How to determine if your activity is eligible for CEUs or PDCs

By Sandra Bryant

NCRA offers many courses in our e-seminar library and at the NCRA Convention & Expo and the NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference where our members can earn continuing education credit towards their certification requirements. We also provide approval for many events held by other organizations throughout the year, and we have pre-qualified many distance learning opportunities.

NCRA does not require members to use only NCRA events, approved events, or pre-qualified learning opportunities to fulfill their requirements. Individuals may take courses from other sources so long as these courses adhere to our continuing education rules. The rules list some courses, such as first aid and CPR classes, that qualify for credit but are not provided by NCRA or included among approved events or pre-qualified learning opportunities.

If a member wishes to take a course outside of NCRA events, approved events, or pre-qualified learning opportunities, the member should request a determination of eligibility before taking the course. The member should email the Continuing Education Coordinator the following information:

  1. The course title and description
  2. The duration of the course in hours
  3. The name and qualifications of the instructor
  4. How the proof of completion will be provided
  5. Which Section under Article III of the continuing education rules the course falls under (ex: Section 3.01 Language Skills, Literature, and Linguistics)

If the course is determined eligible for credit, the member will receive an email stating how much credit will be awarded for the course and a note will be made in the member’s record. The member will still be required to provide the required information upon completion and pay submission fees. If the course is determined ineligible for credit, NCRA will explain why the course is ineligible.

If the member is seeking approval for PDCs for an activity not specifically detailed in Article IV of the continuing education rules, the member should request determination of eligibility before participating in the activity. The member should email the Continuing Education Coordinator with the following information:

  1. The program or activity description
  2. The duration of the program/activity
  3. How the proof of participation will be provided
  4. Which Section under Article IV of the continuing education rules the program or activity falls under (ex: Section 4.01 Promoting the Profession to External Audiences)

If the program or activity is determined to be eligible for PDCs, the member will receive and email stating how much credit will be awarded for the program or activity and a note will be made in the member’s record. The member will still be required to provide the required documentation to submit for credit and pay submission fees. If the course is determined ineligible for credit, NCRA will explain why the course is ineligible.

If you have any questions, please contact the Continuing Education Coordinator.

Sandra Bryant is NCRA’s Credentialing Coordinator.

Hear from a veteran captioner why earning your CRC is important

The JCR Weekly reached out to NCRA member Carol Studenmund, RDR, CRR, CRC, Chair of NCRA’s Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC) Committee, a broadcast captioner from Portland, Ore., to talk about why captioners should consider earning the CRC.

Tell us a little about your background. How did you get involved in the captioning profession?

Our company, LNS Court Reporting is celebrating its 30th anniversary this month! We expanded into the captioning world back in 1992. It was a natural progression for our business. My first big gig was helping to caption a regional conference of Self-Help for Hard-of-Hearing People here in Portland, where I met NCRA member Deanna Baker, RMR, a broadcast captioner from Flagstaff, Ariz.

Who would you say would benefit most by earning the CRC in this profession?

Our company is seeing more and more contract opportunities that specifically ask for proof of our captioners having the CRC. We only schedule captioners with the CRC for court work we caption in our state. We work both on-site and remotely for our court system. All of that adds up to the fact that we need more captioners who have the CRC.

Do you see an increase in the demand for certified captioners in the near future and if so, why?

More and more contract opportunities will have this requirement. Our potential clients know there is a wide variety in caption quality. They can’t afford to spend their tight public money on services that are not provided by a qualified captioner.

How has earning the CRC helped you professionally?

I earned my CRR back in 1993. I took the Written Knowledge Tests for the Certified Broadcast Captioner and Certified CART Provider in 2009. [Members who held the CBC and/or CCP before Jan. 1, 2016, were automatically transitioned to holding the CRC.] Certifications always give the person who earns them confidence in his or her skills. I haven’t looked for a job in 30 years, but I have hired many people in that time. And when I see a certification, I know a good deal about the captioner’s capabilities right off the bat. And maintaining my certifications has led to me knowing captioners and court reporters across the country, and exposed me to the latest trends and technology for our professions.

What do you advise someone considering earning the CRC to encourage them to do so?

Get busy! This certification has three legs: the Written Knowledge Test, the Skills Test, and a Workshop. They’re all essential to the certification program. Our captioning profession has grown for more than three decades. And during that time, we’ve gone from a community of pioneers, who truly did make it up as they went, to a profession that is depended upon by millions of people all over our country. Our consumers want a way to know they are working with a qualified service provider.

Are you eligible for the CRC exception? Learn more here.

Are you eligible for the CRC exception?

Candidates who passed the Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR) test prior to November 2011 are eligible to earn the Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC) upon successful completion of the CRC Workshop and Written Knowledge Test. These candidates are not required to take the Skills Test to earn the CRC under a recent exception approved by NCRA’s Council of the Academy of Professional Reporters (CAPR) that recognizes the Skills Test requirement of the CRR certification as equivalent.

Note: The exception to use the CRR Skills Test history towards earning the CRC expires Dec. 31. Any CRC candidate who has not fully earned the certification by that date will be required to pass the CRC Skills Test, regardless of prior testing history.

CAPR’s recent action to exclude the Skills Test requirement for the CRC for candidates who earned the CRR prior to November 2011 was based on the findings that prior to November 2011, the Certified Broadcast Captioner (CBC), the Certified Captioning Provider (CCP), and the CRR Skills Tests were the same: five minutes of literary matter at 180 wpm.

Anyone who passed the CRR during or after November 2011 will need to take the CRC Skills Test, the CRC Workshop, and pass the Written Knowledge Test to become certified.

The requirements to earn the CRC are the successful completion of:

  • CRC Workshop — either in person in August at the NCRA Convention & Expo or online through NCRA’s e-seminar catalogue
  • CRC Written Knowledge Test — offered in April, with registration open March 1-31, on-site in August at the NCRA Convention & Expo, or in October with registration open Sept. 1-30
  • CRC Skills Test — unless using the CRR exception by Dec. 31

Candidates wishing to use the exception for the CRC Skills Test must successfully complete the CRC Workshop and the CRC Written Knowledge Test. Candidates must then notify testing@ncra.org upon successful completion of the Workshop and Written Knowledge Test in order to reflect their CRC status. Only current members in good standing can hold the CRC status.

Hear from a veteran captioner why earning your CRC is important.

For more information, contact testing@ncra.org.

Mark your calendars with learning opportunities through NCRA

calendar

Photo by Dafne Cholet

Make your plan to earn CEUs and tackle your educational needs this year. Whether you are working toward earning your RPR or your cycle ends Jan. 31 or Sept. 30, NCRA can help you get ahead.

In addition, NCRA members can earn CEUs by passing the skills or written portion of certain tests, such as the RMR, RDR, CRR, or CLVS exams.

Here is a short selection of dates and events (dates are subject to change).

Jan. 31 — 9/30/16 cycle extension deadline

Feb. 12-14 — 2017 Firm Owners Executive Conference, Tucson, Ariz.

March 1-31 — Registration period for April RPR, RDR, CRC, and CLVS Written Knowledge Tests

April 5 — Second quarter online skills test registration opens

April 8-20 — RPR, RDR, CRC, and CLVS Written Knowledge Test dates

June 1-30 — Registration period for July RPR and CLVS Written Knowledge Tests

July 5 — Third quarter online skills test registration opens

July 8-20 — RPR and CLVS Written Knowledge Test dates

Aug. 10-13 — 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo, Las Vegas, Nev.

Sept. 1-30 — Registration period for October RPR, RDR, CRC, and CLVS Written Knowledge Tests

Sept. 30 — Submission deadline for CEUs and PDCs for members with a 9/30/17 cycle ending

Oct. 5 — Fourth quarter online skills test registration opens

Oct. 7-19 — RPR, RDR, CRC, and CLVS Written Knowledge Tests

Court Reporting & Captioning Week (Feb. 11-18), Memorial Day (May 30), and Veterans Day (Nov. 11) are also all good opportunities to schedule Veterans History Project Days to earn PDCs. And don’t forget that online skills testing is available year round.

In addition, NCRA is planning webinars throughout the year, which will be announced in the JCR Weekly and on the NCRA Facebook and Twitter pages as they are available. Watch for more information in the JCR, in the JCR Weekly, and on TheJCR.com for registration, deadlines, and other ideas to earn continuing education.

Testing where and when you want cited as a huge benefit of online testing

testing-tips-lightbulbThe many benefits of NCRA’s online testing program include a user-friendly and secure system, more testing opportunities annually, faster results, and greater affordability. However, users of the system continue to report that the freedom and convenience of being able to test in a location of their choosing, including at home or in the office, continues to rank as one of the biggest factors for success.

The program, which is a partnership between NCRA, Realtime Coach, and ProctorU, was launched in August 2015 and offers online skills testing platforms for candidates of the RPR, RMR, CRR, and CRC certifications. Since then, more than 2,300 tests have been taken online.

“This was my first online testing experience, and I was able to pass the last leg of the RPR that I needed to become certified, so I’d say it was a pretty great experience. I like the online testing much better than having to go to a brick-and-mortar testing site. I did not like having to wake up very early in the morning to make it to the testing site and having to bring all of my equipment. Less anxiety testing from home in that regard,” said Christina E. Sarisky, RPR, a freelance reporter from Rutherford, N.J.

Brittany Blesener, RPR, an official court reporter from Chaska, Minn., agrees that the best benefit to online testing is “taking it at your own time, one leg at a time, instead of having a set date.”

First-time online test-taker Megan Orris, RPR, an official court reporter from Middleburg, Penn., said she personally likes the online testing for the skills portion of certification because it makes things go quickly and, rather than the six to eight weeks it takes to receive official results from a brick-and-mortar site, online official results are emailed within three to seven days.

“I think people can get nervous over having to wait a period of time to know whether they passed or failed a test,” she noted.

For candidates preparing to take any of the NCRA online skills tests, veteran test-takers and Marybeth Everhart, RPR, CRI, CPE, national marketing manager for Realtime Coach, agree that practicing is also an important factor for ensuring success.

NCRA recently made available on its YouTube channel a series of nine online testing instructional videos created by Realtime Coach that cover the entire process from a basic orientation to scheduling the actual test. The short videos were designed to provide candidates with an easy-to-use resource for prepping.

“Online testing instructional videos were created, so candidates can quickly and easily refresh their recollection of a step or two of the testing process, or replay a step multiple times if needed,” said Everhart. ”With testing instructions now available in print and video formats, candidates can select the format that best suits their needs.”

Additional security measures required by the online system include candidates signing a mandatory confidentiality form that indicates that the subject and words of the test will not be disclosed to other candidates and proctors that are connected to candidates in real time, with live audio and video connections that include a view and live feed of the candidate’s monitor through screen-sharing technology. Candidates are also required to use an external webcam to show that their workspace is secure by giving a 360-degree pan of the entire room and desk or workspace.

Under the online system, NCRA allows candidates to take up to three skills test attempts in each quarter. For information visit NCRA’s online skills testing page.

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.

 

 

A well-rounded life

By Aimée Suhie

Tom Crites is a present-day Johnny Appleseed who has planted 2,000 plumeria trees in and around Savannah, Ga., hoping to establish the glorious flowers in the town he loves. So it’s hard to imagine him jetting across the world during his 49-year career, away from home sometimes 300 nights a year. The retired court reporter and firm owner laughs that he has reported in the back of a pickup in the jungles of Panama, under an oil tanker in drydock in Curaçao, on a train from one side of Holland to the other, on the flight deck of aircraft carriers, on airboats in the Everglades, and on the roadside from Delhi to Agra of a horrific bus accident with students on their way to see the Taj Mahal.

“I was blessed with an awesome career,” he says simply. But he does not miss the planes and hotels one bit. He forgets the world when he tends the 1,000 plumerias that surround his 1892 house, one of the most photographed homes in Savannah.

But the accomplishment he is perhaps most proud of is the family he “adopted” in Thailand in the depths of poverty whose members are now not only self-sufficient but true entrepreneurs. “After 15 years of hard work by this family, they now take care of themselves and are waiting to take care of me,” he says only half-jokingly. He says he may very well give up his precious house and gardens and move to Thailand one day.

The Texas native learned about court reporting the way NCRA’s leaders hope all young people do – when a court reporting legend put on a program at his high school. ”When Thyra D. Ellis (‘a true pioneer for all shorthand reporters nationwide’ according to the website of the school she founded) said, ‘Be a court reporter and make up to $10,000 a year,’ I was sold,” Tom relates. He started two months later at her school, the Stenotype Institute of Jacksonville Beach, Fla., and studied for four years. He was reporting, however, after two years and made $1,300 his first day. “That was huge,” he remembers, “in that I lived on $200 a month while going to school.”

His career took him to San Francisco and finally in 1972 to Savannah where he formed Tom Crites & Associates International. He met the right maritime attorneys on a ship fire case covering depositions in Savannah, New Orleans, and New York and was soon traveling all over the world. “Many months of my career I would travel 50,000 miles in a month,” he says. He has worked in hundreds of cities in more than 50 countries, focusing on maritime and mass-disaster litigation, following ships and crew members. At his website, www.critesintl.com, under the case history section are the tales of two of his most famous environmental disaster cases, the 1978 Amoco Cadiz oil spill off the coast of France, and the 2002 Prestige oil spill off the coast of Spain, “which was four times the size of the Exxon Valdez disaster,” he explains. “As a matter of fact, after hundreds of depositions were taken in the Exxon Valdez case, I was asked to provide realtime at the deposition of Captain Hazelwood (the American sailor who captained the Exxon Valdez during its 1989 spill). I asked Sue Terry, RPR, CRR, [NCRA’s Vice President] to cover for me, and for days she performed her magic.”

But Tom’s most enriching experience was his association with a Thai family in the village of Sala in the province of Surin. He met a young man at a restaurant at the hotel where he usually stayed who spoke English very well, and he became Tom’s friend, driver, and interpreter. “After three years he invited me to meet his family,” Tom remembers. “It was shocking to me to see the way they lived. They were the poorest of the poor. The mother was doing her best to provide for her children and grandchildren. She worked 12 to14 hours a day tending to the rice of others for $75 a month. They had no running water, and they all were in rags.”

Tom well remembers his upbringing in a housing project in Texas where people donated food to his family, and he didn’t have a new shirt until he was six years old. So Tom got to work. He promptly had two wells dug and then got the family refrigerators, fans, beds, and linens. He rounded up all 19 family members and headed to a department store 50 miles from Sala. “I had each one get a grocery cart, and we loaded up on clothes, shoes, toiletries, towels and lots of food. I then got them a car and a truck.” Next he helped them to buy parcels of land. “On my 60th birthday, we began the planting of 60 acres of rubber trees,” he says and, instead of patting himself on the back, says only “I have been blessed to have the Lai-Ngam family in my life.”

The family now has more than 100 acres of farm land and a rubber tree plantation. All are on computers and receiving a good education. Tom even put the kids to use in his business. “I had an office set up in Bangkok, and these smart children scanned all my exhibits, transferred my steno, etc., to the United States, so I never had to hurry back home,” he recounts, “often going off to work from Bangkok to Singapore, Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo, and to many cities in India.”

In addition to his 43 trips to Thailand, Tom worked often with different governments, and he says many waivers were made so that he could report in venues that most reporters could not. At the same time, however, for seven years he was on the board and executive committee of the Savannah College of Art & Design, with campuses in Savannah; Atlanta; Lacoste, France; and Hong Kong. The College dedicated the performing arts center named in his honor, Crites Hall, in 2000, which houses the 150-seat Mondanaro Theater, set design and scene shop, dance studio, classrooms, and a costume studio, where 92 classes are taught each week. He also received the Pepe Award from the college that year for his work. “I often traveled to New York, London, Paris, and Lacoste on the business of the college,” Tom remembers. “And on the local scene, I entertained and dined with many visiting movie stars and fashion designers who came to visit the school, including Debbie Reynolds and Diane von Furstenberg.” Tom adds, “The college has more than 10,000 students and 1,100 employees on our four campuses. It will always be a big part of my life.”

Even though he is now retired, his firm continues on, a “small agency that handles big work,” Tom says. They have a reporter based in Germany covering most of their work in Europe and have had reporters and videographers simultaneously covering assignments on four continents. But on any given day, you’ll find Tom working in his gardens or helping a new graduate paint his house in the 100-degree heat of an August day. “It wears me out, and some days I feel I’m as old as this house,” he says in his smooth Southern drawl. “But I try to keep myself busy. I still work very hard, and I believe in hard labor. Now I grow tropical flowers, prepare meals and entertain. I have always had a colorful life, and everyone says I should write a book. But after 700,000 pages of transcripts, my writing days are over!”

Tips for success

Tom says “The last 15 years of my reporting career, I always took an assistant with me to handle everything, and that is why I lasted so long.”

He passed the Certificate of Profiency five decades ago and is certified in Georgia but let his California license lapse. “I would urge all court reporters to never let any license lapse. Concentrate on getting your certifications from NCRA; find a niche in the legal field and concentrate on that; attend as many attorney functions as you can searching for the right people with the right cases. And invest your money wisely in real estate and art, and hold on to it for a long time. All will appreciate. When you have a huge case or year, donate pieces of art, and your tax savings can be great.”

Tom says you can also pray. “My momma prayed for me and the business all the time,” he remembers. “But when things got busy, my reporters would say, ‘Tell your mother to cool it on the prayers because we’re just swamped.’ She’s gone now, so I have to do it on my own.”

Aimée Suhie, RPR, is a freelance reporter from New Fairfield, Conn., and a regular contributor to the JCR. She can be reached at suhieaimee@gmail.com.

 

 

 

Top 15 tips to master online testing

testing-tips-lightbulbBy Marybeth Everhart

  1. Review the Detailed Instructions found on myRealtimeCoach.com and NCRA.org/testing.
  2. Practice the testing process. We all tend to practice just the steno portion of an exam. It won’t matter how good a writer you are if you cannot complete the test online!
  3. Send an email to yourself and attach a steno note file. You’ll need to attach a steno note file when testing, and the process of navigating to those files on your computer is the same. Practice it until you can do it in your sleep!
  4. Send an email to yourself and attach a transcript file from your CAT software. The process is the same as attaching a transcript during testing.
  5. Don’t make this harder than it is. You don’t need to make a PDF or RTF or any other non-CAT format, but you do need to know where to find your files and what to look for.
  6. Know how to copy and paste your transcript from your CAT software. Read the section of the Detailed Instructions about your software so you’re comfortable with it, and practice, practice, practice.
  7. Use the free practice tests on myRealtimeCoach.com to practice the testing procedure! The practicing process is identical to the testing procedure. The more comfortable you are, the less nervous you’ll be for the actual test.
  8. Use the same equipment to test that you practice on. Test day is not the time to introduce something new.
  9. Take at least one proctored practice. Two free proctored practices are included with your test registration, so use them.
  10. Don’t install anything new or download any updates between your proctored practice and your actual test.
  11. Practice, take a proctored test, and take your test in the same location. Don’t take your proctored practice at the office and test at home!
  12. Test at approximately the same day and time as your proctored practice. Your Internet speed may fluctuate throughout the day, so be sure it’s sufficient at the time you plan to test.
  13. Practice with your headphones on! That’s how you’ll be taking the test.
  14. Analyze your practice performance. Remember, practice makes permanent, not necessarily perfect! Identify your common weaknesses and resolve them! If using myRealtimeCoach, pay attention to the Focused Feedback and remember to stop, look, and change what needs to be fixed.
  15. Ready, begin: Two words, four syllables, ten letters. Don’t let these words be your undoing on test day. Every practice session should begin with that phrase, followed by a few short, sweet, and simple words of encouragement.

Watch a series of short videos with step-by-step instructions for completing an online skills test on NCRA’s YouTube channel.

Marybeth Everhart, RPR, CRI, CPE, is the national marketing manager at RealtimeCoach, a realtime trainer, and former court reporter. She can be reached at meverhart@learnrealtime.com.

 

NCRA’s CLVS Council plans launch of online seminar content

VideographyBy Natalie Dippenaar

In conjunction with the Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS) Fall Event, held at the NCRA offices in Reston, Va., NCRA’s CLVS Council launched an exciting and long-planned project. Rather than offering training to prospective CLVS candidates, NCRA and the council members opted to spend the weekend capturing the contents of the seminar with the goal of bringing the majority of the three-day program online. Typically, the CLVS Council travels two or three times a year to offer the three-day seminar and production exam testing required for the CLVS certification.

With this in mind, the National Court Reporters Foundation offered space in NCRA headquarters as a production studio. Brian Clune, CLVS; Jason Levin, CLVS; Gene Betler, Jr., CLVS; and Bruce Balmer, CLVS, presented and captured topics as diverse as what it means to be a legal videographer, the components of a deposition recording system, the CLVS Code of Ethics, and the CLVS Standards for Video Depositions, as well as applicable Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The project is still in its infancy, but NCRA plans to make the online version available by early to mid-2017.

The weekend concluded with a number of candidates taking the production exam. For some, it was the culmination of their studies and will result in them becoming newly certified, while for others it was the second step as they prepare to take the Written Knowledge Test in January 2017.

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

NCRA Kindle Fire winner announced

By Jennifer Late

More prizes available for membership renewal

A record number of members have renewed their 2017 membership in October. These renewals were driven in part by a chance to win a Kindle Fire.

NCRA membership renewal Kindle Fire winner

The lucky winner for October 2016 is Karla Jagusch, RPR, of Overland Park, Kan. She has been a court reporter for over 38 years, 36 of which she has been an official court reporter for the First and Tenth Judicial Districts of the State of Kansas. Karla explains why she renewed her membership: “I feel it is important and my obligation to support the association that supports me as a court reporter.”

Click here to renew now!

Photo by: Erik Araujo. Used and adapted with permission via Creative Commons

Renew before Dec. 1 and be entered to win

Members still have a chance to be rewarded for renewing before Dec. 1. NCRA will give away an upgraded Premium Plus listing on the online NCRA Sourcebook. Any Registered, Participating, or Associate member who has renewed before Dec. 1 will have their name entered into a drawing for this upgraded listing for January through December 2017.

NCRA continues to work for its members

  • Online skills testing: Whether you are just starting testing for your RPR or going for your CRC or another advanced certification, you can now complete your skills tests from the comfort of your own home. With more opportunities to test, you will be able to achieve your certification goals faster and increase your earning potential.
  • CRC Workshop & Certification: Based on member demand for more training in the field, NCRA created the new Certified Realtime Captioner program designed just for captioners.
  • FCC Captioning Quality Standards: NCRA’s Government Relations team has been working with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Alliance and the Federal Communications Commission to develop new captioning quality standards.
  • Increased online education opportunities: NCRA has expanded its first-class educational programming via webinars and e-seminars vetted to ensure they meet the needs of the marketplace. New online webinars and e-seminars are added each month for members to purchase, view, and earn CEUs.
  • Exhibiting at the ABA TechShow: NCRA has been advocating for you with judges, attorneys, paralegals, clerks, and other legal professionals. With a focus on what your certifications mean and the value of realtime, NCRA is raising the overall awareness of the profession with the people who matter.
  • For CLVS members: A stronger CLVS emphasis was added to the NCRA Convention & Expo, helping videographers network directly with the court reporting membership. By popular demand, new seminars and webinars were created to help CLVSs stay on the cutting edge of technology.

NCRA membership cards

In an effort to embrace technology, NCRA will continue our practice of sending only electronic membership cards to members via email. Members can expect to receive their membership card within approximately four weeks of renewing if they have a valid email address and have not previously opted out of Constant Contact email messaging.

Jennifer Late is NCRA’s Membership & Marketing Manager. She can be reached at jlate@ncra.org.