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.

The fear factor

By Debra A. Levinson

Facing fear is a given as a court reporter. No matter how credentialed you are, no matter how many letters you have attained, there will always be some level of fear prior to any job. Why? We are not taking down a prepared script. We are writing words on the fly and rightly fear the unknown. We fear not hearing clearly or fear speakers testifying at near-lightning speeds. We fear having to process unfamiliar vocabulary or garbled speech or technical matters in nanoseconds.

What we really need to focus on is self-confidence. We have an amazing skill set that impresses the masses, and yet that’s still not good enough. So please allow me to share my favorite adage to accept and adjust. Simply put, accept the fear and imperfections of what we do. Make adjustments and change what is not realtime-friendly. Then proceed forward.

The result of not taking chances or pushing ourselves beyond the comfort zone is tantamount to being stuck in a rut. Remember that nothing ventured is nothing gained.

Writing what I call readable realtime requires practice and commitment that will pay off both literally and figuratively. Here are some basics to add to your practice. You will gain that confidence and begin refining your skills to help accomplish your goals and eliminate that fear factor.

  1. Begin by identifying your problematic translation areas (such as speed, conflicts, word boundaries, and prefixes and suffixes), and you will become empowered to change.
  2. Maintain an ongoing commitment to retrain, and you will write faster and cleaner and shorter.
  3. Stay focused and write realtime on every job, and you will challenge yourself to translate at higher and higher percent rates.
  4. Input proper case names and designations prior to start time, and you will save time later.
  5. Purge and modify entries and edit on the job, and you will ensure what’s in your dictionary will translate properly.
  6. Make weekly revisions, and you will feel accountable having set goals.
  7. Brief repetitive words and phrases and use Auto-Brief or Brief-It, and you will save valuable energy.
  8. Monitor your screen throughout the proceeding, and you will identify where to check trouble spots.
  9. Use the Internet to research proper names on the job, and you will have gained an edge.
  10. Learn how to finger-spell, and you will eliminate puzzled looks when nonsensical words appear.
  11. Sign up for the free Word-of-the-Day (my personal favorite is from Merriam-webster.com), and you will become familiar with many esoteric words without having to wait until you’ve heard them for the first time.

Debra A. Levinson, RMR, CRR, CMRS, CRI, is a freelance court reporter and agency owner from White Plains, N.Y. She can be reached at dal@dalcoreporting.com.

The sport of realtime

By Ron Cook

Before I even knew what court reporting was, I majored in physical education in college. It was then that I started to see advertisements for court reporting school, and I began to think, “Hey, I could do that.” Shortly thereafter, I dropped out of the college I was attending and began court reporting school, never to look back.

I have often equated the work that I do at my machine during a deposition with that of an athlete. I’ve always been competitive, and I carried that competitiveness over to my writing. What can I do to make myself faster? What can I do to make myself more efficient? How can I beat this machine? How can I get my computer to work for me instead of me working for it? I’d like to share some of the mental approaches I’ve learned to adapt from sports and life, in general, to reporting.

baseball-680079_960_720First, you may have heard of the expression to slow things down. A batter will try to slow things down as the pitcher begins to pitch. Obviously, that doesn’t mean that the batter has control of the pitcher’s velocity. What it does mean is that the batter, instead of tensing up, stays relaxed and slows things down mentally. When things get going really fast or things start to get heated, that’s when I’ve noticed myself tensing up. That’s when I know it’s time to slow things down mentally.

I can remember back nearly 50 years ago (please don’t do the math!), when I was on the sixth grade track team. I wasn’t a particularly fast runner, but I’ve never forgotten one race over all others. I remember one race where it felt as though I was running above the ground. My touch was so light, and it was absolutely effortless. When things get going really fast these days, I try to liken my fingers to that day when my feet were seemingly floating on air.

I have another analogy that works for me, so I’ll share it here. Picture yourself driving 65 miles an hour down the freeway. As you look directly in front of you, things are relatively calm and slow moving. If you were to look directly to your right or left, it’s amazing how all things are just flying by. Trees go whooshing by. Cars going the opposite direction seemingly are going 150 miles per hour. Relating that to reporting, if you keep your head figuratively looking straight ahead (as in listening out ahead), the words are processed with ease and good rhythm. If you try to get the words as they’re spewing forth (as in looking to the side while driving), it feels as though they’re coming at you at 400 words per minute. I’ve tried to train myself to kind of sit back (as in looking straight ahead) and let the words and phrases flow.

This has been a process for me, as I’d always been the type of writer who tried to write every word as it came out. I’m training myself to sit back just a tad and listen for that next brief or phrase. For about the past 8-10 years, I’ve been working on writing shorter (thus cleaner), and it’s certainly an ongoing process, part of the journey. Try it. You might like it! And it will certainly help with your accuracy in realtime!

Ron Cook, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, is an agency owner and freelancer based in Seattle, Wash. He can be reached at rcook@srspremier.com.

You never know where your next tip will come from

By Cathy Busa

Tips and tricks for writing realtime are something all working court reporters could use more of! So, for that reason, I canvassed some of my fellow officials for realtime tips that they swear by for improving their writing and translation rates.

The first response I received was from a coworker at the courthouse (who also is a part-time broadcast captioner). For her, the key to becoming a more expert realtime writer is learning to fingerspell. While it may seem that this activity would slow you down, it actually keeps you from slowing down because instead of hesitating over an outline that you may or may not have in your dictionary, you can rapidly fingerspell the word and ease on down the road. If you aren’t in the habit of it, start when testimony is not too onerous and just fingerspell little words like “that” and “who” to get the feel for it. Along this line, she suggests also using the brief suggestions from your software. As an example, after recently fingerspelling the word “tonsillectomy,” she immediately requested a brief for it so if it was said again, it would be much simpler and ready for her to use instantly.

Another writing tip I received includes being sure to use the number conversion feature that is now found in virtually all of our software programs. This may take some time to go through your dictionary and remove all entries with numbers attached to them, such as “in ’97” or “$1500” or “two or three.” But if you are willing to expend a little bit of effort to work on your personal dictionary ahead of time and then tweak the settings within your CAT software to correspond with your number-writing style, you will find that your numbers will translate almost always correctly — and that will save you precious editing/scoping time from now on.

Word boundary issues are the dreaded area that I think realtimers always have to be prepared for. A couple of examples that I have personally encountered were “how to figure outweighs to do new things” and “keep your ion the situation.” While I have changed my writing to correct these two particular mistranslates, I now rarely define homophones as I did here, but try to actually write and define them differently to eliminate them altogether.

Finally, there are several sources of briefs according to the subject matter and case you are going to be working with, such as legal, medical, asbestos, financial, and so on. Take advantage of your JCR articles and learn and utilize the briefs others ahead of us have found to be helpful. Join Facebook pages and network with other reporters also for writing tips. A favorite part of our state association’s annual convention is the steno swap session, where people ask for and others assist with shorthand briefs for those pesky phrases and long words that invariably try to trip up even the best realtime writer.

If you really want to accept the challenge to improve your writing and become the best and most professional realtime reporter that you can be, stretch yourself and begin to implement small changes to your dictionary and your writing one step at a time. Perhaps the final and best word of advice is this: “If nothing changes, nothing changes.”

Cathy Busa, RPR, is an official court reporter from Plantersville, Texas. She can be reached at cmbusa@sbcglobal.net.

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.

A realtime tip that I will never forget

By Felicia Coleman Jordan

One of my favorite realtime tips came about due to a CART assignment at a college in my area. Upon arriving at the classroom, I set up my laptop realtime software and netbook for my student. I taped down my extension cord and cables to make sure that no one would trip while walking around the classroom. After hooking up, I checked my laptop and the student’s netbook to make sure that there was a proper connection on both computers. Initially, both computer screens were connected. A few minutes later, however, I noticed that my student’s screen had gone blank. I went to the student’s netbook to try to troubleshoot the issue and was unable to immediately resolve the problem.

It was important that I get the student’s netbook up and running, so I had to quickly decide how to troubleshoot the issue. I knew if I moved my computer in front of the student, she would be able to read my screen and join the lecture. As my extension cord and cables were currently taped to the floor and class was getting ready to start, I realized that this may not be as simple as I first thought. I had to make sure not to disturb the professor or the rest of the students while troubleshooting the problem. Time was of the essence at this point, as the lecture was only seconds away from starting.

I quietly pulled the tape up from where my cables ran and swiftly moved my laptop over to where the student was seated. I placed my laptop in front of the student so that she was able to read from my screen. She was now up and running. I was so thankful that I was able to resolve the problem before the lecture started — I must admit, my student was, too!

Immediately following the lecture, the professor approached me with a wonderful compliment. He indicated that he was very impressed with how quickly I was able to resolve the issue and that the student was able to continue the lesson with the rest of the class. I was pleased with the professor’s compliment. However, this was something that I was determined to avoid happening in the future.

I was aware that realtime was done with or without cables, so I researched available products to determine which one would work best for me. I also reviewed material that I had gathered from realtime seminars and finally decided

to go with a product called ME2U from Stenocast. This piece of equipment allowed me to write realtime in a safe and secure way. Using ME2U at my next CART assignment, I was able to transmit my realtime feed from my computer to the student’s netbook without a problem. Its quick USB connection took away the pain of taping down cables and cords and gave me more time to do other things in preparation of the student’s lectures. I may not choose to write wireless realtime in the courtroom, but for my CART assignments, this was the way to go!

Felicia Coleman Jordan, RPR, is a freelancer based in Detroit, Mich. She can be reached at feliciajordan@aol.com.

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.

10 tips to becoming a star realtimer

By Abby Waller

As the demand grows in the court reporting field for our knowledge and skill in realtime, we must strive to stay ahead of the game when it comes to providing this service that has proven to help keep our profession alive and thriving.

Whether you’re a new reporter or have been working 20 years, it’s never too late to start. Here are a few pointers to be a star realtime reporter:

  1. Get a reliable computer with a serial port and CAT software.
  2. Find out where you will be feeding the realtime. An iPad? Desktop? Notebook? Make sure to have cables for a wire feed. If it’s wireless, you will need a hotspot or router or internet access from another source.
  3. Before any job or proceeding for which you’re planning to provide realtime, educate the user. Whether it be a judge, an attorney, or any number of individuals who are receiving the service, it’s helpful for them to know what they can expect.
  4. Obtain any documents with names, addresses, and specific job terminology to put in your dictionary so your translate rate is the most accurate it can be.
  5. Turn off your automatic running of antivirus software and your screen saver. This can interfere with the realtime feed, sometimes causing your computer to crash, in turn, forcing you to halt the proceedings. Set a more convenient time for your antivirus program to run, such as when you’re asleep.
  6. Use your software to find its “Brief-It” feature. This will enable you to learn and use briefs on the fl y during the proceedings.
  7. Keep your laptop open and follow your own realtime so you are forced to learn where your writing could use fi ne-tuning to enhance your accuracy rate.
  8. At breaks, clean up these “rough” or unreadable spots. Of course, this will save you time later in editing, but it will also make the realtime feed easier to read if the user is going back to refer to a certain part of the testimony throughout the job.
  9. Finally, after the job is over, check in with the realtime user to get feedback. Good or bad, this is always helpful for your next job.
  10. Don’t forget to have fun with this. While this may be a serious part of the future in our profession, it’s an opportunity to learn and become proficient in exciting technology.

Abby Waller, RPR, CRR, is an official court reporter in Sacramento, Calif. She can be reached at abbywallercsr@gmail.com.

Reporting in Nigeria

A street scene in Lagos: A narrow paved street with a line of cars (sometimes single file, sometimes double file), cars parked or waiting to move on either side of the street, pedestrians crowded mostly on the left side. Near the background, a cluster of colorful umbrellas. In the back, white nondescript buildings. At the top in the foreground and background are electrical wires.By Jason Meadors

It was departure day for Nigeria, a three-week work trip I went on a few months ago. That day started out with a typical trip to the airport — not really stressed, but I was thinking: “What if something goes wrong?” This is part and parcel of the whole international work experience, at least for me. What if I forgot something? What if I didn’t pack the right cord for a piece of equipment? Or forgot a piece of equipment? Do I have all the right gear for the power differences? And oh, yes, I checked to make sure I have my passport for the 251st time.

Regarding the travel there: For some of these gigs, the client or paying party treats you like an integral part of the team. Sometimes not so much. For this Nigeria trip, they did, springing for business first class, which was particularly welcome on the Boeing 787 from my connecting flight in Houston to Lagos, Nigeria.

Business first class on that plane is sure comfortable. I had a glass of wine with dinner (that they kept offering to refill). I had my own television, and not the little one on the seat back in front of me, but a good-sized one in my little nook, with TV shows and movies on demand and all that stuff. And I didn’t have to jam my bag under the seat in front of me or in the overhead. I have shelves and cubbyholes for all my stuff.

And then, ah, the whole “resting while flying” thing. The little reclining icon on the controls by the seat shows a bed option. I didn’t believe it can lie down flat, but it really did, and I achieved a reclined sleeping position that, given the circumstances, is not terrible. Having flown coach about 99 percent of my traveling time, I can unequivocally state that sleeping in coach ranks somewhere between pretty terrible and downright awful.

International assignments are a sporadic thing for me. For some of my colleagues, it’s their bread and butter. I do envy those who fly constantly and have the miles to upgrade from economy when that’s all the client will buy. It makes all the difference to arrive reasonably comfortable and reasonably rested.

I was hoping to see some cool African landscape as we flew over the coast, but that was not to be. Clouds covered everything. The clouds broke up as we came closer, and it was odd not to see roads, grids of towns, or any sign of civilization. It’s sort of like flying over western Alaska, except this looks flat the whole way.

View is through the windshield of a car as if sitting in the passenger seat. A line of street vendors walk along the car holding various wares for sale. They are looking ahead.The airport at Lagos wasn’t anarchy — merely low-level chaos. After disembarking, the team I traveled with and I found ourselves in a fairly dark tunnel, finally making our way up to the immigration stations, where we were given the forms to fill out. We crouched around in the middle of the line, trying to do so. Once the forms were completed, we were ignored for a while by the immigration officers.

That was the start of the fun. Outside the airport, we had a chase truck complete with armed guards with our luggage in it and a bus to hold the lawyers and reporters. Then the bus ride started. It was interesting.

The main roads were paved, and all the side roads were dirt. Lagos is not a pretty town. What was most striking to me was there was lots of trash and lots of frenzied, aggressive driving. Pedestrians do not have the right of way. Street vendors walk down the active lanes between lines of cars that are stalled in traffic or moving slowly. The vendors push their various wares, sometimes carrying them on the tops of their heads.

The trip across town to the compound took about an hour and a half. I’d estimate our average progress at about 45 hpm (honks per minute). Most of the time, lane lines were a forgotten memory. There were a lot of roadside marketplaces with tented stalls, teeming with people.

The national car of Nigeria seems to be the VW bus. There are tons of them around, and not all in good shape, looking as tired as an 80-year-old factory worker, packed with goods and people. Lots of them were painted yellow, which seemed odd, until we figured that they were unmarked cabs. Well, unmarked but for the paint job. A number of times, the VWs cruising down the road featured the sliding door open, with one or two people hanging out to enjoy the breeze.

Our bus driver was fearless and stellar in his abilities. Maybe he can’t do what I can for a living, but I couldn’t do what he does either. The road experience made me wonder why more cars aren’t scraped and striped on the sides, or why more pedestrians’ bodies aren’t scattered about. Maybe they’re just all used to it and compensate appropriately, or maybe this was a good day.

We got to the compound, an island of cushiness in a sea of chaos. It was like an attractive Southern California subdivision, if the subdivision had a concrete-lined moat, guard towers, emergency assembly points scattered around the area, and a security briefing that told us what to do in case of gunfire. (Don’t check it out, and try to keep at least two walls between yourself and the gunfire.) The house to which I, another reporter, and one of the attorneys were assigned was done very nicely indeed. The depositions that I reported for those three weeks were in the same house. Shortest commute ever.

Sure, that’s all nice. But I hear you saying, “This is the JCR I’m reading, right? What about the reporting?”

The first day was simply nerve-wracking for me. Not because of the attorneys or witnesses (not yet, anyway), but because my realtime gear was acting up. I had done a dry run before I left home, I had done a dry run the day before the first job, and then when I had everything ready on the important day, the gear just wouldn’t cooperate. I went down my hardware and software checklists, A, B, C, D, [expletive deleted], and it’s still was not connecting. By then, everyone had shown up. I set up my backup system and got it going, but now the deposition is starting with the scent of frustration – and it was emanating from me.

The witnesses that I had were villagers from an area up the coast. Although I knew that English is the official language of Nigeria, I knew I couldn’t relax. Many of the villagers spoke their tribal language, and we needed an interpreter for that. Some of the witnesses could speak pidgin English, and so we had an interpreter for that. Some of the witnesses spoke English, but a heavily accented form that would have had me scratching my head, if my hands were not already busy. The interpreters had accents, too.

The second day of the job was better than the first. The equipment all decided to get in line and step in time and stayed that way for the rest of the assignment. I didn’t do anything differently. It just worked, even through the eight or so little blackouts that we had. And that was pretty much how the rest of the job went over the course of three weeks. Well, sometimes we went late, the accents were a constant struggle, and while I thoroughly enjoyed the attorney I worked with, he was focused, energetic, and didn’t need the breaks that we so cherish in order to recharge.

Through the witnesses, I learned a little about life in Nigeria. The deponents were from fishing villages. One was married, but not really, because he hadn’t paid the bride price. Another had kids — four boys and one girl. He was dismissive of the daughter and didn’t know how old she was. The towns’ heads was called king and referred to as Highness. And one village went to war against another, complete with gunfire and invasion and refugees. Toilets in one place were perched over the river, which carried away the waste (to another village downriver, presumably).

Fried whole fish covered with sliced cucumbers, sliced onions, and french fries with a side of ketchup. Next to the food is a set of plasticware. The plate is covered in aluminum foil.After some hard days of work, there was a consensus among the legal beagles — well, most of us — to get out and see what was outside of the compound. In Nigeria, going out to see the sights took some coordination, at least for our cautious hosts.

We staged with our new Nigerian friends who work for the corporation running the compound. We sallied forth in two SUVs, mercifully driven by Nigerians, with a chase car (black pickup), marked POLICE, complete with overhead lights. It was apparently vitally important that we stay together, because in the madcap, mad-dash Lagos traffic, whenever we’d get separated by other cars, there’d be a “WHOOP WHOOP” behind us — the siren of the chase car — and we’d rejoin.

At the roundabouts — oh, my. I’ve been taught that the cars in the roundabout have the right of way, and the cars joining traffic wait for an opening. Ha! Think more of a game of “chicken” with a generous seasoning of Demolition Derby. We were helped in our case by the chase car, lights flashing, jamming into the flow and running interference for us as adeptly as any All-Pro offensive lineman on an NFL team.

We got to the beach, a favored hangout of one of our hosts. The place was energetic in getting the plastic chairs and tables set up for us. The proprietors came around with a big dead fish on a platter. I was about to say, “No thanks,” when our host ordered five of them. Well, okay.

We walked out on the jetty, did some photo-taking at the far end, came back, and the fish started showing up. It was spicy and delicious. Well, at least it was merely spicy for our hosts and me. Another reporter on the team, Stephanie Leslie of Regal Reporting out of Orange County, Calif., announced that her mouth was on fire and took some good-natured ribbing from our Nigerian friends. The sweet potato fries that accompanied them were quite tasty. Later, we also chowed down on some beef prepared by a beachside barbecuer, coated with a spicy rub, more flavor than heat, also quite good.

The beach. Relative to my American sensibilities, it was a mixture of nice sand and a trash pit. The structures are a combination of reasonably functional, combined with ramshackle, dilapidated, and crumbling. Or crumbled.

The folks were all good-natured. I’m not gregarious, not in the United States, not in Nigeria, not much anywhere, but others in our group had no problems making new friends. That feeling of safety may have been enhanced by the guys from the chase car in their police uniforms carrying firearms.

Really, from that quiet afternoon, it’s hard to get across the variety we experienced: the entertaining kid rapper in the St. Louis Cardinals shirt, the onslaught of vendors coming to our table (I got some trinkets for my granddaughters), the sights along the roadside.

As the days wore on, the biggest reporting challenge turned out to be the accent. I tried to prep, I really did. One of the major town names is Port Harcourt. It pretty well comes out porked, but it sounds like a porked where I felt I was lucky to have made out that much of the word, until they say they flew from there, and I thought, “Oh, that can’t be right,” and of course I tried to figure it out while they kept moving along in their soliloquy.

Or another main town, Yenagoa. I looked at the word list and read Yen-a-go-a. I heard the attorneys say, Yen-a-go-a, and I thought, “Yeah. I got this.” Then I heard the witnesses talking about going to Engwa and selling fish in Engwa, and I struggled along with that and the rest of the vocabulary, and finally I started hearing a little Yeh at the start and I realized that Engwa is actually Yenagoa.

So much for the prep.

The attorneys had been interviewing local witnesses and personalities for weeks, or months, or maybe years, and their ears were tuned. Mine were not. But even the attorneys could get taken aback. One memorable exchange:

A. This is our seashore. Where —
Q. This is your —
A. — where we come at. Yes.
Q. Is your sister, did you say?
A. Seashore.
Q. Seesaw?
A. Seaside, yes.
Q. Seaside.
A. Yeah.

When you can’t tell seashore from sister from seesaw from seaside, you’re in for one great treat.

Rough drafts went out as soon as possible, which meant before the start of business the next day and preferably before the evening is done. Yup, all 300 pages, or whatever the count is, working through that accent.

Okay, I’m really not complaining. It was a good, interesting gig, and I feel privileged to have been on it.

We pretty much took depositions every workday, and since it was Nigeria, that included the Fourth of July. The worst depositions, the most dreaded, were when the witness would come in with attorneys’ assurances that no interpreter was needed that day. Because they were generally wrong.

A young woman and an older man are facing the camera with their arms congenially around each other's shoulders as if friends. The woman is holding a steno machine on a tripod.

Stephanie Leslie and the author, smiling as they leave the compound.

My first day’s job (after the realtime issue) was the baptism in fire, well over 300 pages saturated with my mental “Huh?” I heard a word, I spent a second trying to figure it out, I finally did based on the content, and by then, the speaker is 15 words further along in the speech, 10 of which I’m going through the same tortured analysis.

The other reporting stuff was pretty mundane, as these things go: realtime to counsel, rough drafts to counsel, relatively quick turnaround. However, as the days go on, mundane translates to burdensome. We kept taking depos every day and found the work piling up, swamped with returns from the scopists who couldn’t understand the witnesses any better than we could and returns from the proofers who were baffled as well. All the while, we’re keeping exhibits together, doing any techno-troubleshooting, and trying to find something to eat and a few hours to sleep. The equation of roughs, realtime, and transcript production started generating a sum value of fatigue.

The three-reporter team, with three different CAT systems, was great and fired on all cylinders. The attorneys were easy to get along with. Three of them were Brits, leading to interesting discussions on the state of things on the island across the pond.

And the witnesses, hard as they are to take down, were nevertheless fascinating. This experience certainly gave me a different perspective on life. Let me say, when I listened to the witnesses talking about going out to the swamp or river to do their personal business, when they were literally eating what they killed or pulled out of the dirt, when they told of drinking water pulled out of the ground, and the concept of phones, refrigerators, and televisions were laughable, I saw my life differently. I listened, with a mixture of fascination and sadness, to witness after witness coming in from their first plane ride, in a big city for the first time, from their hardscrabble existence.

So, you might want to ask, was it worth it?

It was good to get home after three weeks of constant heavily overtime days, but this experience was hugely informative and rewarding.

But, yeah, I’d go back.

 

Jason Meadors, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, is a freelance reporter in Fort Collins, Colorado. He also writes fiction and currently has five titles on Amazon.

The aspiring realtime warrior

By Michelle Kirkpatrick

Let’s start right off with a controversial topic. I’ve heard it said there’s a breakdown of abilities and skill levels within court reporters: The top 10 percent of reporters are exceptionally skilled, able to write virtually any sort of realtime or fast-speaking real-life material thrown at them; the next 50 to 60 percent are your “average” reporter; and the “bottom” 30 to 40 percent of reporters perhaps virtually always struggling with a skill level that would throw them out of a chance to participate in that realtime realm completely, ever, in their lifetime.

Whether you’re inclined to believe that or not, the reality is, if you lined all of us reporters up and were able to judge with divine powers who should be placed ahead of whom, there is going to be an inevitable top and bottom.

Does that really matter? I assert that it absolutely does not. As reporters, we all have the ability to write. If you are a practicing court reporter, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you’ve made it far enough to be able to make an adequate record and that you’ve got some skills. Some in our profession would argue that there are some people who are not certified or not skilled enough to be called a reporter. But I am not writing this to debate the fine semantics of inadequacies that could make or break someone not being “qualified” to really be doing this job at all.

So if we can agree to set that aside, then let’s face it: A great many laypeople in this world don’t have what it takes, for whatever reason, to do what we do. We’ve made it past that threshold to write the spoken word in such a manner so as to be able to attempt to capture a verbatim record in our normal daily work. I would hope that most reporters at least consider themselves an average reporter! If you consider yourself a struggling reporter, maybe even a little less than average, however, then maybe you need to pay even more attention to my next few thoughts.

Does the title of this article — “The aspiring realtime warrior” — barely even strike you as being relevant to your life? Do you feel it takes a special something that you don’t have in order to be “one of those” who can write realtime and write it well enough for others to see?

If you are nodding in the affirmative, then I will agree with you, it does take something you don’t currently have. What you lack is drive. What you lack is the determination to be better. It may be that family life or health issues or financial difficulties or other circumstances in your life prevent you from acting right now to improve your skills to the point I’m talking about. But if you are thinking you are not one of those special people who can ever do this, I maintain that is not true! You do need to be extremely motivated. You do need to be very determined. You have to be willing to persevere. You have to want it — like the overweight person who has a difficult time breathing when walking from the living room to the kitchen but wants to someday run a marathon. I could give many examples in life where people who do not seemingly have the advantage wind up on top. You, too, can end up on top! You, too, can be that realtime warrior, the person who fits your own definition of what that means to you.

Merriam Webster’s online definition of warrior is “a person who fights in battles and is known for having courage and skill.” Under “Examples of warriors,” it has this thought: “a program of tough training and discipline that turns untried civilians into warriors.”

The webpage also has some interesting answers further down to their question, “What made you want to look up warrior?”

  • “Developing a warrior weight loss empowerment program.”
  • “My son graduating from college wrote a paper of being raised by a single mom and called me a warrior so was curious of the exact definition.”
  • “Preparing a message for Sunday. Topic: being an overcomer, therefore, a warrior.”
  • “I heard the word Warrior, some people are spiritual soldiers then there are those that are called to be warriors who are known for their courage and skill.”

Blood, sweat, and tears. Goal-setting. Visualization. Words of affirmation. Becoming a sponge to soak up as much realtime career information as you can find in seminars, Internet articles, message boards, and court reporting realtime and theory books. More goal-setting. More visualization and words of affirmation. Surrounding yourself with those who have attained what you’re looking to attain. Asking questions. Believing. All of these things are what makes a warrior, and all of these things are something you can do.

The average reporter — the “untried civilian” — through a “program of tough training and discipline,” armed merely with their own sheer determination to improve, learn, and aspire to be that realtime warrior will be average no more.

Less than half a decade ago, I was a 24/7 single mother, an RPR, and still on Premier Power, writing on the Baron TX I had purchased brand-new in 1986, then upgrading to a refurbished Stentura 8000. Over the years of my career, I had worked for a couple of freelance agencies writing your typical deposition content; had done my own solo thing for ten years, averaging maybe a thousand pages a month or less; and since have taken a salaried district court official position. I really had been busy for more than 15 years being that warrior mom to three little boys! And while I was certainly proud of the reporter that I was, I was definitely not, by anyone’s definition, in the top 10 percent of reporters in the nation, nor was I necessarily an “exceptional” reporter in any identifiable way. Until I became determined. Until I became relentlessly focused. Until I had a vision that I would not let go of. Less than three years later, with updated realtime software and new steno machine, I became armed with five additional NCRA certifications, one federal realtime certification, and qualified in an NCRA Realtime Contest. Am I average? I think it’s safe to say, maybe by anyone’s definition, not so much anymore.

What I can say with definite certainty, however, at least by my own definition — if no one else’s – I am a realtime warrior. And I can say with certainty that if you want it, then without a doubt, you too can be a realtime warrior.

“Man cannot aspire if he looked down; if he rise, he must look up.” —  Samuel Smiles

Michelle Kirkpatrick, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, is a freelance reporter working in Denver, Colo. She can be reached at michelle@kirkpatrick.net.

This article was written to promote the use of realtime among court reporters. More information from court reporters about succeeding as a realtime reporter is available through NCRA.org/realtime.