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.

 

 

7 ways to differentiate yourself as a job candidate

young-woman-on-laptop_carbonnyc

Photo by CarbonNYC

According to industry projections, in less than five years the demand for court reporting will exceed supply, resulting in more than 5,000 open positions. However, you cannot assume that simply having a court reporting degree will get you hired. Naturally, the most important piece to getting hired is to hone your craft, and you can only do so through practice, but this alone is not enough, as everyone else looking for court reporting and captioning positions will have the same skill sets.

Whether you are a student or a seasoned professional looking for a new opportunity, these seven principles will help you secure that next job.

Networking

Everyone you meet is part of your network and could end up being instrumental in helping you build a successful career, and you should treat them accordingly. Always be courteous and professional in your interactions. This includes instructors and classmates in school, people you meet at your state association and NCRA events, and people you meet at your internships.

Cathy Carpenter, a freelance reporter from Seminole, Fla., and the 2016 recipient of NCRF’s New Professional Reporter Grant, agrees that networking is a must.

“I can’t stress enough how important it is to network with as many reporters as you can,” Carpenter says. “The knowledge and support I get from others in our field is invaluable. There are a lot of firms out there. Speak with multiple reporters who work for different firms to get information on policies and procedures and then find the best fit for you.”

Get involved

Getting involved with an organization such as NCRA or your state association provides an opportunity to network and show other reporters and future employers how passionate you are about the profession.

“I met one of the owners of the firm I work with through our state association while I was a student, and after my initial phone call, another reporter that was in the office at the time remembered me from past conventions,” says Carpenter. “Court reporters love to help students, and they remember the ones that attend meetings and conventions and ask questions.”

Make the most of your membership by attending events and joining a committee. As a student, you can earn a free membership to NCRA through NCRF’s Oral Histories Program by transcribing two interviews, and it doubles as great practice to hone your craft.

Find a mentor

“I was very fortunate to grow up with a family-owned court reporting business,” says Angela Baker, RPR, president of Depo International. “When I was 12, I began frequenting the Depo International office after school and in the summers. I thought it was super fun to work in the production department with all of the fancy copy machines and stamps and assortment of pens and Post-Its galore. My mom – court reporter extraordinaire [Patricia Carl] – still brings up the time my bestie tagged along with me to the office, and we made up our own business cards for Angela Carl & Associates. That’s really where it all started.”

Even without a familial connection, you can find a mentor. Find a court reporter or captioner whom you admire, and ask them if they’d be willing to meet for coffee or schedule a phone call to discuss the profession. The term mentor often sounds more official than it needs to be. It can be a casual relationship between an established professional and an aspiring one, built through an initial conversation soliciting advice. You might even already have a mentor without realizing it.

Once you have a meeting set up, prepare a few initial questions (e.g. How did you get into court reporting? What advice would you give a student like me who aspires to own my own firm?). Then let the conversation flow from there. The last question you ask should always be “May I stay in touch with you?” With their permission, you can continue to reach out periodically to ask a question, share an exciting update, or schedule another coffee or lunch. You should follow up after the initial meeting with a thank-you though since they are a busy professional who took time away from work to help you. This can be an email, but a handwritten thank-you note will set you apart. After a few interactions, you’ll have built a relationship, and when you’re job hunting, you can ask this person if they have any advice on where to look.

“My first jobs out of school were facilitated through my mentors,” Carpenter says. “They put me in touch with firm owners or were firm owners themselves.” Carpenter’s mentors vouched for her work ethic and professionalism to help get her started.

You can also find mentors through NCRA’s Virtual Mentor Program, and many state associations have their own mentoring programs as well.

Treat your internships like a job

Some students treat their internship as yet another requirement for graduation. Successful students, however, will treat it as a semester-long job interview and will soak up as much knowledge and experience as possible.

“[Students] have a great deal to learn to become a seasoned reporter or captioner,” said Audrey Greco, vice president of business development for Karasch & Associates. “During their internship, they have experienced all of the various types of jobs, i.e. video depositions, depositions, arbitrations, hearings, classes, events, remote, on-site, etc. whether it be in captioning or litigation in order to build confidence.”

Your internship supervisors will be your references for jobs and may even hire you themselves if they are able.

Résumé

All your involvement and internships will mean nothing if your résumé isn’t perfect. Remember that you are entering a profession where accuracy is required, and your résumé is no exception.

“Spell-check your résumé! So many times we see spelling or grammatical errors, and, unfortunately, those candidates do not get an interview,” Baker says.

Firms often have different preferences for résumés and cover letters. When approaching a firm about a job (either to be an employee or as a freelancer), it’s helpful to use your network to find someone at the firm to ask what they are looking for specifically. For instance, Baker is looking for something that stands out: “In order to set yourself apart with a résumé in our age of technology, a video résumé would be outstanding. At a minimum, put a professional photo of yourself on the cover letter. This will add a personal touch, make you relevant and different, and show your enthusiasm for working in this very rewarding and interesting profession.”

Certifications

Add some letters after your name to further differentiate yourself. Certifications showcase your dedication to the profession and commitment to improving yourself to be the best reporter possible.

For some, certifications will be a requirement for getting hired, “as clients are requesting certified providers more and more,” Greco notes. Certifications can set clients’ minds at ease knowing that they have hired a qualified reporter. Greco also suggests becoming a notary.

Ultimately, as more reporters add certifications to their names, you must do the same or get left behind.

Intangibles

There are always little things that you can’t put on your résumé, but you can do to set yourself apart from others.

“We are most interested in hiring team players who are accountable, professional, reliable, and willing to go the extra mile to meet the standard of service that we are known for,” says Baker. “Service to our clients is of the utmost importance, and we always strive to go above and beyond the standard. Basically, we seek out individuals who love their profession.”

“Be punctual, be present, communicate, never be afraid to ask a question, and always strive for excellence,” Baker adds. “Keep up on technology. You will be working with the most brilliant, educated pool of clients — trial lawyers — and being kind and respectful, in addition to seeking to always perform at 100 percent, will set you apart.”

This is where networking and internships are really important as these people can vouch for your professionalism, punctuality, reliability, and the standard of your work.

By following each of these recommendations, you should be well on your way to securing that first job out of school. For additional help, look for articles on each of these individual principles in future editions of the JCR.

April Weiner is the Foundation Manager for the National Court Reporters Foundation. She can be reached at aweiner@ncra.org.

Looking for a job? Visit NCRA’s online classifieds to see what’s currently available.

What is NCRF’s Corrinne Clark Professionalism Institute?

In 2015, the National Court Reporters Foundation established the Corrinne Clark Professionalism Institute, which is dedicated to aiding the education of court reporting students and new professionals about professionalism, branding, and building a successful career. Named for the late Corrinne Clark — wife of the late Robert H. Clark, NCRA’s longest tenured librarian-historian — the Institute was made possible by a generous donation contributed by Donna Hamer, Santa Paula, Calif., Robert’s cousin.

Five steps to build a million-dollar court reporting business

By Cassandra Caldarella

Some reporters go their entire lives without earning a million dollars, so it sounds crazy that some court reporters might be able to achieve this milestone in a few short years. But it is possible. Plenty of court reporters have achieved this goal, and you can too!

Pay attention to the following tips and use them to help ramp up your revenue growth:

  1. Find a growing market

five-ways_1One of the simplest ways to build a million-dollar court reporting business in such a short period of time is to find a growing trend and ride it to the top. Take me for example. As a former official for Los Angeles Superior Court, I saw the privatization of the reporters in civil courtrooms and getting laid off from the County as an opportunity. I went from a salaried position making $97,000 a year with the county to making more than $200,000/year. I took my lemons and made a whole bunch of lemonade. Certainly, part of my success comes from turning out a great product and service, but it also comes from timing. When I was laid off in July 2012, a $75+ million-dollar market for civil reporters in L.A. opened up and more than 12,000 attorneys in the Los Angeles market were scampering for coverage of their motions and trials. Along with many colleagues, I experienced a 125 percent annual revenue growth that first year and ever since. Finding a growing market of your own like this can put you on the fast track to massive revenue growth.

  1. Think monetization from the start

It seems strange to think about monetization objectively, but some court reporters operate without any obvious monetization strategies. Twitter is one example of this phenomenon, but countless other companies out there are building up their free user bases, hoping that inspiration – and, consequently, financial stability – will strike along the way.

five-ways_2Most profitable companies operate from one of two models: either they sell a lot of inexpensive products to a lot of people or they sell a few big-ticket items to a more limited buyer list. Neither model is easier or inherently better than the other. What’s more important than choosing is having a defined plan for monetization. Knowing what the plan is to make money from the start will prevent wasted time spent hoping that something profitable will come together.

For court reporters, we have some limitations: what we can charge may be limited; we can’t give away our services for free; and we can’t participate in gift giving more than a certain amount each year. To work as a pro tem in court, most of the page rates are set by the Court Reporters Board in California. One of the free user bases court reporters can set up for themselves is a vast network of referrals. So when an attorney calls requesting your services, and you are already booked, you can tell him that you have a friend who just became available. And the same goes with agencies who call you for work.  It can be a mutually beneficial situation. Or, if you prefer, you can offer to cover the job for the attorney, find a reporter that you network with, and take a cut. Do whatever works best in your situation.

  1. Be the best

five-ways_3There are plenty of mediocre court reporters out there, but the odds are good that these reporters aren’t making a quarter of a million dollars a year. If you want to hit these big potential revenues, you’ve got to bring something to the table that wows customers and generates buzz within your marketplace.

How can you tell if you’ve got a “best in breed” service? Look to your current customers. If you aren’t getting repeat business from attorneys and agencies and getting rave reviews or positive comments sent to your inbox, chances are your clients aren’t as ecstatic about your service as they need to be to hit your target sales. Asking your existing customers what you can do to make your service better and then put their recommendations into place. They’ll appreciate your efforts and will go on to refer further jobs to you in the future.

Improve your skill level. Focus on getting your realtime certification and then offering realtime on every job. Get as many certifications as possible. Be a member of your national and state associations. Join the state bar associations and trial lawyers associations.

Beyond our skill level is making an emotional connection with your clients. We reporters have very little time to communicate with attorneys while we’re working. The entrances and exits are sometimes all the time we have with them. Make it count. Make eye contact. Smile. You’ll be surprised what an impact a simple smile can have.

 

  1. Hire all-stars

Hitting the $200,000 in revenue per year is no small feat. You aren’t going to achieve this goal alone and you certainly aren’t going to get there with a team of underperformers. Yes, hiring less expensive scopists and proofreaders (or none at all) will be cheaper and easier, but you’ll pay for this convenience when your end-of-the-year sales numbers come up short.

five-ways_4Instead, you need to hire all-stars, and the fastest way to do this is to ask around for referrals. The really good ones will be busy and will turn you down at first. You need to use your referrals to let them know that you know someone they work with and can be trusted. Get them on board with incentives such as higher than usual rates. This will not only get them in the door, it will ensure that you have them on your team when that daily trial starts tomorrow. They will make you a priority. And treat them like gold by remembering their birthdays, sending holidays cards, gifts, and bonuses, and just by having open and direct communication with them. If you have the time to “interview” scopists and proofreaders by starting them out with small jobs to test the waters, and you find one that has potential, this could be your opportunity to turn them into exactly what you need and want by gentle coaching and instruction and slowly giving them more and more to do for you. The training you put into them will be rewarded with loyalty. You need to be absolutely certain that you can go after those all-day, realtime, same-day expedite jobs because you can rely on your team to be there when you need them. You need to be able to get those jobs day after day after day without missing a deadline. One missed deadline could be the end of a relationship with an agency or an attorney. When every penny counts towards reaching your million-dollar goals, you’ll find your team of subcontractors to be worth their weight in gold.

  1. five-ways_5Consume data

Finally, if you want to shoot for the revenue moon, you need to be absolutely militant about gathering data and acting on it. If you want to make $250,000 a year, then do the math. There are 2,080 working hours per year, which is $120.17/hour. There are 12 months per year, which would be $20,833 per month. And there are about 20 working days each month, which would be $1,041.66 per day, 240 days per year. As the ebb and flow of reporting goes, so go our predictable numbers, so we must constantly take measure of where we are.

I keep an Excel spreadsheet with my running monthly totals of jobs invoiced and money received ,and I put that on a side-by-side comparison of the last year’s numbers. I always know where I stand each month. If my job cancels today and I’ve only made the $300 per diem appearance fee, and I know I still have to get to my $1,041.66 goal for the day, then I text message all my agencies to let them know I’m available. I try to double- and triple-book myself, so I’ve got 3-6 motions in one day or a trial with dailies and realtime. I don’t stop until I’ve hit my goal. But then there are days where I get 5 copies and realtime and roughs, and it makes up for those days where everything falls apart. But I never stop trying to hit my daily goal. Always check your statistics to see how your day impacted your revenue. Add up your per diems and make a note of how many pages and calculate how much you earned at the end of each job. It may not be too late to pick up another one before you head home. Check your phone frequently for text messages and emails from agencies. Keep track of your key performance indicators (KPI’s) and push your metrics even higher every day. Keep a score card for yourself. Always keep your numbers in mind and know where you measure up each day.

I’m constantly picking up new agencies and making cold calls to agencies I hear other reporters talking about. I send them a resume and list of references, but I tell them what I want. I send my rate sheet, work preferences, geographical areas, and tell them about my experience. I try them out. I always invoice agencies and don’t rely on their worksheet. I know down to the penny what I earned on each job. I always negotiate rates with new and old agencies, with each job. I know what the going rates are by constantly doing market research, talking to other reporters, networking. You have a veritable gold mine of information just hanging out in the various Facebook groups, so put it to good use.

Growing your freelance court reporting business to million dollar revenues isn’t easy, but it is possible. Stick to the tips above – even if you don’t hit this particular goal, you’ll earn the strongest sales results possible for your unique business.

Cassandra Caldarella is a freelancer and agency owner from Santa Ana, Calif. She can be reached at cassarella11@hotmail.com.

Videography and court reporting

While much of the focus of court reporters is on capturing the spoken word through writing, there is another NCRA certified group that strongly complements the work of stenographers – certified legal videographers. As the name suggests, they focus on capturing proceedings through video. What better partnership could there be to provide the complete record.

What

The court reporting profession is very important to the legal process because it creates an exact record of what happened and what was said. Transcripts from a deposition or trial serve as a permanent record of the proceedings. With the need for an accurate and complete record, a legal videographer is sometimes included to capture the event. The use of video adds the opportunity to record facial expressions, long pauses, and nuances of personality and character that cannot be captured in writing.

The use of video in the legal environment is growing. Legal videographers can freelance or work directly for a court reporting firm. They can record depositions, the signing of legal documentation such as wills or real estate transfers, and courtroom cases. Occasionally evidence that has not been introduced as an exhibit might need to be captured, for example, the state of immovable property. Opportunities are unlimited, and job growth is predicted to be above average through 2024.

Who

Legal videographers come from any number of backgrounds, but typically they have an appreciation of technology and are comfortable using video equipment and software. They might be new to the field, perhaps career changers, or experienced videographers comfortable capturing a wedding or producing a documentary. While the skills employed will differ, the ability to use a professional camera, an understanding of the importance of capturing the event first time, and an interest in maintaining their skills is paramount.

Why

Attorneys, judges, and litigants will use details from the transcripts, so it is of absolute importance that the visual record is accurate. While tertiary education is always attractive to employers, being hired requires technical proficiency and an understanding of what is required, as well as the ability to interact professionally. Because of the importance of quality work, in most cases, certification is required to secure employment. Being certified proves that you have the knowledge and skills to produce a quality record. Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS) is the main certification used for this type of work. There are three steps to becoming certified, and they are shown below.

The three steps to certification

The first step requires attendance at a three-day seminar that is offered twice a year – in either spring or fall at the National Court Reporters Association headquarters in Reston, Va., and in summer at the annual NCRA Convention & Expo. The next opportunity will be March 2017.

The seminar provides detailed training and hands-on demonstrations, as well as a textbook to help you prepare for the written exam. The first day is an introduction to the profession, discussing the use of video in a deposition, and reviewing the different kinds of equipment used. The second day focuses on the CLVS Code of Ethics, the CLVS Standards for Video Depositions,  and the applicable Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The final day provides time for a hands-on workshop, either at an introductory level or at a more advanced level.

The second and third steps are the written test and production exam. Many chose to do the written test first to be sure they have covered all the basics. Written tests must be taken at Pearson Vue testing centers during one of four testing periods (January, April, July, and October) annually. The test includes 100 multiple-choice questions and at least 70 of them must be correctly answered in order to pass. The areas being tested cover video recording production, legal and judicial procedures, post production, office procedures, operating practices and professional development, and ethics.

The production exam is a staged deposition in order to test your ability to take a deposition. You are allowed 30 minutes in the room. Candidates can take some time to become familiar with the equipment that has been provided and then must document a brief mock deposition. The candidates are graded on their ability to provide a quality videotape of the deposition proceedings. Registration for the production exam in November 2016 is open through October 28.

Explore the world of CLVS on the CLVS Community page.

For more information about the CLVS certification program: Visit the NCRA Web page: Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS).

Natalie Dippenaar is NCRA’s  Professional Development Program Manager. She can be reached at ndippenaar@ncra.org.

 

 

TRAIN realtime roadblocks: Realtime technology and startup costs

For some reporters, the startup costs of realtime can be worrisome. But starting up doesn’t have to cost a lot, say those who are already realtiming. Start with what you have, they suggest, and add on as money becomes available.

It’s not necessary to run out and buy two new iPads when you decide you want to start providing your realtime feed to others. Everyone has an old computer with Windows on it. And just like that, you, too, have a computer you can use to sell your realtime feed. There is a huge benefit to using your own equipment (although it does cost more money). I find it easier just to have my own iPads at the ready. They are all set up to my specific realtime configuration (WiFi using a LAN). All I have to do is press “connect,” and I’m ready to go! Fewer things to worry about and more time to focus on perfecting my realtime feed.

Lisa Knight, RDR, CRR

Realtime Systems Administrator

TRAIN Subcommittee co-chair

Littleton, Colo.

 

We hear it all the time: Realtime is expensive. Sure it can be, but it doesn’t have to be! When getting started, do your homework and don’t go out and buy whatever you read is popular on Facebook. Start with an old/unused computer or tablet you have laying around the house, and check out the Realtime resource guide for a list of free realtime-viewing software you can use. Before you know it, you have a free realtime set up! Once you’re ready for more bells and whistles, start building your realtime collection slowly. After your first realtime job, you will have an idea of what baseline equipment you need, and then you can start building and personalizing it from there. Will you need a router, or do you want to use StenoCast or stream it through the cloud? Do you want to use a free version of a realtime viewing software or purchase a license or lease? How many viewing devices will you need? These questions can be answered on a budget, so start with small and free, and work your way to investing wisely. Getting started is the key ingredient to shopping on a budget.

– Merilee Johnson, RMR, CRR, CRC

Realtime Systems Administrator

TRAIN Subcommittee co-chair

Eden Prairie, Minn.

 

There is a reason realtime is expensive. We provide a skill that very few have. Our steno machines are expensive, our amazing software is expensive, and tablet s expensive. However, old equipment works just as well as new equipment. It doesn’t take much to start your realtime journey if you have an idea of where to begin. You don’t need the top-of-the-line equipment when you start. All you need is a laptop, a steno machine, a router or WiFi capability, realtime software, and either another laptop or tablet for streaming the realtime. You can find first-generation iPads that are cheaper, and you don’t need to start off with a Luminex. After working hard and getting thrown right into the water, I am now so confident doing realtime that I went out and bought five iPad minis of my own. Once you start, you won’t be able to stop. The momentum is a wonderful thing that will bring you exponential growth if you harness your skill the right way.

It is very important to know what you are investing in and shop around and get as much information as you can before making any purchases. Make sure the keyboard on the laptop makes editing easy for you. I once had to return a laptop because the page up, page down, home, and end keys were shared with the left, right, up, and down arrow keys, and I just could not edit like that. Overall, I think the startup costs are worth it, and if you implement training and teach yourself not to be afraid, you are bound to succeed and exceed your expectations.

– Sharon Lengel, RPR, CRR

TRAIN Subcommittee member

Woodmere, N.Y.

 

First, go with the attitude that you are going to do what it takes to make your investment back. Have a plan to market yourself to your firm, your clients, and other firms.

If you’re on a shoestring budget, work with your CAT vendor to see their options and costs. Again, talk to other realtime reporters to find out their solutions and costs, with the plethora of realtime options out there. There are Internet-streaming methods that are available for providing realtime where you may not even need tablets or throwdowns.

In addition to talking to other reporters, attend seminars. Join Facebook groups — like the TRAIN group — or other listservs, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. So what if you sound like a newbie? Everyone was a newbie. That’s why you’re asking: to gain from their experience.

But keep in mind as you cost-cut your way into the beginning of realtime that success means that you’ll ultimately have to spend what it takes to achieve mastery of the best options available for your realtime clients.

Jason Meadors, RPR, CRR, CRC

TRAIN Subcommittee member

Fort Collins, Colo.

 

 

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

Photo by John Lynch

Photo by John Lynch

By Kevin Nourse

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

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

What is mentoring?

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

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

Who needs a mentor?

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

Career changers considering a career as a court reporter

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

Students who are training to become a court reporter

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

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

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

Recent graduates of court reporter training programs

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

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

Getting ready to be mentored

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

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

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

Finding a mentor

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

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

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

Interacting with your mentor

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

Establish an explicit contract at the beginning of a mentoring relationship

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

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

Follow through on your commitments

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

Communicate regularly

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

Revisit the relationship if your goals change

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

Look out for your mentor’s needs

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

Consider mentoring others

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

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

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

STUDENT REPORTING: Scoping through school and beyond

By Gretchen House and Roanna L. Ossege

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

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.

New Professionals: Tips from the pros

By Annemarie Roketenetz

It’s not uncommon for new professionals in any field to face anxieties when starting out in their chosen career. This is especially true for those entering the court reporting and captioning professions, whether it’s a new internship or a new job.

But take heed, newbies. According to the pros, the three major concerns when starting a new position typically involve first impressions, working with others, and making a lasting, positive impression. And there are numerous ways to deal each of them.

According to Kevin Hunt, a freelance reporter and owner of Jack W. Hunt & Associates in Buffalo, N.Y., a first impression can make the difference between landing a job or being shown the door, regardless of how well someone writes. “When a reporter goes to a job, they’re representing the reporting firm as a whole, and if their clothes are inappropriate or they are not well-groomed, that’s probably not the image the firm wishes to present. That goes for not just the visual impression, but the auditory and olfactory impressions as well.”

NCRF Chair Jan Ballman, RMR, CMRS, owner of Paradigm Reporting & Captioning in Minneapolis, Minn., agrees that first impressions are instant. “Whether it’s fair or unfair, we are judged based on how we appear and whether we have our act together. You should be mistaken for counsel, not the witness,” she said. “If you come screeching through the conference room door for a deposition stressed out, in a huff, in a sweat, or otherwise agitated — whether because of traffic, or your GPS sent you on a wild goose chase, or your infant spit up on your shoulder just as you were leaving, or you had to turn back for your power cords — be assured of two things: First, counsel won’t care why you’re late; and, you’ve just started the day in a deficit when it comes to making a good impression.”

Ballman also stresses that the best and easiest way to create a good first impression is to look great, not average and not just good. “Look like you made an effort and that you belong in a room filled with highly educated professionals,” she advises.

In addition to looking professional, acting professional is also important in making a first positive impression. “I feel the most important part of making a good impression is arriving early, being friendly, having a good attitude, and being organized,” says Shelly Hunter, RPR, CRR, owner of Hunter & Geist, Denver, Colo. “As we all know, depositions are often stressful environments. Having someone in the room that is neutral to all parties and that can remain friendly in the midst of chaos can be a game changer. If a deposition is not going so well for a client, the last thing they want is a court reporter with a bad attitude.”

Don’t let your good impression down once you have established it. According to the pros, be sure to take the time to know the firm you plan to work with and understand its culture both in terms of employment and services offered.

In addition, be sure the work you produce is of high quality in terms of accuracy, readability, and usability. Hunt advises having a conversation with the transcript when proofreading. “The ultimate consumer of your service will not know how beautifully you wrote when they were speaking at 300 words per minute, they won’t know how skillfully you navigated the software used to translate, edit, and print the transcript; they will only make a determination of your skill as a reporter through the final presentation of the transcript. What are the attorneys and witness trying to verbally describe? If you don’t understand something, ask. In brief, if you want to know how your clients will judge you, remember this phrase: ‘It’s the transcript, dummy!’”

To help ensure an accurate transcript, new reporters should also not be afraid to interrupt the person who is speaking if they cannot understand what is being said. “I stress to my reporters that you must interrupt and you cannot rely on your audio sync,” says Hunter. “I stress that it is the reporter’s job to interrupt and get a good record.”

Ballman agrees. “As with anything else in life, it’s all about phraseology, phraseology, phraseology. If you can’t hear, you have no choice but to interrupt. It’s all about how you interrupt,” she says. “Think about how you would like to be interrupted if you were deep in thought and delivering a very important point in front of an audience, then practice doing that so it comes naturally when you have to interrupt attorneys in mid-sentence or mid-thought.”

According to the pros, maintaining lasting good impressions also takes work, and new reporters should make it a habit to keep positive attitudes both on and off the job, be helpful to others, and learn to be unflappable in the face of all things in the world of court reporting. “It’s not just a matter of doing a great job once and then being recognized for it; it’s a matter of doing an impeccable job consistently, over and over and over again,” says Ballman. “That’s how you set yourself apart.”

Hunter also advises that new reporters make it a habit to arrive early at jobs to ensure enough time to address any issues that might arise. “You may have forgotten something in your car. You may have trouble with your equipment. You may have gone to the wrong location. Being early allows you extra time to deal with situations that happen to all of us. You have extra time to add entries to your dictionary from the notice or the caption. Arriving early also allows you time to get acquainted with counsels who might have arrived early, as well. And most importantly, as a new reporter, arriving early will give you time to calm your nerves. There is a confidence attorneys have when they know the court reporter is set up ready to go and it is still 20 or 25 minutes before the deposition is to begin,” she says.

“New situations constantly arise, and as a professional court reporter, it is necessary for each of us to be aware of the guidelines that NCRA provides to assist us in acting ethically and professionally,” Friend continues. “While these guidelines from the Committee on Professional Ethics cannot envision every possible situation, they give a framework for all reporters – whether new or seasoned – on how to act appropriately, professionally, and without favoritism to any party in a case,” Friend advises.New professionals also need to ready for any situation that might arise and remain calm. One way is to be prepared, says Doug Friend, RDR, CRR, with Beouvich, Walter & Friend, Portland, Ore.: “Working as a new reporter can be stressful! Here you are on a deposition or in court, and there is no one to hold your hand, so it’s important to be prepared.

NCRA’s Code of Professional Ethics can be found at NCRA.org/CodeofProfessionalEthics.

Annemarie Roketenetz is NCRA’s Assistant Director of Communications. She can be reached at pr@ncra.org.

 

Developed in coordination with the Corrinne Clark Professionalism Institute

The Corrinne Clark Professionalism Institute, NCRF’s newest initiative, officially launched at the 2015 NCRA Convention & Expo. It was developed to educate court reporting students and new professionals about professionalism, branding, and building a successful career. NCRF will be developing materials, such as seminars and articles, for dissemination for court reporting students and new professionals throughout their careers.

The Corrinne Clark Professionalism Institute was created to honor Clark’s lifelong passion for journalism and education, as well as her love of the court reporting profession. Corrinne Clark is the wife of Robert H. Clark, for whom the NCRF library is named.

Small businesses: SBA loans can be a viable option for business owners

Photo by: epSos .de

Photo by: epSos .de

Small business owners and entrepreneurs seeking financing to help start a business or expand one should consider the many resources the Small Business Administration offers, including loans that are often more flexible and tied to a lower interest rate than conventional loans.

The SBA recognizes companies with fewer than 500 employees as small businesses and attributes them with generating more than half of the nation’s nonfarm private gross domestic product. In addition, the administration notes that small businesses account for nearly half of all jobs in the private sector.

According to the NCRA, freelance court reporters and captioners comprise approximately 70 percent of its membership. In addition, hundreds of court reporting firms throughout the United States provide an array of services including court reporting, broadcast captioning, assistance to people who are deaf and hard-of-hearing, legal videography, business and corporate reporting, and more.

“When I was looking for a loan to buy a business, I knew that the typical standard loan was available, but I also knew I could get better interest rates and the potential for better terms if I used the SBA,” said NCRA member Cregg Seymour, president of CRC Salomon, Inc., a court reporting firm in Baltimore, Md.

Seymour said he interviewed three different banking representatives when searching for his loan and presented each one the terms and conditions he was looking for. He finally settled on working with an institution that has an internal SBA department.

“My pitch to the bank was that I wanted to establish a relationship because I want to do multiple deals over time. I was actually able to name my terms for the loan, something a lot of people don’t realize. Most people think terms need to be five, 10, or 15 years, but through the SBA you can construct them to have their own life,” Seymour said.

He advises those seeking SBA loans to find a banking institution that does a lot of SBA loans such as one that offers an in-house specialist. He also said borrowers should have patience because they might find more boxes to check to qualify since the SBA is a government-sponsored entity and tends to be more tenacious in regards to due diligence.

According to Melanie Samoska, a business banking relationship manager for a branch of SunTrust Bank in Baltimore, Md., the SBA loan process can be just as easy as qualifying for a conventional loan. She also noted that SBA loans can be a great option for business owners who might have had past bad credit issues since the program offers a lower credit score requirement for certain types of loans. However, she emphasizes, bad credit issues should not be the primary reason to apply for a SBA loan.

“There is a misconception that SBA loans take longer than conventional loans. An SBA non-real-estate loan can close within 60 days if all documentation has been presented in a timely manner. If the SBA loan involves real estate, the loan process from beginning to end will typically take on average 120 days,” Samoska said.

NCRA member Teresa Rider, RPR, CRR, president of Rider & Associates, Inc. in Vancouver, Wash., said that after speaking to several more traditional financial institutions and considering the state of the economy at the time and high interest rates on commercial property loans, she was pointed in the direction of SBA to secure a loan when she was looking to purchase a building.

“The paperwork seemed more tedious and extensive than purchasing residential property which I had gone through in the past. However, the SBA was willing to give me a second loan for improvements that were needed in the office building. This helped me tremendously,” Rider said.

Rider said she would recommend SBA loans to other small business owners but would caution them to understand all aspects of the loan first. While conventional loans require borrowers to have liquidity collateral to place against a loan, the SBA will accept the borrower’s house or even a life insurance policy.

“One of the issues that we encountered was that the lender put a lien on our personal residence. This became troublesome when we wanted to refinance our home,” said Rider.

“The company that held the SBA loan was not willing to lift the lien long enough for us to refinance. It also would have made it difficult to sell our home. In the end, we refinanced the SBA loan on the office instead,” she added.

Whether securing a loan from a conventional lender or SBA, borrowers should do their own due diligence and be sure to weigh the pros and cons of all terms of the loan, including what type of loan product fits their needs the best.

“I found the SBA pretty easy to work with. I have the experience of doing large loans so I went in with the proper expectations. Have your ducks in a row. It is relatively easy to obtain a loan through the SBA if you have good financials, good tax records, and profit and loss information in place to tell a good story,” Seymour said.

“This is a great time for folks to be seeking capital. Banks have private venture groups looking for ways to loan money to good people, and the SBA wants to work with good candidates,” he noted.

NCRF announces deadline for student scholarship and grant

National Court Reporters FoundationNominations are now being accepted by the National Court Reporters Foundation for the Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship and the New Professional Reporter Grant. The deadline for both the scholarship and grant is March 27.

The Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship of $2,000 has benefited court reporting students nearing graduation for nearly two decades. The New Professional Reporter Grant of $2,000 benefits a qualified new working reporter who has graduated from an NCRA-certified program within the past year. Both awards are based on nominations and recipients must meet a number of criteria.

NCRF’s Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship honors the late Frank Sarli, a court reporter who was committed to supporting students at the highest level of their learning curve. Sarli, who was studying to become a professional pianist, turned to a court reporting career when he could no longer afford the tuition to music school. During his career, he opened Accurate Court Reporters in Orlando, Fla., Orange County’s first independent court reporting firm, and was a founding member of the Florida Shorthand Reporters Association. Sarli also served in numerous roles at the national level, including as a director for NCRA. He was also the first Floridian to earn NCRA’s esteemed Distinguished Service Award.

Both the scholarship and the grant are supported by donations to the NCRF Angels Drive and other fundraising events. Recipients will be recognized at the 2015 NCRA Convention & Expo., being held in New York City, July 30 – Aug. 2.

To learn more about the Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship or the New Professional Reporter Grant, visit NCRA.org/Foundation.