Get realtime-capable now: Tips for learning brief forms for court reporters

By Lynette Mueller

Being realtime-capable should be the goal of every court reporter. My realtime goal is to always strive for 99.8 percent translation rate on every job. The prep work is essential to maintain or exceed that goal. My writing is constantly evolving (even after 30 years of reporting). Writing short is paramount to the success of my translation rate, for keeping up with the fast talkers, and also being kind to my body — specifically my back and hands.

The Oct. 2015 JCR has an article, “Preparation guide for flawless realtime output,” with lots of great tips from some amazing court reporters across the country. Definitely worth the read!

Recently, I’ve focused on brief forms. Creating briefs on the fly is an acquired skill, for sure. The BriefIt feature in my Case CATalyst software (and other CAT software vendors have similar features) is an integral and valuable resource and helps immeasurably with my high translation rate, even though the proceedings could be a fast-paced deposition. (It takes focus and dedication to be able to look at the screen during the proceedings and capture those suggested briefs. During a recess is a good time to take a few minutes to go over the suggested briefs. With my software, the phrases I stroke out the most (with a suggested brief) are highlighted in a bolded color. Genius! It’s easy to concentrate on the strongest colors and make a note of the suggestions.

One may ask, “Okay, how do I memorize and keep track of all the brief forms I want to add to my dictionary?”

Our minds have great capacity to recall all kinds of information. I feel it’s good to have a multi-prong approach to memorizing brief forms. Remember to take a handful of briefs at a time to incorporate into your writing; otherwise, you’ll be overwhelmed and could end up dropping important testimony.

Here are a few suggestions to help with that memorization:

  1. Be sure you want to improve your realtime writing and are invested in the process.
  2. Set a goal for yourself.
  3. Write out the brief forms you wish to incorporate into your writing.
  4. Make notes to yourself.
  5. Apply repetition to your practice. As I said, make sure you start with small bits before moving on to the next round of briefs. Keep this in your memory banks before moving on to the next set.
  6. Do most of your studying in the afternoons. One study suggested your ability to memorize relates to the time of day you study, with the afternoon appearing to be the best time of day.
  7. Ensure you are well rested in order to retain the memories. Make sure you take breaks and come back to it later in order to find out how much you actually retained. Then you can focus on the briefs you might have more trouble with.

Next are the steps I’ve implemented that have greatly improved my ability to incorporate new briefs into my writing.

  1. Use your briefing software feature all the time during the job and add the briefs that make sense to your personal dictionary. Dictionary building is key to the success of a higher translation rate.
  2. Make sticky notes and attach to your writer or computer.
  3. Use the app like Sticky Notes. This is a great tool to use because you’ll never lose that physical note again. Simply open the app and move it to the side of your laptop screen. Multiple colors are available for families of briefs!
  4. I like to use my Recorder app on my iPhone to dictate the briefs I want to work on. By recording the words and phrases, it is an easy task to set up my writer to practice on those briefs. You will get instant feedback if you are writing the briefs correctly when you are hooked up for realtime during your practice session.
  5. The last prong of my process is a cool app called Tinycards. This is a free flashcard app to help make memorization more fun! This app is a game where you can unlock new levels and keeping your memory strength bar full! Tinycards uses spaced repetition and other smart learning techniques to help you master new material efficiently. You can create your own decks and share them with friends or pick from a variety of collections exclusive to Tinycards. You’ll find constellations, country capitals, history, and lots more.

I’ve already created two Tinycards called Steno Brief Forms – Part 1 and Steno Brief Forms – Part 2. When you set up your new (free) account, simply search for these and any other topics to add to your stream and start memorizing those briefs today!

Technology is great!

Lynette L. Mueller, RDR, CRR, is a freelancer reporter in Johns Creek, Ga. She can be reached at lynette@omegareporting.comShe reports that a short video will be on her blog at the beginning of the article.

The latest on speech recognition

By David Ward

Earlier this year, Watson, the IBM artificial intelligence computer that first gained fame in 2011 by beating past champions in the TV game show Jeopardy, publicly returned to the stage. The category: Speech recognition. At a San Francisco tech conference this past spring, IBM officials announced that Watson is now able to hold conversations in English with a word error rate of 6.9 percent.

Watson’s latest feat of 94.1 percent accuracy is fairly impressive — though it should be noted, it’s still well below the 98.5 percent accuracy rate required by many captioning companies.

But Watson and IBM are not alone. During the past five years, speech recognition has emerged as a hot industry, with progress being made on issues such as accuracy and noise filtering, and not just by established players like Nuance, but also from major tech giants like Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and the Chinese search/e-commerce firm Baidu.

A recent study, Global and China Speech Recognition Industry Report 2015-2020, projected the global intelligent voice market will grow from $6.21 billion in 2015 to $19.2 billion in 2020. In China alone, voice recognition is expected to be a nearly $3.8 billion market within four years.

The good news for court reporters is that, thus far, few of these new speech recognition breakthroughs seem to be aimed at their livelihood of transcribing spoken testimony into 100 percent accurate and properly formatted legal documents. Instead, most of the focus is on speech recognition as a consumer tool by getting smartphones or car entertainment systems to respond to verbal commands. The highest profile example of this trend is Siri, the Apple app (based on Nuance software) now built into iPhones, iPads, and iPods that lets the owners use their voices to send messages, make calls, set reminders, and more.

“In the past, the growth of speech to text was fairly slow, and the main reason for that was that the improvement in accuracy hadn’t happened,” explains Walt Tetschner, president of Voice Information Associates, one of the leading analyst firms covering the automated speech recognition industry. The company is based in Acton, Mass. “It’s only been the last couple of years that you’ve seen dramatic improvements in accuracy — and I would attribute that not to speech to text, but to the demands of mobile.”

Tetschner, who’s also editor and publisher of the trade magazine, ASRNews, adds that voice recognition is now attracting interest more than from Silicon Valley, saying, “The auto industry is big on speech recognition as a way to control the infotainment system within a car, so they’re putting in a lot of resources.”

Because so much of the current focus is on voice recognition — getting a device to understand what a person is saying — little of this is likely to have an immediate impact on the court reporting industry. But Tetschner does note: “Whether it’s used in an automobile or call center or wherever, the basic speech recognition principles are the same, so when you make gains in one area, it will help the others.”

Outside of the consumer space, the segment where speech recognition has been gaining the most traction is as a personal productivity tool for busy professionals, especially those in the medical/healthcare industry.

“The push in the medical field for electronic medical records makes it a great market to be in,” says Henry Majoue, founder and CEO of Voice Automated based in Lake Forest, Calif. Majoue adds that doctors and other medical professionals use software customized by his company to dictate notes and other directives that are automatically turned into electronic text and included in patient files and other medical records.

Peter Mahoney, Nuance senior vice president as well as general manager of the company’s Dragon Desktop division, adds that the improved accuracy of speech recognition is helping to drive adoption in a host of other industries as well.

“There are plenty of areas where we’re seeing a lot of growth, including the public safety and financial service professionals,” Mahoney says. Those groups now outnumber the people with hearing issues or other disabilities who were previously among of the first adopters of Nuance speech-to-text solutions.

Mahoney says Dragon Desktop is also making inroads in the legal industry. “In litigation preparation, attorneys will often read multiple documents and dictate their notes so they can prepare their arguments,” he says. “We’re also seeing a lot more mobile use, where lawyers dictate notes while outside the office or do case documentation on the go. Lawyers create a lot of texts, and it’s far more productive to be able to use their voices as opposed to having to type.”

Majoue agrees with this assessment: “Our legal business has been aimed at helping lawyers get their documents done, and that can include any type of legal business that needs a lot of documentation, such as worker compensation firms.”

Virtually all of this speech recognition is occurring in fairly controlled environments — and it involves just a single voice. “It’s extremely accurate for the individual,” points out Majoue. “You could get a copy of Dragon software now and be pretty well dictating at greater than 90 percent accuracy within five minutes.”

With accuracy that’s good but not close to perfect, voice recognition tools could soon help universities and other public and private institutions go through vast archives of video and audio records, including lectures, speeches, and seminars, and make them searchable by keyword.

But the next step, moving from voice recognition using a single user in a controlled setting to one where there are multiple voices in a noisy room, continues to be out of reach.

“It’s still extremely difficult currently for speech recognition to move beyond a single user,” Majoue say. “In order for it to work with more than one voice, each individual user would have his or her own computer and microphone focused on just that one voice.”

Those limitations in a multi-voice environment is one reason why speech recognition hasn’t been even more widely adopted by the deaf and hard of hearing, who were one of the earliest supposed beneficiaries of speech recognition.

“Although, in recent years, deaf and hard-of-hearing people have begun to use speech recognition tools in some limited situations, the technology has not been where it needs to be for practical purposes in most settings,” explains Howard Rosenblum, CEO for the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). “While improved accuracy is, by far, the most needed element in speech recognition software, the NAD is in favor of current developments where the speech recognition software is able to identify and indicate who is speaking, particularly in group settings. The NAD also looks forward to improved speed in converting speech to text so that it is as close to real time as possible. There also needs to be software that can be adjusted to give more weight to specific verbiage when the discussion is in a particular area, such as science, computer technology, medicine, law, psychology, and the like.”
With plenty of pent-up demand for speech recognition tools that can work with multiple voices and in rooms with less-than-ideal acoustics, Mahoney suggests the solution may not be that far off.

“When you listen to a recording of a meeting, it sounds in retrospect like a bunch of crazy people because people communicate half-thoughts and they redirect their comments because people are speaking over them,” Mahoney says. “Because of that, the algorithms that are being used for transcripts even in the very sophisticated machine learning tools used these days struggle to come up with context.”

But Mahoney goes on to predict, “Within five years, you’ll see very, very high accuracy, and that’s being driven by a combination of more advanced machine learning techniques to develop sophisticated speech models combined with the access to lots and lots of data that can be used to train these systems to get smarter and smarter.”

Mahoney adds that the development of voice biometric systems that can identify different voices, separate the speech, and label the speaker could also soon be a key component of speech recognition software from Nuance.

As for the acoustic challenges that may come with speech recognition in settings such as a courtroom, Mahoney says: “We’ll certainly use software to clean up the dirty signals in a noisy environment. But on top of that, there are audio processing capabilities that will allow you to deal with far-field microphones.”

Even with these improvements, Mahoney says there will still be many things that court reporters do today that voice recognition software simply won’t be able to match.

“One thing that current voice recognition systems aren’t good enough at yet is really doing the kind of formatting and labeling of data in the way a court reporter would do to come up with a finished document,” Mahoney says. “To produce the raw text with high accuracy that is readable — that can be done. But to produce a transcript that is formatted and 100 percent accurate, you are going to need a court reporter.”

Speech recognition has been on the radar screen of the court reporting community for two decades or more. Given all the recent improvements in speech recognition technology, is now the time for court reporters to start to worry?

Right now, the answer to that seems to be yes — and no.

There are already companies out there in other parts of the world promising speech recognition as part of their courtroom technology, but given the current technology limitations, most of those claims can easily be dismissed as unproven hype.

Still, Mason Farmani, CEO and managing partner of Barkley Court Reporters in Los Angeles, says: “I do think that we should take speech recognition very seriously. With the exponential growth of the technology, the usefulness of this technology in our profession is not that far away. Between IBM’s Watson project, Google’s Jarvis, and Apple’s Siri, there are many speech databases being built, and some like IBM’s are encouraging and facilitating Watson-based systems. I do think we are much closer than we think. The only issue would be adopting legislations to accommodate these changes, which we all know happens very slowly.”

Farmani stops short of suggesting reporting firms begin investing in speech recognition tools in the same way many have invested in other technology trends like videography and cloud-based storage.

“I don’t think the time has come yet — but when it’s here, we should [invest in it], especially with the continuing shortage of court reporters,” Farmani says. “I think there will come a time where these technologies will be used in legal proceedings, but highly educated, highly professional court reporters will continue to be in demand for more complicated cases.”

Todd Olivas of Todd Olivas & Associates of Temecula, Calif., says he has no plans to invest in speech recognition tools any time soon. “But the reason is not because the technology isn’t there yet,” he says. “In fact, I’ll go further and add to Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote about certitude – ‘in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes’ – and add technology advancements. So for our purposes, we’d be foolish to think that court reporting is immune to technological advancements. Just ask yourself how many pen writers are still working. Steno writers took their places; right? Ask yourself how many steno writers are transcribing from paper notes. Laptops installed with CAT software took that role. Still, the human court reporter is the constant in all of those scenarios.”

Because of that, Olivas recommends that court reporters not fret over changes in technology like speech recognition, but simply be ready to adapt when they do come.

“We perform our duties using a certain set of tools today in 2016,” Olivas explains. “Yes, the various technologies will change, but the core role of what we do will not. Because our real value is not tied to that. Our real value is being the eyes and ears of the judge. There will always be the need to have a neutral, third-party observer at these proceedings who can administer the oath, facilitate the capture of the spoken word, produce a written document, and certify to its accuracy.”
David Ward is a journalist in Carrboro, N.C. Comments on this article can be sent to jcrfeedback@ncra.org.

 

 

A judge and his court reporter weigh in on realtime in the courtroom

Last August, NCRA member Julie Hohenstein, an official realtime court reporter for the Hon. Stephen A. Wolaver, Greene County, Ohio, added a Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR) to the Register Professional Reporter (RPR) certification she already held. Hohenstein said her judge was so happy with her earning the certification that he offered to be interviewed, along with her, to share thoughts on why realtime is a benefit to have as a skill and in the courtroom.

Why did you decide to pursue the CRR credential? 

Hohenstein: Ever since the CRR certification became available, I have wanted to achieve it. I think having the CRR says that I am on the cutting edge of my profession both in technology and skill. I think the CRR designation earns me immediate respect among professionals in the court reporting and legal fields.

I had attempted a couple of times when the CRR was first offered, and then I was discouraged because I didn’t pass it.  I always knew I could.  After attending the 2016 NCRA Convention in Chicago and participating in the CRR seminar and learning more about how the online testing worked, I decided to go ahead and try again.

I really liked the convenience of being able to take the CRR in a setting that I was quite comfortable and familiar with and on a date that I chose.  I especially liked the fact that you can take the CRR up to three times in a given quarter.

What do you think are the benefits of realtime?  

Hohenstein: For me as the court reporter, I use realtime to improve my writing skills. I watch my realtime to see areas in which I need to improve on my skills. I think no matter who you are, there is always something that we can do to make our writing better.

For the attorneys, I think the benefits are the ability to see and reread what the witness has just said or had said previously.

We use the iCVNet with iPads in our courtroom, and to have at the attorney’s fingertips the ability to search back through the transcript for certain areas of testimony and mark it and then be able to refer to it is an indispensable tool.  Also the ability to search a word or phrase and see every single time it is used and to be able to go to that spot with just a tap of the finger is invaluable.

Judge Wolaver, when you first saw realtime, what was the most exciting part of it for you?

Wolaver: Having the knowledge that I would not miss anything, that I could see testimony immediately, it would aid me in making rulings and also the ability with the iPads to search back through the day’s transcript for any discrepancies in witnesses’ testimony.  I find that having the iPads with the realtime gives me the flexibility to take the transcript into chambers to review before I make a final ruling, if necessary.

How often do you use realtime, and who in the court uses it? What is your setup like? 

Hohenstein: In our courtroom, I provide realtime to the judge and both plaintiff’s and defendant’s counsel on a daily basis.  All parties involved use the realtime whenever they feel the need to.  Our courtroom is setup with the judge and both counsel having an iPad to receive the realtime feed via Wi-Fi and ICVnet. There have been many times that I have noticed that the defendants themselves have used my realtime.

Have any attorneys, clerks, or deaf or hard-of-hearing jurors or parties used the realtime feed? 

Hohenstein: Yes. I have watched both plaintiff’s and defendant’s counsel use the realtime that I provide. Just recently, we had a trial where a potential juror had a severe hearing loss and tinnitus. The juror could let us know that they could not hear any of the Voir Dire examination that was being conducted, and they were able to follow along with the iPad to complete the Voir Dire process.

We also had a 14-day civil trial where both plaintiff’s and defendant’s counsel wanted realtime and a daily rough copy of the day’s proceedings by the end of the day.

What situations do you think that realtime is especially helpful for? 

Hohenstein: I find that in all situations realtime is helpful. Realtime helps me if I mishear something a witness says. I can immediately look at the screen and read it again to confirm what I thought I heard the witness say.

Why do you think that realtime is so important that you wanted Julie recognized for pursuing being certified in it? 

Wolaver: Julie goes above and beyond and excels in all aspects of her job duties. She has great dedication and respect for her job and wants to always improve her realtime skills for everyone that comes into our courtroom, and the public we serve should know of her dedication to justice.

At a time when many courts are replacing court reporters with ER systems, I find Julie’s realtime skills to be an invaluable asset for what she brings to my courtroom every day.  I can’t imagine not having her here.

What would you say to encourage other court reporters to pursue this certification? 

Hohenstein: Have the confidence to try it and achieve it. I never thought I would, but deep down I had the desire to pursue and achieve it. I think the sky’s the limit.  Just keep working on your writing skills and keep practicing and you too will achieve it. Not everyone can do what we can do, or everyone would do it. Be proud of what you have accomplished.

 

Recognize innovative business strategies with the JCR Awards

JCR Awards - TheJCR comThe JCR Awards are a way to tell compelling stories that bring to life innovative and successful business strategies from the past year. Originally conceived as a way to recognize and highlight the exemplary professionalism, community service, and business practices of NCRA members, the JCR Awards seek nominations for several subcategories, such as best-in-class stories for: Marketing and customer service; Leadership, teambuilding, and mentoring; Use of technology; Community outreach; Service in a nonlegal setting; and Court Reporting & Captioning Week (2016) initiative. In addition, NCRA is looking for a firm and an individual who show excellence in more than one category for an overall “Best of the Year” award.

Any current NCRA member in good standing, with the exception of students, may be nominated for these awards. Court reporters, captioners, videographers, scopists, teachers and school administrators, and court reporting managers are all eligible for nomination. Nominate a noteworthy court reporter, captioner, videographer, scopist, teacher, school administrator, or court reporting manager or a group, such as firms, courthouses, or court reporting programs. Self-nominations are accepted. More information about specific criteria for each of the categories is available on the JCR Awards Entry Form.

To enter, submit a written entry to the JCR between 300 and 1,000 words explaining the strategies implemented and why they were successful. Ancillary materials, such as photos, may also be submitted with the nomination. Nominations will be considered based on the best fact-based story. Please be prepared to offer documentation, verifiable sources, or other assistance as needed to be considered for these awards. The stories of the finalists will be published as featured articles in the March JCR.

Nominations are due by Oct. 31Read more about the JCR Awards.

See last year’s winners. 

TRAIN realtime roadblocks: Realtime technology and startup costs

For some reporters, the startup costs of realtime can be worrisome. But starting up doesn’t have to cost a lot, say those who are already realtiming. Start with what you have, they suggest, and add on as money becomes available.

It’s not necessary to run out and buy two new iPads when you decide you want to start providing your realtime feed to others. Everyone has an old computer with Windows on it. And just like that, you, too, have a computer you can use to sell your realtime feed. There is a huge benefit to using your own equipment (although it does cost more money). I find it easier just to have my own iPads at the ready. They are all set up to my specific realtime configuration (WiFi using a LAN). All I have to do is press “connect,” and I’m ready to go! Fewer things to worry about and more time to focus on perfecting my realtime feed.

Lisa Knight, RDR, CRR

Realtime Systems Administrator

TRAIN Subcommittee co-chair

Littleton, Colo.

 

We hear it all the time: Realtime is expensive. Sure it can be, but it doesn’t have to be! When getting started, do your homework and don’t go out and buy whatever you read is popular on Facebook. Start with an old/unused computer or tablet you have laying around the house, and check out the Realtime resource guide for a list of free realtime-viewing software you can use. Before you know it, you have a free realtime set up! Once you’re ready for more bells and whistles, start building your realtime collection slowly. After your first realtime job, you will have an idea of what baseline equipment you need, and then you can start building and personalizing it from there. Will you need a router, or do you want to use StenoCast or stream it through the cloud? Do you want to use a free version of a realtime viewing software or purchase a license or lease? How many viewing devices will you need? These questions can be answered on a budget, so start with small and free, and work your way to investing wisely. Getting started is the key ingredient to shopping on a budget.

– Merilee Johnson, RMR, CRR, CRC

Realtime Systems Administrator

TRAIN Subcommittee co-chair

Eden Prairie, Minn.

 

There is a reason realtime is expensive. We provide a skill that very few have. Our steno machines are expensive, our amazing software is expensive, and tablet s expensive. However, old equipment works just as well as new equipment. It doesn’t take much to start your realtime journey if you have an idea of where to begin. You don’t need the top-of-the-line equipment when you start. All you need is a laptop, a steno machine, a router or WiFi capability, realtime software, and either another laptop or tablet for streaming the realtime. You can find first-generation iPads that are cheaper, and you don’t need to start off with a Luminex. After working hard and getting thrown right into the water, I am now so confident doing realtime that I went out and bought five iPad minis of my own. Once you start, you won’t be able to stop. The momentum is a wonderful thing that will bring you exponential growth if you harness your skill the right way.

It is very important to know what you are investing in and shop around and get as much information as you can before making any purchases. Make sure the keyboard on the laptop makes editing easy for you. I once had to return a laptop because the page up, page down, home, and end keys were shared with the left, right, up, and down arrow keys, and I just could not edit like that. Overall, I think the startup costs are worth it, and if you implement training and teach yourself not to be afraid, you are bound to succeed and exceed your expectations.

– Sharon Lengel, RPR, CRR

TRAIN Subcommittee member

Woodmere, N.Y.

 

First, go with the attitude that you are going to do what it takes to make your investment back. Have a plan to market yourself to your firm, your clients, and other firms.

If you’re on a shoestring budget, work with your CAT vendor to see their options and costs. Again, talk to other realtime reporters to find out their solutions and costs, with the plethora of realtime options out there. There are Internet-streaming methods that are available for providing realtime where you may not even need tablets or throwdowns.

In addition to talking to other reporters, attend seminars. Join Facebook groups — like the TRAIN group — or other listservs, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. So what if you sound like a newbie? Everyone was a newbie. That’s why you’re asking: to gain from their experience.

But keep in mind as you cost-cut your way into the beginning of realtime that success means that you’ll ultimately have to spend what it takes to achieve mastery of the best options available for your realtime clients.

Jason Meadors, RPR, CRR, CRC

TRAIN Subcommittee member

Fort Collins, Colo.

 

 

TRAIN: No fear! Getting past realtime roadblocks

What’s preventing you from providing realtime? The Technology Subcommittee asked realtime providers through the TRAIN program for their best tips in getting past the roadblocks and into the groove.

How do you fight the fear of your realtime feed not being perfect? Breathe! After 32 years of reporting, I still get nervous for the first five minutes of any deposition. How in the world am I supposed to make my realtime feed readable when they are speaking at breakneck speeds (and they are often mumbling or their speech is unintelligible)? First, take a deep breath, and know everything will be okay. I promise! Once you administer the oath in a very slow-paced and methodical way, you set the stage for counsel to
continue in a slow-paced and methodical way.

Also, make sure you are prepared. Do your case preparation before the deposition starts. They don’t have a prior transcript? Get the complaint. They don’t have a copy of the complaint? Google the case name/number. There’s so much information out there these days, there’s no reason you can’t prepare (creating brief forms for tricky words you might come across). It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it!

Lisa Knight, RDR, CRR
Realtime Systems Administrator
Co-chair of the TRAIN Subcommittee
Littleton, Colo.

When asked what holds reporters back from providing realtime, the nearly universal answer is fear; fear that your writing isn’t completely conflict-free, fear that you aren’t comfortable with the technology, fear that your translation rate isn’t good enough, fear of having someone watching your screen, let alone judging your untrans and mistrans.

This feeling also applies to other areas of your life. Trying something new always causes some sort of anxiety, but if it’s something you want to do, excitement overrides that fear. Realtime is no different.

Take it one step at a time, and don’t expect perfection in the first week, month, or year, but go ahead and take your first step. Start by setting up realtime for yourself and get used to seeing your writing on your screen. Slowly address your untrans and mistrans, and watch for trends in your writing that you can improve upon. Once you’re comfortable with that, set up a second screen next to you so you get used to the
technology. Eventually, slide that screen in front of someone. Before you know
it, realtime will become your new norm, and you will be encouraging others to get started as well.

Merilee Johnson, RMR, CRR, CRC
Realtime Systems Administrator
Co-chair of the TRAIN Subcommittee
Eden Prairie, Minn.

Do you remember the first time you tried to ride a bicycle? When you knew the training
wheels were off or your mom or dad had let go of you, did you panic and fall to the ground? Many of us did, but we got up again, dusted ourselves off, and tried and tried again until we were sailing down the street on our own power. That’s how it is with writing realtime.

Nothing that is good, challenging, or worthwhile comes easily. It takes practice. It takes
perseverance. It takes endurance. It takes grit. Don’t be consumed by your fear. Embrace the challenge just like you did when you overcame the fear of riding your bicycle without the training wheels. Don’t let a less-than-perfect translation defeat you. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try, try again.

You can do it! It might not be easy, but it will be rewarding. As you see the translation
percentage on your screen getting better and better, you will be saying to yourself, yes, I
knew I could do it!

Mary Bader, RPR
TRAIN Subcommittee member
Medford, Wis.

I think this affects us all in individual ways. Some are afraid of making an error; others get nervous when they know their work is on display and they have to be kept on their toes at all times; some might feel intimidated walking into a medmal or a pharmaceutical case and are hoping the words come out right. Whatever the case may be, I have learned that fear can be a good thing.

I watched a TED talk once about stress and how you can make it your friend, and that put realtime into a whole new perspective for me. Instead of seeing stress as this horrible anxiety taking over your writing, you have to be the one to conquer your stress and fear and turn it into adrenaline.

As an adrenaline junkie, I can tell you that I absolutely love everything about realtime. I
love the way I get a little nervous, I love the way it keeps me sharp throughout the day, and I love that my writing is even better because I am editing on the fly, trying to make my transcript as flawless as possible for less editing time later. Grab ahold of your fear and don’t let it conquer you. Sometimes you have to fake it till you make it and simply believe in yourself and know that you are competent and capable of doing a stellar job.

In order to provide excellent realtime, you need to couple control of your fear with preparation. As good as you may be, you will be even better if you are well-prepared. Try to get a list of anything and everything that will be used during the deposition — names, esoteric terms, countries, etc. You won’t always have this luxury, but in most cases, if you are providing realtime, attorneys will be willing to inform you of the content and spellings of words that might come up.

Another way to prepare is to insert all of this information into your software the night
before instead of waiting until the day of. If you can make your caption page and even appearance page beforehand and a list of J-defines ready to go, you can spend your time before the depo making sure your connections are properly hooked up and less time inputting all of this time-consuming information before being bombarded with business cards.

Sharon Lengel, RPR, CRR
TRAIN Subcommittee member
Woodmere, N.Y.

If the fear is ever completely gone, then you’re probably being unrealistic about what you’re providing. Everyone runs into issues that are overwhelming. You lower your fear when you train to address those issues competently with the best effect that you can provide. Then that fear channels into energy to solve the problems that crop up.

Write realtime for yourself first, and practice on the methods that produce the best results on your screen. Mastery of your software and writing methods will reduce your fear.

Talk to other reporters who provide realtime. Expect mistakes to happen. Don’t discount them when they happen, and work to remedy and overcome them, but they will happen. And once you’re providing realtime, constantly work to better yourself with your knowledge, your skills, and your technical know-how, and always with the knowledge that what your clients are seeing is better than what they’d have if you were not there.

Jason Meadors, RPR, CRR, CRC
Fort Collins, Colo.

After more than 30 years of reporting, I still have that uncontrollable fear of providing
realtime. I get that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach before each job — even though I set up the night before, have my job dictionary built, my EZ Speakers defined, input case-specific terminology, and have Googled industry terms on the case.

Fear is normal for everyone. Even the best of the best in our profession, I’m sure, experience that tug of fear every now and then. We must not let fear hold us back, though. Court reporters need to embrace the future of court reporting and move ahead — the future is realtime.

Some reasons cited by other reporters for not taking the leap to realtime:

• My writing isn’t good enough.
• I don’t want anyone to see.
• Hookups scare me.
• I don’t know where to start.
• The realtime feed is not perfect.
• I don’t know how to handle overlapping voices.
• I worry about how to control the environment.

When I do start having that feeling of fear, I take a step back and remind myself to do a few things in order to control the situation — and these are simple steps that you can take too:

1. I do my realtime testing and job dictionary building the night before in order to be ready for the next day’s job. A detailed prep session will relieve the perceived stress.
2. I control my breathing. It has a calming effect on the whole body.
3. I don’t overthink my realtime sessions. Fear and anxiety thrive when I imagine the worst. I go in the deposition setting with the confidence that I will do the best job I can.
I’ve already prepared and done the testing — I know I’ve got this!
4. I think about the last realtime session I provided and how well it went. Yes, the fear was present, but the client was extremely pleased with my output. I get a “high” for a job
well done!

In an article on Inc.com, Geoffrey James says: “Fear is the enemy of success. Large rewards only result from taking comparably large risks. If you’re ruled by fear, you’ll never take enough risks and never achieve success you deserve.”

The benefits of realtiming for your clients and yourself are many.

• improved skills
• less editing time
• improved translation delivery
• quicker transcript turnaround
• job satisfaction
• name recognition (people will ask for you specifically)
• increased income
• phenomenal readback

Overcoming your fear of anything will give you the focus to achieve great things and to do what you really want to do. It takes much effort to strive to become realtime-proficient, but the rewards are worth it!

Lynette L. Mueller, RDR, CRR
TRAIN Subcommittee member
Johns Creek, Ga.

Additional materials from TRAIN for developing realtime skills can be found at NCRA.org/Realtime.

Sign up now for the Realtime Systems Administrator Workshop at the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo

man tangled in cordsThe Realtime Systems Administrator Workshop and Exam are being offered during the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo, Aug. 4-7 in Chicago, Ill. This workshop provides firm owners, IT support staff, freelance reporters, and official reporters with the boost they need to improve their professional marketability and technical proficiency. Registration information for the workshop and the Convention & Expo, as well as a schedule at a glance, can be found at NCRA.org/Convention.

The day-and-a-half workshop focuses on all aspects of realtime hookups and litigation support that rely on realtime connections, including cutting-edge wireless realtime. Attendees will learn how to quickly troubleshoot realtime issues, based on real-world scenarios, as well as explore all aspects of connectivity from serial communication to more advanced networking concepts, including wireless connectivity. Workshop attendees who pass the Exam will earn the Realtime Systems Administrator certificate.

“I thought I knew everything I needed to know about realtime since I do it all the time and have for many years. But that’s not true,” says Lori Byrd, RPR, CRR, an official court reporter from Winfield, Kan.

“One of the biggest reasons I keep seeking some kind of upgraded certification is because of something a court reporting friend once told me: a 30-year-old certificate doesn’t mean as much as a fresh one. A reporter who continually seeks to better himself or herself is more the type of reporter I would want to hire if I were looking for one. I want to do top-of-the-line work, so I feel strongly I need to be a top-of-the-line reporter,” Byrd adds.

NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator Program and Exam were developed and are implemented by the absolute experts within the field of producing realtime writing. The curriculum includes a two-step process: A lecture-based workshop is followed by a practical exam of a candidate’s ability to perform the duties of a realtime systems expert in real-world situations. Key components of the program and the text include: computer basics, connectivity basics, serial products, streaming products, and troubleshooting scenarios.

“I have been providing realtime hookups since 1989, and I felt it would be beneficial to have this certification so that attorneys coming into my service area will have a greater comfort zone about the quality of the realtime they will receive,” said Ginger H. Brooks, RPR, CRR, a freelance reporter from Jackson, Miss.

While there are no prerequisites for NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator Workshop, candidates should have a basic knowledge of realtime and a strong knowledge of their hardware, software, and equipment. Each workshop participant receives a copy of NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator Guide, which mirrors the program’s curriculum and provides in-depth information on a range of related topics.

“It was a great opportunity to have a refresher course,” says Brooks. “It has given me an opportunity to discuss with prospective clients our state organization, NCRA, and the benefits of hiring a qualified realtime reporter for depositions. You may feel that you do not need this certificate, but there is always something new to be learned.”

For more information and to register for the Realtime Systems Administrator Workshop and the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo, visit NCRA.org/Convention.

Realtime resource guide

By Merilee Johnson and Lisa Knight

Congratulations! You have worked hard at improving your writing. Your translation rate gets better with every job you take. You are finally ready to make the next step and start offering your realtime feed for others to view and use. Time to celebrate!

No! Wait! Panic sets in!

Does my CAT vendor offer realtime software for me to use? How much does that cost? Can I write to other realtime software with my current CAT system? Do I want to write to other realtime software? Do I want to use cables or StenoCast or do it all wirelessly with a router? Do I need a tablet, or should I use a laptop?

NCRA’s TRAIN Subcommittee has you covered. We have been working with CAT vendors to gather this valuable information to help you make a decision, and we have compiled it into a handy guide for reporters to quickly and easily determine their options and take their next steps.

An investment into a realtime future can add up fast, but it doesn’t have to. This is not about taking out a second mortgage to purchase all the realtime accoutrements at one time. Many realtime reporters don’t run out and purchase six iPads at their nearest Apple store. Most are methodical (that’s why we are so good at what we do). They may choose to purchase one refurbished tablet or computer and discover what works best for them. One by one, they add to their realtime stock.

Many people have an old computer (or two or three). Reporters can easily turn that into a realtime computer for counsel without paying anything to make that happen. Providing realtime (and getting paid for it) does not have to cost reporters an arm and a leg. Often, one realtime job will typically pay for that new or refurbished tablet the first time it’s used. By the second realtime job, reporters are increasing their margin of profit. Many reporters are losing money by not writing realtime, plain and simple.

Ready to get started? Use this guide to help determine the next realtime step. Is your current software and hardware compatible with cables or StenoCast using your old computer? Can you write to your computer wirelessly using a router without purchasing a license from your CAT vendor? Is your equipment and software license set up to provide a wireless stream out of the conference room to the other side of the world? The answers to these questions and more are here in this realtime guide.

Merilee Johnson, RMR, CRR, CRC, and Lisa Knight, RDR, CRR, are co-chairs of NCRA’s TRAIN Subcommittee.

The TRAIN subcommittee wishes to thank the vendors who participated in gathering this information. Their time devoted to this guide was extremely valuable.

  • Advantage Software
  • ProCAT
  • AristoCAT
  • Stenograph
  • Gigatron
  • Stenovations

Choosing the right captioning service

A post on May 4 by Government Video, part of NewBay Media, features the second part of an interview with NCRA member Carol Studenmund, RDR, CRR, CRC, a broadcast captioner from Portland, Ore., about choosing the right captioning service. Studenmund, who serves as chair of the Mount Hood Cable Regulatory Commission in Oregon and on NCRA’s Broadcast and CART Captioning Committee, discussed the changing role of closed captioning in the first part of the interview on April 27.

Read more.

STUDENT REPORTING: Realtime software through the lens of a student

By Ahlam Alhadi

Using steno paper was a great tool in the initial stages of my court reporting education, primarily because it was very easy to use and allowed me to focus more on speedbuilding and reading back my notes. However, as time continued and my ability to read my steno notes and write more quickly increased, my instructor and I both felt it was necessary that I begin to use realtime software since I won’t be using paper once I begin working and am at an assignment. I began to implement the use of realtime software once I reached a speed of 180 wpm. Since then I have been using realtime for all of my coursework, and I have found it to be very helpful. I can complete practice exams faster, and I can be more organized since I do not have to save stacks of steno paper.

I felt compelled to learn the ins and outs of realtime software as a student because it has such an immense impact on this profession. It enables transcripts to be produced quickly, it helps judges and attorneys get the information they need faster, and it can speed up the overall trial process. It is also the more advanced option during these times in which many legal professionals are trying to find alternative means to record testimony. In addition, many court reporters with their Certified Realtime Reporter credential earn more, and since the profession has become intertwined with this software, it only makes sense that it be emphasized among students.

I believe that it is crucial to improve myself professionally prior to entering the workforce, especially because there are perks to learning realtime while a student. Primarily, there isn’t any added pressure to know every facet and use of the software in a short period of time, and I can learn realtime as I go. Learning realtime as a student will also make life as a certified court reporter significantly easier because my dictionary will be comprised of a larger amount of legal and medical terms. This is extremely beneficial because I will be better prepared for any type of legal or medical malpractice deposition. Also, a new court reporter who is already familiar with their realtime software will be able to edit transcripts faster and more efficiently and submit court records at a more rapid rate. Likewise, the ability to turn in work sooner will ultimately allow for more assignments to be taken, which can lead to greater earnings.

The process of transitioning from steno paper to realtime proved to be quite simple given the fact that I had done my research and knew what software I wanted to purchase. Fortunately, there are many companies that provide reduced rates for students. That includes Gigatron’s StenoCat 32, Stenovations, and many more. Most court reporting programs are affiliated with a certain software company that may even offer a free student version of their software. I made sure to consider which companies would offer me the best software at a good rate and with tech support. I decided to purchase StenoCat 32, which has been easy to learn and has proven to be a viable and cost-efficient option. They offer wonderful technical support, which helped me immensely throughout the set-up process. Gigatron also offers free webinars and video tutorials that answer any questions about installation and set-up, adding terms to your dictionary, editing, and formatting.

As with any profession, its future depends on the students who will eventually be the backbone and leaders of this field. As a future court reporter, I feel it is necessary to stay on top of any and all advancements so I can offer clients as many services as possible that will allow for prompt and accurate court records.

Ahlam Alhadi is a court reporting student. She can be reached at ahlam513@gmail.com.