of online viewers from a single location and offers participants the ability to interact with presenters.

Erminia Uviedo, RDR, CRR

NCRA offers a variety of both live and recorded webinars that members can use to earn continuing education units. But it’s not just the participants who benefit from the value of webinars; the presenters do as well.

“I love webinars,” says Erminia Uviedo, RDR, CRR, a freelance court reporter from San Antonio, Texas, who was tapped by NCRA to present in a webinar about promoting and recruiting for the court reporting and captioning professions. “I think they are so informative and educational. Court reporters’ and captioners’ schedules are so hectic that it is sometimes hard to get away to a convention. Webinars make a very convenient and flexible way to educate and earn continuing education credits,” Uviedo said.

Steve Lubetkin, CLVS

Steve Lubetkin, CLVS, managing partner of Lubetkin Media Companies in Cherry Hill, N.J., said he presented his first webinar for NCRA after a conversation with staff when he finished his CLVS practical test. The conversation, he said, was about how highly he thought of the program. Since then, he has produced and hosted three webinars for NCRA.

“I enjoy being able to share some of the practical experience I’ve gained producing video and managing my business. I’m proud of some of the tricks I’ve learned to streamline the work, and it’s rewarding to have peers say they appreciate the ideas as well,” Lubetkin said.

Uviedo agreed. “Lending your expertise to other reporters is one of the greatest givebacks you can contribute to the profession.  Many of us are self-employed and do not have an employer to guide and/or train us. Training and guidance via webinar is an excellent way to educate our professionals,” said the 23-year veteran of court reporting.

According to Lubetkin, depending on the topic, preparing and creating a webinar can take some work on the presenter’s part. “For my webinar on the deposition audio chain, I think I spent two or three hours shooting the b-roll I used to illustrate part of the one-hour program. For the others, I spent several hours each on screen shots and display materials,” he noted.

Uviedo encourages others to volunteer to host webinars for NCRA to help increase educational opportunities. “I would say that your webinar is imperative for the busy working reporters who are unable to attend conventions and also reporters who are looking for guidance on information throughout the year. You can just go to NCRA’s webinar website and look for the topic you need training on, and voila! It’s a win-win for both the reporter and NCRA,” she said.

“Webinars are great when people can dedicate the specific time period for the live learning, and engage in interaction with the instructor and participants, but they are also valuable as on-demand recorded programs that people can go back to over and over to review concepts and techniques,” added Lubetkin, who has been a legal videographer since 2014 and earned his CLVS in 2016.

NCRA is always looking for professionals to share their expertise with our membership. Presenting a webinar is a great way to build your résumé, gain a platform for your ideas, and contribute your knowledge to the NCRA Continuing Education library. Presenters may advertise their business at the end of their presentations and will be compensated. For more information, contact egoff@ncra.org.

Queens native takes final exam, begins career next day

In February, “Daniel Joseph took his final stenotype exam, demonstrating his ability to type at a speed of at least 225 words per minute on a stenotype machine,” reported a story sponsored by Plaza College, based in Queens, N.Y. “The next day, Mr. Joseph began his career as a court reporter at American Stenographic.”

The article relates how Joseph learned about the profession, progressed through school, and met the challenges of learning to write at 225 words per minute. The story also related details about his internship with American Stenographic, where he eventually was given a permanent position.

Asked if he would recommend the career to family and friends, Joseph replied: “Absolutely!”

NCRA member writes dream novel

By Becky Doby

“I’d like to sell Mary Kay full-time.” Pause. “I’ve always wanted to be a personal trainer.” Silence.

“Okay, who else?”

It was several years ago, during a break at the annual convention of the Wyoming Professional Court Reporters Association, when one of the members posed the question: What career would you like to pursue if you were no longer going to be a court reporter?

Finally, a quiet voice was heard. “I’d like to write a novel.”

Merissa Racine, RDR

Merissa Racine, RDR, a freelance court reporter from Cheyenne, Wyo., didn’t grow up dreaming of becoming a writer. She was born in the Bronx and grew up on Long Island in New York. As a teenager she moved to Miami, Fla., where she spent her teenage years, and it was there she discovered the world of court reporting. Knowing she wanted a career rather than just a job, she set about identifying what that career would be. Seeing an ad in the paper for court reporting school, she had her answer. She laughingly states that she can’t remember the name of the school, as it lost its accreditation shortly after she enrolled. Yet despite that glitch, she has attained the certification of RDR and has since devoted herself to court reporting, first in Florida and then in Wyoming. But while she didn’t always have the desire to become a writer, Racine does acknowledge that “in the back of my mind I’ve always had a story.”

As is true for those in many legal professions – and perhaps especially in the world of court reporting -­ there have been many times when the thought had crossed her mind: I ought to write a book. Unlike the rest of us, Racine followed through with that niggling idea. She set her mind upon it, dreamed of it, honed her skills, and did it.

In December 2017, Silent Gavel became available through Amazon and online at Barnes & Noble. Now, in addition to enjoying a successful and fulfilling career as a court reporter, Racine can add “published author” to her list of achievements.

As court reporters, we both laugh and grimace at portrayals of stenographers in literature and film. We wish the profession were more accurately depicted, wanting others to understand the contributions we make to the field of law. At last, one who knows the profession in and out, with nearly 39 years of experience “in the trenches,” has provided the true representation we long for. Woven into this murder mystery are such things as the basics of machine shorthand and the use of briefs, such as when the protagonist, Lauren Besoner, makes a list of suspects under the heading S-PS. Besoner also faces a quandary when instructed by her judge to delete from the transcript comments he made on the record. These things, and more, lend authenticity to the novel.

The ways that authors go about writing are many and varied. In her case, Racine would write a paragraph, put it away, and then bring it out again, trying to find an idea that would work. She didn’t write first page to last, having come up with an ending long before the rest of the novel was fleshed out. Once she became serious about writing her book, she attended a seminar put on by the local library. From there, she became a member of the Nite Writers of Cheyenne, a group of aspiring writers. She also attended conferences in order to learn more about the craft. It has been a years-long process, and one that is still ongoing, as Racine continues learning the facets of writing and publishing.

“I wanted to write something that other people would like to read.” With Silent Gavel, Racine has accomplished her goal. In doing so, she has given her readers insight into a profession few know anything about. She wanted to write a novel. Done. Well done!

If you would like to contact Merissa Racine, she can be reached at merissaracine@gmail.com, or visit her website at www.merissaracine.com.

Becky Doby, RPR, is a freelance writer from Torrington, Wyo.


Jobs you might want to consider in the legal field

Court reporter was one of four careers noted in an article about jobs in the legal field to consider in an article posted by The Global Dispatch on April 25.

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Legal Eagle expands services with acquisitions

Legal Eagle, based in Greenville, S.C., announced in a press release issued May 7, that the firm has agreed to acquire Cannon Court Reporting, also based in Greenville, and Freelance Reporting Services of Spartanburg, S.C.

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South Suburban College alumna finds success in legal field

Patch.com posted an article on May 9 about NCRA member LaTanya Allen, RPR, an official court reporter from Madison, Miss., who was recently sworn in as president of the Mississippi Court Reporters Association.

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Court reporters offer free course

The Oklahoman posted an article about an upcoming NCRA A to Z Intro to Machine Shorthand program the Oklahoma Court Reporters Association will be offering later in May. The article was generated by a press release issued by NCRA.

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A day in Jurassic World

By Amanda Bavin

I’ve been a member of the British Institute of Verbatim Reporters since approximately 2004-5. Like most people, I pay the membership, take up the odd job offer, network occasionally and that’s where it ends. In June last year, however, a BIVR advert for a Special Skills Film Extra caught my interest!

Someone from Pinewood Studios contacted BIVR, the advert went out, and so I emailed the contact. First, I had to go through “casting”. This sounds more exciting than it was. Basically I had to run to my local Next shop and try on a few different types of suits and get the sales assistant to take photos of me in each suit and then email these over the Pinewood. [Ed. Note: Next is a British clothier company.]

Eventually I received a phone call to say Pinewood was happy with both me and the suit. I asked what film it would be. It was all subterfuge, and I was told only the code name of the film, which was Ancient Futures, and that “It’s a good one.” After Googling, I found out that it was probably the next Jurassic Park called Jurassic World.

The info about the filming day was very vague and sketchy. So when I hadn’t heard anything the day before the shoot, I rang my brothers (who both work in the film industry), and they reassured me that it was normal to not receive any info until late on the evening before. Eventually I received an email with only the details of a random car park and its postcode near Pinewood. Setting my alarm for 3 a.m. the next morning, I was very excited (not how I usually feel before providing speech-to-text at a board meeting).

Bleary-eyed, I arrived on the wrong side of the car park and eventually found the minibus to a random location. I was rushed on arrival to the front of the queue for Hair & Makeup and Wardrobe, as runners shouted, “Here’s the stenographer. Quick! Get her ready. They’re about to shoot Senate scene.” Makeup wanted a “natural look,” which translates to “I should have packed my makeup bag.”

Breakfast was eaten in the next minibus to the filming shed. Little did I know this was the start of about six meals – it was definitely an eat-a-thon. At this point I still didn’t know for sure if it was Jurassic World, but I got some very helpful advice from other extras on the minibus, such as how not to look at the cameras or get distracted, etc., and just do exactly what the director asks of you.

On arrival, I stumbled across the set in the heels that wardrobe had kindly given me and set up my Stenograph Luminex machine as requested to the right of Jeff Goldblum. If you’re as old as I am, you’ll remember him from The Fly. He then came over and introduced himself and thanked me for doing the Special Skills role. He was lovely. I was shocked throughout the day at how hard he worked. I assumed the stars would be let off repeating their lines: He worked from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and was very professional.

From zoomed-in screenshot of the official trailer: Amanda seems as though she’s in a witness box, but she is indeed playing the stenographer!

The next day, I was told filming would be in Hawaii — of course I would make myself available. The nine hours of filming went by in a blur. I felt sorry for the extras who were part of the audience as they had fake daylight on their faces for hours and so got very warm. It was strange doing the job for real when everyone was talking about dinosaurs; next time I’ll input a shortform for Tyrannosaurus Rex.

No one can say that the stenographer isn’t really writing properly for this film; it’s authentic. We had regular breaks, but it was a repetitive day with the director’s voice booming out every so often.

So if you go to the cinema to watch Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, look out for me in a black suit jacket to the right of Jeff Goldblum. He gives a speech in a Q&A during the Senate scene.

This is probably the best day of my career to date, and next time I hope to get some lines!

(Official trailer – https://youtu.be/vn9mMeWcgoM )


Amanda Bavin, NRCPD-Registered Speech-to-Text Reporter/Stenographer, is a freelancer based near London, UK. She can be reached at www.abavinsteno.co.uk.