REPORTING: Are you ready for daily copy?

By Brenda Rogers-Fiscus, Deborah Smolinske, and Beverly Thomas

It’s Friday at 7:30 p.m. The weekend has officially started. You’re just kicking back to relax with a movie and some popcorn. Then this email hits your inbox:

“We need someone to cover a three-week asbestos trial starting Monday, daily copy, rough at close of each day, four realtime feeds plus judge, multiple copy orders. Are you available?”

Your first reaction: Woot! You can’t type fast enough: “Yes! I’ll take it!”

daily copyAs you hit the send button, your eye falls on the postscript you somehow missed on the first reading: “And, oh, by the way, they need the final no later than 10 p.m. every night.”

Are you thinking: “When will I sleep? When will I eat? Will my family remember what I look like when the trial is over? Will I still have a family? Will the dog remember who I am? What was I thinking? I can’t do this!”

Yes, you can

With a seasoned team of scopists and proofreaders, a little prep work, and the latest technological advances in CAT software, you can do this — and live to tell the tale with a smile on your face.

The first step is to start preparing now, before you get that call or email. A small investment of time and effort now will pay off huge when the big day does arrive.

“But why do I need to prepare now?” you may ask. “I may never need such a team. I don’t even work with a scopist/proofreader on a regular basis. What’s the point in spending time on it now? I’m sure I can just post on Facebook or another forum and find all the help I need at a moment’s notice.”

Maybe; maybe not. Most quality scopists and proofreaders keep a full calendar of work. Forming a good team is always a challenge, even more so at the last minute. Searching for superb help when there is no time for due diligence is a sure recipe for disaster. And, as we all know, even the most foolproof technology can behave like an unruly child, especially when there’s no time to troubleshoot or learn.

Get ready before it happens

First, begin lining up a team of scopists and proofreaders who have extensive knowledge and experience with daily and immediate turnaround work. Do your due diligence. Get references, read testimonials, and pay attention to how questions in groups and forums are answered. You can choose to assemble your own team or you can contact a ready-made team geared exclusively toward daily work.

Second, agree upon a form of communication that will afford all parties the fastest response time possible. Applications like Google Hangouts, Yahoo, AIM, Facebook IM, and Skype are all good options.

Third, have a frank conversation with your team about your expectations and theirs during the course of the job. How do you want to be notified of questionable spots to check before sending out the final? How much — or how little — research do you expect from your team? Do you expect scoping to be done with full audio? How firm are you about having your specific preferences followed to the letter? How will files be transferred back and forth? Who is responsible for putting together the rough? How and when will invoices be sent and when is payment expected?

Fourth, verify your team’s availability as soon as you learn of an impending daily. Send your team any word lists, prior transcripts, and any other information you have that may contain spellings/terms/parties pertinent to the case.

Fifth, set up a short practice session with your team to ensure that you have all the correct settings for your CAT software when performing realtime or daily work.

Finally, relax. You’ve got this! With a solid team behind you, you can focus all your attention on your writing. When there’s a break or it’s lunchtime, you can actually get up and move around, eat a real meal, make a phone call, go outside and enjoy some sunshine. Your team will be there doing the heavy lifting while you get some much-needed downtime to gather your strength for the next round.

You’ll emerge from this experience with a new level of confidence in your skills, your marriage will still be intact, the kids will still know who you are, the dog will still recognize your voice. And you’ll actually look forward to the next time you get that crazy email, knowing that you are equipped with a secret weapon: a proven team of scopists and proofreaders working alongside you every minute with one goal in mind — delivering a finished, polished transcript in record time to your adoring fans – er, clients.

Who’s afraid of that big, bad daily trial now? Not you!

Brenda Rogers-Fiscus, Deborah Smolinske, and Beverly Thomas are the primary team members of Perfect Partners Transcript Brigade, which was established in 2014.  Learn more at transcriptbrigade.wordpress.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Realtime writing and realtime scoping in Jamaica

By Linda Bland

It isn’t unusual for me to receive a call from a court reporter asking how to upgrade his or her writing to offer realtime writing as a service or how to transition to captioning or CART providing. However, I was very pleased when I received a call from Ms. Tessa Lewin of the U.S. Embassy, asking me if I would be interested in discussing how the Court Reporting at Home Realtime Writing Professional Development Program might train 44 official reporters for the Supreme Court of Jamaica. I immediately responded, “Yes! Absolutely! I would love to develop just this kind of project.” Having previously trained realtime writing court reporters in Zambia and Sierra Leone, Africa, my mind began immediately thinking how this might be accomplished.

Justice Bryan Sykes and his committee had determined that their reporters could benefit from upgrading their skills for realtime writing and speed, as well as other areas. Just the idea of the project was exciting. A great deal of thought and planning had already been developed by Justice Sykes and his committee, comprised of reporters, justices, IT department personnel, etc. By the time I was contacted, the committee had already had established a series of goals. When we met via video conferencing, I made a few more recommendations.

The Chief Justice of the Jamaican Supreme Court was so committed to the project, she allotted time during the workday for all reporters to be able to practice. How generous was that? Each morning, one group of reporters/students would be allowed to practice while other reporters covered court, and each afternoon they reversed roles. Being paid to train — who could refuse that offer?

A few months later, we entered into an agreement, and on Jan. 5, 2015, the project began. I had agreed to seven goals:

  1. Assess the reporters’ current speed writing level
  2. Assess the reporters’ realtime writing proficiency
  3. Train the reporters in Eclipse Audio Synchronization
  4. Make necessary steno dictionary conversions, build dictionaries, and make modifications
  5. Train two official supreme court reporters as trainers in all aspects of training, with emphasis on developing speed tests (writing the tests, counting in word and syllabic count, dictating the tests and proctoring speed tests)
  6. Implementing speedbuilding via the CRAH student platform
  7. Train two official supreme court reporters/trainers to update academics and customize them for Jamaican legal terminology, including study materials and tests.

I have learned during my many years of training reporters, captioners, and CART providers that all projects have challenges, and this one was no different. It would never have gotten off the ground without the dedication of Ms. Tanya Chung-Daley and Ms. Deline Cunningham, RPR, the court reporters designated as the two individuals who would be trained to be trainers of all future reporters for the court.

Our almost daily meetings, which later evolved into weekly meetings over the Internet, became an exciting, enjoyable part of my day. These ladies, fortunately, are so talented, it mde training them tremendously easier. In addition to handling their daily duties covering court, they had to go home to develop and dictate tests, or modify academics for the Jamaican judiciary, and countless other assignments I heaped upon them. They were working extended hours daily and weekends for months and months. And when I asked for materials back by Friday, I received them on Tuesday or Wednesday instead. My job was to stay ahead of them, to ensure that the next step in the training process was already prepared to prevent anyone from having to wait on any component of the project.

Our first two goals were to determine the reporters’ current speed and accuracy in translation. Imagine how difficult it is to schedule tests for this many reporters who have daily, ongoing court assignments including transcripts. Many of these reporters did not work in the Supreme Court in Kingston, Jamaica, but rather were in the circuit courts in cities all around the country.

Any court administrator knows the difficulty in simply keeping all courts covered. However, covering all the courts and scheduling the reporters for testing purposes was quite a feat. We had to test on three different dates, utilizing three different tests for speed at three different speed levels, as well as for realtime. The tests were graded utilizing NCRA grading guidelines, “What Is an Error?” as well as with a view toward the number of large and small drops the reporters were experiencing, how many of the errors were written correctly in steno but not contained in their dictionary, punctuation, and so on.

We then had a basis from which to work. We knew the speed levels we needed to address and the degree of the reporters’ translation accuracy. Knowing that the reporters and justices would benefit from audio synchronization, our first step was to introduce that feature. However, just as with all of us, some of us know our CAT software better than others, and it appeared some of the reporters required a review of some of the basic Eclipse features before we could introduce audiosync. Therefore, although basic training on the software was not a component of our agreement, I knew it was imperative, so I decided to employ someone who could refresh and walk the reporters through the basics.

Who could train my Jamaican reporters/students? I contacted an old acquaintance who put me in touch with Dineen Squillante, who is a certified Eclipse trainer. After one conversation with Dineen, I knew she was perfect for this project. Dineen developed a checklist for what we felt every reporter needed to know for basic realtime setup and editing, steno dictionary preparation, and so on. Each reporter was asked to fill out the checklist, designating which areas they felt needed additional training. Upon receipt of that information, Dineen developed multiple webinars that she presented to the trainers and that were recorded and provided for the trainers’ use in training the remaining reporters.

After the trainers determined that all the reporters were proficient in the basic features, we turned to dictionary building, conversion, and modifications, working on numbers, punctuation, etc. Dineen said, “Working on this project was one of the most enjoyable assignments of my entire career.”

Developing a literary, jury charge, or testimony test involves a great deal more than one can imagine unless you have served on a committee for the NCRA. Thankfully, we have counting software now that counts by word count as well as syllabic count. However, these software programs are not always 100 percent accurate and often require “tweaking.” Because of that, I felt it was important to teach the trainers how to compose a test, count the words in both word count and syllabic count, and dictate it. There is truly an art to dictating correctly and accurately. It can be the difference between being able to pass a test or fail one. It takes a great deal of practice for most instructors, but fortunately, once again, the trainers adapted to dictation quite easily.

Tanya and Deline, as well as the wonderful IT staffer, Duane Carr, teased me often about learning to “speak Jamaican.” When I would think the test “did not make sense,” I would be educated on certain phrases and how “it is spoken in Jamaican.” And without Duane’s IT expertise, we would never have completed this project.

We placed dictation developed by Tanya and Deline on my company’s student platform for the Jamaican reporters to practice, in addition to providing them access to hundreds of hours of our dictation if they chose to practice that as well. Tanya and Deline reviewed and edited our academics to determine what modifications were required for Jamaican law. We modified those and placed those on the platform as well, allowing their tests to be automatically and immediately graded, designating the errors they made and what the correct answer should have been.

And finally, I wanted the trainers to know how to edit or scope realtime. I called upon Dineen once again to train my trainers in realtime editing. If you haven’t tried realtime editing with your scopist, you have to do this. It saves a tremendous amount of time, and it is so easy. Do not be afraid to learn a new feature of your CAT software.

An awards ceremony was held for the reporters after they learned the realtime theory and writing concepts, and Deline and Tanya demonstrated realtime editing/scoping for all those present. While one wrote, the other edited the transcript simultaneously. If you aren’t familiar with realtime editing/scoping, your scopist may be in a different room, a different city, or even a different state, editing while you are writing the assignment.

In February 2016, my work ended. The materials for the Jamaican Project had been provided for realtime writing theory, speed building, and academics. The trainers and reporters had been trained in basic Eclipse, audiosynch, and realtime scoping. However, as we know, the road to building sufficient speed and accuracy and developing one’s steno dictionary are ongoing projects, and I knew Deline and Tanya to be quite capable of handling anything required by the Jamaican Supreme Court.

Deline stated, “The experience as trainers was a challenging and demanding one; however, with encouragement and assistance from Court Reporting and Captioning at Home, we were able to triumph over all the hurdles.” Tanya added, “Yes, and we are truly grateful for this experience.”

So, “Mon,” I didn’t get a trip to Jamaica, but I made a lot of wonderful Jamaican friends along the way, and we spread realtime writing to yet another part of the world. I am so grateful Court Reporting and Captioning at Home was chosen for this project and grateful also for all the assistance through the State Department, U.S. Embassy, the Jamaican Supreme Court, their IT Department, and of course, all 44 of the Jamaican Official Court Reporters.

My advice to you: Don’t stagnate! Realtime is attainable for anyone who is willing to put forth the effort. Don’t think that you can’t change your style of writing or that you are “too old.” You don’t have to change your entire theory at all. However, in all likelihood, you probably need to add a few realtime writing concepts to your theory. Remember, we all modify our theory somewhat, don’t we? We think of new briefs, or find another way to write our numbers, or a new way to write a “family” of words or contractions. We find new groups of phrases that work well for us.

If you want it, realtime is there for you to master – even from the comfort of your home. It requires taking one realtime concept at a time and mastering it to prevent you from causing hesitation in your writing. Writing realtime well isn’t accomplished in a one-day seminar, or even a week or a month. It can take anywhere from 90 days to a year or longer, depending upon how much work you need to employ to update your theory, how much time you make to practice, and how disciplined you are to completing your training. Every realtime writing concept you incorporate into your writing improves the translation, reduces the amount of time it takes to edit a transcript, and provides you more time to practice. It’s a win-win situation. However, you must take the first step to begin your journey.

Linda Bland, RMR, CPE, is the owner of Court Reporting and Captioning at Home, SSD Enterprises, LLC, Fla. She can be reached at LindaB@courtreportingathome.com.

 

 

Celebrating entrepreneurs

“It took a lot of hard work and determination to get through school and to build my skills as a practicing reporter. I’m a reporter business owner, so my approach in working with clients, reporters, and staff is generally directed by the reporter in me,” says Jan Schmitt, RPR, owner of the Schmitt Reporting & Video in Vancouver, Wash.

To mark Women’s Entrepreneur Day, an international day celebrated with a worldwide social media campaign on Nov. 30, the JCR reached out to several of NCRA’s firm owner-reporters — both male and female — to get their take on what entrepreneurship means to them.

While the people identified themselves foremost as reporters, they had many traits that transfer over to being an entrepreneur. “When I tell people what I do, I always explain the reporting part. Telling them I am business owner comes later in the conversation when I explain that I don’t work in a courthouse but for myself,” says Cassy Kerr, RPR, CRR, CRC, a freelancer and the owner of Russell Court Reporting, Inc., in Tulsa, Okla. “And I never even thought of myself as an entrepreneur until about a year ago when a friend introduced me as one.”

But reporters shouldn’t fear the term entrepreneur. Small businesses contribute to the global economy and make up about half of all U.S. jobs.

Attributes of the entrepreneurial court reporter

Only nine months into her career, Katherine Schilling, RPR, a freelancer in Richmond, Va., explains entrepreneurship this way: “In my mind, an entrepreneur is someone who offers a one-of-a-kind service that furthers their industry as a whole. This, too, is something that I feel comes with time and experience. These are the real-timers, the multiple hook up-ers, the three-scopist team-ers, the daily copy turn around-ers! At present, I’m focusing purely on advancing my own skills, but once I’m at a point where I’m offering something revolutionary to the court reporting industry, maybe then I can start considering such a prestigious title as entrepreneur.”

Entrepreneurship matches many of the attributes that reporters already have — at least according to the Small Business Administration, which lists persuasiveness, risk-taking, independence, creativity, and being supported by others as important traits for entrepreneurs.

“You are very much a salesperson as a reporter, and that is the start of being an entrepreneur,” says Donna Linton, RMR, a freelancer based in Ashburn, Va. “You start at the beginning of the day selling yourself by being on time and prepared for the case, having your exhibit stickers and equipment ready to go. What is hard for a lot of reporters is to know you have the skill at the end of the day to sell your product by asking, ‘Do you need a rough draft’ or ‘Would you like to expedite this?’”

But there are many more traits that reporters and firm owners list as important in addition to those mentioned — with organization and planning topping most people’s lists. “The most important in my view are focus, persistence, determination and patience, planning, and dealing with many types of individuals, as well as being accountable,” says Grant Morrison, CRI, a freelance reporter in San Antonio, Texas.

“I’m big on planning ahead, especially for trials,” says Linton. ”Working with other reporters to get as much information ahead of time from clients helps us be consistent and produce the best product we can under pressure.”

“I believe the most important attributes of being an entrepreneur in the field of court reporting start with integrity and a commitment to the legal process,” says Kathy Reumann, RDR, a freelancer based in Rock Island, Ill.

“Punctuality is extremely important. It shows respect and readiness to tackle the job at hand,” says Lisa B. Johnston, RMR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner based in Melbourne, Fla. “Being able to keep calm in a situation that may not be going as planned and focusing on how to solve the problem and move on.”

“Entrepreneurs are the trailblazers of any industry, so they need all the following attributes to make their business a success: self-motivation, discipline, time management, and a passion to keep learning and improving,” said Schilling. “Court reporters have these traits in spades. Due to the nature of the court reporting field, we are often the only ones driving ourselves to do our best, through school and even decades into the working world. The job is also a very solitary one, especially for freelancers, so we have only ourselves to rely on in order to stay focused on the job and stay organized when those high page counts and expedites start rolling in.”

“A reporter skill that translates to an entrepreneurial skill is perseverance,” says Kerr. “No matter how difficult a deposition may be with the terminology or people speaking at once, I don’t give up, and I follow that same thinking with running a business.”

Advice for entrepreneurs

Many stressed the importance of being a reporter first. “You have to know how things are going out there in the field working an actual job so you can understand what the reporters are dealing with and what the clients are really expecting from their reporters as well as the judges,” says Linton.

Finding good support is essential to supporting the entrepreneur, whether it’s additional reporters to build your business or hiring a scopist or proofreader to keep up on your deadlines. Linton notes that these investments are about knowing that time is money — and saving time is key.

“The ability to attract and keep good reporters and staff is key. Endless determination, good vision and leadership — ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish’ (Proverbs 29:18) — knowing your strengths and, more important, knowing your weakness and being willing to seek help in those areas. Some creativity and an ability to sell go a long way,” says Schmitt.

Linton advises finding a reliable and fantastic scopist and proofreader: “Do not be afraid to use one and find a favorite or two.”

“Know your CAT software to save you time so you can take more work to make more money,” Linton also suggest. ”For an agency, it means knowing skilled reporters who are reliable and keeping them happy. It saves the agency time finding coverage and means fewer headaches when producing their work for your clients.”

“Having the right people working for me,” says Kerr. “Those include everyone from my scopist and proofreader to my CPA. Delegating responsibilities to the people I can count on to get the job done and done correctly so I can focus on reporting and other aspects of running a business is so essential. I tried doing everything by myself, and it made life very difficult.

Organization is also important, mentioned by almost everyone. “Being organized in your scheduling is important,” says Johnston. “Personally, I have three calendars with all of my work appointments and jobs: one paper calendar, one smartphone calendar, one whiteboard calendar in my office. Reporter work days are anything but routine, so if you’ve committed to something, keep the commitment. Your reputation is of utmost importance.”

“Other important attributes are being wise with your finances and having confidence in your ultimate success,” says Kerr.

“Higher education and certification in your field shows dedication to your career,” says Johnston. [Ed. Note: NCRA offers education specific to firm owners at is Firm Owners Executive Conference, being held at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, Tucson, Ariz., Feb. 12-14, 2017.]

“Luckily for court reporters, there are always plenty of industry conventions to attend in order to expand our knowledge and improve our skills for the job,” says Schilling. “By continuing our education, we improve our product and can deliver top-notch work that will wow our clients and push the court reporting profession to new heights!”

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.

Our 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.

Finding 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

The 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.

Facing 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.

What 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.

Community 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.

Finding the right scopist is key to live editing of realtime

Finding the right scopist can mean the difference between providing quality draft realtime transcripts within minutes rather than hours, according to a panel presentation held at NCRA’s 2015 TechCon event held April 10-12 in Denver, Colo. Participants included Lisa Knight, RMR, CRR; Christine Phipps, RPR; and Sue Terry, RPR, CRR.

To help ensure a high-quality product and a quick turnaround of draft transcripts, freelancers should consider having at least two scopists they work with on a regular basis, as well as a good proofreader, however finding the right people to fill those roles many times is not easy. As part of their presentation, guest panelists shared with attendees the following tips to help find the right scopist and proofreader for them.

Find people who understand that having mistakes pointed out to them is not pointing fingers but rather an effort to help increase the quality of the final product. A good scopist and proofreader will also, over time, begin to recognize what words the court reporter has a tendency to miss a lot and be able to make those corrections quickly.

Most court reporters are reluctant to share information about their own scopists and proofreaders if they are good, so getting a recommendation can sometimes be difficult. However, forums for various software provide a good resource for finding high-quality professionals, and often times participants on these forums are actual software trainers as well.

Questions that should be asked when interviewing a potential scopist or proofreader should include:

  • What software and version of it do they use, and are they current on its functions and do they have tech support?
  • What kind of computer do they use and what operating system?
  • Is there a viable Internet connection in the area where they live?
  • Ask them about their error rates, as well as their dictionary entries and how many they make a day.
  • Find out if they have used dropbox before, if they have it on their computer, and if they have used it in scoping or court reporting jobs before.
  • How long have they been working as a scopist or proofreader and have they worked producing daily transcripts?
  • Finally, ask for at least three to five references and check them all.

Once you find a good scopist, the panelists suggested setting guidelines up front in regards to what you expect from them. For example, tell them if you expect a 24-48 hour turnaround on assignments all the time, and make sure they understand that you expect to be in constant contact with them to keep them current about upcoming jobs.

Reporting: Family law acronyms and slang for court reporters

By Michael Mattice

If you have been assigned to a family law or domestic relations or juvenile court, get ready for a whole new language! Lawyers and judges in these courts routinely use dozens of acronyms to save time in their conversations and space in their documents. Unfamiliarity with these “acronyzed” terms and other family law slang may, for the unprepared court reporter (hereinafter, “CSR”), cause stress that more than offsets the economy in keystrokes.

The problem is two-fold for CSRs. There is a wide variety of terms, and there are no uniform rules of pronunciation. Whereas some acronyms are spelled out, so that “CSR” for example is pronounced “see əss ar,” others are pronounced in ways that resemble a fourth grader’s first venture into reading a foreign language. Thus we have FLAR PL’s (“flar’ pəls”), UIFSA (“ew if ’ sə”), and QDRO ’s (“kwa’ droz”). (Pop quiz: How do you say FUSFSPA? Or UIEDVPOA?)

The following is a list of the acronyms most commonly used on the record in family law courts and a bit of slang. Pronunciations are offered when the acronym is not simply spelled out.

Regrettably for CSRs, this list only addresses some of the slang heard during the average family law calendar because of localized dialect in this legal field and also because practitioners tend to make nouns or verbs at will out of case names. We’ll hear, for example, of pensions that are either Verner-ized1 or Gillmore-ed,2 or both, and unmarried couples who Marvin-ize.3 When spousal support is being discussed, get ready for “Gavron4 orders,” and “Zlatnik, 5 anti-Vomacka6 language.”

Enjoy!

 

AB assembly bill

ADR alternative dispute resolution

AP account payable

AP alternate payee (of pension benefits)

AR account receivable

ATRO automatic temporary restraining order (or “ah’ tro¯ ” [pl. “ah’ tro¯ z”])

AVD alternate (or alternative) valuation date

B&P Business and Professions (Code)

BF biological father (or “bio-dad”)

BF boyfriend (sometimes also “bio-dad”)

BFP bona fi de purchaser

BIA Bureau of Indian Affairs

Bifo bifurcation (“by’ fo¯ h”)

BK bankruptcy

BM birth mother (or “bio-mom”)

C child (sometimes, C1 and/or C2, etc.)

CASDI California state disability insurance (or “kaz’ di”)

CASIT California state income tax (or “kah’ sit”)

CCE child care expense

CCP Code of Civil Procedure

Cert certiorari (or “sərt”)

CMC case management conference

COBRA Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (or “ko¯ ’ brə”)

COLA cost of living allowance (or “ko¯ ’ lə”)

CP custodial parent (see also NCP, below)

CP community property

CPA certifi ed public accountant

CPS Child Protective Services

CRC California Rules of Court (usually mentioned by the judge)

CS child support

DCSS Department of Child Support Services

Depub depublished (or “di pub’d”)

Disso dissolution (of marriage)

DOB date of birth

Docs documents (“dahks”)

DOG date of grant (of stock options, distinguished from “you dog!”)

DOH date of hire

DOM date of marriage

DOR date of retirement

DOS or DOMS date of (marital) separation

DOS date of strike (of stock options, sometimes, “strike date”)

DP domestic partner (see also, RDP)

DRO domestic relations order (or “dro¯ ”; these usually relate to pensions)

DRTRA Domestic Relations Tax Reform Act (or “der’ trə”)

DV domestic violence

DVPA Domestic Violence Protection Act

DVRO domestic violence restraining order

EC evidence code (also usually mentioned by the judge)

EPO’s emergency protective orders, or ex parte orders

ERISA Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ə ris’ ə”)

ESOP employee stock option (or ownership) plan (“ee’ sop”)

Eval evaluation (usual usages: “vo¯ c eval”; “custody eval”)

FCCR family centered case resolution

FCCRP family centered case resolution plan

FCS Family Court Services

FDD final declaration of disclosure

FERS Federal Employees Retirement System

FICA Federal Insurance Contributions Act (“fy’ kə”)

FIFO first in, fi rst out (“fy’ fo¯ ”; see also LIFO, below)

FIT federal income tax

FLARPL family law attorneys’ real property lien (“fl ar’ pəl”)

FMV fair market value

FPKPA Federal Parental Kidnapping Protection Act

FRV fair rental value

FTB Franchise Tax Board

FUSFSPA Federal Uniformed Services Former Spouse’s Protection Act (“fuf’ spə”)

GF girlfriend (sometimes aka “BM” or “bio-mom”)

GM grandmother

H husband (sometimes, H1 and/or H2 etc., sometimes formerly known as“BF”)

HEW health, education, and welfare

HH-MLA head of household, married living apart

I&E Income and Expense Declaration (sometimes “IED” or “FL-150”)

ICE Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ice”)

ICWA Indian Child Welfare Act (“ick’ wə”)

INS Immigration and Naturalization Service

IRA individual retirement account (“eye’ rə”)

IRC Internal Revenue Code

IRMO in re-marriage of (“er’ mo¯ ”)

IRS Internal Revenue Service

JT joint tenancy

K thousand (typical usage: “This house has $35K of equity in it.”)

LIFO last in, fi rst out (“ly’ fo¯ ”; see also FIFO, above)

LLC limited-liability company

LTA living together (or long term) arrangement

M million

M marriage

M mother

Mmmm This cake tastes good. Whose birthday is it?

MFJ married filing jointly

MFS married filing separately

MOD modification (“mahd”)

MSA Marital Settlement Agreement

MSC mandatory settlement conference

MSOL marital standard of living

NCP non-custodial parent

Nonpub non-published

NP natural parent

OT overtime

OPM Office of Personnel Management (federal)

OSC order to show cause

P&A Points and Authorities (sometimes “peez ‘n ayz”)

PAS parental alienation syndrome

PAS preliminary alcohol screening (“pahz”)

PC penal code

PDD preliminary declaration of disclosure

PERS Public Employee Retirement System (“purz”, sometimes “Cal-PERS”)

PI personal injury

PI private investigator

PKPA Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act

POPS Parental Opportunity Program statement (or declaration; usually: “pahps dek”)

Prenup prenuptial

Psych psychological (“syke testing” or “do we need a psych?” or “you need a psych!”)

QCP quasi-community property

QDRO qualified domestic relations order (“kwa’ dro¯ ”)

QJSA qualified joint survivor annuity

QMCSO qualified medical child support order (“kwam’ sko¯ ”)

QPSA qualified pre-retirement survivor annuity (“kwip’ sə”)

QRI qualified residence interest

Quit Can we quit this quazy stuff and go get a beer?

RDP registered domestic partner

REA Retirement Equity Act (“ri’ ə”)

Recomp recomputation (“ree cahmp”)

Refi refinance (“ree fy”)

RFA request for admissions

RFO request for order

RO restraining order

RURESA Revised Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (“rər ee’ sə”)

S & L savings and loan

S & M (Don’t ask)

SB Senate bill

SC status conference

SCRA Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act

S/E self-employed (compare “1099 earner” and “W-2 employee”)

SH shareholders

SL or SOL statute of limitations

SIDS sudden infant death syndrome (“sids”)

SLAPP strategic lawsuits against public participation (“slap,” sometimes “antislap”)

SLC sole legal custody

SM subject matter jurisdiction

SOD statement of decision

SP separate property

SPC sole physical custody

SS spousal support

SSI supplemental security income

Stip stipulation

STRS State Teachers Retirement System (“stərz”)

T trustee (sometimes “’tee”)

TCT trial court

TS time-share (either child time-sharing between parents, or a condo in Hawaii)

TANF Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (“tan’ əf”)

TILA or TLA Truth in Lending Act (“tee’ lə”)

TIN taxpayer identification number

TMC trial management conference

TPR termination of parental rights

TRDP termination of registered domestic partnership

TRO temporary restraining order

TSC trial setting conference

TSOD tentative statement of decision

UCCJA Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act

UCCJEA Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act

UFTA Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act

UIEDVPOA Uniform Interstate Enforcement of Domestic Violence Protection Orders Act

UIFSA Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (“ew if’ sa”)

Unpub unpublished (or “ən pub’d”)

UPA Uniform Parentage Act

UPAA Uniform Premarital Agreement Act

URESA Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (“ər ee’ sə”)

USC United States Code (distinguished from “fight on, fight on, for USC!”)

USCA United States Code, Annotated

USSCT United States Supreme Court (sometimes “SCOTUS” or “sko¯ ’ təs”)

VAWA Violence Against Women Act (“va’ wə”)

VTC vocational training counselor

W wife (sometimes, W1 and/or W2 etc., sometimes formerly known as “GF”)

W-2 IRS form W-2 Wage and Tax Statement (tax records for “W-2 employees”)

W&I Welfare and Institutions (Code, sometimes “WIC”)

WD withdrawal

WCAB Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board

WHA withholding allowance

WIP work in progress

1. Verner v. Verner (1978) 77 Cal.App.3d 718 [143 Cal.Rptr. 826]

2. In re Marriage of Gillmore (1981) 29 Cal.3d 418 [174 Cal.Rptr. 493; 629 P.2d 1]

3. Marvin v. Marvin (1976) 18 Cal.3d 660 [134 Cal.Rptr. 815; 557 P.2d 106]

4. In re Marriage of Gavron (1988) 203 Cal.App.3d 705 [250 Cal.Rptr. 148]

5. In re Marriage of Zlatnik (1988) 197 Cal.App.3d 1284 [243 Cal.Rptr. 454]

6. In re Marriage of Vomacka (1984) 36 Cal.3d 459, 204 Cal.Rptr. 568, 683 P.2d 248

 

Please note: A few of these entries are unique to California, e.g. CASIT – California State Income Tax (or “ka’ sit”). However, most are heard throughout the United States. Also, lawyers and judges in other states have used analogous acronization techniques, e.g., Massachusetts State Income Tax is known as “MASIT” (“ma’ sit”).

 

The Hon. Michael Mattice has been a California Superior Court judge since 2003, and has had supervising family law, all-purpose felony, all-purpose civil, and appellate division assignments.