Oneida County court reporter holding free class to raise more interest in field

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyOn Sept. 14, WJFW Newswatch 12, Rhinelander, Wis., ran a story about the A to Z Program sessions that NCRA member Lynn Penfield, RPR, CRR, is running. According to the article, “Anyone in the Northwoods who is interested in learning more about court reporting can sign up, although you should at least be a junior or senior in high school.” Sessions begin Oct. 17, and the article includes information to sign up. Penfield, who is an official in Harshaw, is running the program because she “considers [court reporting] the best job she’s ever had, and she wants to get more people interested in her field.”

This is not Penfield’s first experience with her local media. In 2016, she was featured in a piece about court reporting on WHFW-Channel 12, and in 2017, she was presented with a proclamation signed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker during Court Reporting & Captioning Week.

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STUDENT REPORTING: The race is on

By Madelyn Jones

The green signal flag is down — the race to the finish line is underway. Things are going along very well along the speedbuilding raceway; no speed bumps in sight. You manage to navigate around a series of small undulations. You are starting to get your cruise on. And then, out of the blue, your speed plateaus. The yellow caution flag drops. You find yourself in the same speed for over six months. You know that you at least avoided the red flag, but the yellow flag is warning enough to do more than just avoid hitting the wall. What should the speedbuilder take away from this lesson? One lesson learned must be “how to win the race,” not simply mastering “the course of least resistance” down the runway.

Any reporter or student will tell you what a challenge this process is. We have all been there. What can you do? We know perseverance and hard work is the key, but what should you work on to shake things up? You know that you could cruise along at the same measured pace and ultimately reach the finish line. But as you drive along, you know you cannot simply coast. What are some ways of successfully reaching inside yourself, summoning forth strengths you know are already there, waiting to facilitate your quest to go the extra mile?
Every speed instructor you have ever had probably has suggested the following at one time or another, but perhaps it’s time to revisit some techniques. Part of the secret to success is internalizing the “tried and true” techniques — whether you are behind your court reporting machine or racing to beat the clock.

Consider what your first speed instructor warned against: If you do not warm up your drill-writing fingers, they will not necessarily be in position to operate at their best capacity as you go down the long runway. Just as the race car driver behind the wheel has to call upon carefully practiced scenarios, so, too, should you enable your skill sets to include carefully rehearsed practice sessions that will seemingly spring to your aid in the final stretch.

Thus, your number one goal in support of the race to the finish line, going full-barrel down the straightway, is to take a page out of your speedbuilding instructor’s success manual: The first skill that will need to be rehoned is perhaps one of the most basic in court reporting, yet often one of the most overlooked: exercise.

Hurdle Number One: Exercising those fingers. Warm up every day for 15 minutes by writing finger drills. Many working reporters do this to keep their fingers limber and strong. Work on the ones that are more of a challenge for you. A very good book to refer to is Sten Ed’s Ultimate Finger Drill Book. In the long run, keeping up flexibility and speed through regular exercise is as necessary to building speed for court reporters as fast reaction time is to race car drivers. The winners, in either case, have their most essential, most basic skills on which to automatically rely when push comes to shove.
Likewise, several other crucial skills must be put into one’s tool box, to be drawn upon in the final stretch.

Hurdle Number Two: Reading and analyzing: Noting the old adage, “A word to the wise is sufficient,” here, then, are three words to the wise court reporter-in-training from one seasoned speedbuilding instructor: Read and analyze. No matter how many times you have consulted your notes to see where your fingers may have gone astray, it is of supreme importance to read and analyze your notes. This is very important.
Be sure to print out your vertical notes if you don’t have paper notes. Don’t hesitate to review and then once again proofread any notes you have taken, whether on paper or otherwise. Plan to incorporate this practice as well into your regular routine.
This form of self-monitoring will become another one of your most important tools to tune up for your race to your ultimate goal. Becoming proficient at identifying any areas of weakness is a strength — not a weakness. The most successful pros are those most adept at studying any errors and seeking ways to avoid repeating them.

Hurdle Number Three: Categorize and correct mistakes: While it may be self-evident to some, experienced speedbuilding instructors still have a most valid point when they remind us to “Use a pen to correct your notes.” This will aid in avoiding such errors in the future. In the process of dissecting your notes, you should have the following objectives:

a. Correcting speed-bump flaws: Look for how many times you are asterisking to correct an error. If you see you are correcting a word two or three times, stop this. This slows you down.
b. Reduction in hesitations: Look for words where there are hesitations in your writing and where you dropped as a result of the hesitation. Next, look for phrases and brief forms you could have used. If you learn new briefs, be sure to know them well enough to write them without hesitation. Practice those words. Such hesitations contribute to slowing you down.
c. Strategies to address misstrokes: Look for any pattern of continued misstroking. Identify your weaknesses. You may be dropping word endings; mark them and learn from them. Journal your misstrokes and log the corrected outline. You may want to eventually change how you write a word in your dictionary if it is something that repeats itself. But be careful not to create any conflicts.
d. Add to your brief toolkit: Look for phrases and brief forms you could have used. If you learn new briefs, be sure to know them well enough to write them without hesitation. Knowing additional briefs to draw upon when the road gets tough is another tool to facilitate your race when you may be flagging.
e. Incorporating corrections into your internal files: Take a stack of corrected notes and read them out loud as often as possible. The more you read your notes, the better you will be. This will help to rev your internal combustion engine when you need that extra spurt to the finish line.

You have already made it down the runway and you are now close to the finish line. You say to yourself, “What else can I do? I’ve given it my all.” These last few pointers help signal the way to career success. Don’t be left straggling so near the finish line. Speedbuilding instructors finally recommend the following tasks.

1. Transribe those tests: Transcribe as many as you possibly can. This is another opportunity to read your notes. So much is learned from the transcription process. You will avoid repeated spelling and punctuation errors. If you find you are dropping toward the end of a five-minute test, be sure you add more time to your practice takes.
2. Slow your roll. Take a good look at how well you know your theory. Go back and revisit those chapters you disliked writing the most. If you don’t analyze and resolve these issues, they will continue to slow you down. Be sure to work on accuracy as well as speed. Slow down and focus in order to speed up and write well.
3. Focus. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. Take the time to practice mindful listening and stroking. You need to develop total concentration. You can practice for hours on end, but if your mind isn’t with you, your fingers, and your machine, little progress will be made. Take the time to notice when your attention has drifted off, and redirect it back over and over again to the task at hand. Make this a habit. Strive for getting into the proverbial “zone” where your brain and your fingers are working simultaneously.
4. Establish a specific daily plan. Set goals to practice a certain amount of hours outside of class. Literally, plan every hour of every week out. You will be surprised at how much more time you really have to practice if you stick to a schedule. Mix your practice up. For example, work on speed, numbers, word drills on one day. Work on accuracy, Q&A, brief forms the next day. Another part of your goal is to keep up the habit of regular practice, making your time management part of your clear pathway down the final sprint to success.
5. Do not look at your screen while writing. This will slow you down.
6. Keep a positive mindset. Since you will fail more tests than you will pass, you absolutely need to keep a positive mindset. Remind yourself what it was that inspired you to become a court reporter. Continued maintenance of a positive mindset is another key to remaining both self-confident and prepared at all times.

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy

The mark of a true professional, likewise, is one who does not hesitate to set goals and take the time to train to reach them, at last coalescing all efforts into a successful pattern of attaining the goal waiting at the race’s end.

And so, you are on your way again. You are writing cleaner and quicker. You can see the checkered flag at the finish line. It’s all you! Yes, you crossed that finish line with an abundance of hard work, perseverance, and passion.

Madelyn Jones,CRI, is a court reporting instructor based in Granite Bay, Calif. She can be reached at maddy8181@hotmail.com.

Stepping over speed plateaus

Hiker standing on rocky edge

Photo by Travel Stock Photos

By Jackie Young

While the standard dictionary definition of plateau is “to have something remain at a stable level or on an even keel,” the word plateau has a completely different meaning to court reporting students. Simply uttering the words speed plateau can cause extreme frustration and anxiety. Don’t let that happen to you!

One of the main obstacles all reporters will face at one time or another in their court reporting career is a lack of speed. No matter how well prepared you are, there will come a day when you meet a witness or an attorney who seems bound and determined to be forever enshrined in The Guinness Book of World Records for being the world’s fastest talker.

Most court reporting students will find that the other obstacle that goes hand in hand with a lack of speed, of course, is a lack of accuracy. If your fingers are struggling to capture every word, naturally your accuracy will go down. It is important to remember at times like this that struggling with speed and accuracy is not the end of the world, and it certainly should not stop you from fulfilling your dream of becoming a court reporter.

There is no secret potion or magical transformation that a reporter can instantaneously undergo that will allow him or her to write as fast and as accurately as NCRA’s speed champions. The good news, however, is that there are certain general tips you can follow to overcome and conquer those plateaus. With a little perseverance and hard work, you can and will be able to meet those challenges.

Tip No. 1: Concentrate. Concentration is perhaps one of the most important aspects of our job, and if you are suffering from poor concentration, your writing will show it. Before you begin practicing, take a few deep breaths to clear your mind of other thoughts and relax. Do a couple of one-minute takes in the beginning until you get warmed up, and then increase those gradually until you are able to accomplish the complete five-minute take without distractions. If you start to feel frustrated at a certain speed, pause for a moment, clear your mind, reaffirm to yourself that you can write at this speed, and begin again.

Tip No. 2: Use one-minute takes to increase your speed and accuracy. Select a one-minute segment at a speed that you can comfortably write at without many errors. Once you have finished writing that segment, read it back to yourself to see what errors you have made. Before you begin again, practice writing those words that caused you to hesitate or stumble. Then rewrite and reread the same segment at the same speed until you are able to write it flawlessly.

Once you have accomplished writing that segment without error, increase the speed slightly and begin again. This exercise will help you learn to hear and process the words at a faster rate, and train your fingers to move at a faster speed. Your fingers can only write as fast as your ears can hear and as fast as your brain can process the information.

Tip No. 3: Perform finger exercises every day. Take the time to write the alphabet and your numbers a couple of times. You can easily do this while you are waiting for class to start or before you begin your practice takes. As you write the letter, say the letters A, B, C, and so on in your head. Finger exercises will help enforce in your mind the placement of the keys and help eliminate hesitation. It will also help develop good finger dexterity and control.

Tip No. 4: Know your theory. If you find that your fingers are struggling with adding the D or S or you are faltering on words that start with S-M, go back through your theory books and rewrite those exercises to help reinforce your steno theory in your mind.

Tip No. 5: Read back your notes. Visualizing the steno on the paper or on your computer will help reinforce the correct letters and finger positions in your brain and help you recognize your errors before they become a habit. Circle your mistakes or write them on a piece of paper, and then rewrite them on your steno machine a number of times correctly so your fingers learn the correct placement. This will subsequently help you stroke those words without hesitation the next time you hear them.

Tip No. 6: Check your body and keyboard position. Be sure you are sitting comfortably and with both feet flat on the floor. Place your keyboard in a position where your forearms are about parallel with the floor and your fingers are naturally resting in the home position. If you find that you are experiencing pain in the muscles of your arms, shoulders, or back, it is likely your keyboard is positioned incorrectly, and you need to adjust the height of your machine, your chair, or both. Also, be sure your fingertips are not resting on the keys but are slightly above them. This will help you avoid adding unwanted extra letters.

Tip No. 7: Memorize and practice your briefs. There are mixed feelings about a reporter relying on too many briefs, but incorporating more briefs into my writing is the most important thing I have ever done as a court reporter to increase my speed and accuracy. I used to write the majority of everything out, but as I aged and it felt like more and more attorneys were talking faster and faster, I decided to incorporate two to three briefs on every job. For example, before the beginning of my deposition, I would look at the caption and create briefs for the names of the parties or other technical words that I thought might come up. If the plaintiff’s name was Tom Roberts, I would write that as T*R. Or, if the defendant’s name was Triumph Electronics Corporation, I would write that as T*E (Triumph Electronics) or T*EC for the full name. Before long, as you write, you will find yourself thinking of briefs for words that are difficult or come up frequently.

A strong word of caution, however: Before merging any brief into your job dictionary or main dictionary, please ensure that it does not cause any conflicts! One way to avoid conflicts is to incorporate the asterisk into your briefs whenever possible.

Now that you have created all these clever briefs, the next task is to remember and use them. Write them down on a piece of paper where you can easily see them during practice or on the job. You can also do this for other words or phrases that frequently come up on a practice tape or that you find yourself struggling with.

One other way I have incorporated more briefs into my writing is to listen to practice tapes and to find commonly used phrases or words. I come up with a brief, write it down on a piece of paper, and then listen and rewrite that segment of the tape two to three times to help reinforce that brief in my mind. After I feel comfortable writing those briefs, I then write the entire five-minute take and strive for accuracy.

Another strong word of caution: Writing briefs should be automatic. It is one thing to know you have a brief for a particular phrase, but it is a totally different thing to be able to write it without hesitation. Every day, memorize and practice briefs for common phrases and words until you no longer hesitate when you write them. It’s easier to remember briefs if they follow a similar pattern. For example, the phrases I don’t know, I don’t recall, I don’t remember, etc., should all have the same beginning, with only a slightly different ending. So if you are in a creative mood and want to shorten your writing, be sure to have a consistent pattern to your briefs whenever possible.

Tip No. 8: Have a positive attitude. If you practice regularly but you don’t feel like you are making any progress, don’t get discouraged. Whether you believe it or not, you are making progress — perhaps just a little more slowly than you would like. Above all else, don’t dwell on your mistakes or hesitations for days on end; that will bring you down mentally, and then you will fail. You can always come back a week or two down the road to work on any particular challenging issue.

Tip No. 9: Analyze your writing. Keep a list of hesitation words, and practice them daily. Whenever you hesitate over a word that comes up in the dictation, jot it down on a piece of paper and practice it a few times for the next few days. Once you find that you are stroking that particular word without hesitation, then move on to the next word. Repeat that exercise a few times, and your mind will automatically know how to write it. Keep those lists and review them every few months to make sure you haven’t forgotten how to stroke them effortlessly.

Tip No. 10: Make accuracy your first and most important goal. Establish a daily or weekly goal, such as “I will write 150 words per minute for five minutes with 10 or fewer errors.” By practicing your dictation in realtime, you will be able to monitor your error rate on each take. While on a deposition, I routinely challenge myself to see how low I can get my untranslate rate. Once you have your accuracy down, speed will naturally come to you.

The above is not an all-encompassing list, but incorporating most of these tips into your practices will give you a good start on improving your writing style and boosting your speed and accuracy. If you are having difficulty fitting in much practice time, just remember that it’s the quality, not the length, of your practice that really counts, so make it as productive as possible!

The last tip I will leave you with to help you overcome those speed plateaus is to simply relax and take it one step at a time so you do not feel too overwhelmed. Focus on the positive little steps that you make rather than worrying about the next speed test that might be coming up. People who focus on the positive will be able to challenge themselves to do their best and succeed at each stage of their career.

 

Jackie Young, RPR, is a freelancer in Delano, Minn. She can be reached at rite2jackie@yahoo.com.

Why should I belong to my state and national associations?

Call for volunteers imageBy Debbie Kriegshauser

When I was a new reporter, or even when I was a student for that matter, I knew very little about my profession. I had many questions I wanted to ask but was too scared to show my ignorance, trying to convince myself of the old saying, “no question is a stupid question.” I wanted to learn as much as I could, and doing an internship at the Peoria County Courthouse wasn’t quite allowing me to appreciate what the freelance world would be like or even if being an official in Peoria was similar to any courthouse job nationwide. I struggled to figure out: Do I want to be a freelance reporter or an official reporter?

Fortunately, I had an amazing instructor who was a past court reporter. This instructor was adamant about us joining the national association as student members and encouraged us to join our state association as well, especially when we could take advantage of the student price. We were pretty much expected to join the national association because she wanted us to receive the JCR magazine, and we eventually ended up with homework assignments using it.

Through this experience, I was truly educated, via the magazine, about the vast array of reporting fields that existed across the world. The job listings and equipment offered for sale were unbelievable. I was getting all the answers I needed to the questions I was afraid to ask. I would get so pumped up, gathering ideas on how to build speed and perfect my writing. I soon found myself getting over the hurdle of 160 wpm and flying through 180 and 225. I wanted to get out into that working world as fast as I could.

Excited by the knowledge I was gaining through the JCR, I was curious what my state organization would be like. I just had to go see for myself. I quickly joined the Illinois Shorthand Reporters Association (now the Illinois Court Reporters Association) and was truly amazed at the newsletter they provided. This newsletter also promoted various job openings in the state as well as tidbits on steno briefs. I was convinced there would be a job for me out there somewhere.

I attended one of my state conventions after learning about it through their Ad Infinitum newsletter. Wow! After being around all those working reporters, yes, this is what I wanted to do. I very shortly thereafter learned through the newsletter that there was a board position open as the southern regional representative that they were desperately trying to fill. Why not give it a try! I ended up getting the position, and, well, the rest is history. I’ve been serving on a board, committee, or council of my state and national organizations ever since with no lapse in service since around 1985. The networking opportunities association service has provided me have been priceless, to say the least. It’s fun to attend state and national association seminars and conventions, and be recognized by your fellow peers.

Beyond networking, I’ve taken advantage of many other benefits my memberships provide. My memberships have helped me insure my equipment; get discounts for court reporting–related products and services, like software or office supplies; access directories to find names of reporters wherever I need one; and see promotions of upcoming CEU-approved seminars. Supporting the legislative efforts that protect my profession and understanding the issues we face as working reporters is also a definite asset to my membership.

Of course, as the years have gone by, the value-added services have become tenfold with the advances in technology. Those directories have gone online, so I can easily find a court reporter, videographer, instructor, or software vendor. NCRA, and many state associations, have discussion groups on social media where I can ask questions and get new ideas. The NCRA website also has information on state association–sponsored seminars and events in and around your area as well as a library of e-seminars.

I can honestly say my state and national association memberships have brought me to where I am today. I’ve served on the Illinois Court Reporters Association Board, even as president for two terms, the Missouri Court Reporters Association Board, endless committees with NCRA, and I have even been involved with the CLVS Council. I’ve been approached to apply for jobs. I didn’t intend to become a federal official reporter, but I am one now, thanks to other reporters who threw my hat in for the position. Many reporters have become familiar with me through my state and national membership affiliations.

The real question is: Can I live without state and national association memberships?

Debbie Kriegshauser, RMR, CRR, CLVS, is an official in St. Louis, Mo. She can be reached at deborah0841@att.net.

It takes drive to commit to court reporting school

: Kaitlyn Spurgeon, left, and Rachel Otto, right, share a goal and a commute

Kaitlyn Spurgeon, left, and Rachel Otto, right, share a goal and a commute

Court reporting students are much like the professionals in the business they are destined to enter: determined, hardworking, dedicated, and devoted. As with any profession, it can often be a long hard ride to the big time. But in the case of Kaitlyn Spurgeon and Rachel Otto, students at MacCormac College of Court Reporting in Chicago, Ill., the ride each day maybe long, but the support they have for each other in conquering school isn’t very hard to come by.

Spurgeon, a resident of Antioch, Ill., and Otto, a resident of Genoa City, Wis., live about 15 miles apart, and each school day they spend up to two hours a day together commuting each way to MacCormac. Up-to-Speed reached out to them to find out what keeps them motivated and on course in regards to their studies, and why they make the long trek they do several days a week.

Do you find you motivate each other during your commute?

KS — We definitely do motivate each other during the commute. After a long day of work, we do get tired and the drive is difficult, but we try to keep a conversation going to keep us awake and if all else fails, I have my iPod with more than a thousand songs to keep us entertained. We also have a game to try to find license plates from all 50 states.

RO — Kaitlyn and I definitely motivate each other throughout the commute. We will talk about our class and the difficulties we are having, and we also distract each other by playing games.

Some people might think that choosing an online program would be better than committing to a four-hour daily commute to attend brick-and-mortar classes. What would you say to that thinking?

KS — Well, I’ve come to understand that court reporting isn’t an easy skill to learn right away, and I was told by current court reporters that having an actual in-person class would be better for this skill than trying to learn it on my own through an online class.

RO — I like the idea of an online class just because I live on a farm and I am very busy here, but I also really love the school, and I learn best by being there physically and actually being able to see the teacher and ask questions. I think it is a better option for me at the moment.

What time do you leave for school each day and what time do you start your trip home?

KS — We leave for school after work at around 3  p.m. and arrive at school between 5 and 5:30 p.m. We leave school around 8 p.m. and get home between 9:30 and 10:30 p.m., as the traffic home can get pretty bad.

What is the most frustrating factor, besides the length, of your commute?

KS — I think one big downside of the commute isn’t the frustrating part; it’s the downright scary parts. You hear a lot about really bad car accidents, drunk drivers, and now there’s even people shooting each other on the highway. We go pretty fast on the highway along with everyone else, and we’ve both seen how careless a lot of people are when they drive.

How do you make up practice time given that you are on the road so long each day?

KS — I squeeze practice time between my two jobs and school whenever I can. There’s not much room for relaxation time in my world right now, but I’m totally okay with that. I love keeping busy, so whenever I have a chance to sit down, I have a steno machine in front of me.

RO — Practice time is at night. I stay up pretty late, until around 1 a.m., just to get practice in and then go to work at 6 a.m. Practice is very important, and we need time for it. Sleep is for later.

Do your classmates support your dedication to your program?

KS — To be totally honest, almost all of our other classmates have already given up on court reporting and stopped showing up. So Rachael is my only classmate. But yes, she is very supportive, and so is my teacher.

RO — My classroom is just three people including Kaitlyn. They support it and think it is crazy that we drive all the way over there for school.

How far along are you in your court reporting education?

KS — We are just about to wrap up our first semester, and I personally love it. Time really does fly when you’re having fun, and shorthand has been such a blast to learn and use so far.

RO — I am in the first class: Machine Shorthand Theory 1. I am just starting school for court reporting.

What area of the profession do you hope to enter upon graduation: official, freelancer, or CART or broadcast captioner?

KS — Honestly, I’m hoping to dabble in anything I can. I definitely want to be in a courtroom and a lawyer’s office for a while, but I would also love to be a captioner. I think I’ll switch it up every few years.

RO — I am thinking of becoming an official.

What attracted you to a career in court reporting?

KS — Rachael’s aunt has been a court reporter for more than 20 years, and she let us come to her office to see what she does. She pulled out the machine and started typing everything Rachael was saying, and as I watched, I fell in love. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen, and right then and there I knew I wanted to learn that skill. Just like some people see someone play and guitar and think, “I want to be like that;” that was me.

RO — My two aunts have been court reporters for more than 28 years, and they absolutely love it. My one aunt kept pushing me to try it out and see if I like it or not. She helped me find a school and went with me to get check out MacCormac.

What would you say to encourage others thinking about entering the field?

KS — It definitely takes a lot of dedication and time, but once you start getting the hang of it, it’s all you think about. Or maybe I’m just crazy. Court reporting is definitely worth it.

RO — I definitely encourage others to practice, practice, practice! Ask any questions you have if you don’t understand anything. Always go to class; missing one thing for learning the keyboard or anything is very bad and will possible set you back.

 

Do you know a student or students who should be in the spotlight? Let us know. Students in the spotlight must currently attend an NCRA-approved court reporting program.

How are you celebrating Court Reporting & Captioning Week?

Court reporting students and the NCRA president and CEO stand in front of the Take Note campaign sign

Photo by: Nicole Napodano. Used with permission.

NCRA has declared Feb. 11-18, 2017, National Court Reporting & Captioning Week, an event designed to encourage members and students of the court reporting and captioning professions to celebrate their careers by hosting special events within the community and more. Up-to-Speed reached out to members of the Association’s Board of Directors and to students to find out how they plan to mark this year’s event.

 

Why is it important for students to participate in Court Reporting & Captioning Week?

Court Reporting & Captioning Week is the perfect opportunity for students to share insight with friends, family, and members of the community into what their careers will involve and why they chose this field. It is also a chance to spotlight their unique skills and talents that will allow them to capture the official record of a proceeding or provide important realtime captioning to members of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. By helping to spread awareness about what we do, who we help, and why our work is so important, we celebrate the court reporting and caption professions and our fellow colleagues, whether they are students working toward their goals or seasoned professionals with years of experience.

NCRA President Nativa P. Wood, RDR, CMRS, Mechanicsburg, Pa

Students who participate in Court Reporting & Captioning Week will be invigorated by the camaraderie of court reporters and CART and broadcast captioners who take part in a week of fun celebrating, advocating, and supporting our profession. Your determination and drive will be enhanced after you experience what awaits you upon completion of your court reporting program. Participate! Then go out there and confidently nail your next timing as you envision being a part of a fantastic profession.

NCRA President-Elect Christine J. Willette, RDR, CRR, CRC, Wausau, Wis.

It’s important for students to participate because they are in the program and are the most in touch with what would compel someone else to enter into the program. And if for no other reason, it’s good karma. To paraphrase Robert G. Ingersoll, “We rise by lifting others.”

NCRA Director Christine Phipps, RPR, West Palm Beach, Fla.

Students are encouraged to participate because, as our future reporters in the workplace, they will be the new breed of reporter and will be able to better showcase the newer technologies in our profession. They will be able to see firsthand how appreciated we are each day while we take down the all-important written record of legal proceedings.

NCRA Director Rick Levy, RPR, Miami, Fla.

How are you celebrating Court Reporting and Captioning week?

I’m always thinking of the big picture: how many students or prospective students can we reach, and how can we get many schools and/or colleges to share about court reporting? But I also think each of us can do our part in our section of the world. This year I will celebrate by making it my goal to speak to at least one new person per day about reporting — whether it be a stranger at the grocery store, an attorney, or a high school student — and I will offer them the opportunity to explore court reporting as a possibility. And if not them, perhaps someone they know or a relative. If I speak to three or five, even better, but at least one per day during that seven-day period.

Chair, NCRA Student Committee, Doreen Sutton, RPR, Scottsdale, Ariz.

I plan on asking our program director to send the letter for students about Court Reporting & Captioning Week from the NCRA website to all the court reporting students at Gateway. I will also ask that she highlight our contest in this communication and try to get the students involved. We also have a high school on campus. I would like to see if we could get the guidance counselor to bring a group of students into one of our classes for a demonstration. I will work with the program director on this. There are a couple of young people currently in our program who have been successfully moving along in a quick manner that I think would be better to relate to some of the high school students, and I will approach them about it.

Gretchen House, GateWay Community College, Phoenix, Ariz.

I will post videos each day to my social media page on Twitter. This one and this one will grab the audience’s attention.

Shaunise Day, West Valley College, Saratoga, Calif.

 

The ways to celebrate 2017 Court Reporting & Captioning Week are unlimited. To learn more about how you can celebrate the week or to find the latest in resources, including a student contest, social media tips, and more, visit the Resource Center on NCRA.org or contact the NCRA communications team at pr@ncra.org. And don’t forget to share with NCRA what you plan to do to celebrate.

Dictation: A gift that keeps on giving

Dictation is a gift that keeps on giving. That was the message shared by official court reporters Karen Morris, Sonia Trevino, and Kimberly Xavier, RMR, CRR, CMRS, CRI, during a session held at the 2016 Texas Court Reporters Association’s Convention in San Antonio, Texas, held this past July.

The trio, along with a number of others, has been volunteering to provide live dictation to high-speed court reporting students for several years now and agree that there is no greater gift than giving a small amount of time to help court reporting students be successful.

Morris, who first began offering live dictation to high speed court reporting students in 1985, six days a week to assist students preparing to take the state’s CSR exam, recruited Trevino, Xavier, and others, as the effort evolved over the years. Today, the labor of love is dubbed the Confidence Dictation Sessions.

“I volunteered to work Karen on Monday night dictations in the summer of 2015, to help students prepare for the October CSR 2015 exam. Shortly thereafter, I started hosting my own sessions and was working with students in varying speeds, and it wasn’t limited to Texas. I had students from all over the country join in on sessions,” said Trevino, who has since taken the lead on organizing the sessions started by Morris.

Trevino said she was happy to take over as organizer when Morris contacted her to say that a family matter would prevent her from continuing her volunteering as often. At that point, said Trevino, Morris’ students began contacting her regarding live dictation opportunities. In turn, she suspended her sessions with lower speeds and students from around the country and began working solely with Texas CSR testing students.

“Karen didn’t have to ask. Her heart is so big for these students, and helping her has given me clarity as to how I could best help this profession,” added Trevino, who resides in Corpus Christi, Texas.

“There have been very positive responses from students saying that the dictation classes are exactly what they needed to help them pass the state CSR exam. So, it’s a great thing Karen started,” said Erminia Uviedo, RMR, CRR, a freelance reporter from San Antonio, Texas, who also volunteers as a live dictator for the Confidence Dictation Sessions. She also serves on San Antonio College’s (SAC) Court Reporting Program Advisory Committee.

Currently, the volunteers offer dictation live via Zoom Video Conference Sunday through Wednesday evenings and again on Saturday evening. The sessions are then posted on Facebook page and uploaded to Speed Steno Divas, a site that was started by Uviedo during a mentorship at SAC. The site is available free to students from anywhere who are seeking dictation sessions for practice use.

Trevino also mentors students at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi through a group that meets monthly called Best of the Best Court Reporting Students. She provides live dictation at the meetings and also works to find convention sponsors for the students, organizes fundraisers to help pay for hotel room costs, and has also been known to show up the night before a state CSR exam to meet with students planning to take it and provide them with encouragement and often food. When Trevino can’t be there, she often finds a volunteer who will.

She said she can’t even put into words how much her volunteering has meant to her. “It’s one of those things that the only expectation you have is that maybe you can make a difference in someone’s life, and I hear it over and over again how our sessions helped get them to where they needed to be to pass this exam or to pass a certain speed in school.”

Uviedo agrees. “I looked over at the screen of one of our students I was sitting next to once when I was dictating. I saw she was a clean writer, and I told her, ‘Keep up the practicing on speed; you’re going to be a realtime writer one day.’ That same student wrote me a Facebook message after she found out she qualified for the state CSR exam and said, ‘Wow, thank you so much for believing in me like that! Your words to me back then meant so much they stuck with me all this time. You had faith in me when I didn’t really have faith in myself, and you commented on the one thing I was good at but wasn’t sure if I was wasting effort on — having good realtime. It’s made my life so much better with test-taking since the beginning, sticking to that style of writing. Thank you for your kind words then and now.’”

Trevino said that she believes since she began offering live dictation that about 13 students she has worked with have successfully passed the state CSR exam. She said she has also spent countless hours on the phone with many students to help ease their fears and frustrations.

“Those who pass are, of course, extremely happy. Those who don’t quite make it come back. They don’t quit, they come back. We work on so much more than just speed. We work on their confidence. The students know that we’re doing this because we want to help them and are very grateful that we take the time to do all of this. The words ‘I believe in you’ really can make a difference,” she said.

Uviedo added that the mentorship program at SAC that began last summer has also catapulted students to succeed.  In July, five students sat for the state CSR exam, a feat she said hasn’t happened in San Antonio in years.

“I would encourage reporters, if you live near a court reporting program (or even if you don’t), to please reach out to our court reporting students (or reach out online), offer some dictation, look over their work, offer tips, advice, writing tweaks. It can make a world of difference to a court reporting student and their success in school. You can change a student’s life just by looking over their work and giving them advice on their writing, test taking, or attitude. You might hold the advice that becomes the key to their success.

For Morris who started the volunteer dictation effort rolling back in 1985, she said she was recently contacted by the head of the court reporting program at SAC.

“She wanted to attend our sessions to see what our secrets were, because, a student who attends SAC had progressed so rapidly after attending our tutoring sessions for just six weeks,” said Morris.

NCRA’s 2016 Convention & Expo: Something for everyone

Convention-JCRcom-BoxAdOnline registration for NCRA 2016 Convention & Expo happening at the Hilton Chicago, Chicago, Ill., Aug. 4-7, closes July 29, so hurry and register now to participate in the vast array of continuing education sessions, networking opportunities, certification preparation workshops for the Certified Realtime Reporter and the Realtime Systems Administrator, and, of course, all that’s new on the Expo floor.

Whether you are an official, freelancer, broadcast or CART captioner, legal videographer, educator, student, or legal services provider, this year’s schedule has something to help you be the architect of your future. Plus attendees who need CEUs can earn up to 2.45 of them with a full registration and optional workshops.

Among the educational session highlights are:

Freelancer business 101. Presenters: Lisa DiMonte, RMR, CMRS; Jan Ballman, RPR, CMRS; Marjorie Peters, RMR, CRR; and Dave Tackla, CLVS

Compassion fatigue and job stress. Presenter: April Kopp, LCSW, MFA

Your cloud-based office. Presenters: Nancy Bistany, RPR and Kim Neeson, RPR, CRR, CRC

The secret business of court reporting. Presenter: Debbie Bridges Duffy, RPR

Beyond the captions:  Captioner roundtable. Presenters: Merilee Johnson, RMR, CRR, CRC; Bill Graham; and Deanna Baker, FAPR, RMR

90 apps in 90 minutes. Presenter: Sara Wood, CAE

Tax tips for court reporters. Presenter: Charlotte Ogorek

Best practices for realtime reporting. Presenters: Jason Meadors, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC; Christine Phipps, RPR; and Sandy VanderPol, FAPR, RMR, CRR

Anywhere, anytime:  Online testing. Presenter: Marybeth Everhart, RPR, CRI, CPE

Are you an independent contractor or an employee? Presenter: Chris Wojcicki

Video equipment configuration:  Real world equipment setups. Presenters: Richard Hayden, CLVS, and Jason Levin, CLVS

In addition, students, educators, and school administrators will enjoy a selection of sessions tailored specifically to their interests and needs.

Other highlights for the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo include professional speaker and humorist John Wagner, who will address the topic of “Pride in the Profession” when he takes the stage as the keynote presenter during the Premier Session; the national Speed and Realtime Contests; the installation of NCRA’s 2016-2017 Officers and Board of Directors; and the presentation of the Distinguished Service Award, the highest award bestowed by NCRA. Networking opportunities will include receptions, the annual awards and NCRF Angels luncheons, and the President’s Party.

Remember, the deadline for online registration is July 29. For more information and to register for the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo, visit NCRA.org/Convention.

Court reporters that thrive: Building career resiliency and success through mentoring

Photo by John Lynch

Photo by John Lynch

By Kevin Nourse

New court reporters face a variety of obstacles that can derail their careers. These barriers range from meeting speed requirements in their training programs to getting established in their first full-time role. Psychologists have known for decades that one important factor that helps successful people overcome their challenges is resilience — an ability to bounce back from setbacks. You can enhance your resiliency and thrive in your new career by partnering with a mentor.

In this article, we explore mentoring as an essential ingredient for helping you increase your career resilience and successfully enter the court reporting profession. You will gain insights on what mentoring is, how to find one, and tips for working with your mentor.

What is mentoring?

Mentoring is a partnership you can form with an experienced professional focused on your development and career success. This partnership is a relationship between you and your mentor where you both agree to cooperate as a way of advancing your mutual interests. Mentors agree to serve in this role because they want to help advance the profession and often gain enjoyment from helping people grow. As a mentee, you are interested in successfully completing your court reporter training and getting established in your first role.

While many new court reporters rely on social media, such as Facebook, to get support and answers to their questions, some prefer an on-going trusting relationship with a mentor. Your mentor can play an instrumental role in helping you complete your training and get established in your first role.

Who needs a mentor?

While you should focus the mentoring partnership on your unique needs as a mentee, there are some common situations where mentoring can help.

Career changers considering a career as a court reporter

Making a decision to enter a profession can be an overwhelming challenge without the right information. Career changers interested in becoming a court reporter may choose a mentor to help them determine whether it’s the right profession. Activities like shadowing experienced court reporters to observe what their day is like or conducting informational interviews with seasoned court reporters to learn more about the profession are great ways to find out if the profession is for you.

Students who are training to become a court reporter

Students in court reporting programs are faced with numerous challenges as they learn to master essential concepts and skills. Mentors can play a critical role to help students identify strategies to accelerate learning including increasing their speed. Lisa Hahn, RMR, a freelance reporter in Decatur, Ill., shared how she gave her mentee “tips to combine complex multi-syllabic words in one stroke.”

Another way that mentors provide support to students is in the form of emotional support. Rachel Barkume, RPR, is an official reporter based in Oakhurst, Calif.. She explained “family members don’t understand what court reporting school is like — every day we had pop quizzes that we had to pass as we built our speed. Even when you pass a speed test, the next day you have to work toward the next milestone. It can be very discouraging.” In these situations, a mentor can provide a supportive ear and validate the emotions experienced by a new student. By doing so, students are better able to sustain their perseverance to finish their training programs.

Steve Zinone, RPR, NCRA President and official reporter in Canandaigua, N.Y., adds that experienced mentors can also provide students “a light at the end of the tunnel” to help them maintain their resiliency with a clear vision of what life will look like once they complete their training program.

Recent graduates of court reporter training programs

Newly trained court reporters often experience stress in identifying their reporting focus as well as facing the realities of their first job. With the number of specialty areas available to court reporters as well as types of organizations that provide this service, people who are new to the profession can feel overwhelmed. Mentors can also help early career court reports explore and identify career options.

Starting out in a job after school can be highly stressful as new court reporters face the day-to-day realities that their training programs may not address. Barkume explained how she started her new job after school and was expected to perform reporting for motion call cases. She noted, “I had never experienced this before, and it was overwhelming … so I called my mentor at lunch for support and felt better equipped to complete the first day.”

Getting ready to be mentored

Before you begin looking for a mentor, be sure to do some self-reflection about what you want out of the relationship and the kind of mentor that would be a good match. The following questions will help you clarify your needs and facilitate a good match with a potential mentor:

  • What are your goals or challenges for which a mentor could help?
  • How often do you want to interact with a mentor (e.g., on a regular schedule or as needed)?
  • Do you have a preference for the geographic location of your mentor?
  • How do you want to interact with your mentor (e.g., email, in-person, telephone, Skype, etc.)?
  • Are there certain qualifications or experiences that you would like your mentor to have?

Once you reflect on these questions, you can more easily communicate your needs to prospective mentors.

Finding a mentor

You have decided that a mentor could be helpful and clarified your goals. So how do you go about finding a mentor that is a good match?

There are two ways to identify potential mentors: informal and structured. Informal mentoring relationships happen when you meet an experienced colleague at a professional event and ask them to consider mentoring you to help you achieve your goals. This approach works best if you are comfortable attending professional meetings and engaging experienced court reporters one-on-one. On the other hand, structured mentoring relationships are those that are available from state court reporter associations as well as NCRA. With these mentoring relationships, you will typically submit a request via the website and be matched with a potential mentor. Formal programs, such as the NCRA Virtual Mentor Program, often try to match mentors and mentees based on criteria such as geographic location. Barkume explains “mentees can benefit from a mentor who is in the same geographic area and knows local formats … my mentor sent me the files she used, which saved me time.”

Whatever approach you use, it is useful to have an exploratory conversation with a prospective mentor to learn more about each other. During this conversation, you will also communicate your needs and goals. Ideally, the potential mentor will be a good match. However, it may be that the prospect is not a good fit. In this case, you might consider asking that prospect if he or she knows others who might be a better fit.

Interacting with your mentor

Assuming you found a good match for a mentor, how should you interact with him or her? One of the most important ways you can successfully work with a mentor is to take ownership of the interactions. Some specific strategies you can use include:

Establish an explicit contract at the beginning of a mentoring relationship

Excellent mentoring relationships begin with alignment between a mentor and mentee about the goals of the relationship and the various process associated with working together. While it is not necessary to write a formal agreement, it can be very helpful to clarify certain issues at the beginning of the relationship. For example:

  • How often will you meet and using what communication channel (e.g., email, in-person, telephone, Skype, etc.)?
  • Who will initiate the communication?
  • What is the overall agenda for each call?
  • What are the boundaries related to confidentiality of the information you share?
  • What happens if a crisis emerges and you need to cancel a meeting? How much notice do you need from each other?
  • If the mentoring relationship is not working out for you or your mentor, how will you handle it?

Follow through on your commitments

Mutual respect is a key ingredient of strong mentoring relationships. Mentors are there to support your success as a new court reporter. As part of their role, they may likely provide advice and suggestions. One way you demonstrate respect is listening to your mentor’s suggestions, maintaining a positive attitude, and taking action on the commitments you make. By taking action, you are communicating your respect for your mentor and his or her professional wisdom. By doing so, you are establishing a positive reputation for yourself in the profession.

Communicate regularly

While some court reporters create mentoring partnerships in which they communicate as needed when they face a particularly challenging issue, the best mentoring relationships incorporate regular communication. Many mentoring partnerships start off with more frequent contact then cut back once the relationship is solidly in place. Lisa Johnston, RMR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner in Melbourne, Fla., advises mentees that “communication is key, and it is important for mentees to reach out to a mentor and not be shy about asking questions.” Johnston described how she interacted through email with one of her mentees every two weeks.

Revisit the relationship if your goals change

The goals you initially identified when you began the mentoring partnership may well change as you grow and develop. If you no longer have a need for your mentor because your goals were achieved, communicate this to him or her. Avoid the temptation to drift off and abruptly stopping communication with your mentor. Again, this is another way to demonstrate respect for your mentor.

Look out for your mentor’s needs

Many experienced court reporters act as mentors because they want to give back to the profession. However, your mentor has his or her growth and development needs too. One way to build a strong relationship that could last a lifetime is to pay attention to ways you can support your mentor. Perhaps you found an article that might interest them or met someone who would be a great networking contact for your mentor?

Consider mentoring others

Despite being new to the profession and possibly still being in school, no doubt there are others following in your footsteps who you might be able to mentor. Not only will you be supporting the court reporting profession, but you will also deepen your learning as a mentor. Zinone explained how rewarding it is when one of his mentees has developed his or her professional support network, becomes more confident as a court reporter, and begins to mentor others.

Entering the court reporting profession can be a demanding and rewarding challenge. The training programs are rigorous. Once you finish your training, there are many ways to launch your career in varying types of organizations. Resiliently bouncing back from setbacks you may face is critical to your success. By establishing a well-designed mentoring partnership early in your career, you can fulfill your dreams of becoming a successful court reporter.

Dr. Kevin Nourse is an executive coach and consultant based on Washington, D.C., and Palm Springs, Calif. He works extensively with associations to develop resilient leaders. Kevin is co-authoring a soon-to-be-released book with Dr. Lynn Schmidt entitled Shift into Thrive: Six Strategies for Women to Unlock the Power of Resiliency.

STUDENT REPORTING: Scoping through school and beyond

By Gretchen House and Roanna L. Ossege

Scoping can accomplish many things for a budding reporter, but there are pitfalls to avoid, lessons to be learned, and trust to be earned. Scoping can be a great way to make money, stay in steno mode, and get on-the-job training. In addition, student scopists gain knowledge and ideas and begin to get an idea of the kind of reporter they may want to be. The issues scopists will likely face as a student are making the investment in CAT software, being careful to manage their time for school and practice while being available to their reporters, and getting the hang of the job so they can find and keep clients.

scoping1Our journey

We decided to start scoping to accommodate our mutual desire to stay close to the field. In addition, scoping gave us more control over our schedules than a traditional job would offer. We both feared that jobs outside of the court reporting world might mean less time focused on our ultimate goal.

Roanna bought her software by taking from a retirement fund, and Gretchen used a leasing option. Both avenues accomplished the goal of allowing us to scope professionally. Some reporters have access to a scoping or editing key that may allow students to scope for them without additional costs. In reality, the best opportunity to have access to a lot of clients is to purchase one of the more popular CAT software options.

scoping2Finding clients

There are several ways to find potential clients. Several websites, including Facebook, have job boards where scopists can meet reporters. Scopists need to be prepared with a well-written, correctly punctuated introduction or ad. This first impression matters to the reporters looking for scoping help. Scopists shouldn’t be afraid to mention that they are court reporting students. Student scopists present a promising option because of the resources they have access to through their school, including an education delivered by reporters. Also, scopists who have attained their scoping certification through their NCRA-certified court reporting program should let their potential clients know. Highlight anything and everything that demonstrates competency and promise. A good opening is to show the reporter that student scopists require less training than someone else.

Another way to find clients is to attend seminars and conventions to network with local reporters. Gretchen attended a CAT class given at an annual convention and was the only student in the class. During introductions, she took her chance to mention that she would like to scope and gave out her email address. She met a reporter who she has been scoping for ever since, and this reporter has become a cheerleader for her as well as she finishes up certification testing.

Roanna found one particular long-term client who was a perfect fit. The reporter was new but not too new. This reporter knew enough to guide a new scopist, and Roanna knew enough to be of value to her. In the end, it was the experience with that reporter that got Roanna her first opportunity as a new reporter. She joined her client’s firm about a year later.

From the writers’ experience, the in-your-face, unavoidable, and most important parts of scoping in order to build and maintain a client list are:

  1. Improve skills with every job
  2. Ask for and take criticism
  3. Apply the criticism
  4. Show progress so the reporter sees the value in training

scoping3The learning curve

Many reporters are so appreciative of scopists who are dedicated, careful, communicative, and loyal, and especially those who always meet their deadlines that they will work with new scopists on what they don’t know. We made up for our inexperience by showing a fierce dedication to impress in any way we could. Did we impress every client? No. Some reporters and scopists are not the right fit. That’s just the way it is. Did we make a ton of mistakes? Yes, we did. But we just kept plugging along.

A common thing heard among reporters is that finding a good scopist is like finding a needle in a haystack. Many reporters are weary of even trying anyone new because anyone can buy software and call themselves a scopist. Student scopists have to demonstrate that they have the special knowledge, skill, focus, and dedication to be an effective scopist. Don’t miss words, and insert basic punctuation. If student scopists lag on the other skills in putting together a transcript, most reporters will value someone who goes word by word with the audio. Reporters can train their scopists much more easily on format, etc. So if the best student scopists can offer in the beginning is incredible attention to detail, they are well on their way to being a value to many reporters.

One of the challenges new scopists face is that they will only be able to scope a few pages an hour at first. This is a good thing. Student scopists need to take their time and get it right. They will build up speed as they go and thus increase their earnings per hour.

Put together an organized system to accept work, complete work, and bill work. This means that scopists communicate that the job was received, it was downloaded into the software, the audio is clear and usable, and that they are ready to go. When Roanna was first starting out, she would stop every 20 pages or so and just text or email an update. It seemed to be an effective way to put reporters at ease until they got to know their new scopist. This kind of communication is very attractive to busy reporters. When the job is complete, reporters should be able to reach their scopists in case there is an issue with the file.

Don’t be upset when a reporter offers feedback on areas of improvement. This is a gift. Find out what reference guide that reporter uses, pull the guide out, and study it. Each reporter and firm has punctuation preferences that may contradict what students learned in school. Respect their preferences, be sure to take notes, and keep a preference sheet for each reporter to tailor their jobs to their preferences.

As student scopists improve and get their name out there, they may find reporters contacting them out of the blue because the reporter heard that the scopist is easy to work with, is dependable, and can produce a transcript. The reporter may not always be the right fit, and that is okay. Scopists need to be comfortable communicating that this is the case.

Before working with new reporters, scopists should clearly communicate in writing their rates, expectations, process, and billing schedule before they take any work. Their billing and invoicing must remain organized. There should be a system in place that clearly states any payment expectations, i.e. check, money order, pay in two weeks, etc. They can also, for example, list a late payment fee, but all that needs to be clear and upfront.

If a new reporter client sends a 300-page video depo of a forensic pathologist, it is okay for student scopists to say they would feel more comfortable with something smaller to start. Starting with 60 to 100 pages of what may be a simple motor-vehicle accident to a seasoned reporter may still challenge a newbie scopist. It takes practice and focus to be able to pick up on small punctuation and formatting issues that our brains sometimes unconsciously autocorrect. At the end of the day, it is okay for scopists to turn down a job that is over their head. This will protect their reputation as they gain experience. Taking small jobs from new reporter clients is the best way to build up a system of trust. By starting small and communicating zealously, scopists will grow and increase their business as they improve and expand their skills.

scoping4Facing your fears

Jumping into scoping and facing the fear of failure is tough to overcome, but student scopists have to conquer these fears if they want to be in this industry. Don’t fear the software. Learn to use it. Don’t fear punctuation. It’s important to master these skills, and it takes time and practice. There are resources everywhere to get help with software, punctuation, and a host of other issues student scopists will face.

Don’t fear asking questions. You don’t know what you don’t know, and every reporter was a student once. Reporters want their scopists to ask questions, want them to get better, and appreciate their scopists seeking clarification as issues arise, rather than turning in an incomplete product.

As is always true in life, facing fears with action is often the best way to develop confidence, and as a future professional reporter, confidence in the ability to produce a great transcript is empowering. On the other hand, if scopists offer to take expedites and rushes before they are ready, they will quickly tarnish their name in this industry, and they could potentially harm their reporters’ reputations. Student scopists should take what they can handle and work up to the bigger stuff.

scoping6What you gain

Student scopists will learn how to research the craziest things. They will learn how to punctuate the unreadable. They will learn things about their software. They will learn how to effectively communicate with their clients. They will learn to ask for help, more help, and some more help. All these lessons become huge assets when student scopists take their first jobs as professional reporters and put together their first transcripts.

Roanna recalls the major advantage of scoping jury trials for her clients. When she faced her first jury trial as a professional reporter, she knew how she wanted to set up the pages and she knew what was coming her way. Without scoping, this process would have been more intimidating and much more difficult in editing.

scoping5Community benefit

The reporting community benefits from offering opportunities to those students who are on the verge of graduating or who have graduated and need to tackle certification. This is the toughest time for a student, as they likely need to work but also want to stay close to the field to maintain motivation to practice and keep moving forward toward their goal. They need our support.

Court reporting students are well placed to train as scopists. They have the medical and legal terminology necessary for success and experience with their software, and many have a good network of working reporters for support. They understand formatting and proceedings and deadlines.

In the end, scoping while we were students was a net positive for us. We got stressed out at times. We had to learn to balance life, work, and our commitment to practice. We both felt that all of our clients were willing to work with our schedules a little bit to accommodate practice and school. But we were both successful in earning money in a court-reporting–related field while able to keep focused on school and certification.

Students interested in scoping should start communicating within the community to see what opportunities they can find. Scoping may require missing a night out or weekend plans with friends, but that is a small price to pay. The insight, experience, networking, and income potential are worth the sacrifice.

 

Gretchen House, Mesa, Ariz., is a graduate of the Gateway Community College Court Reporting program. Roanna L. Ossege, Falls Church, Va., is a freelance reporter in Northern Virginia. Both are on the Student Community of Interest for NCRA.