Among the elite: Earning the RDR

By Megan Rogers

“Earning the Registered Diplomate Reporter certification is the crown jewel of our profession, demonstrating competence and experience in all aspects of court reporting,” said Lisa DiMonte, RDR, CMRS, who earned the RDR in October 2016. Less than 5 percent of NCRA members hold the RDR certification, which is NCRA’s highest degree of certification.

The RDR means different things to different people who earn it. For some, the RDR has been a career-long dream. “Having the RDR initials after my name has been something I’ve been aspiring to ever since I joined NCRA,” said Erminia Uviedo, RDR, CRR, who earned the RDR in October 2016. Others see earning the RDR as practicing what they preach. “Our company values court reporters who pursue certifications and commit to continuing education. It is only fair that I expect nothing less of myself,” said DiMonte.

Others use it as a personal benchmark. “What has already been important to me is growth personally and professionally, and improving my skills is how I choose to grow professionally. Certification exams provide a measurable way to do that,” said Kim Xavier, RDR, CRR, CMRS, CRI, who earned the RDR in October 2016.

While the word elite is frequently paired with the RDR, such a lofty sentiment covers up what are very personal rewards for earning the certification. “I live in a small pond,” said Debra Dibble, RDR, CRR, CRC, who passed the RDR in 2012. “I thought I was an average reporter. I may be, but now I have a national standard with which to gauge myself and a measure to say that I have earned a place among the ranks of reporters that I admire and respect on a national level.”

Xavier agrees, adding more benefits that affect the day-to-day on the job. “Having the RDR designation or any other doesn’t necessarily mean I know any more than any other reporter or that I’m any more skilled than anyone else, but it sure does wonders for self-confidence and positive attitude,” she said.

Many of these benefits come in the form of assignments. “I am lucky enough to be included as part of a team of reporters working on an historic case,” said Jim DeCrescenzo, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CLVS, who earned the RDR in May 1995. “Advanced professional designations are part of the price of entry to even be considered to join the team. Having the RDR and CRR opened the door for me to end a great career working with elite reporters on a part of history.”

“Court reporting school was hard! So I want to maximize the benefits of having this amazing skill,” Xaiver said. “Conquering any type of exam in our field is an accomplishment that can’t be taken away.”

Earning the RDR is deceptively simple: It involves one written knowledge test. However, “studying for the test can prove to be a bit tricky because of the broad nature these areas may cover,” said Jeseca Jacobs, RDR, CRR, who earned the RDR in October 2016.

Several reporters used their professional expertise as their preparation for the RDR exam. DeCrescenzo elaborated a bit more on what that meant for him, focusing on the three topics of technology, reporting, and NCRA. “Because I had employees who pushed the technology envelope and developed new products for our clients, I’d been exposed to enough technology-related topics that I felt comfortable with that topic.” His experience working first as an official, then a freelancer, and later a firm owner encouraged him to “begin offering realtime early on.” Finally, he said, “I had been very active on several state and national committees, and I served on the board of my state association for many years, including experience with state and national bylaws and COPE opinions.”

However, NCRA has resources available for reporters aspiring to earn the RDR. “I prepared for the exam by first reviewing the RDR Job Analysis. I almost quit!” said Xavier. “The list of references is enough to change anyone’s mind about taking the exam because there’s really no way a working reporter can read all of those resources from cover to cover and ‘know’ everything. But after taking a good look at the percentages for each domain, I decided to start concentrating on areas where I knew I was weak and began with the references I could easily access on NCRA’s website.”

And Jacobs made her RDR prep a family affair: “I also created flash cards and recruited my husband and my 10-year-old daughter to help me study!”

Uviedo found preparing for the RDR helped her learn even more about the profession. “I learned more about the federal procedures, which I knew nothing about. Those questions really had me thinking hard. But it also made me realize, there’s still a lot of areas I don’t know about. Having an RDR does not mean I get to stop practicing or stop studying.”

Xavier agrees. “The most valuable thing I learned was that I needed to get back to working on personal growth through reading more outside of work, keeping up with technological advances, and paying more attention to what is going on within the profession,” she said.

The one thing that all reporters who have earned the RDR can agree on is that anyone considering going for the certification should just do it. “Education is an express train,” said Dibble. “The longer you stay on, the father you go. The farther you go, the better the scenery.”

Even if the exam feels intimidating, DiMonte has this reassurance: “The worst thing that can happen is you learn what you don’t know. You can always take it again.”

Xavier also recommends that reporters thinking of taking the RDR not wait. “I allowed 15 years to lapse between RMR and RDR, and the steno world changed drastically around me during that time,” she said. “Since this is a knowledge-based exam, the sooner you take it, the less you’ll have to brush up on.”

And maybe Jonas puts it best: “Those three letters will look great behind your name!”

Megan Rogers is NCRA’s Communications Assurance Specialist. She can be reached at mrogers@ncra.org.

VITAC joins Sports Group Video as a corporate sponsor

JCR logoA press release issued June 13 announced that VITAC, based in Canonsburg, Pa., has become a corporate sponsor of the Sports Video Group.

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Steno Services expands to nationwide coverage

JCR logoA press release issued June 12 announced that Oklahoma City-based Steno Services is partnering with a broad range of firms and advertising across the nation to expand their services nationwide. Steno Services had previously covered only the Oklahoma City area and surrounding regions.

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In case of disaster

A nieghborhood in Louisiana is flooded after Hurricane Katrina. Only the roofs of the houses are visible above the water.

Image from FEMA Photo Library

Hurricane season is here, and forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are predicting an above-average season in the Atlantic this year. As with any disaster predicted to strike an area, there is always plenty to do to prepare. Below are some tips to consider when it comes to protecting yourself, your family, your business, and your equipment if bad weather is headed your way.

  • Get on the cloud. Using the cloud for business telephone and IT services can keep your business going by giving staff secure remote access to their office computers.
  • Protect your data and your clients’ data by making sure all such information is stored at an off-site, third-party location.
  • Keep passwords and log-ins to various programs in a secure, off-site location to ensure everyone has access to important files and documents should disaster strike.
  • Be sure staff understands the importance of backing up data.

Read more about how to prepare for disasters.

PROMOTING THE PROFESSION: My best reporting job ever

By Melody Jeffries Peters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

Cook & Wiley acquired by Planet Depos

JCR logoPlanet Depos, headquartered in Washington, D.C., announced in a press release issued June 12 that it has acquired Cook & Wiley, headquartered in Richmond, Va.

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Esquire launches court reporter program to strengthen the industry

JCR logoIn a press release issued May 31, Esquire Deposition Solutions, Atlanta, Ga., announced a new court reporter program designed to strengthen the skills of both new and tenured court reporters to accelerate their career development and to improve their earnings potential.

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ETHICS: Social media and the court reporter

social media and the court reporterBy Robin Cooksey

Technology has no doubt created a world where information can be accessed at incredible speeds, and opinions and thoughts are disseminated to others simply by the click of a mouse or a keyboard. Whether you are providing remote CART services or broadcast captioning or you are working as an official or freelance reporter, chances are you have used some form of technology to do your job.

Since the advent of the Internet, technology has continued to evolve, and social media has become its cornerstone. Merriam-Webster defines social media as “a collective of online communications channels dedicated to community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration.” It is so commonplace now and its use is so widespread that businesses set up websites and Facebook pages to promote their business. Government officials use Twitter so that constituents may be informed on current issues.

Social media has become such an integral part of our society now that state and federal governments have actually promulgated rules and policies to address the concerns that social media potentially bring to the court system. Jurors are now instructed that they are not to use any form of social media to research the cases on which they’re serving or communicate about them. Jurors are further cautioned about the consequences if these rules are not followed.

While court reporters serve a different function in the legal setting, the rules that apply to the jurors are equally important to follow as a court reporter. Our Code of Professional Conduct does not specifically address the dos and don’ts of social media. It does, however, state that we are to “guard against not only the fact but the appearance of impropriety”; we must “preserve the confidentiality and ensure the security of information, oral or written, entrusted to the reporter by any of the parties in a proceeding”; and we must “maintain the integrity of the reporting profession.” If a reporter were to engage in discussions on social media regarding any matter that they were reporter for, not only would he or she be guilty of misconduct, they, too, could potentially cause irreparable harm to the parties.

In order to respond to the needs of our society, we need to stay abreast of current trends in technology. Use video conferencing, Skype, live-streaming, and the like in order to provide the best product or service that you can. And then, at the end of the day, relax. Share your photos of your family and pets, your favorite recipes, and your thoughts. Let’s remember to keep the “social” in social media.

Robin Cooksey, RMR, of Houston, Texas, is a member of NCRA’s Committee on Professional Ethics.

TechLinks: Protect yourself from ransomware

TechLinks_logoThe NCRA Technology Committee has gathered a few resources on the new WannaCry ransomware attack.

Robin Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR, shared an article from Gizmodo that provides basic information on the ransomware attack, including where and how it started. The article will be updated with new developments.

Nodland also shared tips for keeping yourself safe, written by the IT personnel for LNS Court Reporting & Captioning, Portland, Ore.

Lisa Knight, FAPR, RDR, CRR, shared a TechConnect article on patches that Microsoft has published for Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, and Windows 8.

Finally, Nodland shared PCMag‘s best ransomware protection of 2017.

Depo International now provides help in complicated complex litigation cases

JCR logoDepo International, based in Chicago, Ill., announced in a press release issued May 15 that the firm now provides remote depositions, realtime court reporting, interpreters, paperless exhibit solutions, and fast delivery for litigation in cases where state-of-the-art technology and know-how are crucial.

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