Flaws found in courts’ digital recording system

WCVB TV, Boston, Mass., posted an article on Feb. 8 that investigates discovered flaws in the new high-tech recording technology being installed courtrooms throughout Massachusetts.

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Aptus Court Reporting adds veteran business development manager

Aptus Court Reporting, San Diego, Calif., announced in press release issued Jan. 24 that Johanna Torres has been named business development manager.

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NCRA addresses recent ACICS failed appeal

jcr-publications_high-resAccreditation is a status granted to an institution that meets or exceeds the stated criteria of educational quality. The purpose of accreditation is to assess and enhance the educational quality of an institution, to assure consistency in institutional operations, to promote institutional improvement, and to provide for public accountability.

Accrediting organizations such as the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) certify institutions that offer programs in professional, technical, and occupational fields, through the master’s degree level, and are recognized by both the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

NCRA is concerned for all of its schools that hold accreditation by the ACICS in light of the group’s recent loss of appeal at the federal level. That appeal sought a temporary ruling to allow ACICS to maintain its status as a DOE recognized accrediting organization. A motion for a preliminary injunction hearing has been scheduled for Feb. 1.

NCRA understands the concerns and frustrations this decision has created for many students and faculty members enrolled in or associated with its certified and participating schools that hold the ACICS accreditation. The following is intended to clarify NCRA’s interpretation of the ACICS decision.

All ACICS-accredited schools were required to sign a new Provisional Program Participation Agreement (PPPA), which allows them the opportunity to become accredited by an alternative accrediting body within 18 months, if they choose.

It is important to note that each state’s Department of Education has different rules and regulations that pertain to the ACICS decision. Equally important is that a school that may eventually lose its accreditation status or not seek an alternative accreditor cannot be forced to close and may choose to remain open. Students at these schools should contact their administrator immediately with questions pertaining to their accreditation status.

If the school you currently attend or the school you are considering attending is ACICS accredited, here are some questions you should ask:

  • Will the school be seeking an alternative accrediting agency?
  • Will the school be permitted by the state Board of Education to continue as normal during the 18 months?
  • How will the school notify students of any changes?
  • What percentage of credits must be earned from the school if I plan to transfer, attend, and graduate?
  • Will my prior learning credits transfer (technical and general)?
  • Do I have to be admitted to the program before a complete review of my transfer credits can occur?
  • Is there an appeals process I can undertake if my credits won’t transfer?
  • I’ve been attending a brick-and-mortar school.  If I choose to attend an online program, how will the school help me transition to online learning? Does the school prepare me to take NCRA certification exams?
  • If the school elects not to pursue an alternative accreditor or does not obtain accreditation within the allowable 18 months, will the school continue to operate without accreditation?

Rest assured that during this difficult transition, NCRA is here for you. Here are a few things to keep in mind while planning your strategy moving forward:

  • Don’t give up; NCRA and your state associations are here to help you!
  • Keep up your regular practice schedule to maintain speed.
  • Check the NCRA school list and review your options.
  • Contact NCRA or your state association to put you in touch with a mentor.
  • Surround yourself with a positive support system to avoid discouragement and frustration.
  • Don’t feel pressured to make a rushed financial decision (i.e., consolidation).
  • Find answers to questions pertaining to discharge of federal student loans here.
  • Review recommendations from ACICS on what to do when your campus closes.
  • Ask questions, gather information, and read reviews from any subsequent school in which you plan to enroll.

“Our students are our future, and we are committed to ensuring that high-quality court reporting and captioning educational programs are available to all who are currently on this career path as well as others who potentially choose it. We encourage those students who have been affected by the recent closure of Sage College to remain focused and committed to their goals,” said NCRA President Tiva Wood, RDR, CMRS. “Know that you can turn to NCRA as your support system to help you successfully navigate through this trying time in your journey to reach your professional dreams.”

NCRA places a high value on its students and schools and the quality of education its certified and participating programs provide. Your Association is committed to your success and stands at the ready to assist in any way possible during these difficult times. Feel free to contact NCRA’s Schools Department at schools@ncra.org or 800-272-6272 if you have questions or concerns.

Make sure you have a complete transcript for appeal

JD Supra Business Advisor posted a blog on Dec. 5 that provides insight into the importance of a complete transcript to an appealing party in court.

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Celebrating entrepreneurs

“It took a lot of hard work and determination to get through school and to build my skills as a practicing reporter. I’m a reporter business owner, so my approach in working with clients, reporters, and staff is generally directed by the reporter in me,” says Jan Schmitt, RPR, owner of the Schmitt Reporting & Video in Vancouver, Wash.

To mark Women’s Entrepreneur Day, an international day celebrated with a worldwide social media campaign on Nov. 30, the JCR reached out to several of NCRA’s firm owner-reporters — both male and female — to get their take on what entrepreneurship means to them.

While the people identified themselves foremost as reporters, they had many traits that transfer over to being an entrepreneur. “When I tell people what I do, I always explain the reporting part. Telling them I am business owner comes later in the conversation when I explain that I don’t work in a courthouse but for myself,” says Cassy Kerr, RPR, CRR, CRC, a freelancer and the owner of Russell Court Reporting, Inc., in Tulsa, Okla. “And I never even thought of myself as an entrepreneur until about a year ago when a friend introduced me as one.”

But reporters shouldn’t fear the term entrepreneur. Small businesses contribute to the global economy and make up about half of all U.S. jobs.

Attributes of the entrepreneurial court reporter

Only nine months into her career, Katherine Schilling, RPR, a freelancer in Richmond, Va., explains entrepreneurship this way: “In my mind, an entrepreneur is someone who offers a one-of-a-kind service that furthers their industry as a whole. This, too, is something that I feel comes with time and experience. These are the real-timers, the multiple hook up-ers, the three-scopist team-ers, the daily copy turn around-ers! At present, I’m focusing purely on advancing my own skills, but once I’m at a point where I’m offering something revolutionary to the court reporting industry, maybe then I can start considering such a prestigious title as entrepreneur.”

Entrepreneurship matches many of the attributes that reporters already have — at least according to the Small Business Administration, which lists persuasiveness, risk-taking, independence, creativity, and being supported by others as important traits for entrepreneurs.

“You are very much a salesperson as a reporter, and that is the start of being an entrepreneur,” says Donna Linton, RMR, a freelancer based in Ashburn, Va. “You start at the beginning of the day selling yourself by being on time and prepared for the case, having your exhibit stickers and equipment ready to go. What is hard for a lot of reporters is to know you have the skill at the end of the day to sell your product by asking, ‘Do you need a rough draft’ or ‘Would you like to expedite this?’”

But there are many more traits that reporters and firm owners list as important in addition to those mentioned — with organization and planning topping most people’s lists. “The most important in my view are focus, persistence, determination and patience, planning, and dealing with many types of individuals, as well as being accountable,” says Grant Morrison, CRI, a freelance reporter in San Antonio, Texas.

“I’m big on planning ahead, especially for trials,” says Linton. ”Working with other reporters to get as much information ahead of time from clients helps us be consistent and produce the best product we can under pressure.”

“I believe the most important attributes of being an entrepreneur in the field of court reporting start with integrity and a commitment to the legal process,” says Kathy Reumann, RDR, a freelancer based in Rock Island, Ill.

“Punctuality is extremely important. It shows respect and readiness to tackle the job at hand,” says Lisa B. Johnston, RMR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner based in Melbourne, Fla. “Being able to keep calm in a situation that may not be going as planned and focusing on how to solve the problem and move on.”

“Entrepreneurs are the trailblazers of any industry, so they need all the following attributes to make their business a success: self-motivation, discipline, time management, and a passion to keep learning and improving,” said Schilling. “Court reporters have these traits in spades. Due to the nature of the court reporting field, we are often the only ones driving ourselves to do our best, through school and even decades into the working world. The job is also a very solitary one, especially for freelancers, so we have only ourselves to rely on in order to stay focused on the job and stay organized when those high page counts and expedites start rolling in.”

“A reporter skill that translates to an entrepreneurial skill is perseverance,” says Kerr. “No matter how difficult a deposition may be with the terminology or people speaking at once, I don’t give up, and I follow that same thinking with running a business.”

Advice for entrepreneurs

Many stressed the importance of being a reporter first. “You have to know how things are going out there in the field working an actual job so you can understand what the reporters are dealing with and what the clients are really expecting from their reporters as well as the judges,” says Linton.

Finding good support is essential to supporting the entrepreneur, whether it’s additional reporters to build your business or hiring a scopist or proofreader to keep up on your deadlines. Linton notes that these investments are about knowing that time is money — and saving time is key.

“The ability to attract and keep good reporters and staff is key. Endless determination, good vision and leadership — ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish’ (Proverbs 29:18) — knowing your strengths and, more important, knowing your weakness and being willing to seek help in those areas. Some creativity and an ability to sell go a long way,” says Schmitt.

Linton advises finding a reliable and fantastic scopist and proofreader: “Do not be afraid to use one and find a favorite or two.”

“Know your CAT software to save you time so you can take more work to make more money,” Linton also suggest. ”For an agency, it means knowing skilled reporters who are reliable and keeping them happy. It saves the agency time finding coverage and means fewer headaches when producing their work for your clients.”

“Having the right people working for me,” says Kerr. “Those include everyone from my scopist and proofreader to my CPA. Delegating responsibilities to the people I can count on to get the job done and done correctly so I can focus on reporting and other aspects of running a business is so essential. I tried doing everything by myself, and it made life very difficult.

Organization is also important, mentioned by almost everyone. “Being organized in your scheduling is important,” says Johnston. “Personally, I have three calendars with all of my work appointments and jobs: one paper calendar, one smartphone calendar, one whiteboard calendar in my office. Reporter work days are anything but routine, so if you’ve committed to something, keep the commitment. Your reputation is of utmost importance.”

“Other important attributes are being wise with your finances and having confidence in your ultimate success,” says Kerr.

“Higher education and certification in your field shows dedication to your career,” says Johnston. [Ed. Note: NCRA offers education specific to firm owners at is Firm Owners Executive Conference, being held at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, Tucson, Ariz., Feb. 12-14, 2017.]

“Luckily for court reporters, there are always plenty of industry conventions to attend in order to expand our knowledge and improve our skills for the job,” says Schilling. “By continuing our education, we improve our product and can deliver top-notch work that will wow our clients and push the court reporting profession to new heights!”

Stenograph president John Wenclawski to retire at year’s end

After 33 years at Stenograph, John Wenclawski has announced his intent to retire at the end of 2016.

“Participating in the advancement of technology and working with so many wonderful people throughout the court reporting profession and within Stenograph allowed me to exceed all of my professional expectations,” said Wenclawski. The JCR interviewed Wenclawski about his experiences in conjunction with the company’s 75th anniversary in 2013.

Wenclawski joined Stenograph in 1983 as a salesman for the Chicago region. Over the years, he worked his way up through the organization and became president in 1994. In addition to guiding the company through the many technological changes in that time, Wenclawski has been a supporter of the profession as a whole, donating to the National Court Reporters Foundation and helping with reporter education.

“John has been a major force in the profession for the past 30 years. On behalf of NCRA and NCRF, we thank John for all of the support he has given the profession throughout the years, and we wish him the best on his retirement,” says NCRA Executive Director and CEO Mike Nelson, CAE, who also serves as the Executive Director of the National Court Reporters Foundation.

Jeremy Steele, who currently serves as Deputy General Counsel for Heico, Stenograph’s parent company, has been tapped to succeed Wenclawski. Stenograph anticipates a smooth transition as Steele has been involved with Stenograph for the past five years and has already worked on a number of projects with the company.

Herder & Associates celebrates friend and colleague

According to a press release issued Nov. 21, Arizona court reporting firm Herder & Associates announced that it is celebrating the achievements of friend and colleague Steve Hirsch, who was recently been honored by the William E. Morris Institute in October.

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Depo International welcomes new marketing director

Depo International, a women-led company, announced in a press release issued Nov. 21 that Alyssa Olson has been named the Marketing Director for its Minneapolis, Minn., Las Vegas, Nev., and Houston, Texas, regional offices.

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Elite Reporting celebrates promotions

Elite Reporting, a court reporting firm based in Tennessee, announced on Nov. 21 in a press release that Monica Parker has been promoted to the position of Office Coordinator and Ashley Bird has been promoted to the position of Accounts Coordinator.

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TechLinks: Making the office more efficient

TechLinks_logoAn Oct. 10 article on The Wirecutter reviews Bluetooth keyboards. Their reviews are based on several characteristics, including price, size, and comfort.

An Oct. 6 post on PaperlessChase.com has a video tutorial on how to set up a paperless office scanner. It includes a recommendation of a specific scanner to use as well as a link to a paper on creating a paperless law office.

On Divorce Discourse, Lee Rosen talks about how his law office uses Slack for communication, including how they made the decision to use that particular application and what a day in the life looks like.

In an Oct. 4 post on Above the Law, Jeff Bennion makes four recommendations of simple tech upgrades for any firm. “Legal technology is not about sweeping changes to your practice as much as it is about small things that can be big time savers or help you work more efficiently,” says Bennion.