Highlights and takeaways from the sessions at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo

Attendees at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo had the opportunity to attend an array of sessions and educational workshops designed to help them increase their professional experience and hone their skills. The summaries below highlight a few of these sessions.

Fast, faster, fastest

View from the back of a meeting room with rows of people facing a panel and a projector

Kelly Shainline, Jason Meadors, and Keith Lemons present “Fast, faster, fastest” to a full house

One of the first sessions to kick off the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo, “Fast, faster, fastest” with Kelly Shainline, RPR, CRR; Jason Meadors, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC; and Keith Lemons, FAPR, RPR, CRR, was packed with standing room only. The nuts-and-bolts realtime session went through step by step how to set up for good realtime. “My first page, I just consider it a sacrificial goat,” Meadors said to laughter, but the presenters emphasized the importance of good preparation as the key to strong realtime. For example, for legal work, the presenters said to get the appearance page ahead of time and use that to do some research. “Let’s say there’s a doctor,” said Lemons. “Look up online what kind of medicine they do — such as obstetrics and gynecology — and use that to build specific words in a dictionary.”

“I won’t be mean,” Meadors said, “but I will be firm to get what I need,” especially for CART or captioning work.

The presenters all said that they do prep the night before — although the length of time varied a bit based on how important the trial was, how many people would be seeing the realtime, and if there would be a rough draft, for example – but also emphasized the importance of arriving early to the job. Shainline said that while she often prepares brief forms the night before, after she sets up at the job, she does some practice with those briefs to help get them into muscle memory.

Gadgets and gizmos

Merilee Johnson, RDR, CRR, CRC, and Micheal Johnson, RDR, CRR, lead a session filled with dozens of specific gadgets, gizmos, and app recommendations to make life easier both on and off the job. For example, for the office, Merilee and Micheal shared:

  • a few types of charging stations, including the Satechi USB Charging Station, which charges up to six devices at a time, and the EZO power desktop, which Merilee says she’s brought on jobs as a value add to help attorneys plug in their devices;
  • second monitors, including the Duet Display app, which turns an iPad into a second screen (currently only for Apple products), and the Mimo, which is a small second monitor – both Micheal and Merilee said they’ve found it helpful to use a small second monitor to free up real estate on their laptop and move over, for example, BriefIt on a second screen; and
  • cable management gadgets, including the Baltic Sleeve, which is a Velcro sleeve that wraps around a bunch of cables, and the Safcord, which is also a Velcro solution that performs the same function as gaffer’s tape, except it’s reusable.

How to compete with some of the best

In a session that was part of the Student Learning Zone at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo, Chase Frazier, RMR, CRR, CRC; Tami Frazier, RMR, CRR; and Ron Cook, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, gave concrete tips to students on improving their writing while getting through school. The three presenters came from a variety of perspectives: a captioner, an official, and a freelancer.

Chase had strong realtime skills coming out of school, but he didn’t have his state CSR. Because of this, he went into captioning. Tami started as an official out of school because a job opened up at the right time. She said that while court work can be a little faster than depo work — and trials are more controlled — new professionals shouldn’t avoid going right into court after school. And Ron cited the freedom and money potential as perks to freelancing, but he admitted that one downside is the lack of benefits. (He is also a partner in a firm.)

Tami taught both of her sons (Chase and brother Clay Frazier) to write steno, and she did so paperless. She also emphasized perfection. When Chase was at 200 wpm, she saw that while he had the speed, he was writing sloppy and with no punctuation. She had him go back to 160 and work back up while also working on writing perfectly. Chase attributed this experience to his strength in realtime.

A woman speaks into a microphone. She is sitting amongst rows of people at a conference session.

An attendee shares her thoughts during a session at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo

“A lot of people don’t emphasize the mental part of practicing,” said Ron. “If you don’t think you’re going to get it, you won’t get it.” He provided a couple metaphors for practicing, including “slow things down” — meaning to slow things down mentally, stay relaxed, and go with the flow.

Tami recommended practicing about 10 percent faster than her goal speed (which was a technique that she used to get through school). “You always want to be pushing yourself,” she said. Pick tough dictation, she suggested — “and I’m a real believer in lit — it makes you write; there’s nothing easy about lit,” she said. She also suggested practicing a five-minute take at least ten or fifteen words per minute faster than the goal speed. But since she also emphasized aiming for perfection, repeating a take until writing it perfectly will clean up a reporter’s writing and also gives the reporter an opportunity to work in briefs and phrases. “The better writer you are, the easier the job,” she said.

Business of being a court reporter

Charisse Kitt, RMR, CRI; Jessica Waack, RDR, CRR; Mike Hensley, RPR; and Katherine Schilling, RPR, presented a mock deposition as part of the Student Learning Zone at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo. With Schilling playing the part of newbie reporter, the mock deposition went through a variety of typical situations that a new reporter may not have encountered before or covered in school. At each “freeze frame,” the panelists discussed how they would handle each situation. A few of the situations were:

Introducing yourself at the beginning of the deposition: Kitt said she makes a point of greeting all of the lawyers in the room with a firm handshake. Waack expanded on this by saying that she makes sure her ears are over her shoulders over her hips, so she’s standing with confidence and not hunched over.

Swearing in the witness: Waack suggested having a physical piece of paper with the oath to refer to. She also said to make sure to include “swear or affirm” in the wording, since some witnesses don’t want to swear, and to avoid the phrase “so help you God.” Hensley pointed out that reporters should always check with their state association or firm first to see if there’s a preset oath that the reporter should be using.

Using briefs for names, words, and phrases: For briefs, Hensley pointed out that they don’t have to make sense on paper as long as they make sense to you to write. Kitt said she likes to get to a job at least 30 minutes early so she can use the time to jot down some briefs. And Waack suggested using LinkedIn to find the proper spellings of witnesses, etc., although she added that this will likely lead to some odd friend requests. She also said that after she’s developed a brief for an acronym, if the speaker suddenly uses the full term, she simply writes the brief twice.

The witness is talking too fast: Kitt said, “Don’t ever depend on your audio,” stressing that it’s the reporter’s responsibility as the record-keeper to keep in control and stop any fast talkers to tell them to slow down. Waack says she likes to reset the speaker to the point where she lost the record by saying, “You were talking about [subject].” And Hensley favors using a visual hand signal – physically lifting his hands up off the machine to show the room that something is up with the reporter.

Hensley also emphasized throughout the session the importance of knowing your software.

Beyond English

Stanley Sakai, CRC, led a session that focused on captioning in other languages, especially Spanish. The discussion was guided partially by Sakai’s prepared presentation and partly by the audience’s questions.

Sakai has a working knowledge of eight different languages with varying levels of fluency, including Dutch, German, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish. Prompted by a question from the audience, he explained that one of the methods he uses to keep up with such a wide variety of languages is to have different devices set to different languages (for example, his tablet set in one language and his mobile phone in another). He also takes the opportunity to look up words he encounters on the fly and to read articles, etc., in a language other than English so he learns content and vocabulary at the same time.

The session description specifically highlighted Spanish, and the growing need for Spanish captioning came up in the discussion, both domestically and abroad. Sakai talked a little bit about the differences between baseline speeds in English and Spanish and how Spanish is at a slightly slower speed. He also discussed his methods for doing CART work in German and how steno systems work in Korean and in Japanese. Sakai had to adjust his steno theory in order to provide CART, which was for a German language class, and he even had to be prepared to jump between German and English. Similarly, in the discussion, he pointed out that the Korean and Japanese languages toggle between different writing systems based on the specific words, and reporters and captioners in those countries need to have keyboards that are set up to quickly switch between the writing systems at the speed of spoken language.

Read all the news from the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo.

Reporters on the red carpet: Writing the Oscars

2017 Oscars reporting and scoping team

2017 Oscars reporting and scoping team

By Megan Rogers

In 1996, Tera Walker was a former court reporting student working as a flight attendant for United Airlines. She’d just launched a reporting company called Steno Scripts and had sent a proposal “to every awards show,” she said. The Oscars contacted her because they didn’t understand what exactly she was proposing to do.

Walker grabbed a couple of court reporting students and drove to Beverly Hills to demonstrate. They wrote about seven to ten minutes of The Usual Suspects with Kevin Spacey, cleaned it up, and printed it out. Walker recounted with a laugh that the transcript was still pretty messy, but the folks at the Oscars didn’t read it — they were impressed with the quick turnaround.

At the time, individual journalists in the backstage pressroom would have tape recorders during the interviews. The result is easy to guess: The celebrities were often misquoted in the next day’s newspapers, and their publicists weren’t thrilled. Now, Walker and her team produce one verbatim transcript that gets distributed from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) to the media.

“We write the questions and answers between the International Press and the Oscar winners for AMPAS,” explained Erika Sjoquist, RPR, CRR, who typically works as a freelancer in Camarillo, Calif. “After our product is finished, AMPAS puts it up on its website, and members of the International Press are able to get copies of the interviews as well.”

Getting called to work the Oscars is a good example of “it’s who you know.” Both Sjoquist and Diane Rugh, RMR, CRR, a freelancer in Snohomish, Wash., got the job via Jeff Cobb. “He knew I had moved to California, but wasn’t sure where,” said Sjoquist. “Jeff was working with Tera Walker at that time, and the team needed a reporter to fill one of the spots.” He reached out to her asking how close she was to Hollywood.

Rugh had a similar story. “I worked for a freelance firm in Seattle, and one of the reporter owners, Cheryl Mangio, RMR, CRR, CMRS, knew I loved movies. She knew the Oscars team that Jeff Cobb worked for was looking for a reporter, so she suggested me,” she said, adding, “I knew I had been given a golden opportunity.” Rugh recommended Carla Wallat, RPR, CRR, a freelancer in Federal Way, Wash. “Diane suggested that I would be a good fit to work with the team,” said Wallat. “Ultimately, Tera Walker asked me to join.”

The team is a mixture of veterans and newbies, but after a couple decades, there’s a definite system. “After working the Awards for as many years as I have, the best part about it is being with the team,” said Sjoquist. “Our team is like family that I get excited about seeing and catching up with every year.” Team members travel from California, Washington, North Carolina, and Virginia. “We’ve turned Oscar Sunday into an Oscar weekend, usually beginning Friday evening, where we make sure we have time to visit, socialize, and have fun with some crazy activity before work on Sunday,” said Sjoquist.

The team is comprised of several reporters, scopists, notetakers, and a runner (usually a court reporting student), and they work with the AMPAS librarians. “The Academy librarians are incredibly knowledgeable about every category nominated, including past and future movies that the nominees have or are working on,” said Wallat. Wallat worked as a notetaker in 2009 and then as a scopist for the team. “The notetaker is tasked with jotting down notes, such as the order of the speakers when they enter the room, spellings that need to be researched. Everything is at such a quick pace that the reporter does not have much time before the next winner may enter the room,” said Wallat. The scopists “work closely with the Academy librarians and research staff to finalize the interviews.”

Wallat said: “In my everyday work, I use a scopist on a regular basis, and after scoping for the Oscars, it has made me realize how valuable my scopist is. It challenges me to write cleaner so it makes her job easier, which in turn produces a quicker turnaround time on the transcript.”

“The three reporters tag team, so I get every third interview that comes up,” explained Rugh, which means, of course, that the reporters have to be ready for anything. “There might be two, three, five, or more people who show up for the interview of, say, the winner of Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Costume Design, and Motion Picture, and you need to know by the time they walk up on the stage, usually about three seconds, who each of them are and get their designations down,” said Sjoquist. “The notetakers are very helpful in this regard. They match names to faces so that we can designate who is talking.”

Jennifer Smith, RMR, CRR, CRC, an official in Mukilteo, Wash., found some similarities between writing the Oscars and both her work in the courthouse and her previous experience in captioning. “This assignment was more similar to closed captioning in the sense that you can’t always see the questioner, only the Oscar winner who is answering the questions. In court, you see everyone who is speaking. Additionally, as in closed captioning, if you can’t hear something or don’t understand something, you cannot interrupt as you could in a courtroom. It’s similar to court in that it’s Q&A and verbatim.”

“The writers have one shot to get all that they can from the interview. It’s not like deposition or court work where you can interrupt the talent and say, ‘Excuse me. Will you please slow down?’ or ‘What was that? I didn’t catch that word.’ Oh, no. You’re hoping to be able to understand and write accents from all over the world: French, Japanese, Indian, Spanish, Australian, English, Arabic, and Farsi, just to name a few,” said Sjoquist. “The winners of the prestigious Oscars are excited. Can you blame them? And so, they often speak extremely fast. They’re expressing gratitude to many people, whose names you hope to find the spellings of because you certainly can’t ask them.”

Rugh also added that the Oscars are different because “at a deposition, I’m not usually starstruck by the deponent whose acting has moved me to tears or that they are so stunningly beautiful or handsome I can’t do anything but stare or have a stupid grin on my face!”

Preparation for an assignment like this begins with ensuring that equipment is in working order and gathering information. “We are required to have the latest update on our software,” said Sjoquist.

“I managed to watch more movies this year than ever before, although I only ended up seeing one of the Best Picture nominees! Other than that, I built a dictionary of all the movie titles, nominee names, and then spent a bit more time researching the foreign films,” said Smith. “The other reporters, Erika and Diana, helped me prep my dictionary for those the morning of. We sat in our hotel room and found out what we could. Lucky for me, Erika got to report the foreign film interview! Hands down, she had the hardest of the bunch.”

“Carol Stone, the head scopist, prepares a list of the nominees every year and makes sure any new team member has the right layouts. Having done this for 11 years, I finally realized I don’t need to put every single movie and nominee in my job dictionary because I will only end up using maybe 5 percent of it,” said Rugh. “I have usually seen most of the nominated Best Pictures, but some of the things that come up during the interviews, such as names and places and people that the winner has collaborated with over their career, is beyond any prep I could do. That’s where our talented and capable scopists come in, with the help of the AMPAS librarians.”

“The day prior to the Oscar broadcast, we meet with the Academy personnel to go over the layout of the room, make sure internet connections work, and confirm the reporters’ audio and page layouts,” said Wallat.

Sjoquist is also on the team that covers the awards for the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), also a Steno Scripts assignment, which turns into good preparation the month before the Oscars. “The team we have for SAG-AFTRA is much smaller than our Oscars team: three versus 12. To me, it’s not as stressful as working the Academy Awards,” said Sjoquist. “We write the acceptance speeches for SAG-AFTRA. Security is lighter there, too, so we can walk freely among the talent for the most part, and then SAG-AFTRA has a party at the venue for its employees that we go to after the show.”

Perhaps the most fun part of prep work? “Find a dress and shoes!” said Wallat.

“We have so much fun when we play together, but we all individually take very seriously the work portion, which lasts on Oscar Sunday from 4 p.m. to after midnight,” explained Rugh. “I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the three reporters are usually done writing the interviews around 10 p.m., but the scopists are still working for up to three to four hours after the live show has ended.”

“The winners may not arrive to the press room until well after the broadcast is over. This puts a lot of pressure on our team because the press is anxiously awaiting the transcripts,” said Wallat. “We have two hours after the broadcast is over to complete the transcripts.”

Despite the fast-talkers, the long hours, and the pressure to deliver, working the Oscars provides memorable moments unlike any other assignment.

“The writers and notetakers sit in the front row, about 3 feet from the stage where the winners are standing. We are so close to the winners that one year, one winner, Jared Leto, actually handed me his Oscar so that I would confirm how heavy Oscar really is,” said Sjoquist.

“We loved Jared Leto; he just stole our hearts. And it wasn’t just because he gave Erika the statute to hold,” remembered Rugh. “She was trying to write, by the way, and I was too enthralled to try and take over writing for her! He was just so magnetic. And those eyes!”

“My most challenging year was 2011 when The King’s Speech ruled the night with Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director. The interviewees had heavy accents, which made it take longer to finalize the transcripts,” said Wallat. “The year Sandra Bullock won for Best Actress, she looked stunning in her gorgeous form-fitting gold gown, but she said she wanted to relax and eat a burger.”

“My most memorable Oscar moment was reporting the interview of Viola Davis. First, from a reporting perspective, she was a dream to write,” said Smith. “I was so completely mesmerized by her grace and class that I literally forgot I was writing! There was a huge sense of relief when I looked at my realtime screen and realized I hadn’t stopped.”

“One year we all wore red dresses, and Meryl Streep, as she was walking offstage after her interview, said we all looked beautiful and reached out and took Tera’s hand,” said Rugh. “That was thrilling for all of us to even be acknowledged, but especially for Tera!”

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

STARTING OUT: Imagine that

By Katherine Schilling

I shuffle awkwardly in my black pumps as the floors tick by one at a time – ding, ding. The stainless steel elevator doors make a poor mirror as I try to sneak a peek at my reflection to adjust those pesky fly-aways that the wind’s kicked up. Propping my sunglasses on my head instead, I try to imagine that they serve as a perfectly good headband.

“Do you solemnly swear — swear or affirm to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God? No, no. Drop the whole God part.” I rehearse the line again and again in my head, imagining I’m delivering the affirmation while another part of my brain imagines unloading my equipment in the room: tripod, then machine, then laptop, then cables. Yup, cables definitely last.

When I walk up to the receptionist with my best “I totally know what I’m doing” smile, I imagine that I don’t have a run in my tights from grazing my roller case just minutes earlier. I imagine I’ve done this a million times before.

I’m pretty good at imagining. After all, it’s what I’ve done all through court reporting school. And now I’m finally here, about to take my first deposition.

Fake it until you make it. Visualization. Mind over matter. Call it what you want, but it’s one of the key reasons I got through school. Since before my first day of theory, I had a very specific image in my head of what I would look like after my school career: pencil skirt, black pumps, roller case in hand. There would be tall buildings, cool elevators, and beautiful cityscape views from the windows. I’d be poised and articulate, and I’d take down the record with ease. My writing would be clean; my schedule, full.

The Law of Attraction is the belief that focusing on positive or negative thoughts will bring about positive or negative experiences into your life. Visualizations power that Law of Attraction. Now, no one is saying that simply imagining something will magically make it come true. If you’re a student now or have been in the past, then you know that it takes practice, discipline, focus, and a whole lot of work to pass that final test.

However, maintaining a positive spirit by keeping one’s eyes fixed on the goal is what makes all that work worthwhile. The weeks, months, and even years spent in front of the machine practicing won’t do you a lick of good if you don’t eventually reach your goal; you won’t reach your goal without a positive attitude; you can’t maintain that positive attitude without visualizing your goal.

While there is no one answer to most students’ burning questions — How much should I practice? Should I shorten my writing or write everything out? What’s the fastest way to get through school? — the one constant among all successful graduates is that they had a goal and visualized it until it became a reality.

Demoralization is, above all, the greatest threat to one’s success in school. Visualizing yourself as the successful court reporter you want to be is that imaginary carrot on a stick to help you get through the tough times, something to remind yourself why you’re sitting in front of your machine for hours. It makes the days you dedicate to memorizing briefs and scrimping and saving for the state association conventions worth it. Without that shining light at the end of the tunnel, it is easy to grow to resent the grind of school days.

Painting a magnificent picture of your future can also have the added benefit of tricking yourself into success. In my later speeds when I hit plateaus, I would get frustrated, and then I would get imaginative. I pretended that I’d already passed that test and that the ten minutes of dictation were merely a warm-up. Sometimes it worked. Like imagining a plateful of delicious food to stave off my rumbling belly, that imagined confidence shrugged off nerves and left my apprehension at the classroom door so that I could tune out the negative self-talk and just write.

Now, nearly a year and a half after I left school, has all my visualizing paid off? Well, I got my pencil skirt and pumps, but they’ll sometimes show runs in my tights or get scuffed. On the job, I’m sometimes poised and articulate; other times, I forget my own name. Sometimes my schedule is full, and sometimes it’s emptied by a rash of “cancellitis.” But that doesn’t stop me from still imagining. I’m always making new goals and focusing on them, looking forward to what I can accomplish next.

Whatever your goals are, bring them to life with powerful visualizations. Get creative and don’t skimp on the details. The more vivid the image, the more potent it will be. These self-affirming visualizations will keep your head high when things get tough, they can help you relax during tests, and they will remind you what all your hard work is for.

And just imagine what will come next.

Katherine Schilling, RPR, is a freelancer based in Richmond, Va. She can be reached at katherineschillingcr@gmail.com.

 

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.

 

 

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.