Canadian attorneys are finding iPads and other tablets useful in courtrooms, reports a Dec. 9 blog by Glenn Kauth on Legal Feed. The article related the efforts of lawyer Daniel Mailer, of Cram & Assocates in London, Ont., who used his iPad to present his arguments as part of a case. He told the author that he felt the damages awarded by the Supreme Court Justice, which was $60,000, was above the norm in part because of his ability to use the iPad to show “graphic images” of the injuries.
I have been a victim of cheap electronics sales; I have been enticed by a mind-boggling low price and purchased a cheap tablet. That tablet is in the pile of worthless electronic garbage that consumes considerable real estate in my office. The tablet was unable to hold a charge and won’t stay on for more than 2 minutes. I take personal notice and hope to keep my wits about me.
According to many news stories, predictions are for a slow holiday season in the retail market, and campaigns have started early to get you to spend your holiday dollars with them. For instance, consider the ABC News article which recommends against buying any of the tablets in the $50 range, as they are unlikely to work well. Also, The Wall Street Journal’s Marketwatch blog recommends against buying tablet computers on Black Friday. Do your research, shop around, and buy wisely.
Drumroll, please … USB! But it’s not your ordinary USB: SanDisk has released its “SanDisk Connect Wireless Flash Drive.” Here are a few of its features:
- Wirelessly store, share, and stream movies, photos, music, and documents across your smartphones, tablets, and computers.
- Simultaneously connect and access data stored on up to eight devices via Wi-Fi.
- Works for up to four hours of video streaming on a single charge.
- Use a free app (compatible with iOS 5.0 or later, Android 2.3 or later, and Kindle devices) to connect without an Internet connection, cables, or router; works on all Wi-Fi enabled devices.
- Access also available through an Internet browser, compatible with all Wi-Fi enabled devices.
- Charge and access with USB 2.0 connection interface or higher.
- Uses optional Wi-Fi password protection and 128-bit AES encryption.
Christine Phipps, RPR, is an agency owner in West Palm Beach, Fla., and a member of NCRA’s Technology Review Committee.
“Where is my cord?”
“Which one is which?”
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More information can be found in this video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RN36N-y57M 57M
Three recoil devices and stand priced as low as $13.99.
Christine Phipps, RPR, is an agency owner in West Palm Beach, Fla., and a member of NCRA’s Technology Review Committee.
Daylight saving time ends on November 3. While people who live in one of the many areas that observe DST will be setting their clocks back one hour over the weekend, court reporters should also check the date and time settings in their writers to prevent any files from being lost due to repeating an hour.
Diane Hromek, RMR, CMRS, has been in the court reporting field for more than three decades. Born and raised in Illinois, Hromek splits her time between Cape Coral, Fla., and Lake Tomahawk, Wis. After seeing an ad for court reporting school at age 16, she received her parent’s permission and started Bryant-Stratton College in Chicago between her junior and senior years of high school. Hromek went on to graduate with a court reporting degree in 1968. She is the owner and manager of Diane Hromek’s Court Reporters and runs her business with the help of her handy BlackBerry, Verizon Hotspot, laptop, and high-speed printer.
How important are credentials and continued education in becoming successful?
Generally speaking, I have never had an attorney ask me about special credentials I have received. They are interested in what I can do and how fast I can get it done. They assume I can do my job accurately.
However, the more education a reporter has, the better. When a reporter is at a job site, attorneys and witnesses expect court reporters to know the basics about a subject. That is why I have always advocated that a reporter take a course in a certain area they may have an interest in, such as securities, real estate, construction, medicine, etc. Also, reading the paper and keeping up with spellings and world events is mandatory. Even sports.
As an owner of a small business, I have needed support or courses addressing how to run a business and related subjects, such as Quickbooks, marketing, taxes, etc. Getting to go to an owner’s seminar would be great.
What would be your advice on building up business in several locations?
Building a business in new locations was tricky. I remember one court reporter who I trained right out of school. She is a great gal. She came from a small town in Illinois far from Chicago. After I trained her, she went home and started her own business in that same small town where she grew up. I understood that and wished her well. Still, my business suffered a loss.
I thought it would be an interesting idea to start a business of taking students from school and then teaching them the ropes for a fee. It takes lots of time to train a new reporter. In our industry, time means money. Just think of how much time it takes to edit a transcript and how much time it takes to train a new reporter. So, to answer the question, establishing a new business in strange places just takes time.
I am now a business owner, primarily, and a court reporter, secondarily. I have owned my own business since 1974. At the time that I made the decision to have my own business, I did the math, thought about the clients who always liked to work with me, and thought if I opened my own business, I would be better off financially. (That is not necessarily true, because being a business owner is way different than being a court reporter. Both need the proper training.)
What are the challenges and rewards of owning a business?
The challenges: Not enough work; too much work; not enough money to pay the bills; trying to make a profit; making sure to follow the rules and regulations or guides for the court reporters; knowing where I stand with the attorneys so as not to get pushed or pulled in the wrong direction; training court reporters; ensuring quality control; meeting deadlines, especially when typing transcripts, which was how transcripts were made at the time. Being a woman business owner alone and dealing with male attorneys.
The rewards: The pride of saying that I own a business, especially for many years, and of finishing contracts honorably; being able to help other reporters; speaking to schools and encouraging student reporters; working as a reporter on amazing cases and meeting people affiliated with them; being in the heart of Chicago politics and Illinois politics and keeping my mouth shut; traveling around the world to report; and earning the monies to live an enriched lifestyle, including the ability to buy airplanes, fly them, pay mortgages on them, and grow to the next airplane – five of them as of this time, one at a time.
What personal traits have contributed to your success?
First, my parents were always there to support me in every way. My father had a business, a used car lot and auto body shop. Ex-Army, he exhibited some traits that I have inherited without realizing where they came from.
My mother, a homemaker, encouraged me every step of the way in everything my sister and I did. She was always there for us, cooking, cleaning, and loving us. We didn’t have to clean or cook so that we could concentrate on school and piano. The philosophy worked so that we wanted to cook and clean and be like mom as we grew older. We didn’t have to be told.
Also, training and discipline to become a concert pianist. Internal drive. The power of positive thinking and my Christian beliefs. Discipline, from playing the piano, to practice.
How has court reporting changed over the years?
We used to type transcripts. I can remember one time, I had several copies that were ordered. I had to use hectograph paper. When I made a mistake, I would have to stop, separate the sheets in the typewriter, take a razor blade and scratch out the error, and then put the sheets back together, hope they didn’t slip, and hit the right key to correct the transcript.
At that time, we had a note puller with a foot pedal. One would step on the foot pedal, and it would activate the notes to progress upward on a slanted easel, over the top, and, if one was lucky, the notes would fold nicely on the other side. If a breeze blew, the notes would scatter all over. It was a lot easier than flipping the steno notes over as we finished typing from them.
At that time, no self-respecting court reporter ever used a tape recorder as a backup. If you dropped, you interrupted. If you interrupted too much, that was a big problem. The attorney was apt to call for another reporter or even interrupt the proceedings to get a different reporter.
Steno machines used to be really light to carry. I think, perhaps, that is why people thought of us as secretaries versus court reporters. As our equipment became more intriguing and our ability to do amazing things with it grew, we earned the respect of being court reporters and were more respected for charging the rates we do now.
There was no such thing as a “dirty disk.” There was an unproofread transcript. That is what was used when doing daily copies when there was no time to proofread transcripts – such as when we typed transcripts through the night to be in the hands of the attorneys before court began the next morning.
Believe it or not, I remember a time before fax machines and copy machines. What wonderful inventions!
Notices of deposition. I suppose those were always there. But now, when I get a phone call or email requesting a court reporter, before the client has a chance to start dictating the job information, I simply ask him or her to fax or email the notice of deposition and the service list with all the information possible about the attorneys of record. I save all the NODs in my computer and send them as attachments to the court reporters who accept the job. The procedure used to be for the court reporter to arrive at the deposition and, after setting up the steno machine, ask the attorney for the caption. By hand, we used to copy it word for word, thus taking long periods of time while the attorneys made small talk and waited politely for the court reporter to finish. We had to ask each attorney for his or her name and who he or she represented. After we assigned symbols for the attorneys for our steno machines, then, 15 minutes later, we were ready to start. At the end of the deposition, we would ask on the record who was ordering a transcript. Now, many reporters use an order form. At that time, it was easy. “Do you want a transcript?” “Yes.” Now, the choices are so many: “Do you want a mini? A concordance? An ETran? A pdf?”
There was a time when smoking was allowed in the deposition rooms. One time, there were five attorneys, a witness, and me. All but one person smoked in that small, closed-door room. I wondered how I would survive such situations in the future. I was 18 and intimidated by just being among attorneys. How was I going to ask them to not smoke?
Attitudes of attorneys toward reporters have changed with the times. There were times that I would rather burst than ask for a bathroom break. People are more relaxed now, such that asking for a recess should be totally acceptable.
What kind of skills are needed to be successful?
People skills! Also dealing with clients. I always lean their way, if at all possible, even if I take a loss. Also with court reporters. If they charge a little extra, even if it is not what my rates are/were, I don’t quarrel. I am so grateful they are willing to work with me. Most are humble and wonderful to work with and willing to bend.
Other skills: Math. You never know when a customer will call and ask for a bid to do a big job. You have to know how to do fractions, percentages, and know your costs so that you can make a profit. Personal temperature control: Always stay calm about everything. Tongue control: Measure what you are going to say. “Treat wisdom as a sweetheart.” (The Bible.) Acknowledge and praise the reporters. We all work so hard! Advertising: Be smart where to put your money. Savings: This is one of the most important things I learned from my accountant: Save. I started a savings account and try to put aside 10 percent of every deposit, just for a rainy day. (Thank goodness, it doesn’t rain too much.) I also dip into this fund at Christmas. Nice to have. Thank yous: Very important key to running a business. Just a little note, handwritten, is all it takes – usually.
What advice would you give a student who is about to enter the field?
Get with an agency that is very busy, one that takes all different sorts of work. Be willing to go to court, take meetings, do things over your head so as to grow. Read at least 50 transcripts from that agency so that you will know their format and clients. Know software for various computer programs like Microsoft Outlook, Quickbooks, etc. Take computer courses. Have your own technician. Hire your own scopist. Start together and grow together. Two of them are even better. That way, if you have a daily copy or a huge amount of transcript to get out right away, there is no delay, and no one gets tired out. Always remain loyal to the agency and be grateful. Be positive. Dress and act professionally. That is half the fun of this job. Allow clients quiet time when you arrive on the job unless they engage you. You are there to serve them. Be half an hour early. Get transcripts in way before they need them. Read the newspaper. I offer my work to the Lord. I am doing a service to mankind when I do a good job, helping people who are in trouble or quarreling over something. The law keeps peace. There were scribes back in Biblical times, and I think there always will be.
What type of advice would you give to an established court reporter who is considering getting out of the field due to changes in the business?
The right answer is to go where your heart is. Right? Still, if you can help someone, keep on going. Life is short. Do what makes you happy. Help others. Maybe the right answer is to close the business.
See what fits each individual person. It takes money to keep an agency going. There are many things to consider: advertising through NCRA or individual websites, the cost of keeping your license or upgrading your software or servicing your hardware. Illinois requires continuing education points. In Florida, I need to renew my notary license at a cost of about $250. The cost of steno software is $750. Quickbooks costs about $220. The cost of my BlackBerry and Hotspot, $340 monthly. Other advertising. Binders. Office supplies. Business cards. Brochures. Other promotional gifts – under $100 per client yearly. It takes time, too, as you (or someone) must be present to take phone calls and respond to emails in a timely manner.
To answer the question again, I believe digital recording in the courthouse has some merit for smaller cases, especially with budget cutting. I understand when there is a fender-bender case, it may not be appropriate to spend a thousand bucks when the total costs of the accident don’t amount to half that. And I could see how important it is to spend the dollars necessary to hire a court reporter for a high-end medical or product case. As a reporter, one better be ready for exciting reporting on cases of more sophisticated matters, which is not a place for a beginner. Also, this is a situation where experience and knowledge come into play. Reading numerous finished transcripts by experienced reporters would be very helpful for young reporters.
Where do you see the court reporting profession going in the future? And how can reporters to prepare for that?
I thought about 10 years ago that reporting would end. But the technology kept it going. I love all the new things I know about computers and technology. I attend seminars to learn the latest. To respond more directly to the question, I believe reporters who are chosen to work on depositions and trials will have to be the most professional ones available, with good speed, accuracy, dependability, professional conduct and appearance, a proper work ethic, so that they can get the job done on time or ahead of time.
I encourage reporters to work three weeks and take off the fourth week every month or at least a long weekend to rest. Lenore Weiss, an agency owner in Chicago who has passed away, said: Never give up an important event in your personal life for court reporting. In summary, I am grateful for the opportunity to share some of my experiences as a court reporter and an agency owner.
The purpose of this section is to provide newsworthy information on reporter related products and technologies. This column is for our readers to use in their research. NCRA does not endorse or critically review these products and services in any way. The following briefs were provided by the companies and manufacturers. This section is a recurring feature, and the JCR invites parties interested in making announcements to send their news items to JCR advertising and editorial coordinator Amy Law at firstname.lastname@example.org.
800-251-5529 / www.acculaw.com
Acculaw has been in business for 28 years, and for the past 20 years, it has provided billing and scheduling software for agencies that want to manage their business in a more efficient and easier way. Acculaw’s recently released version of its software is now Web-based and compatible with the latest Windows operating systems. EZ Schedule, one of the software features, produces a printed schedule on confirmed and unconfirmed jobs for any date range, as well as job announcements for subcontractors via email, smartphone, or computer. EZ Invoice produces invoices, past due bills, and statements in each company’s own format. In addition, it produces commission amounts for a company’s subcontractors automatically. EZ Store produces content complete with descriptions such as ordered, completed, delivered, and notes from agency, client, and subcontractors. EZ Manage generates many reports, including by amounts, time constraints, and performance. EZ Share uses free software to send compressed/encrypted content to clients.
800-800-1759 / email@example.com
The Passport Touch, the newest innovation from Advantage Software, made its debut at NCRA’s 2013 Convention & Expo. The Touch offers a touch screen that can be tucked away while writing, a built-in microphone, a keyboard with adjustableheight vowel, and StenoMagic keys, not to mention sleek lines and a broad skin selection. In addition, the Touch allows the user to visibly track shadows and adjust the sensitivity of keys in the middle of a job. It has built-in Bluetooth and wifi, 32 GB of memory, and multiple audio backups for extra security. Advantage also displayed the Touch’s Re-Writer, which lets the user change antistacking and key-sensitivity settings even after writing a job – and automatically rewrites it with the new settings. Eclipse can run on a Windows 8 tablet that fits perfectly atop the writer. Finally, the Passport Touch comes with free software upgrades.
302-864-0664 / www.aptaracorp.com
Deposition summary provider Aptara professionally summarizes more than 400 transcripts per day for court reporting companies nationwide. The company also summarizes medical records for its court reporting clients. According to company representatives, Aptara brings its medical legal expertise to negligence, medical malpractice, workers’ compensation, disability, environmental, medical device, pharmaceutical, toxic tort, class actions, and multidistrict litigation. Aptara routinely prepares detailed, targeted, and price-effective medical record summaries, including:
- Clean and organized scans of medical records
- Medical bills itemized by provider
- Medical record timelines
- Medical care summaries
Aptara will customize medical records summaries depending on the specific needs of the case or project and phase of litigation, ensuring comprehensive analysis.
COLLEGE OF COURT REPORTING
866-294-3974 / firstname.lastname@example.org
The College of Court Reporting’s ev360 Professional platforms offer students and working professionals an educationally sound and proven approach to skill and speed development. According to company representatives, v360 Professional is the product of more than 30 years of authentic court reporting educational practices. The platform was designed and developed by highly trained educators and professionals who are responsible for producing hundreds of successful court reporters and realtime writers.
INSYNC LITIGATION SUPPORT
212-233-4040 / www.insynclitigation.com
inSync Litigation Support unveiled its synchronized litigation support offering to the New York City area. inSync’s synchronized streamlined processes, which are aligned with a case’s lifetime and allow trial attorneys to remain focused on a winning litigation strategy, ensure better productivity and improved cost-efficiencies for plaintiff and defense attorneys, paralegals and legal secretaries at law firms, insurance companies, government agencies, and financial institutions.
inSync’s offerings include process service, court clerical, investigations, efiling, concierge, customized services, and courier services, each available a la carte or as an integrated package. inSync covers the steps in a case’s lifetime by initiating the case and supporting all the essential filings and appearances. This includes buying an index number in court or electronically; serving a complaint or subpoena; filing an affidavit; tracking the case; conducting investigations, such as signups and skip traces; filing, copying and retrieving motions, notices, and judgments; and providing daily pickup and delivery services.
MyRealtimeCoach simultaneously launched new Certifi cation Prep resources, Web videos, and monthly payment options at the NCRA Convention & Expo in Nashville.
MyRealtimeCoach is designed to help reporters and students Start Smart, Build Speed & Accuracy, and Be Confi dent through effective practice. New features in the latest release include Daily Warmup, practice sessions served up each morning to start the day off right; Prescriptive Plan, a guided, six-week plan to prepare users for their next certifi cation; and mySpeedPath, a visual dashboard that helps you set and achieve your own goals. According to company co-founder Jared Carman, when Realtime Coach launched in 2006, myRealtimeCoach quickly became the single best way to prepare for a skills test, and now boasts thousands of members worldwide and more than 1.6 million hours logged. In addition, the company claims that 78 percent of those who pass a skills test have used myRealtimeCoach.com.
800-966-1221 / www.ProCAT.com
ProCAT introduced the Impression II writer at the NCRA’s 2013 Convention & Expo. The Impression II writer offers a mini keyboard so that users can input global entries into the job dictionary directly on the machine without the need for a computer. The Impression uses a screen like an iPad — simply swipe a fi nger across the screen or double tap an outline to lineup either steno or English after searching. With shallow stroke and complete redesign of the keys, ProCAT has developed a light touch for the user. The Impression can use up to 64 Gig SD cards. The Impression II also offers hidefi nition stereo audio recording.
In addition, ProCAT introduced Case- Pad, which allows users to send a realtime feed directly and wirelessly to an iPad.
RB WEB MOBILE ON
RB Web Mobile On allows users to give clients their transcripts and other information on their mobile devices. While it acts like an app on iPhones, iPads, and Android devices, it is actually accessed through the browser, making it easier for an agency’s clients to fi nd. Instead of searching through an app store, users type in a URL. They can then bookmark the page to their mobile device’s home screen. Whenever they click the icon, it opens what looks and acts like an app but is really a mobilized website. In addition to its low-hassle factor, it also requires less power to run than an app. Benefi ts for agencies include the lower cost of one RB Web extension versus one for each mobile OS (currently iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone), and there are no installation, update, or maintenance issues.
OMTI’s other court reporting business applications include RB offi ce management software, RB Web online offi ces including case repositories, a PDF transcript creator, and mobile apps.
800-323-4247 / www.stenograph.com
Stenograph announced three new color options for its top-selling Diamante – Blue My Mind, Black to Basics, and Totally Red-ical. These stylish colors, along with Lunar White, make up the writing machines’ current color choices. The Blue Ice and Platinum Gray Diamante writers will still be available while supplies last. “Already on the market for the past four years, the Diamante has proven to be one of the most dependable writing machines Stenograph has ever produced,” says Judy Wolf, Stenograph’s product manager. “Time and time again we’ve heard users of the Diamante experience cleaner writing, higher productivity, and decreased errors and less fatigue at the end of the day.” Current Diamante owners may modify the top shell and lid of their writing machine to one of the new colors by contacting the company for further information.
THE VARALLO GROUP
508-753-9282 / www.thevarallogroup.com
The Varallo Group offers a network of first-rate reporters to cover tough assignments anywhere in the world, according to company representatives. The Varallo Group’s suite of business development services also can help secure a brighter future within budget. The company’s business advisors present solutions to increase their clients’ bottom lines. As a company founded by court reporters, The Varallo Group understands both the current needs of the clients of court reporting services and the tools they’ll need to grow and evolve in the future. The Varallo Group provides agency management services, administrative support, business development strategies and training, website development, and online campaigns that compliment and strengthen individual efforts. Freelance reporters and fi rm owners alike can grow their business – or enjoy some well-deserved downtime.
Specializing in networking agency- to-agency assignments, The Varallo Group’s reporters offer clients the utmost professionalism by delivering the deposition or trial transcript services, whether interactive realtime or draft transcripts, expedited delivery, videography, and expert testimony.