Reporting the Keystone pipeline public comment meetings

By Sheryl Teslow and Lori McGowan

At a long skirted table on an auditorium stage sit five people in professional attire; at a skirted table on the floor sit two court reporters; in front, with their backs to the camera, are a father and his two young sons, all three dressed in jeans, plaid shirts, boots, and ball caps

Lori McGowan, center left, and Sheryl Teslow, center right, write the public’s comments on the Keystone pipeline. Photo courtesy Omaha World-Herald.

In 2013, the U.S. State Department held a public comment hearing in Grand Island, Neb., as part of the presidential permit application. The pipeline is designed to carry tar-sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast for refinery and export. Because it crosses the border with Canada, the presidential permit is required.

Latimer Reporting was hired to report the day-long hearing. Lori and I took on the assignment ourselves. We knew it would go all day and into the night, so we knew we wanted two reporters. At first, we thought one would do the first half and the other would cover the second half. At the last minute, we decided to ride out together, so we were both there from the beginning. That turned out to be incredibly helpful. I took the first section of testimony. The first few witnesses were Native Americans who spoke in both Lakota and English, using many unfamiliar names of people and places. When the first speaker finished, Lori had the presence of mind to approach him before he sat back down and asked for the notes he was reading from. We continued that practice throughout the entire hearing. We were not always able to convince the speakers to turn over their notes, but most of them did cooperate. The hearing began at noon and ended at 11 p.m. The transcript was 494 pages.

The pipeline and its route are highly controversial and in 2015, President Barack Obama denied the permit. In 2017, President Donald Trump revived the project, and the responsibility for siting the pipeline through Nebraska now rests with the Nebraska Public Service Commission. They scheduled a public comment meeting to be held in York. Latimer Reporting, and Lori in particular, has a great deal of experience with the Public Service Commission, so they asked us to cover this hearing. The hearing began at 9 a.m. and ended at 7 p.m. The transcript was 406 pages.

Since Lori and I had the experience in 2013, we, of course, took on the assignment again and used the same process. One of us would write the proceedings and the other would track down speakers as they finished and request their notes, and then we would switch off.

As far as preparation, we really didn’t do that much to prepare for the first hearing in 2013. We were familiar with the issue and some of the interested groups. We did do a little bit of internet searching for some possible technical terms that might come up, but there wasn’t much we could do to prepare. There was no list of witnesses and no appearances of counsel. Most of the speakers were concerned citizens and landowners, so there wasn’t a great deal of technical testimony.

The same things were true in 2017. We arrived at the venue two hours ahead of the scheduled start time and made sure that the sound system was in good working order and that we were directly in front of the speaker podiums. We had our job dictionaries from the first hearing and were now more familiar with the names of people and places and technical terms that were likely to come up.

The 2013 transcript was used by the State Department. We were told it would eventually end up on President Obama’s desk and was part of the official record used to deny the pipeline permit. The 2017 transcript will become part of the official record of the Nebraska Public Service Commission in their decision on siting.

Public comment hearings do present some interesting challenges. Speakers are given five minutes to present their testimony. Very few of them are used to public speaking. They are speaking to a very large crowd and in front of many television news cameras, so they are nervous and tend to read from their notes very quickly. The large crowd behind them at times reacts loudly, sometimes in support and sometimes in opposition to what they are saying, sometimes to the point of drowning the speaker out. There are speakers who cry and speakers who are angry and speakers who yell, so it can be a challenge sometimes to hear them. Again, most people were cooperative in turning their notes over to us when we explained it would help us prepare the transcript. When they were reluctant, we offered to give them an envelope and promised to return the original to them. Some speakers would let us take a photo with a phone.

Each speaker was required to register and received a number. They filled out a sheet with their name, place of residence, speaker number, and whether they were speaking in support or in opposition. Speakers were called up to the microphone in order. They had five minutes to speak. They were instructed to leave those sheets with us at the end of their time. So when we retrieved the notes they had read from, it was easy to keep the notes with the sign-in sheet and the speaker number.

Quite honestly, at the end of the hearing in 2013, Lori and I looked at each other and said, “Never again.” The experience was stressful and draining and a bit out of our comfort zone. But as is usually true, an experience that challenges you is rewarding in the end, and it was interesting and fun to be in the middle of history. So naturally, when our client asked us to do it again, we took a deep breath and said yes.

Sheryl Teslow, RDR, CRR, and Lori McGowan, RDR, CRR, are both owners of Latimer Reporting in Lincoln, Neb.

Court reporting dominates local news in Texas

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyNCRA members Cayce Coskey, RPR; Leslie Ryan-Hash; Carol Smith, RPR; and Nardi Reeves were quoted in an article posted June 18 by the Times Record, Wichita Falls, Texas, that showcases the role of a court reporter as well as the speed and accuracy needed to succeed in the profession. Also on June 17, the newspaper posted an article about the salaries of Nueces County court reporters. On June 18, an editorial piece calling the salary assessment “grossly unfair” was published in the newspaper.

PROMOTING THE PROFESSION: My best reporting job ever

By Melody Jeffries Peters

1995 was the first year Professor Greg Munro at the Alexander Blewett III School of Law invited me into the classroom on the University of Montana campus to do a realtime deposition for 85 future lawyers. Though we’ve never kept track, we know we’ve done it for 15 years for sure, so I’ve been afforded the opportunity to address well over 1,200 students.  These students become attorneys, and I’ve subsequently encountered a large number of them in my work.

Each year we do a mock deposition about a real case that Professor Munro had involving drinking in a livestock barn and a subsequent horse accident. The demonstration is interactive, educational, and funny. When they talk about drinking only one beer, I quickly write: “Liar, liar, pants on fire,” and very quickly we’ve got the students’ attention. When the attorneys misspeak, I toss in: “Come on, you gotta spit it out.” Laughter erupts, and we are all truly enjoying this!

After we complete the mock deposition, I’m given the floor. This year, we handed out a number of iPads so the students could view CVNet and try their hand at it. Technology has changed greatly over the years, but I find it’s useful showing the deposition on a big screen of some kind. I explain the challenges of technology and how it’s not my forte and that, by default, since I sign the checks in my office, I am the IT department, but the first two letters are SH! They nod in sympathy.

This is also my chance to explain why reporters can be reluctant to do realtime. I share the story of covering court where the couple’s names were Yvonne and Al. Yvonne and Al did everything together. Yvonne and Al were good parents. My stroke for and is A-N. My stroke for al is A-L. The judge was seeing a number of creative uses of the word anal that day.

Working in Montana, reporters can wear a lot of hats. I get to familiarize the group with all the different kinds of reporting, and I touch on official, freelance, and CART work.

I grab their collective ears and tell them I have to know when the case involves Mr. Pierce and Mr. Pearce, and the key is I need to know ahead of time. “Ankylosing spondylitis”? Share that word with your reporter before the deposition, I tell them. Deadlines? Make sure you address those too, I say.

I cover a vast array of topics from marking exhibits to scheduling, and from enunciating to courtroom protocol. I remind them I’m trying to make a record, not set one, so they need to speak slowly. Videotaping, video conferencing … we cover it all at breakneck speed, violating my own aforementioned rule.

Handouts? You bet. We provide NCRA’s “Making the Record” brochure along with some swag and a few articles on who’s responsible for paying the reporter’s bill. [Ed. Note: The Making the Record materials have been expanded through the National Court Reporters Foundation. See sidebar for more information.] My office creates a legal-sized laminated list of every attorney and law firm in the county that we give to the students. This list is the best marketing tool ever. I provide a transcript of the deposition for the students to work with, which becomes a learning and teaching tool.

The presentations and transcript production I do at the law school are unquestionably the best pro bono work I can do as a firm owner. Because of this exposure, I’ve been asked to do seminars for lawyers, I did a PowerPoint presentation for the New Lawyers Group held at the law school, and I’ve been included as a sponsor for the Women’s Law Caucus, to name just a few. At the law school’s luncheon, I have been recognized, along with other volunteers, as a contributor to the success of the law school.

This year Professor Munro’s thank-you note said that he’d received the most comments ever about our demonstrations and he couldn’t thank me enough. However, I am forever grateful for the chance to strengthen the relationship between attorneys and court reporters. Every lawyer loves to win in court, but who doesn’t love a win-win situation? The law school gets a relevant presentation in realtime, I get to meet aspiring lawyers about to enter the field, we promote NCRA, and everybody is better off because of our collaboration. That’s a win in my book!

 

Melody Jeffries Peters, RDR, CRR, CRC, is an agency owner and freelancer in Missoula, Mont. She can be reached at mjeffries@montana.com.

 

 

Making the RecordNCRF’s “Making the Record” tools help reporters teach lawyers

The “Making the Record” brochure, originally created in 1937, has been updated over the years to help the bench and bar better understand the factors that make a clear record and is now housed as part of the Legal Education program materials provided by the National Court Reporters Foundation. The materials include not only a free, downloadable pdf of the brochure, but a Powerpoint presentation that can be adapted by reporters for the audience, outlines, and handouts that can be presented as part of a presentation. Materials are available at NCRA.org/NCRF/LegalEd.

NCRF’s programs are supported by tax-deductible donations to NCRF.

 

New professional spotlight: Aimee Edwards-Altadonna

By Rachel Barkume

Aimee Edwards-Altadonna headshotFreelance reporter Aimee Edwards-Altadonna, from Modesto, Calif., came to reporting as a second career, looking to blend her creative side with her interest in the legal field. She talks a little about how she entered the field, what she loves about reporting, and how she and her husband Vinny balance home, family, and work life.

What made you want to become a court reporter?

I came to court reporting in one giant full-circle moment. I wanted to be a lawyer in college and maybe become a lobbyist for the National Organization for Women (NOW) or work for NOW as an attorney fighting for women’s rights and equal pay. I even went so far as to have submitted my law school application and completed the LSAT. While wrapping up my college career, I started working for lawyers as a legal assistant/secretary so I could get a good feel for what that world would be like — and to be honest, I didn’t love it. Right about the time I had to make the call to start law school, I found a new hobby — glass fusing. I fell hard and my hobby quickly turned into an obsession. So much so that I decided to take a year off after college and just play with it. That year off turned into seven years, and I found myself running a full-time small business selling fused glass artwork and jewelry in my galleries in Monterey and Carmel, Calif. It was a great time, and I learned a lot about what it takes to be a small-business owner in California. I eventually closed the business when my first son, Owen, was born. I’ve always been an ambitious person and, for me, I needed to do more than be a full-time, stay-at-home mom. I started thinking about going back to school. I knew I did not want to go to law school anymore. I did some research and started considering court reporting. I started court reporting school online when my son was 10 months old, and it was the perfect combination of the legal world and artistry in becoming proficient on the steno machine.

What tips would you give to a new professional who is trying to maintain a healthy work/life balance?

Get a massage. Get a massage. Get a massage! Did I mention, get a massage? You have to take care of your body. I started out getting routine massages every month, and then every two weeks, and now I get one almost every week. It makes a huge difference in the discomfort I feel from sitting all day during depositions and driving all those miles.

I also think it’s important to always have something to look forward to such as a trip to a convention or a little ocean getaway with the whole family over a weekend. Having those plans in place reminds you why you are working so hard all the time and reminds you that there is life outside of work and a light at the end of the tunnel or editing cave.

What are your future goals for your court reporting career?

In the short term, I would like to complete the last leg of my RPR. When I am finally certified, I put it in my five-year plan to be a realtime reporter. The first two-and-a-half years have flown by, but I’m steadily improving my skillset.

What are some of your favorite time-saving practices, techniques, or gadgets?

I love Cozi, a calendaring app. Our whole family uses it, and it makes coordinating our life so much easier. It lets you set reminders for things on your calendar and manage your grocery list at the same time. I calendar out my due dates, and it dings and reminds me as they approach.

I also love the Expensify app. I use it to manage all my receipts and mileage log. I take photos of my receipts and then make reports for myself at the end of the year based on categories I chose. It’s fabulous during tax season. I love not having to keep a giant stack of receipts. You can even email the digital receipts for stuff you buy online right into the app.

Do you have a mentor?

Yes, I have a mentor! I found her when I was already nearing exit speeds, but her constant advice has been invaluable to me as I transitioned from a student, to a student and a proofer, to a student and a proofer and a scopist, and all the way out into the working reporting world. She has guided me and been the most amazing sounding board. She has talked me off many ledges and became one of my very best friends, too. One of the best things she instilled in me was to work hard and play hard. She has always said that some days you are the bird, and some days you are the statue. So when I have a fabulous day and passed a test or nailed readback like a boss, I am the bird flying high. And when I have a horrible, rotten, no good, very bad day, I am the statue below the bird. It has taught me to take each day as it comes knowing that the bad day will be over soon, and I will be back to a fabulous day very soon. Having a mentor is very important for a student and a new reporter. There are so many little things that will come up as you go along, and having someone who just gets it and can help you through will save your sanity.

Your husband, Vinny, has been a prominent supporter of you in your court reporting career. How do you feel that has helped you in your court reporting endeavors? What advice would you or Vinny give to a significant other of a court reporter?

Vinny has kept me sane and fed! He went to culinary school, so we eat really well. He celebrated every little victory along the way to me becoming a reporter and continues to be my biggest supporter and cheerleader. He also lets me vent on the bad days. I would not be a reporter if he hadn’t had my back from the very start. Plus, he doesn’t complain when I travel for jobs or conventions. He and the kids take it in stride, which makes it so much better.

Vinny’s advice for court-reporting significant others:

As the husband of a full-time court reporter, there are three things that I’ve had to learn:

  • Keep it in perspective — Aimee is constantly dealing with all the little ups and downs of her career. She’s constantly juggling jobs, transcripts, scopists, proofers, daily travel schedules, invoices, cash flow, expenses, conventions — the list is endless — and sometimes she gets caught up in that. It can be a bit overwhelming. I try to look at the big picture and keep her motivated and know that by month’s end, we’ll be good.
  • Be flexible — my depo lovin’ court reporter does not have a set schedule, and that means I need to be able to flex and adjust as needed. My work schedule can flex at times, and this allows us the ability for her to pick up that last-minute, out-of-town job. It also helps to have a support structure around us as well.
  • Team effort — Aimee and I are a team, and as the husband-unit in this team, I often have to fill in when she’s out of town. We don’t break up our relationship into “things she does” and “things I do.” We just get it all done. Wash those dishes, clean those clothes, pick up/drop off the kids, go shopping, make dinner, go to that parent-teacher conference solo — it’s part of the game, so just get it done!

What do you like best about being a court reporter?

I love how every single day is different. I am a bit of a road warrior and love exploring new cities, so I will happily cover work all over California — Central Coast, Central Valley, the greater Bay Area, and Sacramento. I cover from Fresno to San Jose to San Francisco and love it all. Every day I am in a new location if I am not at home editing away.

I love the freedom reporting affords me as well. If I want to go to Monterey for a day or two, I can pick up a job by the sea and work a little, too. I also love the fact that if I have a terrible day with an attorney who won’t stop talking over the witness, I never have to go back and work with them again. I have total control in who I will and won’t work with, and that feels amazing!

Court reporting has also brought me the most wonderful group of friends and colleagues ever. I have never met a group of people who are so wonderfully supportive and always trying to lift each other up. I stand in awe of the tribe I have created and their accomplishments as reporters and in life.

What do you like to do when you’re not reporting?

When I am not reporting, I am home with my family, curled up with a book or binge watching a show with my menagerie of fur babies smothering me with love. We have three dogs, a cat, an 85-pound sulcata tortoise, and a baby sulcata tortoise. (The tortoises do not cuddle.)

We also love to take family day trips to Monterey, our happy place. Earlier this year, my husband and I started selling LuLaRoe clothing after I purchased a new wardrobe slowly last year. So now we can be found selling the LuLa in our Facebook group or out of our home boutique in our “spare time.” I even took it to the California Deposition Reporters Association conference in Napa a couple months ago and shared it with my fellow reporters. It was so much fun!

Can you tell us a little about your background and current position?

I have a B.A. from California State University Monterey Bay in human communications with a concentration in women’s studies. I did the majority of my reporting education online through Bryan College and College of Court Reporting. I qualified at West Valley College in Saratoga. I broke my ankle in three places and dislocated it the very same night I qualified so I didn’t return to West Valley to prep for the Certified Shorthand Reporter (CSR) due to my injury and the distance — up to three hours one way in traffic. I prepped for the CSR at Humphreys College in Stockton, 25 minutes from my home, after I recovered enough to do so. I passed all three legs of the CSR on the first try after I won my appeal on the machine portion of the test.

Vinny and I have been married for 17 years and have two pretty awesome spawn. Owen is 9 and loves science and math and karate and basketball. Chloe is 7 and loves all things artistic, from drawing to dancing to singing. They both devour books at a startling rate just like their parents do, and they are way into technology and computer and video games.

I currently freelance for multiple firms. I am a deposition reporter only. I do not cover court work or hearings. I go everywhere for work. I love to work full-day jobs a couple times a week and frequently cover video jobs. I have done everything from work comp at the beginning to doctors to asbestos work to prison jobs and construction defect jobs in a room with 17 attorneys. I am always up for a challenge and will try most any type of job at least once.

Rachel Barkume, RPR, is an official reporter from Oakhurst, Calif., and a member of the New Professionals Committee. She can be reached at rachel.barkume@gmail.com.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: 100-plus years of our profession (and counting)

By Diana Netherton

The duties of a court reporter, often referred to as a stenographer, have essentially remained the same for the past 100 years. The primary task of a court reporter is to capture the spoken word.

Technology, of course, has made the job of a court reporter much easier. From feather quills to computers, the evolution of the profession has been quite remarkable. Before the invention of an official shorthand, court proceedings were taken down in full writing. Of course, getting everything accurately was probably a stretch, but a basic summation of what occurred was recorded. The proceedings were then put into some form of a legible document, today referred to as a transcript, which could later be reviewed by the attorneys and judges for appeal purposes.

In the early 19th century, an American by the name of Isaac Pitman invented a phonetic shorthand theory that enabled stenographers to record proceedings at quicker speeds. This theory of shorthand was adopted by pen writers throughout the English-speaking world. Pitman then produced a varied number of new “editions” of his theory. However, some of his modifications did not bode well with the international shorthand community. One of the major changes was the placement of dot vowels. He reversed the order of the dot vowels and published his new theory in his following edition.

This slight modification rattled a few foundations throughout the steno community. After spending months, even years, crafting their skills with the original version, writers were faced with having to adopt these basic changes if they wanted to keep up with progressing trends. The British, in traditional stiff upper lip fashion, accepted the changes, stating that the modification would be the last they would accept. The Americans, however, in true rebellious fashion, were less accommodating. Some adopted the new theory, however, others produced their separate shorthand versions, keeping the vowels were they originally were. This resulted in several different versions, although not too dissimilar to the original version.

Fractions of these shorthand theories were used for many years until the arrival of a young, ambitious Irish immigrant called John Gregg. Often referred to as the “Apple MacIntosh of the 19th Century,” a new version of shorthand that Gregg created had many more appealing factors. Still phonetic in nature, Gregg’s shorthand proved to be more efficient than Pitman. It allowed the stenographer to keep the pen on the surface of the paper, so hand movements flowed easier. Pitman’s version had both thick and thin lines, whereas Gregg’s version depended on lighter strokes. Although both versions were utilized, in the end it was Gregg’s creation that won the popular vote. Gregg still remains the most popular version of pen shorthand to this day in North America.

Despite these advances in efficient notetaking, the pace technology quickly caught up with stenographers at the dawn of the 20th Century with the invention of the first functional stenotype machine. Created in 1877 by an American named Miles Bartholomew, this remarkable machine, comprising only ten keys, enabled the user to utilize the keys depressed singularly or simultaneously to capture the spoken word with a combination of dots and dashes. There were various improvements to this original prototype over the ensuing years. The modern steno machine keyboard that most resembles the keyboard utilized today by stenographers made its debut a few decades later in 1939. Still based on the use of phonetics, the machine enabled the operator to create “briefs,” allowing for entire phrases to be taken down at once. Extra keys were added, to a total of 26, and letters were assigned to each key or a combination thereof. A typical brief, for example, is the phrase beyond a reasonable doubt. These four words can be written simultaneously, and would look like this on a typical stenotype machine: “kwr a eu r d.” All it took to record this simple phrase was one stroke; all relevant keys being depressed at once. This was transferred to a roll of paper, similar in appearance to a grocery store bill, which was then typed up by the stenographer or a note reader, who could decipher these mysterious combination of letters.

The demise of Pitman/Gregg shorthand pen writers in the court systems began in much earlier, however, in 1914 at a national shorthand speed competition. Hundreds of hopeful pen writers crowded the convention, when in walked a group of teenage competitors. Sponsored by the Universal Stenotype Company, these upstart youths were trained to operate steno machines at equal or in excess speeds of the most seasoned of pen writers. These machine writers managed to win every contest and walked off with all of the awards. Alarmed at this new technological development, and fearing for their very livelihood, contest organizers pulled the plug on the national competition for five years. However, by the time the next national competition returned in 1919, the point had been made. Even though machine writers were banned from the competition, it was too late. Machine writers had already begun to replace pen writers in court rooms across America.

Today there are thousands of court reporters employed in various aspects of the profession. Increasing computer technology has enabled court reporters to be useful in other areas besides the courtroom. One of these areas is called CART, or Communication Access Realtime Translation. This enables the end user to read almost simultaneously what is being spoken on a computer or television screen. Specialized software is programmed to translate the reporter’s machine strokes, turning the seemingly unintelligible mass of letters into a comprehensible language. This is particularly helpful for the hearing impaired, who use the services of court reporters to follow live proceedings such as the news, government hearings, sporting events, and even in university settings.

Because of these rapid technological advances over the past 100 years, the future of the court reporting has remained a pertinent concern for those in the profession. There has always been speculation of what new invention could completely take over the duties of a court reporter. Budget cuts, lack of funding, and the economy have all played a part in the reduction of reporters and many government entities are implementing the use of electronic recording device systems. However, headways in technology have also assisted the profession. The widest area of changing direction is in the captioning field. Several captioning services are finding that there are more captioning hours to fill than trained stenographic captioners.

Despite the shifting trends that have affected the reporting profession, there is one fact that cannot be disputed, and that is the accuracy of having a live reporter at a proceeding. In the words of Vykki Morgan, RDR, CRI, CPE (Ret.), a court reporting instructor at Cerritos College in California: “Costs and technology can’t completely wipe out a reporter’s work duties as long as an accurate record is treasured and regarded as essential.” And because the profession of reporting has evolved and grown with the modern innovation, it is almost certain that reporters will be utilized and will remain essential for an accurate record for hopefully another 100 years or more.

Diana Netherton, RPR, is an official reporter based in Lancaster, Pa. She can be reached at NethertD@co.lancaster.pa.us.

REPORTING: Are you ready for daily copy?

By Brenda Rogers-Fiscus, Deborah Smolinske, and Beverly Thomas

It’s Friday at 7:30 p.m. The weekend has officially started. You’re just kicking back to relax with a movie and some popcorn. Then this email hits your inbox:

“We need someone to cover a three-week asbestos trial starting Monday, daily copy, rough at close of each day, four realtime feeds plus judge, multiple copy orders. Are you available?”

Your first reaction: Woot! You can’t type fast enough: “Yes! I’ll take it!”

daily copyAs you hit the send button, your eye falls on the postscript you somehow missed on the first reading: “And, oh, by the way, they need the final no later than 10 p.m. every night.”

Are you thinking: “When will I sleep? When will I eat? Will my family remember what I look like when the trial is over? Will I still have a family? Will the dog remember who I am? What was I thinking? I can’t do this!”

Yes, you can

With a seasoned team of scopists and proofreaders, a little prep work, and the latest technological advances in CAT software, you can do this — and live to tell the tale with a smile on your face.

The first step is to start preparing now, before you get that call or email. A small investment of time and effort now will pay off huge when the big day does arrive.

“But why do I need to prepare now?” you may ask. “I may never need such a team. I don’t even work with a scopist/proofreader on a regular basis. What’s the point in spending time on it now? I’m sure I can just post on Facebook or another forum and find all the help I need at a moment’s notice.”

Maybe; maybe not. Most quality scopists and proofreaders keep a full calendar of work. Forming a good team is always a challenge, even more so at the last minute. Searching for superb help when there is no time for due diligence is a sure recipe for disaster. And, as we all know, even the most foolproof technology can behave like an unruly child, especially when there’s no time to troubleshoot or learn.

Get ready before it happens

First, begin lining up a team of scopists and proofreaders who have extensive knowledge and experience with daily and immediate turnaround work. Do your due diligence. Get references, read testimonials, and pay attention to how questions in groups and forums are answered. You can choose to assemble your own team or you can contact a ready-made team geared exclusively toward daily work.

Second, agree upon a form of communication that will afford all parties the fastest response time possible. Applications like Google Hangouts, Yahoo, AIM, Facebook IM, and Skype are all good options.

Third, have a frank conversation with your team about your expectations and theirs during the course of the job. How do you want to be notified of questionable spots to check before sending out the final? How much — or how little — research do you expect from your team? Do you expect scoping to be done with full audio? How firm are you about having your specific preferences followed to the letter? How will files be transferred back and forth? Who is responsible for putting together the rough? How and when will invoices be sent and when is payment expected?

Fourth, verify your team’s availability as soon as you learn of an impending daily. Send your team any word lists, prior transcripts, and any other information you have that may contain spellings/terms/parties pertinent to the case.

Fifth, set up a short practice session with your team to ensure that you have all the correct settings for your CAT software when performing realtime or daily work.

Finally, relax. You’ve got this! With a solid team behind you, you can focus all your attention on your writing. When there’s a break or it’s lunchtime, you can actually get up and move around, eat a real meal, make a phone call, go outside and enjoy some sunshine. Your team will be there doing the heavy lifting while you get some much-needed downtime to gather your strength for the next round.

You’ll emerge from this experience with a new level of confidence in your skills, your marriage will still be intact, the kids will still know who you are, the dog will still recognize your voice. And you’ll actually look forward to the next time you get that crazy email, knowing that you are equipped with a secret weapon: a proven team of scopists and proofreaders working alongside you every minute with one goal in mind — delivering a finished, polished transcript in record time to your adoring fans – er, clients.

Who’s afraid of that big, bad daily trial now? Not you!

Brenda Rogers-Fiscus, Deborah Smolinske, and Beverly Thomas are the primary team members of Perfect Partners Transcript Brigade, which was established in 2014.  Learn more at transcriptbrigade.wordpress.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Court reporter shares how she found the profession

JCR logoHNGNews.com posted an article on March 12 about how Jessica Bolanos, a graduate of the court reporting program at Madison College, Madison, Wis., found her career as a court reporter.

Read more.

New professional spotlight: Sarah Gadd

By Mike Hensley

SarahGaddSarah Gadd is not afraid of a challenge. As a reporter newly certified by the state of California, she has obtained a position as a reporter pro tempore with the Superior Court of California in San Bernardino County. Her schooling took her through both on-campus and online methods and ultimately shaped her into a courageous reporter who handles a large variety of court proceedings for various divisions and departments in her county. Always striving for the best, she hopes to earn her RPR soon as well as realtime certification so that she can provide the best services that our profession has to offer.

How did you get into court reporting?

I wanted to find a career that would set me up for life, and I wanted something that would allow me to help other people. I originally sought out the medical field, but I couldn’t stand the sight of blood. On a random occasion, a friend of my brother mentioned court reporting. Once I looked into it further, I was hooked. I knew it was the job for me.

How long did it take you to complete schooling and become certified?

I would say four and a half years. I started at an on-campus school and flew through theory and speeds. I had to take time off for personal reasons, and when I came back, I found a school with an online program. I even had a moment where I suffered a hand injury. Instead of seeing it as a limitation, I saw it as a challenge that I could overcome. Once I found that focused, determined mindset, I finished school and even passed the CSR exam on my first attempt.

What was the biggest difference you experienced between on-campus and online schooling?

Flexibility. However, that puts the onus on the student to show up and do more than just the bare minimum to make progress. On campus, everything was given to us for what we had to do. Online, you must set up your own routine to get things done. I had to do some very drastic things to make it work. The hardest thing to learn was how to say “no.” I had to remember that I was making sacrifices now so that I could enjoy my success later.

What helped you adjust from on-campus to online schooling?

Online schooling can feel very lonely and isolated. To solve that issue, I forced myself to reach out and find my community. I really am glad there are platforms like Facebook that connect me to groups of reporters who have so much to offer. I’m grateful for those days when I have a question or need a brief and all I have to do is log on, and I get an answer within minutes.

What advice do you have for students who are currently working to finish school?

Practice every single day and analyze your notes. I transcribed everything, and that gave me such great feedback to push me past the finish line. Even now as a professional reporter, I continue to look for ways to boost my speed through shortening my writing and incorporating more briefs. Every little bit helps. Those small pieces really do add up over time.

What do you love about your career as a court reporter?

The pay’s not bad at all, but the best part is the pride I feel when I get to say, “I am a court reporter.” No longer am I just a student, I am a working professional. There will always be an opportunity to learn and grow and develop my skills, but now it’s part of my job. I also love that my job is part of a solution. Every day I help create justice for those who need it most. Also, as a pro tem reporter, I get to support other reporters in various situations of need. My job is not just about me — it’s a part of something much greater.

Mike Hensley, RPR, is a freelance reporter in Evanston, Ill., and a member of the New Professionals Committee. He can be reached at stenomph@gmail.com.

2017 Court Reporting & Captioning Week: It’s been a very busy week

Members of state court reporting associations across the country have spent the week celebrating their profession by participating in career fairs, visiting court reporting schools, hosting Veterans History Project events, and being quoted by local media, in honor of the 2017 Court Reporting & Captioning Week.

State associations and schools around the country promote the profession

For members of the Kansas Court Reporters Association (KCRA), however the week proved to be exceptionally busy. KCRA members kicked off the week by meeting with the state’s governor and securing an official proclamation recognizing 2017 Court Reporting & Captioning Week. In addition, representatives from the association were also invited to visit with members of the state’s Supreme Court where they also secured another official proclamation and pictures with the justices.

Left to right: Cayley Rodrigue, Kelley Morrison, Judge Michael Joyce, Brenda Highberger, Cindy Isaacsen, Judge Thomas Sutherland

Left to right: Cayley Rodrigue, Kelley Morrison, Judge Michael Joyce, Brenda Highberger, Cindy Isaacsen, Judge Thomas Sutherland

KCRA members marched onward throughout the week with other stops. They visited with members of the State Judiciary Committee where reporters provided a realtime presentation that left the attendees mesmerized. They also visited with members of the Johnson Board of County Commissioners complete with breakfast and another realtime demonstration that led to yet another official proclamation recognizing the week.

KCRA members wrapped up their celebration with a special write-a-thon at Neosho County Community College to help raise funds to aid students in its court reporting program.

“It’s been a very busy week,” said Cindy Isaacsen RPR, an official court reporter from Olathe and president of KCRA.

Kelley Morrison provides a demonstration

Kelley Morrison provides a demonstration

“I think I’ve said Court Reporting & Captioning Week about 1.75 million times. This week was just another way to spread the word about court reporting and captioning. It’s not just the young people we have to educate about what we do,” Isaacsen added. “My judge always says that I think court reporting is the best job out there … he’s right.”

2017 Court Reporting & Captioning Week also earned national recognition from U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (Wis.) in a floor speech before the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 14, and by state governors in Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin as well as by officials in Bexar County, Texas.

Presentation at Bryan University

Presentation at Bryan University

Other activities included visits with students at GateWay Community College in Phoenix and Bryan University in Tempe, both in Arizona. A number of members who visited with students were in the area attending the 2017 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference being held in Tucson. Students at both sites were able to ask the professionals questions and for advice. The panel discussion at Bryan University was open to both on-site and online students.

Members of the Missouri Court Reporters Association visited with state legislators in Jefferson City when they held their annual cookie drop. “We are always warmly received and welcomed, and this time was no different,” said Linda M. Dattilo, RPR, an official court reporter from Florissant, Mo., and the association’s executive director.

Students at GateWay Community College

Students at GateWay Community College

“They know when we’re coming, and we’ve had senators call our lobbyists and ask where the cookies are because they are waiting for them. At the end of the day, we’re always exhausted by all the running around, but satisfied, and hopefully they are too,” she added.

Members of the Wisconsin Court Reporters Association also promoted the court reporting and captioning professions at an open house held by North Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay.

Finding the spotlight: Court Reporting & Captioning Week in the news

As with all previous Court Reporting & Captioning Week celebrations, the efforts of NCRA members at the state and local levels were also successful in getting the word about the profession and its benefits as a career to media outlets in their areas. Among those:

NCRF Hard-of-Hearing Heroes oral histories project spotlighted

The Andrews Gazette (Easton, Md.) posted an article about the Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Veterans History Project event that NCRF and the Hearing Loss Association of America will host on Feb. 18 in Bethesda, Md., as part of NCRA’s 2017 Court Reporting & Captioning Week.

DMACC hosting activities for National Court Reporting & Captioning Week

The Newton Daily News posted an article on Feb. 9 announcing that the Des Moines Area Community College, Des Moines, Iowa, is hosting several events to mark 2017 Court Reporting & Captioning Week. Among the activities will be two information sessions where prospective students can learn about the court reporting and captioning professions.

Illinois governor recognizes 2017 Court Reporting & Captioning Week

In an article posted Feb. 13, the RegisterNews.com, Mt. Vernon, Ill., announced that Gov. Bruce Rauner has designated Feb. 11-18 as National Court Reporting & Captioning Week. The article also noted that several court reporters from the 2nd Judicial Circuit will promote the profession at an upcoming local career fair.

Planet Depos announces success of court reporter mentoring program

In a press release issued Feb. 13, Planet Depos reported that its Planet Institute, a student-to-career mentoring program, has had a successful first year.

Oklahoma court reporting firm launches education and advocacy effort

In a press release issued Feb. 10, NCRA member Ginger Baze, owner of Steno Services in Hugo, Okla., announced that her firm is launching an outreach and education campaign for National Court Reporting & Captioning Week.

Court reporting schools to exhibit at career day event in Texas

The Gilmer [Texas] Mirror posted an article on Feb. 13 about the Texas Supreme Court holding a formal court session to hear oral arguments in two cases at LeTourneau University in Longview, in conjunction with “Law as a Career Day” being held on campus. Numerous law schools, paralegal schools, and court reporting schools will have recruiting booths on-site.

Celebrating the silent keepers of the record

Star Levandowski, director of marketing at Stenograph, posted a blog on Feb. 3 highlighting the top three reasons to admire the stenography profession in honor of Court Reporting & Captioning Week.

But wait … there’s more

Read more about how national and state associations, schools, and vendors have celebrated Court Reporting & Captioning Week. You can also follow along on Facebook and Twitter.

Court reporters and legal videographers

jcr-publications_high-resJD Supra Business Advisor posted a blog by Kramm Court Reporting on Jan. 19 that discusses what legal videographers can do to help the court reporters they work with succeed.

Read more.