Get insight from top business leaders at the 2018 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference


Time is running out to save on registration for the 2018 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference in St. Pete Beach, Fla. After Dec. 15, there is a $100 late fee on registration.

This business-focused event promises attendees the opportunity to connect, learn, and energize when they network and participate in invigorating and motivating sessions. The event is from Jan. 28-30 at the luxurious Don Cesar hotel.

The NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference is the foremost event dedicated to owners of firms of all sizes — including freelancers — to help them increase their business savvy, make new connections, and take home the latest in best practices and strategies for ensuring the continued success of their firms.

“The biggest benefit for me is the opportunity to meet and get to know the respected firm owners from across the country and to see how they address and deal with the same business issues I face every day. Getting to know the colleagues and forging lasting relationships is very special as well,” said Rick Levy, RPR, a freelancer and owner of First Choice Reporting & Video in Miami, Fla. Levy has attended Firm Owners almost every year since 2012. “Networking with the firm owners allows me to feel more comfortable when I must find affiliates to refer my clients to for out of state depositions,” he added.

The 2018 agenda features an array of innovative, interactive, and inspiring sessions led by some of the best leaders in today’s business world. Keynote speaker John Spence, one of the top 100 business thought leaders in the nation, will share his insights into achieving business excellence. He will also present his most intensive business improvement workshop, specifically created to help management teams take a hard, honest look at their business to determine exactly where their strengths and weaknesses are. The workshop will also help participants create a focused plan for how to succeed at a higher level in the marketplace. To learn more about Spence, view his video.

For more than 22 years, Spence has traveled worldwide to help people and businesses be more successful. He is the author of five books and co-author of several more, a business consultant, workshop facilitator, and executive coach with a client list that includes numerous Fortune 500 firms. His areas of expertise include leadership, high-performance teams, managing change, organizational culture, consultative selling, strategic planning, strategy execution, and the future of business.

He has also been recognized as one of the Top 100 Small Business Influencers in America, one of the Top 50 Small Business Experts in America, and one of the top 500 Leadership Development Experts in the World. In addition, the American Management Association named him one of America’s Top 50 Leaders to Watch. He has been a guest lecturer at more than 90 colleges and universities, including MIT, Stanford, Cornell, and the Wharton School of Business.

Building on John Spence’s sessions on developing business excellence and strategic planning, Chris Hearing and Greg Laubach will present a session entitled “Managing to Maximize Business Value.” This interactive presentation will focus on creating short-term profits and business value so attendees can learn how to plan as if they will run their business forever but act as if they’ll sell it tomorrow. Hearing has 30 years of experience as an executive leader, during which he has helped organizations successfully face complex market challenges head-on by identifying and implementing opportunities for revenue growth and operational improvements. Laubach has experience in both the legal and corporate sector. A skilled negotiator and deal closer, Laubach has sourced, negotiated, and closed countless acquisitions, joint ventures, and other business relationships as platforms for growth.

SEO strategist, internet marketing educator, and owner of the Tampa SEO Training Academy, Steve Scott is also scheduled to lead a session dedicated to business marketing on the Web. He will touch on the secrets to search engine optimization (SEO) success, tactics and techniques for online marketing, and social media marketing, among other topics.

Ample networking opportunities are also scheduled including the “Build-It, Mix-It, Who Will Win It” opening event followed by a reception and dinner on Jan. 28. Also on the agenda are a networking power half hour, free time during lunch, and a closing reception. Attendees will also enjoy education events during breakfast sessions and a special welcome and meet-and-greet with NCRA’s new CEO and Executive Director Marcia Ferranto.

Finally, attendees will get access to the annual NCRA State of the Industry. This session will look at how the court reporting and captioning industry is doing now, what areas firms are developing, and what successes they’re finding – all based on solid, current data. Having a real-world sense of what the industry looks like nationwide will help attendees know where their individual businesses fit into the big picture. “This coming year, I hope to take away ideas on what new technologies other firms are using and how they are dealing with the court reporter shortage across the country,” said Levy.

Come join the 2018 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference in January and discover what connection or tip will be the one that makes 2018 your best business year yet, no matter what size your company may be. Don’t miss your chance to register and save by Dec. 15. Special hotel rates for the event will also expire on Jan. 5, 2018.

NCRF volunteers raise more than $7,000 during remote Phone-a-thon events

Since 2012, nonprofit organizations and charitable donors across the globe have celebrated Giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday is a movement to kick off the charitable season and takes place the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. On Giving Tuesday 2017 (Nov. 28), 10 Arizona court reporters gathered at the office of Griffin & Associates to make phone calls on behalf of the National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF).

Donations support NCRF’s programs, including scholarships for students; an annual grant for a working reporter in his/her first year out of school; the Oral Histories Program, including the Veterans History Project; and the Legal Education Program.

“What we would love to see as a movement for NCRA is a culture of giving to NCRF and promoting that as something that we all embrace: reporters supporting reporters. [Giving to NCRF] is one way to do it, and we know exactly where our money is going: to our future (students) and doing good (oral histories),” said Pamela Griffin, RPR, CRR, CRC, owner of Griffin & Associates, and her daughter Danielle Griffin, RPR, NCRF Trustee; both of Phoenix, Ariz.

In addition to both Griffins, the callers at the Giving Tuesday Phone-a-thon were:

  • Laura Ashbrook, RMR, of Tempe, Ariz.;
  • Tammy Pastor, RPR (Ret.), past NCRF Trustee, of Chandler, Ariz.;
  • Kate Roundy, RPR, of Phoenix, Ariz.;
  • Merilyn Sanchez, FAPR, RMR, CRR (Ret.), past NCRA President and past NCRF Chair, of Chandler, Ariz.;
  • Carolyn Sullivan, RPR, of Gilbert, Ariz.;
  • Doreen Sutton, FAPR, RPR, and NCRA Vice President, of Scottsdale, Ariz.;
  • Teresa VanMeter, RMR, of Gilbert, Ariz.; and
  • Wilma Weinreich, RPR, of Phoenix, Ariz.

Combined, this event and NCRF’s annual remote Phone-a-thon hosted by Stenograph in October raised more than $7,000. The callers at the October Phone-a-thon were:

  • Kathie Grove, RPR, CRR, CLVS, of Wheaton, Ill.;
  • Joan McQuinn, RPR, CMRS, and past NCRF Trustee, of Rockford, Ill.; and
  • Jacqueline Timmons, FAPR, RDR, of Darien, Ill.

This year’s Phone-a-thon at Stenograph was special because it marked the 10th anniversary of the company hosting NCRF for its annual remote Phone-a-thon.

“We at Stenograph have long been fortunate to have a great relationship and partnership with both the NCRA and the NCRF. We appreciate and support the worthy objectives of the NCRF and are honored to have been able to assist in these efforts for so many years,” said Jeremy Steele, president of Stenograph.

The Griffins emphasized that if the Phone-a-thon callers missed, you can still give to NCRF.

“Many of us are coming to a point in our career where we are ready to retire. Now is the time for that extra push to continue giving and incorporate new ways to contribute. Our family runs on the motto, ‘you get what you give,’” said Griffin and Griffin. “Let’s make this season a giving season, and even if you weren’t able to contribute for the phone-a-thon, the lines at NCRA headquarters are open for donations!”

Donations to NCRF are 100 percent tax deductible as charitable contributions, and donors may make a donation by calling 800-272-6272, or by mailing a check to NCRF at 12030 Sunrise Valley Dr., Suite 400, Reston, Va., 20191. Visit NCRA.org/NCRF for more information.

NCRA members take advantage of the Best. Friday. Ever.

On Black Friday, NCRA members had seven discounts and giveaways to take advantage of. These giveaways were tied to membership renewals, event registrations, and purchases for e-seminars and certification tests.

Hundreds of NCRA members renewed their membership on Black Friday for an opportunity to win one of several giveaways. Regina Berenato-Tell, RDR, CRR, an official from Hammonton, N.J., won a free registration for the NCRA Realtime Contest. Beranto-Tell works at the House of Representatives and has been a reporter for 30 years — she’ll probably bring some strong competition! Christy Fagan, RMR, CRR, a freelancer in Mansfield, Texas, won a free registration for the NCRA Speed Contest. The contests are held at the NCRA Convention & Expo. Speaking of Convention, Misty Bubke, RDR, CRR, an official in Kingsley, Iowa, won a free registration to the annual conference.

Cynthia Lew, RPR, a freelancer in Oakland, Calif., and Carol Danielson Bille, RPR, a freelancer in St. Paul, Minn., won a Kindle Fire for renewing their NCRA memberships. “The Kindle will be a new toy for me, and I’m up to the challenge,” said Lew. “In my student years, reading the JCR was a way to keep my goals in sight, and 20+ years later I’m still reading the articles. They keep me abreast of advances in technology (I’m something of a Luddite) and what issues our industry is facing across the country.”

NCRA is grateful for everyone who has renewed their memberships for 2018, on Black Friday as well as before and after the promotion.

Two members who registered for an NCRA Skills Test (SKT) on Black Friday won a free registration. Elia E. Carrión, RPR, a freelancer in Chicago, Ill., registered for the Certified Realtime Reporter SKT, and Holly Ortman, a student at Des Moines Area Community College won a leg of the Registered Professional Reporter SKT. Good luck as you work towards your certifications!

Starla Wiggins, RPR, CRR, a freelancer from Lovington, N.M., won a free NCRA e-seminar. Dozens of members purchased an e-seminar on Black Friday. Several members also took advantage of a 20 percent discount in the NCRA Store on Black Friday.

Teresa Evans, RMR, CRR, got an extra perk for registering for the 2018 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference – she won a free spouse registration. Evans is a freelancer and owner of Realtime Reporters based in Charleston, W.Va. “I describe my career as getting paid to watch Lifetime TV!” said Evans. “I have been a member of NCRA throughout most of my career, and I encourage every reporter to be a member and take advantage of the educational offerings and the testing to receive advance certifications, as well as the networking of other professionals like yourself. Every month when I receive the magazine, I learn something, and each time I attend an event put on by NCRA, I come away enthused about my career and amazed at the professionals around the country who bring so much to the table.”

Court reporter videoconferencing and why it works

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyLawyer David J. Berardinelli and paralegal Gavin Jensen talk about a recent international arbitration they held via videoconference in a Nov. 27 post on the Constance Lee & Company blog. Berardinelli and Jensen shared a few advantages to videoconferencing, including being able to see the witness in person without having to spend money on travel.

Read more.

On linguistics, Seinfeld, and juror engagement

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyThe differences between written and spoken language were explored in a blog post by Cleveland Reporting Partners, with examples from Seinfeld and My Cousin Vinny.

Read more.

2018 nominations sought; deadlines near

Nominations are now being accepted for the Fellows of the Academy of Professional Reporters, the NCRA Board of Directors, and the Distinguished Service Award. Now is the perfect time to step up and nominate yourself or a colleague to serve or be recognized for his or her commitment to the profession and to NCRA.

Fellows of the Academy of Professional Reporters

Members of the 2017 class of Fellows of the Academy of Professional Reporters was recognized at the 2017 Convention & Expo. Nominations for 2018 Fellows are due Dec. 31.

NCRA’s Council of the Academy of Professional Reporters is seeking nominations for its Fellows of the Academy of Professional Reporters (FAPR). The deadline to nominate a candidate is Dec. 31.

Membership in the Academy symbolizes excellence among NCRA members. The designation of FAPR represents an individual’s dedication to the court reporting and captioning professions and expresses the highest level of professional ethics. Candidates must have been actively reporting for at least 10 years and have attained distinction as measured by performance. This performance could include publication of important papers, creative contributions, service on committees or boards, teaching, and more.

“It is an honor to carry the distinction as a Fellow in my profession’s national association. Much of the time and energy devoted to my beloved profession and association has been behind the scenes; when I learned I had been awarded the Fellow, it let me know that my hard work and dedication had been not only noticed but appreciated,” said Sarah Nageotte, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, an official court reporter from Jefferson, Ohio. Nageotte was inducted as a Fellow in 2017.

“There’s a quote that says, ‘Volunteers are not paid — not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.’ Taking the time to recognize a colleague through a nomination is one way to say thank you for always giving for the betterment of all. If you don’t nominate someone deserving, who will?” added Nageotte, who is also an NCRA Past President.

To nominate an individual, view the full criteria and download a nomination form at NCRA.org/Fellows. For more information, contact Cynthia Bruce Andrews at candrews@ncra.org.

Board of Directors

Serving on the Board of Directors is an excellent opportunity to use your leadership skills to help advance the premier organization that continues to empower the court reporting profession. As a Director, you will serve with others as fiduciaries to steer the organization towards a sustainable future by adopting sound, ethical, and legal governance and financial management policies as well as by making sure NCRA has adequate resources to advance its mission.

The 2017-2018 NCRA Board of Directors

“After serving on NCRA committees and task forces, observing and respecting NCRA’s leaders, as well as holding several offices with my state association, I decided to challenge myself and seek a position on NCRA’s Board,” said R. Douglas Friend, FAPR, RDR, CRR, a freelance reporter an agency owner from Vancouver, Wash., and a Past President of NCRA.

“A joy of serving on the NCRA Board is attending state conventions and making presentations. Besides meeting reporters who became friends around North America, I also gathered confidence in public speaking. As a firm owner, this helped in speaking to groups of attorneys, legal assistants, and paralegals,” added Friend.

Nominations and recommendations can be submitted to boardnominations@ncra.org by Jan. 19, 2018. As a courtesy, please contact your candidate directly prior to submitting his or her name.

Anyone interested in seeking future Board service can attend a no-obligation orientation webinar on Jan. 10 at 8 p.m. ET. This webinar will help you gain a better understanding of the process and expectations of serving on the Board. For more information about the orientation, contact lbutler@ncra.org.

Distinguished Service Award

Nancy Varallo recognized with NCRA Distinguished Service Award

Nancy Varallo recognized with the 2017 NCRA Distinguished Service Award

NCRA’s Distinguished Service Award is often viewed as the pinnacle of a member’s career. It recognizes the distinguished work and service by an individual member for the benefit of the court reporting profession, including service to NCRA as a member, a committee member, a director, or an officer of the Association. Other displays of distinguished work include contributing to the JCR or service at a state court reporters association or in the field of public relations or public affairs. Award winners are recognized at the NCRA Convention & Expo.

“In 2015, at the NCRA Convention & Expo in New York City, I was humbled that I had been nominated and had been chosen to receive the DSA,” said Sandy VanderPol, FAPR, RMR, CRR, a freelancer and firm owner from Lotus, Calif.

“This award was such an honor, and I will always remember the ceremony and the many emotions that passed over me when my name was called. I tell you this because I want each of you to take the time to reflect upon what this award means to the recipient. Nominate a person you consider worthy, and be proud that you have been a part of the process,” she added.

Voting members of NCRA or of recognized court reporting associations may submit nominations through an online form, by email to dsa@ncra.org, or by mail to NCRA, Attn: DSA, 12030 Sunrise Valley Dr., Reston, VA 20191. Nominations must include information supporting why the nominee should be considered. DSA candidates cannot be an active member of the DSA Committee or the NCRA Board of Directors. The deadline to nominate a member for NCRA’s 56th Distinguished Service Award is Feb. 9.

Get organized – Time saving tips for your firm

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyAn Oct. 25 blog post from Depo International focuses on time-saving tips for business owners, including subtracting rather than adding to the daily to-do list, keeping things simple, and prioritizing.

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From my heart: It is a privilege to serve you!

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyIn a Nov. 28 post on the Paradigm Reporting blog, Jan Ballman, FAPR, RPR, CMRS, reflects on how a trip with fellow firm owner Lisa DiMonte, RDR, CMRS, provided lessons on “overdelivering on high expectations.”

Read more.

Stevens-Koenig acquires Carpenter Reporting

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyDenver, Colo.,–based court reporting firm Stevens-Koenig Reporting announced in a press release issued Nov. 27 that it has acquired Carpenter Reporting, a full-service court reporting firm located in the Aurora area.

Read more.

Setting up a home office

Home office setup with a captains chair, desk, computer, etc.; the desk is in front of a wall of windows

© jnyemb

Many reporters and captioners are freelancers or small business owners, which often means working from home at least part of the time. There are many aspects to working from home, but first you need an actual place to work: a home office.

Picking the space

If you have the space, setting up a home office starts with picking the right room. “I have a third bedroom that is a dedicated office space,” said Angeli English, a freelancer in D’Iberville, Miss. “I picked the bedroom with French doors that open to a deck. Makes it very convenient to let our dog go in and out on the patio.”

Depending on the setup of your house, that space might mean a more nontraditional room, like a loft, where Sabrina Trevathan works. Trevathan, RDR, is a freelancer in Rawlins, Wyo.

If you’re in a smaller space and don’t have a whole room to dedicate, look for a good spot somewhere in your bedroom, living area, or other space. “I live in an apartment and the living/dining are one big room,” said Devora Hackner, a freelancer in Brooklyn, N.Y. “There’s a small alcove by the window that is the exact space designed for my desk.”

Legal videographer LaJuana Pruitt, CLVS, in Bradenton, Fla., found a unique opportunity for work space. “I have a side of a building that was a chiropractor’s office that was added to a home. I bought the home first, and when the chiropractor retired, his office became mine,” she explained. “Separate door, bathroom, parking, air conditioner, etc. This building is zoned professional. In 2007, I remodeled the entire building to be an office space. I took out the shower and added another bathroom where the shower was. I added French doors to the front room. The front room is big enough for a large conference table or video studio. I put in a butler’s pantry for a break area.”

After having the physical space picked out, the next step is making sure you have all the equipment, both for doing the job and for running the business.

First, furniture

Every professional interviewed for this article emphasized the need for a comfortable chair. “Invest in the best because you deserve it with how much you sit, and your body will thank you later in life,” said Donna Linton, RMR, a freelancer and captioner in Ashburn, Va. Of course, make sure you have a desk to go along with that chair, and think about what else you will need to store. You can have a simple space with shelves or turn it into your dream work space. “I had [my office] built out by Closest by Design specifically to my needs, i.e., how many computer stations, where the printer would be, cubbies for different size transcript binders, where the paper would be, and where my machine case would fit,” said Linton.

Having the right stuff

The essential equipment is obvious: steno machine, computer, printer. “I’ve transitioned to captioning in the last year, so I have a TV now so if I’m captioning a show that I have on my television, I can watch my captions,” said Tammy McGhee, RMR, a captioner in Bellville, Ohio. Beyond that, think about potential arrangements and additions. For example, Hackner has a “glass desk with a pullout drawer for an external keyboard and mouse” as well as “a docking station that I just hook my laptop up to, and then I work on a beautiful 29-in. monitor.”

Don’t be afraid to try a new configuration if the original setup isn’t working for you. “I ended up rearranging the space three times to get it right!” said English. It may take time to figure out the best way to organize the space. “I definitely learned how to work more efficiently and what supplies I needed to keep within reach,” said Trevathan. “I’ve got awesome storage space in my office; we planned it that way when we added this portion onto our house.”

Since Pruitt has more space, she’s organized the rooms as a more standard office and a production space. “One is my office with the standard equipment. I have a desk, credenza, bookshelves, chair, fax machine, scanner and printer as well as anything I can’t find a place for,” she said. “The other room houses the production room. It contains computers, a robotic printer, DVD recorders, mixers, cameras, tripods, bags, etc.”

Working from home means being able to run a business, so make sure you have all the necessary software and supplies. Consider having a word processing program like Microsoft Word (or the entire Microsoft Office suite) and accounting software like QuickBooks, and of course, make sure you have up-to-date CAT or captioning software with tech support. Think about cloud or digital storage along with physical storage. Pruitt also uses Wondershare and Adobe Premiere for video editing and has projectors, screens, and lighting.

Trevathan lives in a rural area, so she needs to make sure she has access to all the supplies she needs – it’s not easy to just run to the store. These include binding combs, transcript covers, index and exhibit tabs, copy and printer paper, a schedule book, address labels and different sizes of mailing envelopes, and extra toner. Linton has two whiteboard calendars, a speakerphone, and a fireproof safe to store exhibits. And don’t forget the basics like pens, paper clips, a stapler and staples, etc.

The tax element

If you work from home, you may be able to claim your home office on your taxes. “My CPA figured out a percentage of how many square feet my office is and writes off that same portion of my utilities,” said McGhee. Your accountant should have a formula to determine how much the write-off actually is, and don’t forget to ask about additional spaces like an adjoining bathroom, storage space in another part of the house, or any other area that’s designated as work space.

Make it yours

Since you’ll likely be spending lots of time in your home office, think about what would make it a comfortable space for you. “I’ve got my NCRA certificates and notary certificate framed and on the wall,” said Trevathan, along with her family’s schedules. “I wanted to be able to look out the window, so I had the desk location configured that way,” said Linton. “I wanted it sunny, so I painted it yellow.” English uses Longaberger boxes and “pretty stackable boxes with positive sayings on it” as storage, and she also recommends having “pictures of loved ones to remind you to be grateful.”

Pros and cons

The positive aspects of having a home office are pretty clear: “You can work when you need to,” said McGhee, and Pruitt said she “can cook, clean, launder, and have my animals under my feet.” Trevathan likes that she doesn’t “have to go out of the house to go to an office to do my editing and binding.” Linton added: “If I go to sell the home, anyone who doesn’t want an office can easily turn it back into a bedroom. They might even like to use it as a craft room or a homework space for the kids.”

However, having work nearby in a home office is both an advantage (can’t beat the commute) and a disadvantage. “Sometimes you feel like it’s hard to get away from work,” said McGhee. Trevathan echoed this: “I always feel like I need to be working and never leave work. I’ll run upstairs to the office to return a phone call and end up working on transcripts for an hour before I even realize it.” Perhaps English has figured out the trick, however, to maintaining boundaries. “You can walk out and leave the work behind,” she said. Having a dedicated space for work can mean literal help with compartmentalizing, so when you close the door, you leave the work at work.