An unforgettable Convention experience

What will you remember the most about this year’s Convention & Expo? Members of NCRA’s Student/Teacher Committee continue the conversation about their experiences at past Conventions. What were the most memorable moments? What or who made the most impact on them? Read their stories here, and next year you’ll be sharing your own stories…

Len Sperling

Whitney Berndt

A young woman and a young man stand next to each other smiling

Shaunise Day (left)

Gayl Hardeman

portrait of the author

Kay Moody

Callie Sajdera

Members of NCRA’s Student/Teacher Committee, Callie Sajdera, a student at Anoka Technical College in Anoka, Minn., Gayl Hardeman, RDR, CRR, CRC, CRI, an instructor at Hardeman School (Tampa, Fla.), Kay Moody, MCRI, CPE, an instructor at College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind., Len Sperling, CRI, an instructor at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Alberta, Canada, Whitney Berndt, a student at Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, Wis., and Shaunise Day, a student at West Valley College in Oakland, Calif., offer their thoughts and advice for attending Convention.

JCR | What has been one of the best seminars or workshops you have ever attended at an NCRA Convention?

Callie | The best seminar I went to was with Margie Wakeman Wells at the Convention in Chicago, Ill. I was just out of Theory and learning the ropes of English and grammar. This was beneficial to me as a student who was just starting out, and she made it a lot of fun!

Gayl | Ed Varallo’s session on Notereading in 1973 in Seattle, Wash. I ended up training all of our typists and wrote a textbook on the subject two years later: Notereading: Twelve Weeks to a Career, as Gayl Hardeman Knaus (former married name).

Kay | They were all excellent. I always left a Convention “brain dead” with so much information and new ideas. I particularly enjoyed the initial seminars on technology when reporters were first learning about Computer Aided Transcription, CAT. There was always new knowledge or products for reporters, and there was so much to learn! I realized many years ago — we never stop learning — never!

Len | I remember attending a workshop on broadcast captioning. The session showed the importance of realtime in general, and the significant impact it would have on our industry’s future.

Whitney | I think my favorite seminar last year was the steno speed dating. It gave me such insight into all the amazing opportunities this career has to offer. I never knew some of those career paths existed.

Shaunise | I will never forget the seminar held in San Francisco, Calif., led by Clay Frazier and Kensie Benoit. I will always talk about this session and it should be a staple seminar that we continue to recycle as new students attend NCRA Conventions annually. Kensie and Clay presented on what you don’t normally learn in school. They put together a stellar presentation that focused on the importance of knowing your software, resume building, taxes, getting jobs, social media, and so much more. I hope we can continue to produce sessions that will focus on the steps a new reporter should take when it’s time to step foot in the real world of reporting.

 

JCR | Did you ever meet anyone at Convention who had a significant impact on your life or your career?

Callie | Yes. I met my mentor at the Chicago Convention two years ago. Her name is Anne Bowline from Casper, Wyo. She was on the Board at the time, and my director, Jennifer Sati, introduced her to me. She has been one of the greatest support systems that I have had throughout school, and she’s set an example for me as a professional and a future mentor.

Gayl | See above. I later married Ed Varallo, and he’s the one who got me interested in CART, which I’ve now done for 26 years.

Kay | Yes, not one, but many had a significant impact on my life and my school. Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, many of the schools were owned by women and these brilliant women became my dearest friends. We shared materials, ideas, teaching techniques, visited their schools, etc., and have remained close friends throughout the years. Probably the only name students would recognize today would be my dear friend, Lillian Morson.

Len | There are too many to count. Most of these individuals are mostly educators who I have learned from and who have inspired me. I like to call them friends and feel I could call upon them at any time.

Whitney | At the Convention last summer, I met out current President-Elect, Sue Terry. Sue was so willing to express to me her love of this career and share some of the amazing experiences she has had. She was so sweet and inspired me to work hard to hopefully be given similar, incredible opportunities.

Shaunise | I have established countless relationships that will last a lifetime. I give thanks to NCRA for allowing me to develop these relationships. I remember during the lunch break at my first Convention, I didn’t have any plans for lunch. This was an awkward moment for me. I wasn’t the type at the time to even think about having lunch by myself in a restaurant. I decided I would grab something to eat and go sit in my car for the lunch break. I was so nervous once lunch time approached. Just as I was walking out of the hotel, I received a text from Charisee Kitt (If you are a student reading this, make sure your student badge is showing. Veteran reporters will embrace you once they see that you are a student), and she asked me if I wanted to have lunch with a group of reporters. The joy and happiness from that text made my entire weekend.

 

Don’t miss your chance to save on 2018 Convention registration fees. Register by July 23 to save!

Online registration closes in 5 days, price increase for walk-ins

Time is running out to register for the 2018 NCRA Convention & Expo being held Aug. 2-5 in New Orleans, La., at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans. Online registration closes on July 23. After July 23, you will have to register on-site, and fees increase by $100.

Several workshops and contests are in high demand for this year’s Convention. Only a few open spots remain. Register today! Don’t miss out!

  • Punctuation Workshop is sold out at 100 spots.  We’ve expanded the room and can add 25 more spots; but once those are sold, we will not be able to add any more seats.
  • Realtime Contest:  Currently only 7 spots left (no room to expand and no on-site registration)
  • Speed Contest:  Currently only 10 spots left (no room to expand and no on-site registration)
  • CRR Boot Camp:  15 spots left (no room to expand)
  • CRC Workshop/Exam:  Only 20 spots left

The Keynote speaker for this year’s event is Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré (U.S. Army, Ret.), a 37-year veteran of active service who served as the commander of Joint Task Force Katrina, during which time he became known as the “Category 5 General” for his striking leadership style in coordinating military relief efforts in post-hurricane New Orleans.

In addition to sharing insights into his leadership skills with attendees at the premier session, Honoré will write his military story in a special Veterans History Project event. Honoré will be interviewed on stage by NCRA member Michael Miller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, a freelance court reporter from Houston, Texas. Accompanying Miller on stage will be NCRA member Daniel Griffin, RPR, a freelance reporter from Phoenix, Ariz., who will transcribe Honoré’s story. Once completed, Honoré’s story will be preserved at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., as part of its VHP program.

This year’s all-inclusive schedule is sure to appeal to anyone in the court reporting, captioning, and legal video professions, and in the educational arena.

Other schedule highlights include workshops, business sessions, and Learning Zones that will offer attendees added opportunities to mingle and network, the National Speed and Realtime Contests, and the Member Recognition Gala. Throughout the Convention, attendees can earn up to 2.3 CEUs. And be sure to stop by the National Court Reporters Foundation booth to enter a raffle to win a one-of-a-kind Luminex steno machine.

Don’t miss this last chance to save on registration fees. Register for the 2018 NCRA Annual Convention & Expo at NCRA.org/Convention.

Vacancies on NCRA Board to be filled during Annual Business Meeting

The uncontested elections of Max Curry, RPR, CRI, to the office of President-Elect and Christine Phipps, RPR, to the office of Vice President have created two Director vacancies on the NCRA Board of Directors. In accordance with Article V, Board of Directors, Section 6 – Vacancies of the NCRA Constitution and Bylaws, voting members may submit nominations from the floor during the Annual Business Meeting to fill the two one-year vacancies.

The voting for the two Directors will occur only during the Annual Business Meeting. Voting members in attendance at the Annual Business Meeting will vote for their choices via an on-site written ballot.  Elections will continue until a majority is received.

Who is eligible to be on the Board?

Only Registered Members or Retired Members, Retired Lifetime Members, or Honorary members are eligible to hold an elective office of the Association. Also, an outgoing Director completing a three-year term is ineligible for immediate re-election as a Director.

Who is eligible to nominate a member?

Only NCRA voting members may submit nominations from the floor. Voting members include Registered Members and Participating Members who are verbatim stenographic reporters, as well as Retired Members, Retired Lifetime Members, and Honorary members who have been verbatim stenographic reporters.

There will be no tables, booths, or campaigns when running from the floor.

NCRA Town Hall with Marcia Ferranto announced for July 28

NCRA has announced that CEO and Executive Director Marcia Ferranto will host the second in a series of virtual town halls, during which she will present an update about the association followed by a question-and-answer period with members. The town hall is scheduled for July 28, 2018, at 10 a.m. ET. Members must register to attend the town hall, which will be presented via video conference.

“I am excited to be holding these town hall meetings and encourage everyone to participate. Input from members is vital to guiding the Association into the future as we work together to promote, protect, and provide for the court reporting and captioning professions. I look forward to the sharing of inspiring insights and ideas,” Ferranto said. Ferranto will be joined by Cynthia Bruce Andrews, NCRA’s Senior Director of Education and Certification, who will talk about the NCRA A to Z Online Program.

Zoom, the platform that the town hall will be presented on, will allow Ferranto to be seen via a video link and will allow participants to submit questions online. The July town hall will be recorded and marks the second of several scheduled for 2018 and into 2019. Additional dates are October 27 and January 26, 2019. To register for the July town hall, visit NCRA Town Hall.

In her first quarterly town hall meeting held in April, Ferranto presented an update about the Association followed by a question-and-answer period with members. Following the event, members sent very positive feedback, including:

“The Town Hall was a good vehicle for members to be better informed about how our Association is advocating for us, but it also alerts us about the struggles our Board and staff are facing as we move into the future. I hope these webinars will continue throughout the year.”

“My thanks and appreciation for the positive, informative, and motivational Town Hall today. I can’t wait to be part of this new path!”

“Fantastic presentation!”

“This is exactly what membership needs. Proud to be an NCRA member.”

10 reasons I love my career as a court reporter

The intention of this article is not to convince you to become a court reporter or that court reporting is a great career. My intention is just to share with you some points about what has made court reporting a great profession for me. Here are the top 10 things I love about being a court reporter:

1. Recession-proof, high-demand career
From the moment I graduated from court reporting school and was licensed as a certified shorthand reporter, I have never experienced a day without working that I didn’t want to work. In these tough economic times, it’s easy to see why I’ve listed this one first. The best recession-proof jobs are those that are least sensitive to economic downturn and have the highest combined scores for pay, projected workforce growth, and number of openings. In my experience, a recession-proof job is one that remains in high demand even through a bad economy. Though no career is entirely recession-proof, court reporting is more constant than most others when times are hard.

Several elements create the high demand for court reporters. First, there is an increased demand in the legal field. Crime tends to rise dramatically when people feel desperate and experience serious financial problems, so the number of court cases increase. Civil disputes also reach a boiling point, resulting in more civil litigation when times are tough.

Despite the state budget cuts that resulted in the layoff of hundreds of court reporters in California in the last several years, some counties decided to privatize the court reporting duties in civil courtrooms, meaning that court reporters still ended up going to work in civil courtrooms, but they get paid directly from attorneys or agencies instead of from the county. As a result, there was no loss in court reporting jobs; it actually created new job opportunities for freelancers who never worked in court before. It’s anticipated that more and more counties will follow this lead and begin to privatize the reporters in civil courtrooms throughout California and the rest of the country, which will lead to a significant projected workforce growth.

Second, there is an increase in demand in other industries that require realtime court reporters to provide transcriptions or captioning of conferences, seminars, video, and television. The growing number of fields that require stenographers includes television, sports, politics, business, medicine, and many more. According to research conducted by Ducker Worldwide in 2013, which was commissioned by NCRA, more than 5,500 new court reporting jobs are anticipated across the U.S. by 2018 due to significant retirement rates. The median age of working court reporters is 51 years old and more than 70 percent of the court reporting population is over 46 years old.

2. High income potential
The salary of a court reporter is heavily dependent on geography. A court reporter’s income can also depend upon their certifications and services provided. A reporter who provides realtime translation services can make more than one who doesn’t. Los Angeles and New York freelance court reporters can average about $100,000 a year, while the national average is around $46,000 a year. Keep in mind that many reporters prefer to work part-time, so that drives the national average income down. I know several reporters who make $225k to $300k per year consistently. I also know of one who makes close to $600k per year consistently. The sky is the limit if you’re willing to work hard and be a top-notch reporter.

Salaries of official court reporters are public information and can be easily found online, although transcript information is not public information. Many busy official reporters will tell you that their transcript incomes can be just as much as or double their annual salary. An official court reporter position in Riverside County Superior Court in California pays $108k per year, or $52/hour. An annual salary for an official court reporter in Cobb County, Ga., is $41,614.02 to $66,583.24, or $32.01/hour, plus transcript fees. There are also official court reporter positions in federal court. The salary for an official court reporter in the United States District Court, Eastern District of New York, is $87,770 to $100,936 plus transcript fees. Those are examples of just a few of the recently advertised official positions.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the growth rate for court reporting salaries is expected to increase by 14 percent through the year 2020. This is one profession where talk is translating to tangible long-term loot.

3. Variety of settings
Interesting job content is one of the top ten factors for employee happiness on the job according to a recent study from Boston Consulting Group, which surveyed more than 200,000 people around the world. Court reporting offers such a huge variety of subject matter that it makes it one of the most interesting professions. Court reporters travel from job to job or courtroom to courtroom and go from case to case. Every case is different, and we’re usually learning so much from highly educated people who look at us with wonder and amazement at what we do. We can go from a transvaginal mesh class action case yesterday to a human trafficking case today to a mesothelioma asbestos case tomorrow. Reporters who have three and four decades of experience frequently comment on how even they learn something new every day. The amount of learning of new subject matters is endless.

The variety of job settings in court reporting is staggering.

Our views usually change with each job, and so do the attorneys we’re working with. We can be on the 43rd floor of a high-rise in downtown or a wealthy law firm with a view of the ocean in Newport Beach or Santa Monica or in a courtroom in any number of locations or outdoors on a mountaintop in the Hollywood Hills. Sometimes we’re surprised to be sitting in the same room with a celebrity. I’ve had many celebrities in my courtroom as parties and as jurors, who shall remain nameless.

The best part is that we can edit our jobs from anywhere in the world. We can work on our laptops on a beach in Hawaii with our toes in the sand and an ocean view of the Pacific Ocean. If you want to pack up and leave your hometown, it’s extremely easy to find a job across the United States. If you want to stay local, that’s easy, too. Also, we can take jobs anywhere in the world. There are so many international travel opportunities in this profession if you’ve got your passport and a desire to see the world. Whether you are looking for jobs close to home, to move across the country, or for opportunities to travel, the possibilities are endless!

There is also a lot of opportunity for CART and captioning work. CART stands for Communication Access Realtime Translation. It is verbatim text of spoken presentations provided for live events. Only the text is provided on a computer screen or projected for display on a larger screen. CART may be provided in the classroom, at meetings, workshops, and other presentations, including live theater – anywhere that someone with a hearing loss needs to hear in a group setting. Early in my my career, I took on a couple of CART assignments where I was assisting a person who was hard of hearing on a college campus. I would attend his classes with him and provide him a screen of my realtime so he could read along. Reporters can also choose to do captioning from their own home offices.

Captioning is the text of the audio portion of a video or film displayed directly on the video or film, often on the bottom of the screen. This may include not only the words, but the sounds that are important to understand and the source of the sound. Reporters can caption the news from their home office or they can report live from the sporting event, corporate meeting, or other presentation.

The greatest thing about the variety of settings is that you will never get completely burned out with your career. You may get burned out with your current job, but there are so many different types of settings to work in that you can switch gears to keep it interesting. Burned out in court? Switch to captioning the TV news from home. Those couldn’t be more different. There are lots of possibilities!

4. Longevity
The profession of stenography stems from man’s desire and his necessity to preserve the happenings of yesterday and today for tomorrow. It was born with the rise of civilization in ancient Greece. Ancient scribes once used shorthand to record speeches of politicians, philosophers, and other public speakers in Judea, Persia, and the Roman Empire. Abraham Lincoln entrusted a stenographer to record the Emancipation Proclamation. A stenographer was commissioned to be with Roosevelt at Yalta, Eisenhower on D-Day, and MacArthur at Tokyo. Today, we sit in the White House, the United States Congress, and District and Superior Courts, and we also work in a variety of locations. Stenography is one of the oldest professions and will be around well into the future.

With variety comes a nice long run in a career that offers longevity. One of my dearest court reporting friends has been working as a court reporter since 1970. She’s been an official, a freelance reporter, and an agency owner. After 47 years, she’s still working full time and has plans to never, ever retire. She will just keep reporting until she can’t. Many court reporters have enjoyed several decades-long careers in this profession and plan to work well into their retirements. Most people face the challenge of transitioning to new careers at least two to three times in their lifetime. Longevity in court reporting is possible because of the variety of jobs where there is ample opportunity to remake your career without having to start from scratch.

Technology has come a long way in the last 20 years, but it still has a long way to go before it will be a threat to the profession of court reporting. The experimentation with replacing human court reporters with audio recording has failed time and again. It’s analogous to replacing all language interpreters with translation software. It seems ridiculous because everyone knows the complexities of their jobs. However, court reporting is largely a mystery to the attorneys and judges that work with them and even more of a mystery to a financial analyst who is facing budget restraints. The truth is, court reporters are tasked with the protection of the record. Court reporters use extremely sophisticated technology to create a record using machine shorthand, and it is a process that takes an average of three years to master.

A few of the things a human court reporter can do that digital recording can’t are: capture testimony at 99 percent or greater accuracy, handle multiple speakers at the same time, identify speakers, understand different accents and dialects, create an immediate draft transcript, create a same-day or next-day final transcript, mark exhibits, swear witnesses, and stop a proceeding for clarification due to an accent or soft-spoken witness, or ask for a repeat because a door slammed or other noise cut out the speaker. Human court reporters are champions, and there is no contest in the creation and preservation of the official record at trial or a deposition.

Even if voice recognition technology evolves to a level of near perfection, it can still never replace the human court reporter because it lacks the ability to control and protect the record and do the human aspects of the job.

5. The people
Humans are social creatures, and Gallup’s research has found that people who have a “best friend” at work are more productive and engaged. My best friend and the matron of honor at my wedding years ago is a court reporter. We met when we both got hired at superior court almost a decade ago. When reporters run into each other out at a job location, there’s an instant connection. Nobody understands us like another reporter. The network of court reporters is perhaps a stronger bond than in any other industry. Nothing illustrates that more than a quick search on Facebook where you’ll see hundreds of groups for court reporters, whether it be Court Reporters Who Love to Cook, Court Reporters and Their Fur Babies, or Why I Love Court Reporting. It is a small world, and every reporter is connected in some way to another reporter or knows about other reporters.

Court reporters are quick to help out a fellow reporter, whether it be mentoring someone, having someone sit out with us to get their apprentice hours, borrowing equipment, or offering tech support. Someone is always there, even at 3:30 a.m., to lend a hand or an ear, at least via social media.

In a study conducted by TINYpulse of more than 40,000 people at 300 companies across the globe, they found that the number one reason cited for loving a job was coworkers, because of the people they work with. I know many, many court reporters who have had their assignment in a courtroom for decades, and their coworkers — which include the judge, the bailiff, and the clerk — are like family to them.

The third group of people that we work with on a daily basis consists of the attorneys and witnesses. I love the fact that almost every day I get to meet and work with some of the best legal minds in the industry and listen to the testimony of experts from a variety of industries who are the best in their field and went to the top schools in the world.

6. Flexible Working Hours
Whether you are a working parent or just want to have a flexible job, court reporting may be the field for you. I know court reporters who work just two or three days a week. Working part-time as a court reporter is common and easily attainable if you are looking for a nice balance between your professional and personal life. Another court reporter can easily pick up where you left off in a trial, arbitration, or multi-day deposition. If you’re in a daily trial, you can easily take a day off to attend your doctor’s appointment or child’s school play, and your coworker can step in and cover for you with no problems. Freelance reporters are able to schedule a short one-hour workers’ comp depo or an all-day video deposition with agencies. If you need to take the day off, then you can simply tell the agency you’re not available for work that day.

I currently work in a courthouse with set hours every day, but I do know of other officials who job share with another reporter. They alternate either the days or the weeks. One reporter works three days one week and two days the next and they alternate, or they alternate entire weeks, so one week on, one week off. They share an office, so combined, they make up one full-time reporter.

7. Mastery
Happy people tend to be successful at work, but surprisingly it’s not your success that causes you to be happy; it’s your being happy that tends to cause your success. Research has identified three factors that make us happy at work: mastery, purpose, and autonomy.

Research finds that people are happiest when engaged in difficult-but-doable activities; that is, activities that involve our being so absorbed in our tasks that time seems to stand still and produce flow. Flow is the state reached when we are so immersed in an activity that we cease to notice the passage of time and have deep, effortless involvement. Time seems to stop. Our happiness is greatest at such times.

When I’m on the job reporting, I’m in “the zone,” like a mystical ecstatic state. It is this full involvement in flow, rather than happiness achieved from sensory pleasures, that makes for excellence in life. It produces deep, long-lasting satisfaction, rather than temporary cheerfulness.

Every day, I am improving as a court reporter. Every day, I’m enjoying what I’m doing, and I don’t want it to finish. Every day involves a challenge where I am stretching my mind and my body. I’m adding words to my dictionary, or I’m writing faster, adding briefs, or I’m exposed to new subject matters. My software has a scorekeeper at the bottom of my laptop screen that tells me in a percentage how well I’m writing. It’s much like playing a video game where I’m constantly trying to improve my score. When things get tough, effort and discipline are required, which helps me to learn to persist. Each challenging job assignment makes me a better reporter, so I thrive on those experiences. My brain is fed with constantly changing positive experiences that prevent the hedonic treadmill from turning.

There are certifications galore. Through the National Court Reporters Association, you can earn your RPR, RMR, RDR, CRR, and CRC certifications and more. The California Deposition Reporters Association has a CCRR certification you can earn as well. The United States Court Reporters Association has an FCRR certification that you can achieve. Then there are speed contests for all three of those organizations that you can enter. There are continuing education opportunities with the superior court and with all of the state and national organizations. There is no limit to what you can achieve in this profession.

8. Purpose
The International Journal of Management, Business, and Administration published a study which discusses how core job characteristics, such as task significance, have important effects on various critical psychological states. It went on to define task significance as the degree to which the job has a substantial impact on the lives of other people. Task significance is one of the five core characteristics of a job that contributes to the experience of meaningfulness at work, which leads to high internal work motivation and high job satisfaction.

Many attorneys and judges have started proceedings by introducing the court reporter as the most important person in the room.

Court reporters have the mission to protect and preserve the record. We preserve the record for appeal, usually the final decision for a case. If there is no court reporter to make a record, attorneys will have to create a stipulated statement of the case to be submitted on appeal.

In Los Angeles County, several of the civil judges required attorneys to prepare a stipulated statement after each day of trial if they chose not to have a reporter. The attorneys usually decided to hire a reporter, rather than burden themselves with extra work during trial. And you can imagine if parties weren’t able to settle their case by the time of trial, getting a stipulation of the attorneys would be an almost impossible task in itself. In felony courtrooms, there is always a reporter to make a record.

I worked on a four-week trial that was overturned on appeal, and I ran into one of the attorneys being interviewed by a major news network outside the courthouse. He caught up to me after the interview and thanked me for my work on his trial preparing daily transcripts and then producing the huge appeal. He said without my transcripts, he wouldn’t have won his case on appeal. The other day, I got a voicemail from an attorney thanking me for a rough draft of his proceedings that he used to prepare his motion. He said he couldn’t have done it without my transcript and thanked me profusely. In another example, in the trial I reported last week, the judge had to refer to my realtime several times in order to make his ruling on objections. And just this morning, a clerk asked me for a judge’s ruling, so I copied and pasted that portion of the transcript to him in an email right away so he could prepare his minute order. We’re constantly reminded of our importance and the role we play in ensuring justice is meted out, and we’re highly valued by attorneys and judges and clerks.

America is a society based on law and justice. I love the fact that I have a role in making this ideal a reality, however small. With two hands, 24 keys, and 225+ words per minute, the impact as a court reporter is limitless.

9. Autonomy
One meta-analysis involving more than 400,000 people in 63 countries found that autonomy and control over one’s life matter more to happiness than money. Autonomy is the degree to which a job provides substantial freedom, independence, and discretion to the individual in scheduling the work and in determining the procedures to be used in doing the work.

Luckily for court reporters, we have a sense of control over our work and over our time too. As a freelancer, I am self-employed and my own boss. I am free to turn down work or take a day off without answering to anyone. I also have control over subcontracting work to proofreaders and scopists. As an official court reporter, even though there are supervisors and managers in my department, I don’t have to answer to a boss. I don’t have annual reviews where someone can critique my work. I have the freedom to do my job without being micromanaged or questioned about decisions I make. My transcripts are handled on an independent contractor status and are not under the purview of the court. I have the ability to control what services I offer and don’t offer to attorneys. And I have the freedom to choose what assignments I get by trying out for courtrooms I want to work in or to float, as I’ve chosen to do. For these reasons, autonomy is on the list of things I love about court reporting.

10. Residual income opportunity
One of the main reasons I chose this profession is for the residual or recurring income opportunity. Who doesn’t love to earn money while not working, right? Once we report a matter, we can continue to get paid for the work for months and years after it’s done. It’s analogous to earning royalties from intellectual property such as books and patents. The record we make is considered our work product. If anyone wants a copy of it, we make money again and again.

Salary jobs are part of linear income. This income is directly related to the number of hours you work. If you work 40 hours, you get paid for 40 hours of work. Official court reporters earn a salary plus transcript income. Some freelance reporters will earn a per diem for the time that they are at a location or just to show up. Our transcript income allows us to continue to make money while doing other things, such as accepting more assignments or taking a day off and going to Disneyland with our family. We can be on the record five days a week and work on transcripts during the evenings and weekends, or we can hire a scopist to help produce the transcripts while we continue to take jobs and keep writing on our machines.

After we produce an original transcript and the copy orders at the time of the job, we can earn money for the transcript again at the time of appeal, which happens in the years following the matter we reported. I have a couple of death penalty cases that I reported that will continue to appeal for the rest of their lives. This is a passive income that I don’t have to personally market or interact with the business in any way. All I have to do is wait for the appeal and deposit the check.

Recently, I was able to take eight months off for maternity leave because I had a steady flow of appeals coming in that I had already produced the transcript at the time of trial and turned them in, then deposited the checks. I made money while staying at home with my newborn baby. This was ideal.

Of course, before the money starts rolling in as a court reporter, you will have to put a lot of time, money, and effort into going to an NCRA-approved court reporting program. You’ll need a lot of patience and determination to see the high income in the future.

Instant gratification is not possible when it comes to being a court reporter, but the rewards are limitless.

Cassandra Caldarella is a freelancer and agency owner based in Santa Ana, Calif. She can be reached at cassarella11@hotmail.com.

See what’s new in products and services on the 2018 Expo Floor

Dozens of vendors will showcase the latest in new products and services specifically for the court reporting and captioning professions at the 2018 NCRA Convention & Expo, Aug. 2-5 in New Orleans, La., at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans. Vendors will offer products that include software, equipment, support services, new products, and more.

Below is a complete list of the 2018 exhibitors.

  • Advanced Depositions
  • Advantage Software
  • Alpha Innovation
  • College of Court Reporting
  • eCourt Reporters
  • Elite Reporting Services of Tennessee
  • Emerald’s Gifts of Distinction
  • Epiq Court Reporting
  • Ergoprise
  • Esquire Deposition Solutions
  • Expedite
  • Expert Depos
  • Firstlease
  • Henderson Legal Services
  • Infinite Beauty
  • Injury Care Solutions
  • IST Management Services
  • K & V Designs
  • LitUp Legal LLC
  • Louisiana Court Reporters Association
  • Mercer
  • NCRA PAC
  • National Court Reporters Foundation
  • Nexdep
  • Padcaster
  • Pengad
  • PohlmanUSA
  • ProCAT
  • Protranslating
  • Realtime Coach
  • Remote Counsel
  • RepAgencyWorks
  • Ruby Ribbon
  • Russian Blue Diamonds
  • Statim Corp.
  • Stenograph
  • Stenovations
  • StenoWorks
  • StreamText
  • Thomson Reuters
  • TransPerfect
  • S. Digital Media
  • S. Legal Support
  • Veritext
  • Wide Awake Business

To learn more about each of the 2018 NCRA Convention & Expo exhibitors, visit NCRA/exhibitors.org.

Other schedule highlights include Keynote speaker Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré (U.S. Army, Ret.), workshops, business sessions, and Learning Zones that will offer attendees added opportunities to mingle and network. Throughout the Convention, attendees can earn up to 2.3 CEUs.

Online registration closes July 23 for NCRA’s Convention & Expo. Onsite registration fees will be $100 higher. For more information about the 2018 NCRA Annual Convention & Expo, or to register online, visit NCRA.org/Convention.

Ask the Techie: Mixer recommendations

The Realtime and Technology Resource Committee is taking your questions on topics surrounding realtime and technology. Send the questions you want the technology committee members to tackle to jcrfeedback@ncra.org.

Dear Techie:

I’m in the market for a new mixer. Do you have any recommendations?

Mixing it up in the city


Dear Mixing:

It’s always great when you have the opportunity to update or upgrade your equipment, and doing so proactively lets you really research your choices. Good luck on finding the one that’s right for you!

There are many options available for a mixer out on the market, but our needs can be so specific. Here are our suggestions.

Lou Chiodo, CLVS, a videographer who has also earned NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator and Trial Presentation Professional certificates, of New York City, N.Y.:  I recently added the Zoom F8 – Recorder/Mixer into my deposition kit. I cannot say this is an inexpensive audio solution; however, I do believe that it is a crucial item in my audio workflow.

I was persuaded to select this model based on the following key features:

  • It is a professional field mixer and sophisticated recorder in one, with eight channels, in a lightweight, aluminum, tiny form factor.
  • It comes with flexible SD card recording options, providing redundant recording; safety track recording; or a combination of isolated channels with a second mix containing all channels.
  • It includes an iOS companion app for iPad or iPhone and it handles remote control of its mixing and recording features. (This app satisfies my only complaint of it having small knobs.)

If this mixer/recorder combo is for you, it is readily available online for $799 – originally priced at $1,000.

My preferred setup for recording audio for court reporters or their scopists is to always keep one of the left or right channel, peak signal levels, slightly lower or behind the other channel for safer recording and to prevent distortion or clipping. I then record all individual channels onto one SD card and a mix of all channels onto the other SD card during the deposition. The files are then available for immediate transfer to the reporter, especially for a next-day expedite.

 

Alan Peacock, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, a freelance court reporter and captioner based in Mobile, Ala.: I do use a mixer for my court work. I like the Rolls MX410 4-Channel Microphone Mixer. I think professional XLR connections provide the best quality audio for any mixer, which is what most videographers use as well. You can buy the XLR in a variety of different lengths, so you can accommodate almost any room.

For captioning, I just use a simple Pyle Pro amp. What’s most important to me is the headset. You need something super light, since you’re wearing it most of the day. I prefer a full ear cup, so my favorite headset is the Bose Quietcomfort. You can find wired and wireless versions out there. Most of the wired ones have been retired, but there are plenty on eBay right now that you can get at a reduced price.

 

Scott Aaron, a videographer based in Memphis, Tenn.: I utilize the Shure SCM268 Microphone Mixer for my audio recording during depositions. It has four transformer balanced XLR microphone inputs and one transformer balanced XLR mic/line output. Each of the four line inputs are adjusted individually, giving you control for each person using a lapel mic. As with most mixers, the volume adjustments are easily made, ensuring a great-sounding final product.

The main reasons I chose this mixer are: 1) Reliability: This mixer has been tried and tested for many years with excellent reviews; 2) Compact size; 3) Cost: Around $200-$250. I have used this mixer for 11 years and have never had any issues.

 

Cheryl Erwin, a videographer, Nashville, Tenn.: Looking for the perfect audio mixer for depositions was a challenge. Most of the mixers we considered had far more functions than we needed. We did not need three bands of EQ or built-in effects. What we did need was a mixer that was lightweight and portable, with XLR inputs for good quality. We decided upon the ROLLS ProMIX-IV. It’s a four-channel mixer with four XLR connectors in and two out. It has four rotating input volume controls and two auxiliary out connectors, 1/4-inch phone plug, and a mini plug. This mixer also has 48-volt phantom power, which we don’t use because we have battery-powered condenser microphones. We have found that EQ is not necessary and four microphones are enough for most depositions. This mixer sells for about $150, it’s lightweight and fairly small, 6 in. x 4 in. x 3 in. The audio quality is outstanding!

 

Rob Sawyer, a videographer based in Memphis, Tenn.: I have used Yamaha and Peavey over the years for audio/video deposition units. All these units have four pro-level XLR inputs with individual volume controls for each microphone plus a master level and a separate level for the output. The mixed output is used to send the audio to the court reporter’s computer or audio recording device. Four inputs allows separate mics for each primary opposing lawyer, the deponent, and an overall room mic. The room mic is used primarily as a backup. I like Yamaha the best because it is compact and durable. The cost is usually $150-$200.

 

Julie Coulston, a videographer based in Jackson, Tenn.: I use a Shure Mixer that I purchased five or six years ago, and I am almost positive it has been replaced by a newer version, so I wouldn’t know which one to recommend to new videographers. For the court reporter audio, I use a TASCAM recorder that records onto an SD card. I can give it to the reporter on site, or I can email them the audio, which the reporter can download when convenient.

HLAA members embrace NCRA at annual convention

Marcia Ferranto

Attendees at the 2018 Hearing Loss Association of America’s (HLAA) annual convention held June 21-24 in Minneapolis, Minn., welcomed NCRA as an exhibitor to the event and shared with Executive Director and CEO Marcia Ferranto how much they appreciated the services of captioners and CART providers.

“Working with the end user of CART captioning was an enriching experience, and many of them shared with me their love for the service and their willingness to help advance the profession,” Ferranto said.

Ferranto also held a breakout session onsite where she explained to attendees how NCRA is working toward attracting more people into the profession. She also shared that NCRA members who are CART captioners represent the highest standard of skill and excellence in the profession. Ferranto also offered information about what is involved in becoming and working as a CART captioner, how NCRA is the national certifying body, and why users should be looking for NCRA certifications when hiring a provider.

“Marcia’s presentation on the future of CART captioning was very well-received and shed light on how NCRA is working with HLAA to raise awareness of and to proliferate CART captioning,” said Matthew R. Barusch, NCRA’s Manager of State Government Relations, who also attended the event.

Overall, said Barusch, the whole experience was a huge success and was a prime example of the importance of working with the deaf and hard-of hearing community. People with hearing disabilities are the main consumers of CART captioning services, and they value and appreciate the services that NCRA members provide, he added. Working with HLAA to enhance and protect captioning and captioning policy cultivates a huge population of advocates for NCRA members and, ultimately, will make NCRA stronger.

According to Barusch, there was a huge interest by attendees in the NCRA Sourcebook, since so many attendees were interested in finding CART captioners in their area. In addition, he noted that many chapter leaders thanked NCRA for its new partnership with HLAA, which is helping to identify and provide CART captioning to their members.

Left to right: Matt Barusch, Caitlin Albrecht, Merilee Johnson, Jennifer Sati

“We could not be more thankful to HLAA for putting on such a great convention, and to our wonderful volunteers, who represented in such an amazing way,” Barusch shared.

NCRA Board of Directors member Jennifer Sati, RMR, CRR, CRC, CRI, from Dayton, Minn., assisted in recruiting a number of volunteers to demonstrate captioning at the NCRA booth. Those volunteers included:

  • Caitlin Albrecht, a freelance court reporter from Plymouth, Minn.
  • Kristi Arntzen, RPR, CRR, a captioner from St. Louis Park, Minn.
  • Elizabeth Gangl, RPR, a freelance court reporter from Minneapolis, Minn.
  • Staci Heichert, RDR, CRR, CRC, a captioner from Shakopee, Minn.
  • Merilee Johnson, RDR, CRR, CRC, a captioner from Eden Prairie, Minn.
  • Heather Schuetz, RMR, CRR, CRC, a freelance court reporter from Woodbury, Minn.
  • Angie Sundell, RMR, CRR, CRC, a captioner from Hopkins, Minn.
  • Jean Whalen, RDR, CRR, CRC, a captioner from Apple Valley, Minn.

“I want to give a shout-out to Marcia on her presentation at HLAA. I was lucky enough to be in the audience since it was in my neck of the woods. She has such a talent at engaging the audience, and they were engaged! I never tire of hearing CART captioning consumers express how much they love NCRA and their captioners,” Sati shared with members of NCRA’s BOD.

“Seeing us in action this weekend, I think this is a must to continue with our participation at HLAA each year to take advantage of the exposure and opportunities,” she added.

“Engaging in professional relationships with like-minded organizations such as HLAA not only showcases the services our members provide to assist members of the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities, but it also creates a strong bond and vital support for our common issues,” Ferranto added.

What a room full of girls taught me about the profession

Merilee Johnson

By Merilee Johnson

As I looked out at the expectant, inquisitive eyes of a room full of 8- to 12-year-old girls, I came to the realization this was going to be a challenge more difficult than I had anticipated. Presenting to professional colleagues can be intimidating enough, but what could I offer these young minds whose only image of a court reporter (if they had one at all) is of a person sitting to the side of the action, “typing” quietly in the corner?

What I had envisioned as a breezy conversation (accepted on a whim) changed in focus to promoting and recruiting for the future of our profession. I needed to both capture their attention and convey that reporting is an empowering and fulfilling career. If I can’t impart that message here and now, how can we bring young people into the industry?

And how did I find myself in this position? About a month prior, a friend asked me to participate in their church’s career month, an admirable effort on their part to present the congregation’s youth girls firsthand experience with possible career paths. I’d accepted immediately as I thought of it as more of a personal favor to a friend, filling a time slot they needed filled. It was only when I walked in the church doors on that fateful Wednesday night that the broader implications became clear.

As I stood in front of these earnest eyes, I realized I needed to scrap the PowerPoint, scrap any facts and figures about the shortage we’re facing and how much reporters can make, and took a chance at speaking their language. I start the presentation with, “Raise your hand if you like creating worlds in Minecraft. How about learning another language? Who likes to play an instrument? Who likes hearing or reading stories? Who likes to learn, without having to do homework?”

Hands flung in the air with a level of enthusiasm only achievable by a group of young girls, and I shared with them that these are very much like the things I get to enjoy every day as a court reporter and captioner.

I explained that I knew a second language called “shorthand theory” and felt them lean in as I pulled out my writer. As I started writing, I showed them how I was pressing multiple keys at once, like you would a chord on a piano. I told them that I’d written a code, like you do in Minecraft, that allows my computer to translate those chords into English. As the words appeared on the screen, an audible “Whoa” could be heard. One nine-year-old exclaimed with her voice (and motioning with her hands), “You. Are. Awesome!” (which, of course, I captioned).

Having captured their attention, the obvious next step was to let them fall in love with reporting the same way the rest of us did. I invited them to come up and (carefully) put their hands on the writer and let the writer work its magic. Quickly, the concept of “carefully” was out the door as their curious faces huddled around the writer and they energetically started to push the keys. Like many of us, the moment their hands touched the writer, they had an unparalleled desire to learn how to write on it.

So, one by one, I taught each girl how to steno their own names, which elevated the thrill as they saw their names up on the projected screen. One girl’s misstroke produced the word “poop,” which, if they weren’t already in an excited frenzy, pushed them over the top and resulted in peals of laughter. It served as a reminder that in the quest to capture the attention of youth, the high road isn’t the only path. I used it as a teaching moment to let them know that even the best writers have mistrans, and that’s okay!

We wrapped up the session, and the girls reluctantly allowed me to pack up my equipment. As I did, I reflected on the fact that our profession is intrinsically interesting and, if properly communicated, can easily capture the enthusiasm of young people. Walking out the doors, I took with me a strong sense of optimism for the future of reporting and additional pride that these girls had given me. They reminded me that we can smile at our mistakes and even on our “poopy” days, what we get to do every day “is awesome.”

Merilee S. Johnson, RDR, CRR, CRC, who has also earned NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator certificate, is a captioner base in Eden Prairie, Minn. She can be reached at msjreporter@outlook.com.

 

Dreaming of earning the CRC? Convention is the place

Realtime captioning is an in-demand skill for court reporters. Earning the CRC will allow those who possess it to present themselves as among the most elite and qualified captioners.

The two-day workshop followed by the Written Knowledge Test will be offered again this year at the NCRA Convention & Expo. Attendees will learn how to perfect the set-up and operation of their equipment, convert their files to ASCII text files, and gain a solid foundation for understanding what it takes to be a captioner.

To fully earn the CRC, candidates must complete three steps:

  1. Attend the CRC Workshop which is offered Thursday and Friday, Aug. 2 and 3.
  2. Take the CRC Skills Test (literary matter at 180 wpm), which is offered online and can be taken anytime.
  3. Take the written knowledge test (50 questions), which can be taken at Convention following the CRC Workshop or at a Pearson VUE testing center in October (registration opens in September).

Online registration for Convention ends on July 23, but the CRC Workshop and on-site CRC Written Knowledge Test are expected to sell out before then. Register today!