FOOD FOR THOUGHT: The heavy responsibility of being a reporter

By Timothy St. Clair

The opinion section of the JCR allows readers to express their thoughts on various topics. Statements of fact or opinion are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily express the opinion of NCRA or anyone connected with NCRA.

As we can all agree, the percentage of litigating lawyers we have any contact with are far outnumbered by those practicing law in the many other arenas available to their craft. Of those that call themselves litigators, the official court reporter generally has contact with a greater number of lawyers than the average freelance reporter. I understand that an extremely busy freelance shop has contact with a great number of law firms, and a great number of court reporters. But taken individually, each reporter may not have contact with many different lawyers. Contrast that with the official in a busy court where all those cases end up in one venue. I have been on both sides as a reporter – official and freelance. I am sure there are some that will argue the above point, and perhaps I can be proven wrong with national statistics, etc., but this has been my general experience for the past 30 years.

The responsibility I am about to discuss has little to do with our day-to-day job duties. Our greater responsibility has to do with our interaction with the bar and their clients — an interaction that has short-term and long-term implications. Implications that affect not only our bottom line at the end of the month, but more importantly, the bottom line in terms of our future as a profession.

Allow me to pose some questions. Do you see yourself as finding fault with the mechanics of a lawyer’s presentation (i.e., talks too fast, mumbles, interrupts, etc.)? Or do you see yourself approaching a difficult situation with tact and a solution? Are you more interested in the total on your invoice, or are you more interested in being fair-minded? Have you become so callused by what you see and hear as to have no compassion?

As an official, do you often take the attitude of “that’s not my job,” or do you pinch in at times to help with a “non-reporter” task? As an official, do you hold yourself in such high esteem that you lord it over the other courthouse personnel? As either an official or freelance reporter, when is the last time you read the Code of Ethics?

I am sure at this point there are some who will quit reading. Either thinking I’m nuts in thinking any of these questions need to be asked, or thinking I’m nuts because how dare I ask these questions. But I ask these questions because during my years as a freelance reporter and an official reporter, I have seen both sides of these questions lived out.

I live and work in the state of Indiana. Indiana has no certification for court reporters. The courts are manned with both stenotype reporters and “Sony” reporters (with the larger number in our state being “Sony” reporters). We have recently seen changes in Indiana that are, I believe, being brought about because of the negative view others have of court reporters. And I will say the negativity can be sometimes deserved.

I believe the key components to that negativity are the lack of certification, the lack of education, and the lack of ethics. I can tell you that not all the negativity is produced by the “Sony” court reporters. A good portion is produced by stenotype court reporters who have lost the view of the larger picture.

Above all else, we as court reporters must think of ourselves as ambassadors – ambassadors of a time-honored profession of guardians of the record. We must think in terms of being an asset to those around us and not an annoyance. For years, I have told people that I want to be unnoticed as I practice my trade. I want to be unnoticed because to me that means that I am doing my job well. Usually one is only noticed when he or she has done something incorrectly or not done something that was to be done.

Thirty plus years ago, I knew I needed to return to school to better provide for my family. I asked a family friend who was a lawyer about becoming a paralegal. His response was “learn how to be a court reporter; they make a lot of money.” (I’m still waiting). Within a week of that conversation, I found myself at a career night at a local community college that had a court reporting course. I returned home from that career night and told my wife that I found a course of study to pursue. I felt then, as I do now, that if I perform my duties in a role as important as a court reporter that it will be a profession where I can make a positive difference!

When I embarked on a career as a court reporter, I heard the forever cry “ER will replace you.” The cry continues. If our future is threatened, it may very well be that the threat is from within. The threat is apathy – the court reporter who doesn’t feel the need to grow his or her skills and is satisfied with the status quo. The threat is being the prima donna employee who doesn’t know how to get along with anyone other than self. The threat is poor interaction with members of the bar (does “cut off your nose to spite your face” come to mind?). As an official, offer a rough transcript to your judge following a complicated summary judgment hearing; offer him/her a CART window or realtime. Become a value-added employee. Does a lawyer need you to spend five minutes and look something up in your notes? Do it. You don’t have to always invoice.

Please understand that I’m not advocating that we not charge for what we do. But I am saying not everything deserves an invoice. There are times when there is more long-term value gained from simply being of service.

Timothy St. Clair, RMR, is the owner of St. Clair Court Reporting in South Bend, Ind. He can be reached at stclaircourtreporting@gmail.com.

 

BOOK REVIEW: Small nuggets of grammatical wisdom

By Dom Tursi

All Things English
By Margie Wakeman Wells
Margie Holds Court Publishing, 2016

Since I turned the first page of All Things English, I was riveted. Margie Wakeman Wells’ teaching experience and dedication to both language and court reporting have aggregated in a label which few deserve: genius.

I have read and reread Wakeman Wells’ explanation of “Why This Book Exists.” Her thoughts about the “lessening importance of English” in contemporary American education parallel what so many reporting professionals believe is missing from our potential population of future colleagues. Her reasoning is insightful, practical, and on point.

Wakeman Wells shows a keen sensitivity to overcoming societal deficiencies that have caused great anxiety in those seeking to perpetuate our timeless profession with reporters who have not only excellent stenographic skills but also the ability to produce first-rate transcripts.

All Things English brilliantly provides a solution as realistic as it is comprehensive. Understanding that people lead busy lives and won’t study English “just because it is a good idea,” Wakeman Wells has come up with a format that is practical, relatable – and effective. By teaching small nuggets, broken into even smaller subsections, and continuing the pattern for only minutes a day over the course of a defined period of time, Margie presents to serious reporting students a palatable opportunity to improve their knowledge of this most important aspect of good court reporting.

I am continually fascinated by her sprinkling of a single vocabulary word and sensibly-selected spelling on each page, and am equally amazed at her intuitive way of presenting word usage and tacit bits of grammar – all in a simplistic and comfortable format.

As I continue perusing “All Things English” – and, in the process, enrich my own knowledge – I find myself thanking the author in behalf of today’s and tomorrow’s reporting generations. Please count me among your greatest fans.

Dom Tursi is an official reporter based in Central Islip, N.Y.

New professionals share their advice, strategies for earning the RPR

The Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) is NCRA’s foundational certification, which tests the essential knowledge and skills for an entry-level reporter. Members of NCRA’s New Professionals Committee who have earned their RPR within the last few years shared why they earned this certification, their strategies for preparing for and passing the exam, and which certification is next on their list.

The value of the RPR

Depending on the state or job, a reporter may need to earn the RPR. For example, Melissa Case, RPR, was aiming for an officialship in Ohio, which required the RPR. Danielle Griffin, RPR, needed to earn it (along with a written test) to practice as a freelancer in Arizona.

Even in states that have a requirement such as a certified shorthand reporter (CSR), earning the RPR has its benefits. For example, some states will accept the RPR in lieu of the CSR. “The RPR requirements are almost identical to my state requirements. It was an easier and quicker process to go through for certification since my state accepts the RPR in order to practice as a reporter,” said Michael Hensley, RPR, a freelancer in Illinois.

Rachel Barkmue, RPR, an official in California, used the RPR to help her prepare for her state’s CSR. “I took the RPR Written Knowledge Test in conjunction with my state’s CSR written exam, so the materials were similar, and I took them both around the same time,” she said.

However, earning the RPR means more than simply fulfilling a set of requirements. Some reporters are looking for a professional or personal boost. “I knew it would open up a lot more doors for me,” said Case. Barkume earned the RPR for “more marketability and my personal goal of getting as many extra letters after my name as possible. I always want to keep striving for something new.”

Mikey McMorran, RPR, a freelancer in California, had earned most of the segments of the RPR as a student but got tripped up on the testimony leg. “Really when it comes down to it, the biggest reason I decided to go after my RPR was for my own reputation among my peers as well as my own reaffirmation that I belong in this profession,” he said. “As someone who has attended many court reporting functions over the years, I don’t think I’ve ever attended one in which the question did not come up from someone, ‘Do you have your RPR?’ Honestly, it was a little bit embarrassing to have to say every time, ‘Oh, I have all of the legs except for one.’”

Finding the right resources

Most of the members of the New Professionals Committee practiced for the RPR on their own using a variety of strategies. Several members used their school’s environment or resources to earn their certification. “I obtained my RPR as part of my schooling program. Once I finished speeds, then I set my sights on the RPR with all of my time and energy resources,” said Hensley.

“Take the RPR while in school or freshly out of school if possible. There is no replacement for that test mentality that you get daily in school. Once you’re working every day, you lose the test mode and it’s very difficult to get back in that mindset while also handling a working calendar,” said Barkume. “I was still in school/less than a year out of school when I took all my legs (I passed one at a time over three testing dates), so I still had the dictation recordings from school, etc. to help me practice at home.”

Griffin used dictation from the Magnum Steno Club — run by Mark Kislingbury, RDR, CRR, a broadcast captioner in Texas — and EV360. “Between EV360 and Magnum Steno Club, the dictation I was practicing was much harder than the actual test, which worked to my advantage when test nerves kicked in,” said Griffin. She explained her strategy of practicing above the normal speed. “For some reason, testing for the RPR made me nervous. I had to make sure I was above the required speeds so that when the test started and my nerves kicked in, I had an extra bit of speed reserved to account for that.” She practiced 30 to 40 percent above her target speed. “The purpose is to envision yourself as if you were sitting in a speed competition, as a competitor, and writing as if you had expert precision,” she said. “If you take that dictation back down to 225 or a new take at 180, 200, or 225, while applying that same mentality, you will achieve your speed faster than you think.”

Several members of the committee found valuable resources through NCRA. Hensley used recordings of previous RPR Exams, saying the real thing felt “like just another day of practice instead of an actual test.” Case used the RPR Study Guide to aid her in preparation. She commented: “the Written Knowledge Test was much harder than I expected.”

While most new professionals practiced solo, a couple mentioned having a community to lean on. “In Arizona, we have an extremely supportive court reporting community. There are many veteran reporters that are able and willing to volunteer their time to help and mentor students,” said Griffin. “I was able to work with Doreen Sutton, RPR, and Kim Portik, RMR, CRR, CRC, CLVS, to help with the RPR Prep classes.” She added: “That was also a great way to meet other students, practice together, and share suggestions.”

McMorran agrees on the value of a strong court-reporting network. “If you surround yourself with the reporters who do the bare minimum in this profession and talk about how certification is so unnecessary or how hard the test is, then it becomes so much harder to get into the right mindset to pass as opposed to being surrounded by people who can reassure you that you can do it because they did it,” he said.

Mastering online skills testing

Some of the new professionals did their RPR entirely online while others had taken legs of the Skills Test prior to the switch from brick-and-mortar testing. Overall, online testing won out as more convenient, although it took some adjustment.

“I took the RPR the last time it was offered at a brick-and-mortar site. The second time I took it, it was offered online. I have stories about the first few attempts trying to log on to take tests for the RPR. I soon found out that I was using a netbook. Once I switched to a laptop computer and not a netbook, I passed my last two tests,” said Griffin.

McMorran also had a learning curve with the technology. “When I first took the online style, I really did not do a great job of practicing with the webcam and didn’t even bother to schedule the proctored practice that we have the ability to do. Big mistake on my part,” he said. “My first attempt using the online method, I had some webcam issues that left me flustered right before the exam. I ended up not passing that attempt and knew it was on me for lack of preparation. I rescheduled another attempt at the exam for a week later so that I could properly prepare from a technology standpoint and ended up passing that following week.”

Both Griffin and McMorran found online testing to be more convenient than being at a brick-and-mortar site. “Online testing is such a great tool to be able to have at our fingertips. As a student, you are no longer having to wait twice a year to test. What a relief!” said Griffin.

McMorran said that even though he was initially intimidated about the concept of online testing, “once I actually put the time in to read everything over and prepare for the use of the webcam, not only did I find the technology side to not be intimidating at all, but it is so much easier than dragging a printer to a testing location.”

What’s the next step?

The new professionals are mixed on whether their next certification goal is the RMR or the CRR.

Griffin is leaning toward the RMR, saying: “I am excited to continue learning and also refining my writing.” Hensley agreed, adding: “I want to have a good grasp on speed so that I can next move into offering realtime.”

Realtime is a big pull. “We have to do realtime at the courthouse,” said Case for why she wants to earn the CRR.

“I’ve taken a handful of realtime job over the last year, but I don’t think there’s anything that would give me more confidence heading into each and every realtime job than seeing those initials after my name,” said McMorran.

“I want the CRR because I will receive a salary increase at my court for realtime certification, and it will make me more marketable in the future for other goals I want to achieve. I’d also like to work towards my CRC for the same reasons,” said Barkume. “Realtime is the most important part of reporting, in my opinion. It is what will save our jobs.”

NCRA members share their tips for going green

By Flickr Commons (Flickr Commons) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Flickr Commons (Flickr Commons) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

In honor of Earth Day, which was April 22, the JCR Weekly asked members, “What is one way you’re going green in your professional life?” Respondents had an opportunity to elaborate on their answers and share their tips for going green.

Going paperless

Members shared several different products to help them go paperless, including:

  • Freshbooks and QuickBooks for accounting
  • iAnnotate and Adobe Acrobat Pro for proofreading
  • Min-U-Script and Cat Scratch on Case CATalyst for transcript production and annotating
  • Dropbox and OneDrive for file storage
  • Google Calendar for date organization
  • Carbonite for data backup

Many court systems are moving towards going paperless anyway, which means officials need to follow suit, although sometimes the reporters are on the front lines. “We have an appeal, a copy of the transcript gets filed with the chief clerk’s office. When I got here, I convinced the chief clerk to accept the transcripts electronically,” said Carolyn Kerr, RPR, an official in Buffalo, N.Y.

Having electronic files can make it easier to look up information. “I use a scanner to scan all of my court schedules and documents. If I need to look something up, it’s a quick word search to find the hearing,” said Melinda Dexter, RMR, an official in Lansing, Mich. “My court district will soon be filing appeals electronically, and I will be able to look up names and spellings through the court file instead of having all the paperwork,” said Rose Scott, an official in Hattiesburg, Miss.

However, the two biggest hurdles to going paperless seem to be getting rid of old papers and having a logical electronic filing system. “I am required to keep my notes in civil cases for three years and in criminal, 15 years. I am going back to the beginning of time and scanning all my docket sheets and trial folders and archiving them along with my digital steno notes and daily realtime files. Then I’m shredding, where appropriate, and recycling the mountains of paper,” said Molly Bowers, RDR, CRR, an official in Hurst, Texas. “Going forward I am keeping all my documents in electronic format only.”

“We scan, scan, scan,” said Judy Walls, a firm owner in Kissimmee, Fla. “We have generated scanned folders for almost everything from transcripts to exhibits to receipts to tax returns.”

“Also, having recently been audited by the IRS, I have come to realize the importance of having everything organized in a way that allows for ease in accessibility — and makes sense to find it! The IRS permits scanned images of receipts, etc., so original documentation and receipts are no longer required,” said Sarah Nageotte, RDR, CRR, CRC, an official in Jefferson, Ohio. “So I scan my receipts and documents (if not already electronic) and then place them in a tax-year folder under the appropriate label names. If not near my computer, I use Tiny PDF, a free app on my phone, to take a photo of a receipt, which then converts it into a PDF document and uploads it to a selected folder in Dropbox right from my phone.”

Members have found paperless solutions for every step of a job. “I specifically ask my clients if they want only electronic files of the deposition and exhibits,” said Cheree Murphy-Carlson, RPR, a freelancer in Minneapolis, Minn.

“I send as many transcripts as possible via email along with my invoice, so that I save the cover, transcript paper, envelope, and invoice paper copy,” said David Sroka, RPR, a freelancer in Dagsboro, Del. “I also try to do minis as much as possible, which also saves on paper.”

“I am using a proofreader now. I send my transcripts to her electronically, so I no longer need to print a hard copy at home to proofread. And I know she proofreads on a tablet, so no extra paper there,” said Cindy Sewers, RPR, an official in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Going paperless also means upgrading from a paper writer. “I finally retired my two beloved Flash writers (which used paper) and moved up to a top-of-the-line paperless steno machine,” said Catherine Kirkland, RPR, a freelancer in Albany, N.Y.

“Going paperless for me is ‘think before you print,’” said Linda Riffle, RDR, CRR, a freelancer in Columbus, Ohio. “My goal for 2017 is to have all of my receipts and documentation in electronic format for my accountant at the end of the year. This includes saving, not printing, receipts for online purchases, and having in-store receipts emailed instead of printed at the register.

Transportation methods

Several members reported that they use the local bus, train, or subway system to get around. For many of them, taking public transit doesn’t add much travel time but does provide more convenience.

“I use public transit in Los Angeles because of the congested rush-hour traffic. Also, parking is expensive, even with the county contribution of $70, which is then rebated to me and pays for the majority of my commuter expenses,” said Christine Taylor, RPR, CRR, an official in Sierra Madre, Calif. “My husband is retired, we have one car, and he does drop-off and pickup at the local station, which has the extra convenience of saving me the few minutes of parking the car.” She added that she often carpools to state association events with other reporters.

“I’ve been riding the bus for about five years now. I love it. I live about 17 miles from the courthouse, but it takes 40 to 45 minutes depending on traffic. The bus takes about five minutes longer because it’s an express bus with limited stops. It drops me right across the street from work,” said Diane Sonntag, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, CPE, an official in Oro Valley, Ariz. “It’s also cheaper because we have to pay for parking downtown. The county pays half of the bus fare for employees. It costs about a third of what it costs just to park, not counting gas. It makes the day much less stressful!”

Brytta Fitzgibbons, a scopist in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, mentioned a few other perks to taking the bus: “The drivers are helpful, transit staff is friendly, and service is accommodating.”

“I take a commuter bus (rail service doesn’t extend very far in Massachusetts), then I walk to most of my jobs (Boston is pretty small and it’s good to get some exercise) or if the weather is really bad, I take the T (Boston’s subway) once I’m in town,” said Kimberly Smith, RDR, CRR, a freelancer in Salem, N.H., who often works in Massachusetts. “If my job goes really late, I’ll take a cab or Uber back to the bus terminal.”

“Living in NYC, there’s no better option than public transport and walking around the city,” said Devora Hackner, a student in Brooklyn, N.Y. “The subway has the highest reliability ratings of getting you where you need to go when you need to get there.”

Both Taylor and Sonntag mentioned that riding public transit means they are able to do other things while traveling, such as reading emails, catching up on the news, or for doing something fun.

Ashley Zaccaro prefers to use two wheels to get around. “I cycle to work on my bike that I own. It’s environmentally friendly, good for my health and fitness, cost effective, and much more peaceful than taking the subway,” said Zaccaro, a student in Brooklyn, N.Y. “Preparations include having to make sure my tires are pumped, packing clothes to change into, and in the winter making sure I have my bike lights and that they’re charged for the ride home.”

Linda Taylor made her car greener instead. “My partner and I drive hybrid cars, a Toyota Camry and a Prius, so we save an incredible amount of money at the pump and we use less resources/fossil fuels each time we get behind the wheel,” said Taylor, a freelancer in Louisville, Ky.

Recycling electronics

For recycling electronics, if the city doesn’t provide some kind of event or drop-off location, many chain businesses accept them.

“I take computers, printers, monitors to Best Buy for recycling. I have taken rechargeable batteries to Radio Shack,” said Aimee Suhie, RPR, a freelancer in New Fairfield, Conn., although she adds that Radio Shack is out of business in many areas. “Goodwill and Salvation Army take some electronics for recycling,” said Linda Frost, a freelancer in Oakdale, Pa. Lisa Cauthen has adopted a regular cadence for taking in electronics and other recyclables. “Anything electronic is recycled yearly (or more frequently, if necessary) at our local Best Buy at no charge,” said Cauthen, who is a firm owner in Aledo, Texas, adding that monitors are charged a small fee. “Ink cartridges are recycled through our local OfficeMax store.”

Many towns and cities have taken the initiative to host regular recycling events, many of which take items beyond electronics. “My town has been encouraging recycling on many levels in the last few years. The town coordinates drop-off events at various villages within its borders starting in the spring going through the fall,” said Leigh Chapman, a reporter in Stony Brook, N.Y. “We just had one on April 7th, where I recycled old telephones, electrical cords, an old tube TV, an old heater, and a computer monitor. They also had shredding available and safe disposal of unused/unwanted drugs.”

Margo Lucas, RPR, CRC, CRI, a CART captioner in Menomonee Falls, Wis., gets documents about the city’s e-cycling program among with her property tax bill. Her local library has bags from a waste management company for used ink cartridges that the postal service picks up from residential mailboxes. The postal service will also take cell phones, but Lucas said, “I prefer to donate cell phones to our local domestic shelter.”

“In my family when an old computer/PC has spent a few years in the basement and we decide we can get rid of it, we take out the hard drive, smash it with a hammer, and take everything to the recycling center, including the power cord, keyboard, etc.,” said Patricia Schneider, RDR, CRR, a freelancer in Louisville, Ky.

If your town doesn’t have a resource for recycling electronics, another one nearby might instead. Teresa Alexander, RMR, CRR, an official in Belton, Texas, takes advantage of a neighboring town’s Recycling Day, “where they will accept certain items at certain locations, from old tires at one location to any electronics and old TVs at another location to used oil at another.”

Turning off electronics and lights

A few members mentioned that turning off electronics and especially lights has become a habit. “My family and friends tease me about how I can’t walk out of a room, or even walk by a room, with lights on and not flip the switch off,” said Michele Gustafson, RPR, CRR, a freelancer in Indianapolis, Ind.

For those interested in developing the habit, however, some members did provide a few tips. “I do have sticky notes on my desks in my office reminding me to plug or unplug computers or at least set them on energy saving mode and the same thing with the lights in my office,” said Christine Johnson, RMR, a freelancer in Phoenix, Ariz. Melissa Merenberg, RPR, a freelancer in Bradley, Maine, said, “I just double and triple check the lights and electronics until I’m sure!”

“Our offices are equipped with sensors to turn the lights off after 10 minutes, cutting down on usage, and our thermostats are set to a limiting range as well,” said Janet Davis, RDR, CRR, an official in Cheyenne, Wyo.

For smaller electronics like laptops, Jeanette Vissiere, RPR, a freelancer in Cameron Park, Calif., said, “I ask myself the question of if I plan to use it within the next couple of hours. If not, then I turn it off.” Unplugging small electronics is also a popular tip. “One way I’ve found that’s easy for me to do that is to actually store the appliance (like my toaster and blender) off the counter. So when I’m finished using the appliance, I unplug it and put it back where it belongs,” said Marie Schutz, an official in St. Paul, Minn. “Also, when I’m charging an electronic [device] —such as my laptops, cellphone, or Kindle — I take the electronic off the charger when the battery is at 100 percent, or close to. I also unplug and store my chargers when I’m not using them.”

“At the end of my work day, as long as a device is not in need of a charge, I pull the plug from the wall or switch off the power strip, which is sometimes easier than pulling a plug. As long as my steno machine has a charge, I am sure to unplug that as well. I also pull the power plug on my computers; this also helps in case of a storm, I can ensure I’m not getting any power surges into my equipment!” said Kim Falgiani, RMR, a captioner in Warren, Ohio. “I do not turn off things such as my router or cable box, for instance; the time it might take to reboot is something that isn’t good for my remote work,” she added.

Jennifer Church, RPR, a freelancer in Phoenix, Ariz., recommended avoiding lights when possible. “If I can open the blinds to let the sun in, then I don’t need to turn the lights on,” she said. And Tonya Kaiser, RPR, CMRS, a freelancer in Fort Wayne, Ind., pointed out, “I don’t really think of it as going green as much as not paying for electricity for things we’re not using.”

Reusable food and drink containers

Members shared several different products that they use as refillable water bottles or drink containers, including the S’well water bottle, the Contigo water bottle, the Hydro Flask, and Bubba travel mugs.

“I have a water bottle that I partially fill with lemon juice and water the night before and stick it in the freezer,” said Kathryn Wilson, a freelancer in Fircrest, Wash. “Then the next day, I add water to the top, so I have cold water for a while depending on the weather.”

One of the advantages to reusable water bottles is that they often help make it easier to stay hydrated during the work day, either because of convenience or design. “My reusable glass water bottle means I am more likely to drink enough water in a day, as without it sitting on my desk, I forget to find time to drink,” said Jodie Stanton, a student in Spotswood, Victoria, Australia.

“If our bodies are hydrated properly, then we are able to think more clearly,” said Bonnie Comstock, an instructor in Sacramento, Calif. Comstock has made a point of drinking 84 ounces of water a day. “When I initially started drinking that much water, I was going to the restroom quite frequently. Now my body is used to it, and I don’t go as often.”

Being on the record presents unique challenges to staying hydrated. “I’ve tried to rush a sip from a mug of liquid into my mouth and usually end up with it all over me when others start talking,” said Dawn Redwine, RPR, CRI, a freelancer in Albuquerque, N.M. Her solution was to find a reusable travel mug with a straw. Janine Ferren, RPR, CRR, agrees that a straw is a good feature on a reusable bottle. “When I do pick it up to drink, I don’t have to tip it to drink because it has a straw. I just reach over, pick it up, sip, and put it back down,” said Ferren, a freelancer in Fishers, Ind.

Mary Bader, RPR, an official in Eau Claire, Wis., found a way to show her court reporter pride while being green: She brings her Wisconsin Court Reporters Association cup.

Members also shared a variety of types of lunchboxes. Insulation and having multiple compartments are popular features. “I have a cloth lunch bag with plastic lining that I got at Goodwill. It’s fairly large and fits all my food for the day,” said Wilson. Sara Czartolomna, an official in Lamar, Colo., uses a bento box, “which is a stackable lunchbox, basically,” she explains. “I have two nice lunchboxes I switch out and pack a sandwich wrapped in wax paper (which I use for a placemat),” said Susan Baker, RDR, a freelancer in Houston, Texas. Adina Raizen, a freelancer in New York, N.Y., has “a handy little sandwich-sized container, and every morning I make a PB&J that I throw in my bag along with my steno machine, laptop, etc.”

“As well as being a benefit to the environment to use reusable food containers, it also means I eat much healthier by having a better choice of snack ready to go,” said Stanton. “It really doesn’t take much extra effort at all as I just add another container to the lineup whilst preparing kids’ lunch boxes for school.”

Mornings can, admittedly, get hectic, so some members do the prep work beforehand. “I fill bottles for everyone at the beginning of the week so we can grab and go during the week. In packing lunches, I use as many washable, reusable containers as possible. Besides being green, it keeps your sandwiches, chips, and fruit from being smashed in your lunchbox,” says Ashley Dickey, RPR, an official in Birmingham, Ala. “Prepping water bottles for the week takes just a few minutes of my day on Sunday. I also spend a few minutes getting fruit, chips, etc. into individual containers on Sunday.”

“I have about a dozen reusable water bottles (assortment of plastic and glass) that I keep filled with water from my reverse osmosis system. I keep them in the garage refrigerator, so as my family leaves the house, they can grab fresh water on the go,” said Linda Cantrell, RMR, CRR, an official in Kingman, Ariz.

 

Going green can be a big process, but there are many little steps to make it easier along the way. And there are benefits to doing so in all areas: accessing information from anywhere when it’s stored in the cloud, reading a good book during a commute on public transit, saving money on lower utility bills, and eating healthier.

But perhaps the real benefit to going green is more selfless. “I’ve found that having this routine saves me time in the long run, and it hopefully means a little less trash at the city dump,” said Dawn Redwine about e-cycling. “After all, I have a new grandson’s future to think about!”

Court reporting firm launches campaign to highlight need for professionals to fill jobs

JCR logoDepo International launched a nationwide marketing campaign to raise awareness about the need for court reporters and captioners to fill jobs, according to a press release issued April 20.

Read more.

COPE: Working with the “CIA” – An ethics review

By Jason Meadors

CIAI’m pretty sure you won’t find what I’m about to say in any Board policy or finding by NCRA’s Committee on Professional Ethics (COPE), in which I have the honor of serving this year. No, what follows are my own views of foundational bases of our ethics, in looking at the ethical frameworks in the Code and Advisory Opinions, and with a few decades of experience in this all-consuming career. I also have a regular ethics seminar that I present, and my views are woven into that as well, and I haven’t been seriously challenged. Yet.

“What are these views?” you might ask. Or you might not. I suspect the latter has the higher probability. But I’m going to tell you anyway. The ethical construct of our sacred court reporting profession has a foundation of three legs. Because Dave Wenhold, our preeminent lobbyist, has taught me that clever acronyms help people better identify and remember concepts, let’s call them the CIA.

Those three foundational legs of our profession are:

  • Confidentiality
  • Impartiality
  • Accuracy

There you go. Our CIA.

Confidentiality

Our Code of Professional Ethics (In a slight bit of acronym confusion with the committee, also named COPE), Number 4, addresses this directly. “Preserve the confidentiality and ensure the security of information,” and so on.

This makes eminent good sense, does it not? When we work, we hear dreadful events, shameful secrets, and financial goings-on from hosts of people. If we want the process to have integrity when it comes to the record, if we want our clients and consumers to see us as trustworthy professionals, if we want our profession to continue, we have to ensure that information that we hear doesn’t go where it’s not supposed to go.

It’s so easy to get caught up conversation among ourselves, with our clients, with members of the general public, because sometimes we hear some pretty darned interesting things. May I suggest a little self-administered test when you’re talking with someone and you get the impulse to sneak out a detail from a case, ask yourself: If this person says, “Oh, the reporter told me,” how will that reflect on you?

(There’s actually a simpler practice that doesn’t require retrospection: Just shut up.)

They bring us, outsiders, in to the proceedings, secure in their belief that we will not be the conduit of information to the rest of the world. Let’s keep it that way.

But that’s not the only reason we are called to our professional tasks. There’s the second foundational leg of:

Impartiality

Five of the ten items in the NCRA Code of Professional Ethics encompass impartiality. Indeed, Number 1 of the Code starts with, “Be fair and impartial…”

And this concept really is the linchpin in working at our professional heights, and its existence flows directly to the reliability of the record that we’re preserving.

In the litigation arena, in one certain sense, our presence might seem a bit odd. The parties are presenting their own weighted view of evidence. The attorneys are advocates for their clients. The judge is protecting the public interest. Everyone has taken a side. And still they bring us in, with our mandate of being both disinterested and uninterested, because it’s the only way that the history that they read later has been kept and delivered without bias, without favoritism, without an eye to supporting one side or the other.

“I love a job where I’m actually paid to not be interested in anyone.”

That’s how it must be. Even while immersed in their advocacy, they are paying us to be emotionally distant and removed from the proceedings that we report. All sides have to be able to rely on the integrity of the transcript without a second thought about whether the reporter might be bringing other interests into the legal game.

Sure, there are times when that “not caring” thing gets pushed and emotions run high. We all have our stories. My memorable one, and not in a good way: Within a couple weeks after a family member’s death, I was taking a deposition about a case that involved a fatality, and the grief of the deponent was open and unyielding. Because of my father’s so-recent death, my own emotions were pretty raw at the time, and I struggled to keep my expression impassive. I’m not sure how well I fared.

But the transcript that resulted from that deposition did not, could not, be weighted toward the grieving deponent, toward my client, toward the attorney who represented the sobbing witness, or anyone else in the room. That’s what all parties expect and what they deserve when they hire us, the professionally detached historian in the room.

(At this point, the alert reader may say, “Hey! You just told us not to talk about our cases!” And that is why I kept it so nonspecific as to time, place, parties, and even the type of case.)

Sometimes at introductions in the deposition room, one attorney will tell the witness, “I represent the plaintiff.” The other one will say, “I represent the defendant.” When the deponent looks at me, I introduce myself and say, “I represent the paper that comes out of this.” The integrity of the record is, indeed, the focus of our own advocacy.

But our confidentiality and impartiality aren’t the only reasons we’re being hired, which brings us to:

Accuracy

This leg is the surprisingly more tenuous one to talk about, because nowhere in the Code of Professional Ethics does it actually state that the reporter has an ethical duty to provide an accurate record.

I’m going to pause a moment to let that sink in. Let me know when you’re ready.

Okay, ready?

The reliability of the record is a principle woven into the fabric of our professional product. If the record of proceedings isn’t accurate, the participants might as well be home reading a good book and sipping their favored beverage. The need for accuracy is why we’re so darned impartial; likewise, impartiality helps to guarantee accuracy. The other factor to accuracy, of course, is the combination of skill, conscientiousness, and record-consciousness that we bring to the table.

Putting it all together

So when we’re faced with an ethical issue, we can generally fall back on our CIA to help resolve it.

  • Does the issue compromise Confidentiality?
  • Can it be perceived as a breach of Impartiality?
  • Could it degrade the record’s Accuracy?

If the answer to any of these is “yes,” the issue must be resolved in a way that keeps those principles intact.

My dear colleagues, what we do is important. Way back when, about to finish Marine reporting school and enter my life as a voice reporter in the Marines, a military judge came in to talk to us wide-eyed new practitioners about our importance. I haven’t forgotten the gist of his talk since, and that was early 1975. He told us about U.S. v. Albright, where the Court of Military Appeals stated that the record “imports verity.” In other words, if we say it happened, absent some showing of fraud (so stay impartial!), then what we say goes. How we transcribe it is how history will see it. If we don’t get it right, history will not look correctly upon what went on (so be accurate!).

And really, we are not just important. We are vital.

If the adage is correct about what is the “oldest profession,” then we can look at cave wall paintings and see what the second oldest is. It is the people who make the record of humanity itself. We bear a direct lineage from those short, stocky folks facing the rock walls, ochre at their sides, painting what happened to Thag Simmons. That tradition carries on through the scribes of ancient Egypt, the courts of the Khans, through the ages of petroglyphs, obelisks, clay tablets, papyrus, rice paper, parchment, paper from pulp, and through the spectra of electronic media that we use today.

Our all-important record preserved through our grand legacy is the singular method by which society can learn from its mistakes and build on its successes. And so, through our near-incomprehensible skills, and with the guidance of our solid ethical foundations, let’s make that record a good one.

Jason Meadors, RPR, CRR, CRC, is a freelance reporter in Fort Collins, Colo., and a member of NCRA’s Committee on Professional Ethics. He can be reached at jason@reporterworks.com.

 

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