Court reporting as a second career

The JCR reached out to several members of NCRA who made the decision to switch careers and enter the court reporting, captioning, or legal video professions and asked them to share what they did before, how they decided to make the change, when they knew they made the right choice, and insights they would share with others considering making a change.

Abby Cook
Pittsburgh, Pa.

Abby Cook

Abby Cook

CURRENT CAREER: Student at the Community College of Allegheny County; Plans to work as a freelance reporter
upon graduation in July 2017
PREVIOUS CAREER: Master’s level mobile mental health therapist for about 18 months

After I finished my degree, I was trying to get enough client contact hours to sit for the exam and earn my professional license as a mental health therapist. I was doing anything and everything for the company I worked for, even sitting as a secretary. But they would not fill my client schedule, so I left. I interviewed at another company for a similar position, and they informed me they needed someone with their professional license, which I was working toward, but in order to sit for the exam, you had to complete direct client contact hours. I knew I needed to do something that wasn’t dependent on what others thought I could do or doing something that others had to help me fill my schedule.

My cousin is a court reporter and currently reports on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. I contacted her to get more information because I knew she was making a good living, and I knew she enjoyed what she was doing. I am one of three girls, and my cousin tried to talk all three of us into going into court reporting after high school. It was always sort of in the back of my mind, but I never really knew much about court reporting as a career. But once I realized I wasn’t finding my way as a therapist, I decided to look into court reporting further.

I do think some skills from my previous work transfer. I continue with the need to listen to people, I continue to provide a service for people, I continue to be mobile with that service, and I continue to hear stories about people
(some more awful than others, but I feel my previous experience has prepared me for such things and to not be shocked).

I think I am most excited to be entering a field that is highly valued, highly in demand and highly respected. I look forward to having a full schedule because of a proven, black-and-white skill that I possess. I would say to look at all the options, talk to some people in the field (both new to the field and seasoned professionals), and learn as much as you can. I continued to work in my first career when I started school for the career change and, if it didn’t work out, I would’ve stayed with that job and pushed harder for my chance and what I wanted. It never hurts to try something new and make yourself more marketable.

After the first few weeks in school, I knew that making this change was going to be a good, positive, life-changing choice. I was picking up on this new (steno) language, and all the working court reporters that came to speak to
us about the field only had great things to tell us. Students ahead of me were getting their speeds and passed on advice. There is so much encouragement and happiness and excitement in this field. I can’t wait to get out there and
start working!

Carolyn Kerr, RPR
Buffalo, N.Y.

Carolyn Kerr, RPR

Carolyn Kerr, RPR

CURRENT CAREER: Working as an official court reporter for the state of New York Unified Court System, family
court in Niagara County
PREVIOUS CAREER: Worked in radio and television

I’ve actually had two careers before court reporting. I have my B.A. from the University at Buffalo in communications. Because of my love for music, I became involved with the campus radio station and was soon the program director. I also interned at a local radio station and, while still attending college, was hired full time as a disc jockey and promotions director at that radio station. The radio and music industry is very volatile, and I discovered that while I loved music and the fun of working at a radio station, I wasn’t enjoying the people I worked with very much. Many of my coworkers had drug and/or alcohol problems, had multiple marriages, were not particularly well educated, but they had huge egos. I was 23 years old and decided I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life surrounded by people I didn’t respect. But being in radio did give me a very important skill that I believe carries over to court reporting. That
skill is the ability to perform.

I lucked out and got kind of a weird job next, one that combined my skill in performing with the stability of a real job. I was hired as a traffic reporter, working for the local public transit agency. The bus drivers on the road would call
in the traffic delays they saw, and I would compile traffic reports and provide them to most Buffalo area radio stations and one TV station during morning and afternoon drive times. In return, the public transit system got advertising
on these stations. On some of the stations I would broadcast live; on others I would just provide the information to their on-air personnel, who would read it. I also appeared on the local ABC-TV network affiliate during their morning
show. For three hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon, I was typing up and churning out constant traffic updates to 12 to 15 media outlets. I could always type fast, but this experience really improved that skill. Again, another transferable skill to court reporting.

Eventually marriage and children came along, and I didn’t want to work the split shift this job required, so I bid on another job in the transit agency and became the supervisor of the customer service department. Essentially I ran a
call center and resolved customer complaints. You can imagine the types and amount of complaints a public bus and rail company receives! What I learned from that job is that I do not like supervising anyone and that I missed the performance component of my other jobs. I was a really good typist and enjoyed typing, but I knew there wasn’t much money in it.

While I was at a family party, I was complaining to my sister-in-law about my job as a customer service manager, and she suggested court reporting. It was one of those duh moments, as my sister-in-law was not only a court reporter but also owned a freelance agency. From there everything just fell into place, almost as if it were meant to be. The local school was not too far from my house, not too expensive, and worked with my schedule, and oh, by the way, they were having an open house the following week. I enrolled on the spot, and a little over two years later I began working for my sister-in-law’s company.

At its heart, court reporting is a performance job. The skills from my broadcasting career definitely have translated to court reporting. And while we do interact with judges, clerks, lawyers, the public, and other reporters, court reporters are essentially solo workers. It’s us and the machine, and then it’s us and the transcript. I found from working in customer service that I really like working independently, and court reporting fulfills that preference.

What most excites me about court reporting is my certainty that I am performing an essential but unique service. Keeping the record is one of the main principles of our legal system. The written word allows ideas and facts to be conveyed and shared through generations. In 2015 we marked the 700th anniversary of the Magna Carta, the document upon which our nation and many other democratic nations are defined as a nation of laws, not of man. Someone wrote that down. Scribes were the early court reporters. Without them, where would our understanding of history be? I am very proud to be a part of this institution. I also love that court reporting is both a physical and mental job. While our fingers are flying over the keyboards with a profound dexterity, our minds are working in dual tracks. One track is hearing and committing the spoken word to writing, the other is devising a way to create a shortcut or inserting punctuation. That makes our job feel like a craft or skilled trade to me, which I love and value.

The advice I would give to someone considering a court reporting career is to, first of all, do an honest assessment of what’s going on in your life. Court reporting school is difficult. In our class of 30, only two of us graduated, and I am the only one still working. I believe you must have almost no distractions to get through school. No small babies. No ongoing divorces. No financial problems. Secondly, I believe that you must be ambitious and committed. Once you start working, take the difficult job. It will make you a better reporter. Take the certification exams. Those letters after your name will make you feel so good. And finally, you must view court reporting as a profession, not just a job.
Professions require ongoing development, investment, and education. For a job, you just show up. If you view yourself as a professional, I believe you will have a more realistic understanding of what it takes to get through school and to succeed once you’re working. The point at which I knew I made the right decision for a career in court reporting was the first time I looked down at that old borrowed manual machine and hit that initial key. I knew immediately. It just felt right. It was me. Having said that, it wouldn’t have been the right choice for me at the age of 20 or 25. I needed that experience of working in radio and television, and I needed to learn I hated being a manager.

Angeli English
D’Iberville, Miss.

Angeli English

Angeli English

CURRENT CAREER: Freelance reporter
PREVIOUS CAREER: Secretarial

I am a freelance reporter, but I cover various courts sometimes if they need me and if I don’t already have a freelance job. I’m on the coast and I’ll drive up to two hours for a good job.

I had a secretarial background originally. I went to a vocational school and learned typing, shorthand, etc., in the mid-1980s. Then I just worked part time at various jobs while raising four boys. I always worked a secretarial job
full-time till I started having kids in 1990. After that, I took a few years off and had three more kids in two years (twins in there) and then worked part-time till 2010 when I decided to pursue court reporting.

When two were in college, I decided to consider a second career. My boys were getting older; I had more time, and I wanted a good paying job that offered flexibility. I had never been exposed to court reporting. When I was considering a second career, I did some online research.

I would say my secretarial background and good command of grammar, etc., helped in my career as a court reporter. Just know it takes self-discipline and constant practice and self-confidence.

I never know when I walk out the door what story I’m going to hear that day. It’s like being a fl y on the wall and getting a peek into someone’s life.

I never doubted court reporting would be my second career. I remember being on my first job and thinking, yes, I did it, and pinching myself!

Kerry Irizarry, RPR
Jacksonville, Fla.

Kerri Irizzary, RPR

Kerri Irizzary, RPR

CURRENT CAREER: Freelance reporter
PREVIOUS CAREER: AT&T customer service representative, 11 years

Our office was closed, and everyone was laid off. As part of our compensation, we were offered money to go back to school and/or start a new business. I had seen court reporting commercials on television and thought it looked interesting. And after my experience with corporate America, I decided I wanted to go out and get a skill that was valuable and that would give me flexibility.

I had no idea what court reporting was about. I was always fascinated with closed captioning and when I learned that captioners were court reporters, I was hooked.

Working customer service required we use a computer all day. I became very adept at typing and operating computer software, which is beneficial to our profession. I also got experience interacting with people and resolving problems. These skills come in handy when interacting with attorneys and judges.

I love to read back. Our profession is stressful and comes with a lot of responsibility, but I love it when I can help an attorney out with a question or answer they repeated. Audio recordings can’t do that. I would also like to move into captioning or providing CART services. Ours is one of the few professions that we can provide a service for those with a disability.

I love court reporting, but it was a very hard road to travel to become proficient. Court reporters have to be very dedicated and meticulous in their work. They need attention to detail, flexibility, and good interpersonal skills.
Someone who has these qualities would probably be a great court reporter.

I didn’t realize I had a thyroid condition, and my work was suffering. I believe it had been going on so long that it had prevented me from graduating from court reporting school sooner. I had trouble focusing, which is crucial in our job. It really had me doubting my decision to pursue this as my second career. Thankfully, I found a doctor that straightened me out. Now I absolutely love my job and have no doubt this was the right decision for me.

Dave Leyland, CLVS
Kansas City, Mo.

Dave Leyland, CLVS

Dave Leyland, CLVS

CURRENT CAREER: Legal videographer
PREVIOUS CAREERS: Director of a nonprofit and state child welfare administrator

I had formerly worked as a director of a nonprofit for more than 19 years, and before that I was a child welfare administrator in the state of Missouri. I am currently owner of Kansas City Legal Videography.

Soon after leaving my nonprofit job, I began working with a certified court reporter company as their manager of production. I became very interested in legal videography when scheduling and interacting with video specialists. I always had a fondness for the legal profession, videography, and technology, and I realized that I could pursue all of these as a video specialist. I soon started researching how to pursue this interest and one of the first things on my list was to become certified as a legal video specialist through NCRA.

I’ve always believed that you gain so much value by associating with people in your trade. Professionals of all kinds must also keep up to date with the latest technology and equipment to be used on the job. I successfully passed the written test and went on to also pass the production test in Chicago at last year’s NCRA Convention & Expo.

I’ve had a lot of opportunities to use the skills that were first taught to me at the three-day training in Reston, Va. I’m constantly learning new techniques and upgrading my skills as I gain experience as a legal video specialist. Every job that you have comes with its challenges. I still have so much to learn because I always want to deliver the very best product to the client.

I can’t say how much I enjoy this profession and the great interactions I have with other litigation professionals, especially the court reporters who are the hardest working people in the room.

The 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo is the place to earn new certifications

Professionals seeking to add nationally recognized certifications to their résumés can choose from several opportunities to work toward them at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo being held Aug. 10-13 at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nev.

Programs and certifications opportunities available this year include the Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR), Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC), Certified Reporting Instructor (CRI), and Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS). Note that many certifications require multiple steps to earn, so one or more components of testing may not be available during convention.

Certified Realtime Reporter Boot Camp

For those interested in learning how to pass the CRR, a three-hour long boot camp is available on Aug. 12. The CRR is recognized in the industry as the national certification of realtime competency. Taught by Kathryn Sweeney, FAPR, RMR, CRR, who helped develop the boot camp program, the course has enabled many to successfully pass the test on the first take. Sweeney is a freelance reporter and agency owner from Action, Mass.

Convention learning2In the course, Sweeney explains the testing requirements, covers NCRA’s What is an Error?, discusses what is not an error, and talks about the new online testing process. She also offers tips for self-preparation, including what to have on test day, what to do and not do on test day, and how and why candidates fail. Participants in the session should bring their equipment with them so they can take a couple of practice tests and learn how to adjust their system settings and dictionary entries. Skills testing for the CRR is offered online.

“I strongly believe taking the CRR Boot Camp will increase the chance of passing this test. When I finished my presentation in Georgia, a woman who already had her CRR came up to me and said that she wished this seminar was around when she was preparing for the test; that it had all of the information and steps that she muddled through on her own. She said it took years of figuring out what was being asked of her and then changing her writing and learning her equipment and software in order to pass,” Sweeney said.

“With this boot camp, I can help you in three hours,” added Sweeney, who also served as a beta tester for NCRA’s online testing system and as CRR Chief Examiner on behalf of the Association for 17 years.

Certified Realtime Captioner Workshop

Convention participants seeking the CRC certification can attend a 10-hour Workshop held Aug. 10-11 and take the Written Knowledge Test on Aug. 11, completing two of the three steps to the certification. (The third step, a Skills Test, can be taken anytime online.)

Leading the workshop are: Deanna Baker, FAPR, RMR, a broadcast captioner from Flagstaff, Ariz.; LeAnn Hibler, RMR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner from Joliet, Ill.; Karyn Menck, RDR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner from Nashville, Tenn.; and Heidi Thomas, FARP, RDR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner from Acworth, Ga.

Convention learning“I know you will learn something new, no matter how long you have been captioning,” said Carol Studenmund, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, a broadcast captioner based in Portland, Ore. Studenmund heads the Certified Realtime Captioner Certification Committee. “Then take the Written Knowledge Test right after the workshop — while the material is fresh in your mind — and before you know it, you are two thirds of the way to earning the certification.”

Certified Reporting Instructor Workshop

Educators interested in earning the CRI can attend a two-day Workshop, Aug. 10-11, designed to expand their level of knowledge for becoming more effective realtime reporting instructors. The Workshop covers information about the learning process, how to develop court reporting syllabi and lesson plans, and how role playing a variety of courtroom scenarios can aid students’ understanding.

“Those who attend and participate in the CRI Workshop will gain wonderful insight and skills for training the future of our profession,” said Dr. Jen Krueger, RMR, CRI, CPE, who will lead the session. Krueger is a full-time faculty member at Cuyahoga Community College, Parma, Ohio,

“The CRI credential demonstrates excellence and dedication in teaching, assuring students they are benefiting from the best instructors available and others that the court reporting profession is in good hands as those learners prepare to continue the noble and fine work of court reporters and captioners everywhere,” she added.

CLVS SeminarCertified Legal Video Specialist Seminar and Production Exam

Participants interested in earning the CLVS certification can attend the required three-day seminar from Aug. 11-13. The CLVS production exam is also available on Aug. 11 and 12, for those who are qualified. The CLVS program sets and enforces standards for competency in the capture, utilization, and retention of legal video and promotes awareness of these standards within the legal marketplace. Legal videographers often partner with court reporters to ensure the integrity of both the video of legal proceedings and the official transcript.

“Attending at the CLVS Seminar is beneficial to both experienced legal videographers as well as novices to the profession,” said Jason Levin, CLVS, with Virginia Media Group, Washington, D.C. Levin is one of the instructors leading the seminar.

“Our goal is to prepare videographers for the production and written exams, and on the last day of the seminar we actually conduct mock depositions where the attendees can operate the equipment in a deposition environment. Earning the CLVS certification sets yourself apart from noncertified videographers.  The networking opportunities of attending an event like this are well worth the investment,” he added.

 

Don’t miss the savings on lodging at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, the host hotel for the 2017 Convention. Attendees who register to stay at Planet Hollywood on Friday and Saturday nights are eligible for free breakfast and to win one of six new Kindle Fire tablets in a giveaway. Visit NCRA.org/Convention to register now.

What we learned at TAC

Members of NCRA's Test Advisory Committee. Karyn Menck attended remotely.

Members of NCRA’s Test Advisory Committee. Karyn Menck attended remotely.

By Chris Willette

The Test Advisory Committee (TAC) met June 8-11 at NCRA headquarters in Reston, Va., to work on test creation for upcoming online testing opportunities. As Board liaison, I was fortunate to attend and participate in the process.

TAC is supported by two other committees: the Skills Test Writing Committee and Written Knowledge Test Committee. The volunteers of these three groups work all year long to provide vetted questions for the Written Knowledge Tests as well as “takes” for the Skills Tests of the NCRA certification programs.

Along with the work of TAC comes the opportunity to learn new things and share ideas about briefs and theories. There is also a lot of laughter along the way. Once we realized that there was so much valuable information, we decided to keep a list of what we thought members might not know.

Hint: We learned these things while preparing future tests. You might want to pay attention!

  • X-ray as a noun is capitalized; as a verb, Merriam-Webster shows it with no capitalization.
  • Pawnshop is one word.
  • Dumpster is capitalized.
  • Canceling/cancelling and traveling/travelling are both acceptable as correct spellings.
  • Curveball is one word.

 

Briefs

central STRAL
Central Avenue STRAEF
exchange CH
good evening GAOENG
good luck GLUCK
good morning GORNG
greater weight of the evidence GRAEFD
keep in mind KAOEMD
iPad P*AD
iPhone FO*EN
iPod P*OD
off the top of my head FOPD
pain and suffering PUFRG
text message TEJ
volunteer VO

 

Brief groupings

aware WAUR
aware of WAUFR
are you aware RAUR
are you aware of RAUFR
are you aware of the RAUFRT
were you aware WRAUR
were you aware of WRAUFR
were you aware of the WRAUFRT
left arm LARM
right arm RARM
left leg LLG
right leg RLG
shoulder SHOURLD
left shoulder LOURLD
right shoulder ROURLD

 

Chris Willette, RDR, CRR, CRC, is the 2016-2017 NCRA President-Elect and a freelance reporter in Wausau, Wis. She can be reached at cwillette2@gmail.com.

 

Making a few adjustments

A smiling young adult woman, dressed cassually, sits on a floral couch with a golden retriever at her side.

Kayde Rieken with her seeing-eye dog, Fawn

Long nights of practice and endless speed tests are familiar challenges for court reporting students. But Kayde Rieken, a student at the College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind., has experienced one that is unique. She was the first student to take the RPR Written Knowledge Test (WKT) in Braille. With her new career, she hopes to make a difference in the lives of other people who are disabled.

  1. What made you decide to go into court reporting?

I have always been an avid reader, and I enjoy expanding my vocabulary. I am also fascinated by technology and the impact it can have on the lives of disabled people such as myself. When I found out that court reporting was a profession that combined these two interests, I was sure I had found where I belonged.

  1. Can you talk a little about your background? Did you start the program straight out of high school or did you have another career first?

I was about three-quarters through a bachelor’s degree in Spanish translation when I discovered that it just didn’t feel right for me anymore. Court reporting was one of the things I listed as an interest when I was debating career choices in high school, so I decided to do more research on it. It was a very hard and frightening decision, but I chose not to finish the degree I had begun and start my court reporting education. I have, of course, not regretted it for a moment.

  1. Have you had any special accommodations for classes or testing throughout your court reporting program?

I have not needed many accommodations. Court reporting students are often told during the first few weeks of theory not to watch their hands as they write. I use an ordinary Windows laptop with a text-to-speech screen reader that converts print into synthetic speech. Another essential component of my setup is an electronic Braille display that works in conjunction with my screen reader to convert print into Braille output. My steno machine has a basic screen-reading program on it, although I only use this when changing settings on the machine itself.

There were a few things in my CAT software class I was not able to do, such as use the autobrief feature because I am not able to see suggestions pop up on the screen as I write. However, my instructor provided me with alternative assignments that we agreed would be beneficial for me to do during that week.

  1. What kinds of challenges, if any, have you faced during your court reporting program?

My challenges were mainly what everyone else faces — being stuck at a speed for a long time or that stroke that you can never seem to stop hesitating on. I never felt that my blindness itself presented a challenge in court reporting, as I gain most of my knowledge of the environment through listening anyway. In past college experiences, I sometimes had problems with professors not believing in my abilities; but all of my teachers at the College of Court Reporting have held me to the same high standards to which they hold all their other students.

  1. Describe your experience taking the WKT.

I was initially a bit apprehensive because I wasn’t sure what accommodations could be made. I was worried that the only thing NCRA would be able to provide was someone to read the questions to me. If you stop and imagine only listening to some of those complicated punctuation questions without a “visual” medium in front of you, I think you can see that would not work. However, the people in charge of testing at NCRA could, and did, provide me with a Braille copy of the WKT. I cannot express how grateful I was for this. Then, with that accommodation taken care of, I had a somewhat typical test-taking process. I read the questions in Braille and had a recorder there to mark down my answers in print for me. I went over the questions twice to make sure everything was marked correctly.

  1. Which tests do you plan to take next?

I plan to take the jury charge portion of my RPR next, as I have passed my two online tests and my jury mentor evaluation.

  1. What types of challenges do you anticipate in your career ahead?

I am the kind of person who tries to meet challenges as they come. I can anticipate that the marking of exhibits could be something I may need assistance with, but I don’t see that as being much of a problem. I am glad to know, however, that I have several mentors, blind and sighted, within this profession to answer any questions I may have.

  1. Do you have any advice for people who are blind or visually impaired who are considering a career in court reporting?

As I mentioned earlier, I think Braille is a very important component to this profession for a blind person; so make sure your Braille skills are solid. Also — and this applies to any student — it is important to do your research and find places where you can network and foster mentoring relationships. I had the opportunity to go to the NCRA Convention & Expo in Chicago last year, and it was one of the most overwhelming and exciting experiences of my life; so don’t be afraid to embrace experiences that might be a little scary for you. They are nearly always worth it.

Among the elite: Earning the RDR

By Megan Rogers

“Earning the Registered Diplomate Reporter certification is the crown jewel of our profession, demonstrating competence and experience in all aspects of court reporting,” said Lisa DiMonte, RDR, CMRS, who earned the RDR in October 2016. Less than 5 percent of NCRA members hold the RDR certification, which is NCRA’s highest degree of certification.

The RDR means different things to different people who earn it. For some, the RDR has been a career-long dream. “Having the RDR initials after my name has been something I’ve been aspiring to ever since I joined NCRA,” said Erminia Uviedo, RDR, CRR, who earned the RDR in October 2016. Others see earning the RDR as practicing what they preach. “Our company values court reporters who pursue certifications and commit to continuing education. It is only fair that I expect nothing less of myself,” said DiMonte.

Others use it as a personal benchmark. “What has already been important to me is growth personally and professionally, and improving my skills is how I choose to grow professionally. Certification exams provide a measurable way to do that,” said Kim Xavier, RDR, CRR, CMRS, CRI, who earned the RDR in October 2016.

While the word elite is frequently paired with the RDR, such a lofty sentiment covers up what are very personal rewards for earning the certification. “I live in a small pond,” said Debra Dibble, RDR, CRR, CRC, who passed the RDR in 2012. “I thought I was an average reporter. I may be, but now I have a national standard with which to gauge myself and a measure to say that I have earned a place among the ranks of reporters that I admire and respect on a national level.”

Xavier agrees, adding more benefits that affect the day-to-day on the job. “Having the RDR designation or any other doesn’t necessarily mean I know any more than any other reporter or that I’m any more skilled than anyone else, but it sure does wonders for self-confidence and positive attitude,” she said.

Many of these benefits come in the form of assignments. “I am lucky enough to be included as part of a team of reporters working on an historic case,” said Jim DeCrescenzo, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CLVS, who earned the RDR in May 1995. “Advanced professional designations are part of the price of entry to even be considered to join the team. Having the RDR and CRR opened the door for me to end a great career working with elite reporters on a part of history.”

“Court reporting school was hard! So I want to maximize the benefits of having this amazing skill,” Xaiver said. “Conquering any type of exam in our field is an accomplishment that can’t be taken away.”

Earning the RDR is deceptively simple: It involves one written knowledge test. However, “studying for the test can prove to be a bit tricky because of the broad nature these areas may cover,” said Jeseca Jacobs, RDR, CRR, who earned the RDR in October 2016.

Several reporters used their professional expertise as their preparation for the RDR exam. DeCrescenzo elaborated a bit more on what that meant for him, focusing on the three topics of technology, reporting, and NCRA. “Because I had employees who pushed the technology envelope and developed new products for our clients, I’d been exposed to enough technology-related topics that I felt comfortable with that topic.” His experience working first as an official, then a freelancer, and later a firm owner encouraged him to “begin offering realtime early on.” Finally, he said, “I had been very active on several state and national committees, and I served on the board of my state association for many years, including experience with state and national bylaws and COPE opinions.”

However, NCRA has resources available for reporters aspiring to earn the RDR. “I prepared for the exam by first reviewing the RDR Job Analysis. I almost quit!” said Xavier. “The list of references is enough to change anyone’s mind about taking the exam because there’s really no way a working reporter can read all of those resources from cover to cover and ‘know’ everything. But after taking a good look at the percentages for each domain, I decided to start concentrating on areas where I knew I was weak and began with the references I could easily access on NCRA’s website.”

And Jacobs made her RDR prep a family affair: “I also created flash cards and recruited my husband and my 10-year-old daughter to help me study!”

Uviedo found preparing for the RDR helped her learn even more about the profession. “I learned more about the federal procedures, which I knew nothing about. Those questions really had me thinking hard. But it also made me realize, there’s still a lot of areas I don’t know about. Having an RDR does not mean I get to stop practicing or stop studying.”

Xavier agrees. “The most valuable thing I learned was that I needed to get back to working on personal growth through reading more outside of work, keeping up with technological advances, and paying more attention to what is going on within the profession,” she said.

The one thing that all reporters who have earned the RDR can agree on is that anyone considering going for the certification should just do it. “Education is an express train,” said Dibble. “The longer you stay on, the father you go. The farther you go, the better the scenery.”

Even if the exam feels intimidating, DiMonte has this reassurance: “The worst thing that can happen is you learn what you don’t know. You can always take it again.”

Xavier also recommends that reporters thinking of taking the RDR not wait. “I allowed 15 years to lapse between RMR and RDR, and the steno world changed drastically around me during that time,” she said. “Since this is a knowledge-based exam, the sooner you take it, the less you’ll have to brush up on.”

And maybe Jonas puts it best: “Those three letters will look great behind your name!”

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

NCRA member recognized for new certification

JCR logoThe Observer-Reporter, Washington, Pa., posted a press release on June 17 announcing that NCRA member Amanda Lundberg, RPR, CRC, recently has earned the nationally recognized Certified Realtime Captioner certification. The press release was issued by NCRA on behalf of Lundberg.

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New professionals share their advice, strategies for earning the RPR

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

The value of the RPR

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

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

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

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

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

Finding the right resources

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mastering online skills testing

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

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

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

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

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

What’s the next step?

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

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

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

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

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

NCRA member in the news

JCR logoThe Dispatch, Lexington, Ky., reported on April 24 that NCRA member Amy Brauser earned the nationally recognized Certified Realtime Reporter certification. The story was generated by a press release issued by NCRA.

Read more.

Sign up for the Written Knowledge Test

Photo by Ryan Hyde

Photo by Ryan Hyde

Registration opens March 1 for the Written Knowledge Tests for the RPR, RDR, CRC, and CLVS certifications. Candidates have until March 31 to register, and the testing period is April 8 to 20.

After registering, candidates will receive a confirmation email within three business days with information about scheduling a testing location, day, and time with Pearson Vue. If you do not receive the confirmation email, please email testing@ncra.org. Candidates will need to present photo ID when signing into the testing center, so it’s critical that the first and last name on a candidate’s photo ID match their NCRA record. Candidates whose name does not match will not be allowed to test. Update your record now.

Testing center slots fill up quickly, so it is important to register as soon as possible. Candidates may register here. For more information on NCRA certification programs, visit NCRA.org/certifications.

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.