Exploring alternatives to the legal life

An article posted May 15 in The Daily Campus, the student newspaper of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, notes that careers in court reporting and as a legal videographer offer two viable options for someone interested in entering the legal profession. The article cites NCRA as a resource to learn more.

Read more.

Alaris reopens downtown St. Louis office

In a press release issued May 14, Alaris Litigation announced the grand reopening of their office located at 711 N. 11th Street in St. Louis, Mo., to celebrate a complete renovation and remodeling of the space.

Read more.

Hit me with your best webinar

Since hitting the scene in the mid-1990s the popularity of webinars to share information has defied all communications trends. Their use has more than rapidly grown, thanks to the platform’s ability to allow presenters a cost-effective mode to reach large and specific groups of online viewers from a single location and offers participants the ability to interact with presenters.

Erminia Uviedo, RDR, CRR

NCRA offers a variety of both live and recorded webinars that members can use to earn continuing education units. But it’s not just the participants who benefit from the value of webinars; the presenters do as well.

“I love webinars,” says Erminia Uviedo, RDR, CRR, a freelance court reporter from San Antonio, Texas, who was tapped by NCRA to present in a webinar about promoting and recruiting for the court reporting and captioning professions. “I think they are so informative and educational. Court reporters’ and captioners’ schedules are so hectic that it is sometimes hard to get away to a convention. Webinars make a very convenient and flexible way to educate and earn continuing education credits,” Uviedo said.

Steve Lubetkin, CLVS

Steve Lubetkin, CLVS, managing partner of Lubetkin Media Companies in Cherry Hill, N.J., said he presented his first webinar for NCRA after a conversation with staff when he finished his CLVS practical test. The conversation, he said, was about how highly he thought of the program. Since then, he has produced and hosted three webinars for NCRA.

“I enjoy being able to share some of the practical experience I’ve gained producing video and managing my business. I’m proud of some of the tricks I’ve learned to streamline the work, and it’s rewarding to have peers say they appreciate the ideas as well,” Lubetkin said.

Uviedo agreed. “Lending your expertise to other reporters is one of the greatest givebacks you can contribute to the profession.  Many of us are self-employed and do not have an employer to guide and/or train us. Training and guidance via webinar is an excellent way to educate our professionals,” said the 23-year veteran of court reporting.

According to Lubetkin, depending on the topic, preparing and creating a webinar can take some work on the presenter’s part. “For my webinar on the deposition audio chain, I think I spent two or three hours shooting the b-roll I used to illustrate part of the one-hour program. For the others, I spent several hours each on screen shots and display materials,” he noted.

Uviedo encourages others to volunteer to host webinars for NCRA to help increase educational opportunities. “I would say that your webinar is imperative for the busy working reporters who are unable to attend conventions and also reporters who are looking for guidance on information throughout the year. You can just go to NCRA’s webinar website and look for the topic you need training on, and voila! It’s a win-win for both the reporter and NCRA,” she said.

“Webinars are great when people can dedicate the specific time period for the live learning, and engage in interaction with the instructor and participants, but they are also valuable as on-demand recorded programs that people can go back to over and over to review concepts and techniques,” added Lubetkin, who has been a legal videographer since 2014 and earned his CLVS in 2016.

NCRA is always looking for professionals to share their expertise with our membership. Presenting a webinar is a great way to build your résumé, gain a platform for your ideas, and contribute your knowledge to the NCRA Continuing Education library. Presenters may advertise their business at the end of their presentations and will be compensated. For more information, contact egoff@ncra.org.

Effective Oct. 1, 2018, New Exam Retention Policy

NCRA places a high value on the standards it sets for the professional certifications it offers.  As part of the Association’s commitment to maintaining these high standards and better serving its members, effective Oct. 1, 2018, a three-year time requirement on completing the components needed to earn a certification will be put in place on the recommendation of the Council of the Academy of Professional Reporters (CAPR).

Under the current system, NCRA does not put any expiration on already-passed requirements earned towards a certification. In an effort to align our policies with certification best practices, an exam retention policy has been approved. Enacting an exam retention policy strengthens our compliance of best practices for our accreditation through ACCET (Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training).

Why the change?

CAPR, which is responsible for the development and administration of continuing education programs and credential examinations, reviewed the current policy, which allows Skills Tests (SKT) and Written Knowledge Tests (WKT) scores to remain valid indefinitely. Members of the Council made the recommendation to place a three-year requirement on completing the components needed to earn a certification. Benefits of the new policy are that candidates are highly likely to maintain their skills while completing all requirements and that candidates will be more likely to pass all requirements for reporter certifications because their skills (speed and/or accuracy levels) will be at their highest.

How it works

Under the new policy, candidates for certification, who have taken any mandatory certification education requirements or passed any SKTs or WKTs, have until Nov. 1, 2021, to pass the remainder of requirements for the certification for which those requirements apply.

Passing test scores will expire after three years if a candidate fails to complete the additional requirements to earn that certification. If an education component/test score expires, the candidate will need to repeat the education component or successfully retest before being able to earn the certification.

Certifications with Education Eligibility Requirement

  • Certification Seminars and/or Workshops: Once an attendee has completed the CLVS Mandatory Seminar, CRC Workshop, or other education as a mandatory component of a certification process, he or she has three years from the date of completion to successfully complete the other requirements to earn that certification.
  • Should three years lapse from the date of completing the education component without successfully passing the other requirements, the education will expire, and the candidate will be required to retake the education component to earn the certification.

Certifications with only Written Knowledge Test and Skills Test Requirement

  • Written Knowledge Tests and Skills Tests: Once a candidate has successfully completed a Written Knowledge Test or Skills Test with a passing score, he or she has three years from the date of the exam to successfully complete the other requirements to earn that certification.
  • Should three years lapse without successfully passing the other requirements, the test score will expire, and the candidate must retake the test prior to earning the certification.

The new Exam Retention Policy is effective October 1, 2018. Any person with an existing history of passed educational components or passed tests will have three years to complete the remaining components and earn their certifications. All pre-existing passed test histories will have an expiration date of November 1, 2021. After October 1, 2018, any person passing a required education component or a skills or written knowledge test will have an expiration of three years from the date of the official pass.  Have additional questions? View the Exam Retention Policy FAQs.

Celebrate Certification Month with savings

May is Celebrate Certification Month at NCRA; and in honor of this first-time observance, members and students can save. The cost to take the online Skills Tests for the RPR, RMR, CRR, or CRC have been reduced. But hurry, the savings ends today, May 16!

 

Students taking the RPR Skills Test will pay $60 for each leg, while members will pay $75 for each RPR or RMR Skills Test leg. In addition, members can take advantage of a discounted price of $175 for the CRR or CRC Skills Tests, while students will pay only $145 for a CRC Skills Test.

 

Members can also save this month on NCRA’s webinars and e-seminars in honor of Celebrate Certification Month. For a 60-minute webinar or e-seminar, NCRA members now pay $55 compared to a nonmember price of $79. In addition, the price for a 90-minute webinar or e-seminar has been lowered to $75 for NCRA members. Nonmembers will pay $99 for the same 90-minute product.

 

Additional weekly specials can be found in the NCRA store during Celebrate Certification Month. This week, members can save 20 percent off all downloads through May 21. Other discounts include:

  • May 22-28 – 10% off entire store
  • May 29-31 – 10% off P-133 Morson’s Guide

 

Throughout the month, NCRA members and students have been flooding social media with posts celebrating the benefits of certification and the achievements of themselves and others who have gone the extra mile to put more letters behind their names. Be sure to read the profiles of a number of members who shared what motivated them to earn NCRA certifications in the May issue of the JCR. Find out more about how earning NCRA certifications have benefited their professional success, as well as get advice on how you can prepare to earn that dream certification.

 

Find out more about NCRA’s webinars and e-seminars and be sure to visit the Celebrate Certification Month page for resources you can use to mark the month-long campaign.

NCRA member writes dream novel

By Becky Doby

“I’d like to sell Mary Kay full-time.” Pause. “I’ve always wanted to be a personal trainer.” Silence.

“Okay, who else?”

It was several years ago, during a break at the annual convention of the Wyoming Professional Court Reporters Association, when one of the members posed the question: What career would you like to pursue if you were no longer going to be a court reporter?

Finally, a quiet voice was heard. “I’d like to write a novel.”

Merissa Racine, RDR

Merissa Racine, RDR, a freelance court reporter from Cheyenne, Wyo., didn’t grow up dreaming of becoming a writer. She was born in the Bronx and grew up on Long Island in New York. As a teenager she moved to Miami, Fla., where she spent her teenage years, and it was there she discovered the world of court reporting. Knowing she wanted a career rather than just a job, she set about identifying what that career would be. Seeing an ad in the paper for court reporting school, she had her answer. She laughingly states that she can’t remember the name of the school, as it lost its accreditation shortly after she enrolled. Yet despite that glitch, she has attained the certification of RDR and has since devoted herself to court reporting, first in Florida and then in Wyoming. But while she didn’t always have the desire to become a writer, Racine does acknowledge that “in the back of my mind I’ve always had a story.”

As is true for those in many legal professions – and perhaps especially in the world of court reporting -­ there have been many times when the thought had crossed her mind: I ought to write a book. Unlike the rest of us, Racine followed through with that niggling idea. She set her mind upon it, dreamed of it, honed her skills, and did it.

In December 2017, Silent Gavel became available through Amazon and online at Barnes & Noble. Now, in addition to enjoying a successful and fulfilling career as a court reporter, Racine can add “published author” to her list of achievements.

As court reporters, we both laugh and grimace at portrayals of stenographers in literature and film. We wish the profession were more accurately depicted, wanting others to understand the contributions we make to the field of law. At last, one who knows the profession in and out, with nearly 39 years of experience “in the trenches,” has provided the true representation we long for. Woven into this murder mystery are such things as the basics of machine shorthand and the use of briefs, such as when the protagonist, Lauren Besoner, makes a list of suspects under the heading S-PS. Besoner also faces a quandary when instructed by her judge to delete from the transcript comments he made on the record. These things, and more, lend authenticity to the novel.

The ways that authors go about writing are many and varied. In her case, Racine would write a paragraph, put it away, and then bring it out again, trying to find an idea that would work. She didn’t write first page to last, having come up with an ending long before the rest of the novel was fleshed out. Once she became serious about writing her book, she attended a seminar put on by the local library. From there, she became a member of the Nite Writers of Cheyenne, a group of aspiring writers. She also attended conferences in order to learn more about the craft. It has been a years-long process, and one that is still ongoing, as Racine continues learning the facets of writing and publishing.

“I wanted to write something that other people would like to read.” With Silent Gavel, Racine has accomplished her goal. In doing so, she has given her readers insight into a profession few know anything about. She wanted to write a novel. Done. Well done!

If you would like to contact Merissa Racine, she can be reached at merissaracine@gmail.com, or visit her website at www.merissaracine.com.

Becky Doby, RPR, is a freelance writer from Torrington, Wyo.

 

WKT committee reviews test questions at NCRA headquarters

From left to right: Amy Davidson (NCRA) Allison Kimmel (Co-Chair), Lynette Mueller, Laura Brewer, Geanell Adams, Cindy Cheng (Pearson VUE), Wade Garner (Co-Chair), Angie Starbuck

On May 4 and 5, members of NCRA’s Written Knowledge Test (WKT) Committee worked with Cindy Cheng from Pearson VUE to update questions in the Association’s item bank for the RPR and RDR certifications. Six of the committee members met at NCRA’s headquarters in Reston, Va.

Committee members who gathered at NCRA’s headquarters to update questions included:

  • Geanell C. Adams, RMR, CRR, CRI, Raymond, Miss.
  • Laura P. Brewer, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, Los Altos, Calif.
  • co-chair Wade S. Garner, RPR, CPE, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  • co-chair Allison Kimmel, RDR, CRR, CRC, Marysville, Ohio
  • Lynette L. Mueller, RDR, CRR, Germantown, Tenn.
  • Angela R. Starbuck, RDR, CRR, CRC, Columbus, Ohio
  • Susan Veres, RMR, CRR, CRC, Viroqua, Wis. (attended remotely)

Over the course of the meeting members reviewed, reworked, reworded, or completely revamped over 423 questions. Committee members also worked remotely prior to the meeting reviewing hundreds of items in the bank in preparation for the group review.

NCRA also thanks those committee members who were unable to attend but who have contributed remotely throughout the year:

  • Vonni Rae Bray, RDR, CRR, Laurel, Mont.
  • Jessica Lynn Davis, RPR, Brandon, Miss.
  • Carrie Marbut Robinson, RPR, CRR, CRI, Hokes Bluff, Ala.
  • Katherine Schilling, RPR, Richmond, Va.
  • Sheri Smargon, RDR, CRR, CRC, Riverview, Fla.

NCRA’s premier certifications rely on the hard work of our volunteer subject matter experts. Please join us in thanking the WKT Committee and consider volunteering your time and expertise for an NCRA committee.

 

Former NCRA Member Betty Armstrong Dole Passes

On May 12, The Enterprise reported that former NCRA member Betty Armstrong Dole passed away in Palo Alto, Calif. Dole was an official court reporter.

Read more.

Jobs you might want to consider in the legal field

Court reporter was one of four careers noted in an article about jobs in the legal field to consider in an article posted by The Global Dispatch on April 25.

Read more.

TechLinks: What you need to know about scanners

NCRA’s Realtime and Technology Resources Committee members tackled the subject of scanners this month to give NCRA members a leg up on finding the best solution in going paperless.

“Among the scanners I have used, the Fujitsu ScanSnap and also the Epson Workforce scanners are my two favorite,” says Dana Hayden, RMR, CRR, CRC, of Fayetteville, Ark. She offers the advantages and disadvantages of both.

Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500

Advantages

  1. It has a small footprint.
  2. It works wireless and wired.
  3. It will auto-detect two-sided and automatically delete blank pages.
  4. It will OCR, which makes the text in the PDF searchable.
  5. It can be set up so that the program automatically pops up when you open the dust cover/lid.
  6. Its scan destinations include Google Drive and email, as well as Dropbox, Sharepoint, Evernote, OneNote and SugarSync.

Disadvantages

  1. You cannot put in a preconfigured naming series with auto number advancing.
  2. It does not have a flatbed for scanning.
  3. You need to choose the highest resolution setting if scanning photos to get good quality.
  4. The wifi is awkward to set up.

 

Epson Workforce ES-400

Advantages

  1. It offers a preconfigured naming series with auto number advancing.
  2. It will OCR (optical character recognition), which makes the text in the PDF searchable.
  3. Epson offers great customer support.
  4. It can scan to destinations including Google Drive and email, as well as Dropbox, Sharepoint, Evernote, OneNote and SugarSync.

Disadvantages

  1. It does not have a flatbed for scanning.
  2. The OCR is slightly more clunky, but it uses ABBYY FineReader as an adjunct.

 

Dana Hayden, RMR, CRR, CRC

“Make sure you configure your default scans to automatically OCR (found in the scanner settings),” recommends Hayden.

“I find myself using a scanner app lately a lot,” says Christina Hotsko, RPR, CRR, Arlington, Va. “I’ll use it to scan in exhibits if the office needs something quickly. I’ve scanned over files to my scopist during a break on a long job. I scan in receipts to keep track of travel expenses. I’ve even had my passport scanned and saved on my phone when I needed to pull it up in a pinch.”

Hotsko recently started using the app, Adobe Scan, which she keeps on her smart phone. “It’s a little more user friendly and offers a few more options,” says Hotsko. “What’s convenient about a scanner app is you open it up and let the app do the rest. It searches for the document, image, or whatever you’re trying to scan, auto-captures a shot, and then adjusts and fits the captured image to page.”

With Adobe Scan, documents are stored in an Adobe DC account on your computer. Adobe Scan lets you search your photos for documents, and from there you can select which ones you need to send.

There are many scanning apps available for smartphones. “Try a few different apps and see what works with your style,” advises Hotsko.

Need more information?

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR

Committee chair Lynette Mueller, RDR, CRR, of Germantown, Tenn., provided some additional resources to research the best scanner for your needs. “Document scanners are all about being able to process documents in a seamless way,” says Mueller. “I recommend purchasing a dedicated sheet-fed scanner rather than a flatbed one or an all-in-one device.”

PC Magazine, one of Mueller’s go-to sources for products, offered a chart on April 6 of best scanners.

TechGearLab, a well-known online tech review website, listed their favorite scanners of 2018.

Also in April, Best Reviews published a list of the best scanners. “My scanner is a Fujitsu ScanSnap, and it made this list,” says Mueller. “I absolutely love it for its size and fast scanning options.”

Still need convincing to go paperless? Mueller offered a number of reasons on her blog.

Additional Links

Lynette Mueller’s ScanSnap settings

How to reduce the size of a pdf file