PROFILE: Kimberly Xavier, RDR, CRR, CRC, CMRS, CRI

Kimberly Xavier, RDR, CRR, CRC, CMRS, CRI

Kimberly Xavier, RDR, CRR, CRC, CMRS, CRI

Official court reporter
Currently resides in: Arlington, Texas
Member since: 1994
Graduated from: Brown Institute of Court Reporting, Longview, Texas
Theory: StenEd

JCR | Why was it important for you to earn so many certifications?
XAVIER | I’ve always been a “learner.” I love to learn as much as I can take in. But if I had to pin it down, I would say the desire to earn certifications was largely due to cultural and environmental influences early in life. I do know that it was never an option for me to not challenge myself to be the best that I could be at whatever I was trying to accomplish. I think if you could eavesdrop inside the home of just about any African-American family in this country, regardless of their socioeconomic background, you would hear children being told that they must be extraordinary in order to be noticed. You would hear them being told that they could not slack off. You would hear them being told they have to outperform their non-black counterparts just to be considered equal. When you hear that all your life, it can easily become a part of your DNA and who you are. So I’d say I’ve always taken those admonishments to heart.

JCR | Have you gotten a job specifically as a result of your certifications?
XAVIER | I was appointed to report a high-profile change-of-venue case years ago due to my realtime capabilities, and having advanced certifications definitely made saying yes a lot easier and stress-free for me.

JCR | What would you say to encourage others considering earning professional certifications?
XAVIER | The best advice I could give would be to do it now! If you’re a newbie, don’t stop after graduating from school. Continue on the test-taking journey. If you’ve been reporting for a while, do yourself a favor and take that first step and actually register for your chosen exam with an eye toward passing it and not just trying it out to see what it’s like. If you really want it, that financial investment will be what pushes you to commit to the time and effort it will take to pass. So many of us are waiting for something else to happen before we jump in and do it, but there will never be a right time. You will always be busy. There will always be something to distract you. In fact, we often create other things to distract ourselves. Taking an exam is so different from our day-to-day jobs that the longer we wait after completing court reporting school, the harder it is to get back into the flow of standardized testing.

JCR | What surprised you about your career?
XAVIER | I am surprised that I am still working as a reporter and enjoying it! I came to reporting after a stint in the military; and at that time, it was customary for most people to retire after about 20 years in the military. So that number has always stuck in my head as “long enough to be on a job.” But there have been very few days in almost 24 years that I felt like I was going to work. I still enjoy what I’m doing.

JCR | What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishment?
XAVIER | I enjoy encouraging others to challenge themselves. I enjoy helping others reach their potential in the field. So I would say my greatest accomplishments would probably have something to do with students who eventually become reporters and new reporters who have come to me for training and stuck it out with me. So when I see someone I’ve had a hand in mentoring or training, and they’re excelling and doing their thing in the field and actually enjoying it as much as I do, I consider that an awesome accomplishment.

PROFILE: Lindsay Stoker, RPR, CRC

Lindsay Stoker, RPR, CRR

Lindsay Stoker, RPR, CRR

Captioner
Currently resides in: Los Angeles, Calif.
Member since: 2010
Graduated from: Self-taught after school closed when in 200s
Theory: Phoenix Theory

JCR | Why did you decide to earn an certification?
STOKER | The RPR demonstrates that you have the speed and key industry knowledge necessary for the job. The CRC exhibits your accuracy. Together, they show you are committed to the profession and prove you are capable of performing under intense pressure for a specified duration.

JCR | Have you gotten a job specifically as a result of your certification?
STOKER | I have made many new business connections because I had my certifications. Despite the fact that they are not required for captioning, I have found the RPR and CRC certifications to be useful. Those credentials are very important when working with industry outsiders or with new contacts in the profession. It provides instant credibility — a straightforward way to get through the first screening when making an unestablished connection. A demo often follows. Many firms and contacts also require certification as a minimum qualification.

JCR | What would you say to encourage others considering earning professional certification?
STOKER | Embrace failure. These tests are designed to be tough. It took me several attempts before passing, but the reward was so much greater. Don’t be discouraged when you fail an exam. Learn as many lessons as you can from each attempt. Reach out to others and capitalize from their experiences. Change your game plan and try again. If you fail, rinse and repeat. I have achieved the greatest growth in my life from failure.

JCR | What surprised you about your career?
STOKER | When I originally started court reporting school, I was working for the U.S. Attorney’s Office and was certain that I would go into depositions and perhaps an officialship. I had a degree in Criminal Justice Administration. The path ahead seemed clear. What I found instead was that my true passion is in captioning and working with the D/deaf and hard-of-hearing communities. I’m so grateful to have chosen a profession whose skills can be used in so many different settings. To me, realtime is an art and goes beyond just getting all the words. It’s anticipating where that comma should be placed for best readability; speaker identification; proper capitalization and hyphenation; making sure that specialized terms translate correctly; and correct grammar. I’m continuously competing against myself to produce a better and easier-to-read product.

JCR | What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishment?
STOKER | My greatest accomplishment stems from my drive to take on work that makes me think: “I can’t do this.” Eventually the fear subsides, and I grow from each challenge. I remember my first remote CART job in 2009. Fight-or-flight kicked in, and my hands were shaking. I had been doing on-site CART for two years prior to that. I got through the job and transitioned to learning about multiple streaming and audio platforms. Soon I was doing multiple remote classes a day, then business and government meetings, TV and broadcast captioning, and branching into the type of all-day, multi-day highly technical conference work I do today. Each well-executed job becomes my new greatest accomplishment. I value and seek out opportunities to challenge myself and grow my skill set.

New NCRA member and court reporting student wins Kindle

New NCRA student member Stephanie Barnes shows off the Kindle she won by joining NCRA in March 2018

Stephanie Barnes, from Falls Church, Va., won the drawing for a Kindle Fire 8 by joining NCRA in March. Barnes is currently an online student at Bryan University, Tempe, Ariz. The JCR reached out to Barnes to learn more about why she is pursuing a career in court reporting and what advice she has for other court reporting and captioning students.

JCR | Why did you choose court reporting as a career?

Barnes | I became a court reporter because I grew up watching my mom do it and it intrigued me. After working many 9-to-5 jobs, I knew that the flexibility in the hours of freelance would better suit me as a person. Also, I just enjoy writing.

JCR | What is your current speed?

Barnes | I am at 180 wpm, looking to pass into 200 wpm here shortly.

JCR | Freelance or Official? Or maybe Captioner?

Barnes | Initially, I wanted to be a freelance reporter, but if I end up following my mom’s footsteps, I will eventually make to the House of Representatives and then the Senate. That seems to be the natural progression as a reporter in Congress.

NCRA’s Member Relations Manager Brenda Gill displays the Kindle being sent to new student member Stephanie Barnes

 JCR | Advice for other students?

Barnes | The main piece of advice I have is: Do not give up! It’s hard, so hard. Sometimes it’s beyond frustrating, but we all eventually get there. Look up and use multiple sites and resources to practice — there are a so many out there if you look.  Join all associations and participate in all things court reporting. It will help keep you motivated and on the right track.

Lastly, use your connections! I have been incredibly blessed to have the ones I do, but you can make more by getting out there and participating in your state and national associations, as well as reaching out to senior reporters for mentorship.

Captioners: Olympians captioning Olympians

Andrea Couch, RDR, CRR, CRC

Ask any captioner and they’ll tell you the most exciting thing about their jobs is the variety of assignments they get. From providing CART in a university classroom to captioning for live theater, each assignment is as varied as the preparation it calls for. The JCR Weekly recently reached out to NCRA member Andrea Couch, RDR, CRR, CRC, owner of Associated Reporting & Video in Boise, Idaho, about her work captioning the Olympic Games. Here’s what she shared.

JCR | How long have you worked as a captioner?
Couch | I worked as a captioner from 2006 until 2011.

JCR | Which Olympics have you captioned?
Couch | I captioned the 2008 summer Olympic Games and the 2010 winter Olympic Games. I was fortunate enough to have been assigned to caption both the summer and winter games, so I got to caption a wide variety of Olympic sports. In the 2008 Olympics, I remember I captioned women’s volleyball, archery, baseball, basketball, triathlon, weightlifting, rowing, diving, and swimming. In the 2010 winter Olympics, I captioned alpine skiing, biathlon, bobsled, luge, skeleton, ice hockey, speed skating, and curling.

JCR | How did you prepare for this assignment?
Couch | It was an enormous undertaking to prepare to caption the Olympic Games. The way scheduling worked when I captioned the Olympics, I would be assigned a two-hour block of time. All of the Olympic Games were aired on NBC and its affiliate networks, so I would go to their website to see what events would be broadcast during my two-hour block. The problem was, there would only be very generic descriptions with a list of maybe 10 different events that might possibly be aired during those two hours, but if something more exciting popped up, they would immediately jump to that.

So for a two-hour block, it may say that they were going to air part of a women’s volleyball game, cycling, men’s diving, some women’s weightlifting, and synchronized swimming, and you would be given general details about which countries’ athletes may be participating. So for that two-hour block, the prep was enormous to get all of your bases covered.

I remember when I was captioning the 2008 summer games, I made it through my first two-hour block, and they aired everything they said they were going to: a women’s volleyball game, some cycling, some synchronized swimming; everything that I had prepped for. I was feeling pretty good about myself! And then all of a sudden, with 20 minutes left in my two-hour block, they decided to switch to men’s rowing, an event they had given absolutely no indication that they would be airing. Of course, there were no Americans in the race (that would be far too easy). Every single race participant had a last name that I swear was 20 letters long with no vowels. So I found myself finger spelling every single name in that race for the last 20 minutes of my block. Ten years later, I still develop a facial tick when anyone mentions men’s rowing.

The other incredibly challenging part about captioning the Olympics is that the prep material is so vast. Not only do you have to prep for the specific events happening during the times you are assigned to caption, you also need to keep up on who has won medals that day and who will be competing later in the coming days because during transitions from sport to sport, they will always give a recap of what’s been happening and what’s coming up.

And then there are the human interest pieces that they jump to about an athlete who grew up in a tiny village deep in the heart of some country you’ve never even heard of, and they throw out names of relatives and close friends and geographic locations where the athlete has trained for their sport, all of which you have received absolutely no prep material for.

There is also an incredible amount of prep work to be done about the country hosting the Olympics, all of the prior countries where the Olympics have been held, and the countries where the Olympics are set to be held in the future. It’s also imperative that you make sure you have in your dictionary the names of past Olympians who have competed and won in each sport because you never know when their names might pop up. You also must prep for each commentator involved in the event you are captioning as they are often past Olympic athletes themselves and will talk about their experience in the Olympics: where they competed, who they competed against, etc.

JCR | What was the most exciting part of this assignment for you?
Couch | Well, to state the obvious, it’s the Olympics! It’s history in the making! It’s intense competition highlighting the sheer will and determination of these amazing athletes to stop at nothing to accomplish their goals. Throughout my career, I have always enjoyed competing in speed and realtime contests, and so I always felt I shared the same mentality as these competitors, albeit on a much smaller scale. That drive to work tirelessly to be the absolute best you can be at whatever it is that you do is an amazing thing to watch unfold before your eyes. There are no words to express what it feels like to play a role in the broadcasting of these events to the world.

JCR | How was this job different from other captioning assignments you have had? For example, what was the stress level if any?
Couch | Oh, my goodness, the stress level. There is just nothing quite as intense as knowing that the entire world is watching your work. Sure, that’s the case most any day you’re on the air as a captioner. But the Olympics, that is the greatest stage of them all. It was both one of the most stressful things I have ever done but also the most rewarding and exhilarating. There is absolutely nothing better than pushing yourself to the limits of your abilities and coming out victorious. Although, I must be honest with you, after that incident when they switched to men’s rowing and I had to finger spell every name for the last 20 minutes of that block, I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “Oh, my heavens. Please just put me back on the Weather Channel!”

Reporters who caption the Olympics truly are Olympians themselves. Every year I watch the Olympics with my captions turned on, and I stand in absolute awe at what my colleagues are capable of. It is truly astounding the skills and abilities that we have. The training that we do to be able to accomplish such feats is incredibly similar to that of each one of those competitors. We train our whole lives for this, constantly improving and never settling for “good enough.” We invest endless hours of hard work, tears, frustration, picking ourselves up and dusting ourselves off after a hard day to make ourselves the best at what we do so that when we reach the biggest stage of them all, we can perform at such incredibly high levels of proficiency. What an amazing skill we possess!

JCR | Is there anything else you would like to add?
Couch | I captioned for five years, and it was the best thing I ever could have done. It improved my writing immensely, it changed my perspective on how I write and why I write the way I do, and it gave me a hunger to never stop challenging myself. That experience has opened incredible doors for me throughout my career, and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity that was given to me.

Yes, captioning is very difficult. But the rewards you receive from making that leap are vast and immeasurable. Have you always wanted to be a captioner? Do it! Take the leap. Sign up for training. Work on your realtime. Challenge yourself to always be better. You just might find yourself captioning the Olympics someday. The hard work is absolutely worth the reward. No question about it.

PROFILE: Destiny M. Moses, RPR

Destiny M. Moses, RPR

Destiny M. Moses, RPR

Official Court Reporter, 416th District Court
Currently resides in: Van Alstyne, Texas
Member since: 2013
Graduated from: Court Reporting Institute of Dallas
Theory: Sten-Ed
Favorite brief: I love using Brief It in CaseCatalyst! Use what makes sense to you. If it doesn’t make sense and makes you hesitate, don’t use it.

JCR | Why did you decide to enter this profession?
MOSES | I always loved the legal field but did not want to be a lawyer. I Googled six-figure salaries in the legal field, and court reporting popped up. I went and visited Court Reporting Institute of Dallas and just knew this was what I was supposed to do!

JCR | What has been your best work experience so far?
MOSES | Since becoming an official court reporter this year, working with the same wonderful staff day in and day out and creating the kind of courtroom environment we want has been the best experience.

JCR | What was your biggest hurdle?
MOSES | My biggest hurdle was learning to communicate with attorneys and court reporting firms and admitting sometimes I couldn’t get the work out on the time line they requested. Communication is key. Always being honest with yourself and others about your workload and time lines is key to being successful.

JCR | What surprised you about your career, and why?
MOSES | I am the most surprised at how blessed I am to have found a career that I enjoy so much and can support my family with. I know I am one of the lucky ones!

JCR | What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishment?
MOSES | I don’t think I’ve had it yet. I still need to earn my RMR, CRR, and RDR!

Overcoming challenges: An interview with Kim Falgiani

Kim Falgiani, RMR, CRC

Kim Falgiani, RMR, CRC, became a court reporter in 1980 and then became a broadcast captioner in 2002. After some years in broadcast captioning, she went through a series of medical situations, including tendinitis, that derailed her career and nearly ended it. She shared her story of how she overcame these challenges and offered some advice for reporters and captioners to stay at the physical top of their game.

JCR | What challenge have you overcome to be a successful captioner?

FALGIANI | Captioners must overcome many challenges in their careers. Longevity, professional fulfillment, and reasonable compensation are the goals. Everyone wants to be paid what they’re worth.

The obvious answer, which is true for every successful captioner, is the transition into quality realtime writing, staying relevant and updated in the profession, and keeping up with new technology. For me, the most difficult obstacle I had to overcome was tendinitis. Rehabilitation was a long-term process. Ultimately, I had to:

  • complete rehab successfully
  • regain my speed and confidence
  • regain my certifications
  • upgrade my software, paying back
    software support
  • upgrade my computer system and phones
  • renew my referral sources to find jobs as
    an independent contractor

JCR | How did this challenge make captioning difficult for you?

FALGIANI | The solution for tendinitis is rest, so I could no longer write. Recovery time surely varies, but it may stretch into months; it took me 14 months of rehabilitation to recover from bilateral wrist tendinitis, bilateral elbow tendinitis, shoulder tendinitis, adhesive capsulitis, and a strained neck. Within a few months of slowly beginning to write again, as an independent contractor now instead of an employed broadcast captioner, I suffered a dislocated shoulder and spiral-fractured my upper humerus. I chose a nonsurgical route with that break, so the rehab was a bit longer.

JCR | What strategies or changes did you use to overcome this challenge?

FALGIANI | I needed to find a way to stay informed and relevant in the profession. At that point in time, I had 30 years of progressing through our field as an official, freelancer, business owner, and then a broadcast captioner. I looked for a way to offer my skills without writing. I consulted on captioning programs, advisory committees, anything to not lose the “pulse” of the captioning field.

Everything I did while rehabbing led to me becoming a better and more health-conscious writer. I say better writer because I was always very stroke-intensive, so I began to incorporate writing techniques that reduced my stroke counts, better theory, and things like that.

Instead of captioning, or any writing at all, I started looking into how to help educate future court reporters and captioners. Fortunately, I was hired to be part-time adjunct faculty in a court reporting program in my state during healing time. After about another year of rehab, I began to edit realtime files for quarterly financial reports and rebuild some speed and endurance by writing offline files for projects, such as tutorial videos, etc.

Dealing specifically with my injuries, I took the advice and relied upon my doctor’s and physical therapists’ forms of rehab, but I also changed my diet to help keep inflammation away. This included juicing; finding suggested natural remedies, such as ginger, turmeric, and pineapple; and learning what foods are best. I started using wrist supports and support gloves. I avoided heavy lifting; anything that required any movement of my wrists or elbows now was a conscious thought. I paid attention to what foods really did make my fingers or wrists seem achy!

I found better ergonomic setups, such as monitors that didn’t make me tilt my head back but were more at eye level; I tried to be aware of sitting up straight! I switched from a traditional steno machine to the Lightspeed, but I was too far gone with the traditional touch to adjust to that, so the Luminex is what became right for me. The tilt and the touch on that is fantastic — I can position that machine where it is comfortable for me, and I don’t get that familiar wrist pain.

JCR | Did you receive any outside support in overcoming this challenge?
FALGIANI | I went into physical therapy three times a week for well over a year, before having to re-enter therapy just months later after my dislocated shoulder and broken arm.

As mentioned, I was able to become involved in a court reporting and captioning program as adjunct faculty. And the faculty was kind and patient. I had all the years of knowledge in my head, but they had the knowledge about how to help me express that in a classroom format. Kudos to our schools for educating our future writers!

I would love to name colleagues who helped me through this difficult time, but I fear I might miss someone and I don’t want to do that. But to my colleagues who stayed in contact, those who pared down my schedule, or hired me knowing I wouldn’t offer more than a few hours a week and then increasing my hours as I became stronger, I am forever grateful. To our community that helped me transition into remote and on-site CART captioning and internet and online broadcast captioning, I am so happy I found this part of captioning — thank you.

And as always, my husband, John, who has always been my biggest supporter, and our children. Without their support of taking over household chores, cooking, cleaning, listening to my frustrations, encouraging me to persevere, I could have easily faded out of the profession. Thank you for that never-ending support.

JCR | What advice do you have for someone else struggling with this particular challenge?

FALGIANI | Captioning is an investment in your future self, and tendinitis is a possible reality from all those hours at a desk and on a machine, so there are many things:

  • Stay healthy: If you are having pain in your wrists, arms, seek medical advice. Don’t let this get to a point that your career is in jeopardy. Use preventative measures. Learn what sorts of foods have anti-inflammatory properties. Drink plenty of water. Follow a healthy lifestyle.
  • Exercise: With so many hours spent at your desk, you need to be conscious of really stretching, getting up, and moving. Have a daily exercise routine, whether it is walking, yoga, biking.
  • Ergonomics: Assess your workspace ergonomically: the height of your monitors, the chair you sit in, your mouse, and your keyboard.
  • Stay informed and educated: If you must take time off for any sort of recovery, stay informed by reading articles, volunteering your time to our students, joining focus groups or committees, getting involved with the Deaf/hard-of-hearing communities as advocates, etc. Continue to earn your Continuing Education Units to ensure your certifications don’t lapse. (Retraining your mind to take Q&A testimony after strictly captioning can be a task for some reason!) Don’t let the ever-changing technology get ahead of you.
  • Avoid injury: Be smart about your activities, and try to avoid risky behavior.

But mostly, for me, after resuming a captioning schedule, it was more of a reduction in hours and/or the way my hours are spread out. There is always the question of employee vs. independent contractor. Independent contracting is allowing me to control my schedule so it works best for me.

JCR | Do you have anything else you’d like to add?

FALGIANI | Sitting all day can be a health issue, as well as the repetitive motion, so educate yourself on short exercise routines to do at your desk or in your surroundings, or just using a few extra minutes to stand up instead of sitting and waiting, if appropriate. Find your niche with either yoga, stretch bands, walking, something to keep you active. It is really easy to find information on things like one-minute workout routines, or seven 60-second moves, things like that. I haven’t tried a stand-up desk, but I have read that some really love that sort of thing.

When your shift for the day is done, make that stretching, at least, a part of your shutdown routine. And don’t get caught up in one form of captioning. With the forward march of technology, there are so many captioning opportunities. If you are able, keep a variety of jobs in your schedule just to help break up very difficult routines, and try not to work ten-day weeks.

Kim Falgiani, RMR, CRC, is a captioner in Warren, Ohio. She can be reached at kfalgiani@gmail.com.

 

NCRA MEMBER PROFILE: Ryan White, RMR, CRR

Ryan White, RMR, CRR

Ryan White, RMR, CRR

Currently resides in: Portland, Ore.
Employment type: Official
Member since: 2008
Graduated from: Sumner College, Portland, Ore.
Theory: Phoenix Theory

What are your favorite briefs?
I brief anything I can! I take ideas from Mark Kislingbury, FAPR, RDR, CRR; Ed Varallo, FAPR, RMR, CRR; Facebook court reporter groups; or I make them up as I go.

One of my favorites has to be MURPBD/MURPBD for the Miranda warnings that officers read verbatim off department-issued cards. Two strokes for an entire 80+ word paragraph!

How did you learn about the career?
My aunt is a court reporter, and she suggested I look into it. The rest is history!

What has been your best work experience so far in your career?
I have had so many good experiences, but I have to say I love being an official. I love being in the courtroom and working trials, I love the atmosphere and the people I work with. It’s given me an opportunity to grow as a reporter, fine-tune my skills, and provide realtime on a regular basis. It’s very gratifying to see my work in action, for example, splashed up on a courtroom projector during closing arguments.

What was your biggest hurdle to overcome?
I think the biggest hurdle was just getting started, getting my name out there to get freelance jobs. It took finding the right people to take me under their wings and give me a chance, and from there, it was all about providing the best service I could to build a good reputation.

What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishment?
My greatest accomplishment thus far has to be earning the CRR and RMR. I went into every test thinking I was just going to see where I was, and then I passed each one on my first try, with the exception of the RMR Jury Charge. I had a technical glitch, and so my first test wasn’t graded, but then I passed the next time.

Do you have a favorite tool?
My new favorite tool of the moment is the CVNet Browser Edition, which has enabled us to finally lose the cables to the judge’s computer, get full refresh, and provide realtime to anyone else who would like it, including court staff. It’s amazing!

TAKE-AWAYS: How Firm Owners Executive Conference led two companies to a merger success

Following one of the NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conferences, attendee Robin Smith decided to take steps on an idea she had earlier brushed aside. Encouraged by a comment, she decided to approach a second court reporting firm to see if the owners were interested in merging. The JCR asked Smith and business partner Gail McLucas, RPR, to take us through their process.

Smith, although not a court reporter herself, grew up in a court reporting family. She found the business side of court reporting fascinating, and with a degree in business management, became an integral part of her family’s business.

JCR | How long have you been going to the NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference?

SMITH | I attended two Firm Owners conferences, one in Sarasota, Fla., and one in Dana Point, Calif. They were several years ago; and while I don’t remember anything specific, I do remember appreciating the opportunity to meet other firm owners and realizing that we all face similar challenges.

I attended the conference in Arizona last year, and Gail and I both attended this year’s conference in St. Pete Beach. I found the conference this year very worthwhile — lots of opportunities to network as well as practical and useful business knowledge. We came away with the realization of two things that we can do better and have begun to take action on them.

MCLUCAS | This year’s Firm Owners convention in St. Pete, Fla., was the first Firm Owners convention I’ve attended.

JCR | What was the impetus for the merger of your two firms?

SMITH | The economic surveys were what started everything. I’ve never been one for completing surveys, but I have completed every one of the economic surveys, maybe because of my experiences at the conferences. When you complete the survey, you receive the survey reports. And this quote from the 2011 report is what started us on this journey: “When asked about economic indicators and what he or she looks for to gauge whether business is about to pick up, he/she responded this way: ‘I am merging with another small company to create a larger company based on the Firm Owners results reported in February 2011.’”

MCLUCAS | It was spring of 2013 when Robin called me and asked me to have lunch with her. The purpose of the lunch was ultimately to discuss the possibility of merging our firms; and upon hearing it, I considered it a wonderful idea.

JCR | Can you give a little bit of history about your firm as well as the history of the firm you eventually merged with?

SMITH | Geiger Loria Reporting was started in 1950 by George Geiger (my stepfather). He was an official for Dauphin County in Harrisburg, Pa., and started a freelance firm as well. Virginia Loria (my mother) joined him in the early 1970s, and so we are a court reporting family. Both my sisters, Helena Bowes and Sherry Bryant, are court reporters. Except for me. I’ve always done the business side of things.

MCLUCAS | I graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Court Reporting in June of 1974. From then until the end of 1980, I worked as an official at York County Courthouse. I started working for Geiger Loria in January of 1981. My former business partner, Joyce Filius, and I both worked together at Geiger Loria Reporting Service from 1981 until 1983. We were both from the York area, which is about 40 miles south of Harrisburg, and at the time we saw a need for a court reporting service in the York area. So Filius & McLucas Reporting began in August of 1983.

JCR | Robin, how did you approach Gail with your idea?

SMITH | You know how you have an idea and you think it’s great at first and then you talk yourself out of it? That’s exactly what I did: I talked myself out of it. It wasn’t until I was working with a business consultant and mentioned that I had this idea once and dismissed it. Well, he didn’t. He encouraged me to set up a meeting with Filius and McLucas and, as scared as I was, I did.

MCLUCAS | I was kind of curious about the call for lunch from Robin; however, we would see each other every so often at PCRA luncheons or events. But there was never an ongoing meeting with each other outside of that. But when the idea of a merger was presented to me, I was absolutely thrilled about the whole idea. I knew my business partner, Joyce Filius, was looking to retire and I certainly wasn’t ready to make that move in my life. I, too, have always been a firm believer in there’s force in numbers. So the idea of bringing two firms of comparable size together seemed to be a wonderful idea to me.

JCR | What were some of the issues that you had to work out to make the merger happen?

SMITH | Everything! After a lot of discussion, we decided to start from scratch, create a whole new company with the four of us as owners (myself, Gail, Helena Bowes, RPR, and Sherry J. Bryant, RPR, CRR) and wind down operations of our current companies. Then things became easier to figure out. There are so many things to consider and so many things you didn’t think to consider. It was a very hectic time.

MCLUCAS | I think the initial decision that needed to be worked out was whether there was actually going to be a purchase of assets by one company or the other or a mere “merger” of the firms without the exchange of purchase money. When we discussed the assets that each company had accumulated over the years, we found that we had enough to put together two “households.” After all, a merger is almost like a marriage. We had enough to comfortably supply two office spaces (one in Harrisburg and one in York). Each partner put a small amount of capital into the firm to get it up and running and applied for a line of credit to initially cover payroll and some of our start-up costs. Of course, a name for the new venture is always a consideration. And although it’s a mouthful, we decided to keep the two names of the firms and just run them together because they were well-recognized in the area for over 30 years.

JCR | How long did it take to merge the two firms?

MCLUCAS | We started talking in the spring of 2013 and were hopefully going to have it culminate in September 2013. At first, we had a business consultant involved. But we were not getting answers very quickly from him, so we took it upon ourselves to make the merger happen on our own. That, of course, involved a little more time, and we actually began the merged company, Geiger Loria Filius McLucas Reporting, LLC, on January 1, 2014.

SMITH | From that point, I feel it took two years until everything started to gel. The first year is just a blur. We had to put out a lot of fires and just hang on for dear life. The second year, things started to even out, and we could begin to focus on the bigger picture. 2018 will be our fifth year together, and it’s gone really, really fast.

JCR | What are some of the benefits of merging?

MCLUCAS | I feel the benefits of merging were immense, although scary at first. We were bringing the reporters of the two firms together for the first time, who had been with each of us for 15 to 20 years. Like a marriage, we weren’t too sure how all of our “children” were going to get along. But the benefits have outweighed our fright, and overall the merger has given us a bigger and stronger firm than we both had separately. Also, because I’ve always been “just a reporter,” I really appreciate Robin’s business acumen and her contribution in that respect to the newly-formed company. I always enjoyed the client contact and reporting aspect of the business, but not so much the financial side and forethought that it takes to run a truly successful business.

SMITH | We are stronger together. Together we have more resources, and that helps us to handle the ups and downs of not only day-to-day things but the ups and downs that are inherent in any business and industry.

JCR | Were there any obstacles that you had to deal with after the merger was completed? Were those things that you knew about in advance and had been prepared for, or did they take you by surprise?

MCLUCAS | As with any new business, there are always obstacles that you are presented with and have to deal with on a daily basis. The biggest initial obstacle was we moved not only the Harrisburg office, but we moved the York office (and may I say three times) before we were finally settled in. We were lucky enough to keep the office manager that was with F&M for 22 plus years, and that was sincerely a stabilizing factor for both of us. The building we moved into in January of 2014 didn’t have a permanent space for us until the middle of February. So we moved in February to a space, only to find that within a year we quickly outgrew that space and needed to move to a larger suite in the same building that we have been in since.

The other big hurdle that I think every new business faces is finances. We had a substantial amount of start-up costs; and until all our clients settled back into working with us together, it was a little rough at first. But I don’t think any of this took us by surprise; it was just learning how best to deal with the circumstances we were dealt. And as they say, if it doesn’t kill you, it will only make you stronger – and stronger I feel we are today!

SMITH | I wholeheartedly agree. Because we chose to start from scratch, the financial side of things probably was our biggest obstacle. We were spending money before we even opened our doors; and that took longer to recover from than we had anticipated or planned for.

JCR | Was there something specific about the situation that made it seem like a good idea to merge? Are there conditions that you could describe for someone else so that they might recognize a similar situation?

SMITH | The way we operated our firms on a day-to-day basis was very similar, our values and commitment were closely aligned, and we were in different regional markets so we each brought a different client base to the new firm.

MCLUCAS | I think the main thing that made it seem like it was a really good idea was when we compared financial information. It was like holding two identical companies side by side. But as in running two households, running two businesses is always more expensive than one good, strong one together. For me, that is what really made the situation seem real and that it was a good decision to be made.

I think the partners also have to recognize whether they will be able to work together amicably and not have one be so overpowering as to not consider the other’s opinion. As partners we’ve been able to communicate openly about all things involving the business, and there are no secrets kept from anyone about anything. I think an open and informed relationship is the only kind to have.

JCR | Is there any advice that you would offer to someone who is interested in merging two firms?

SMITH | I think it’s important if you’re going to be essentially handing over your business to someone and they are handing theirs to you and you’re going to be working together, that you like, respect, and trust that person. I’m not sure that’s something that I consciously thought of before we started down this path, and I realize now how important that was and still is.

MCLUCAS | I would say the most important factor is getting to know your potential partner as well as possible. Robin and I set regularly scheduled meetings with each other over the course of nine months before we finally made the merger happen. I hate to keep likening this merger to a marriage; but if you don’t have common goals and ideas as the person you’re going into business with, it could turn out to be a disastrous idea and will only cause heartache and failure. However, 2018 will be our fifth year in this merged company together and I couldn’t be happier with how everything has turned out for the two firms. I’m almost positive [that we] would not have been as successful if we had stayed two separate firms for this period of time.

NCSA 2018 challenge winners named

For the past four years, the National Committee of State Associations (NCSA) has issued a friendly challenge among state associations and individuals to spread the word about the benefits of a career in court reporting or captioning. Participants had the chance to win complimentary registrations to NCRA events or vouchers for webinars for continuing education. NCRA member Lisa Wagner, RPR, an official court reporter from Highlands Ranch, Colo., earned top honors in this year’s challenge by hosting 10 school career fairs. As grand prize winner, Wagner has earned a complimentary registration to the NCRA Convention & Expo being held Aug. 2-5 in New Orleans, La.

In a tie for first place were NCRA members Cindy Isaacsen, RPR, an official from Olathe, Kan., and Kristen Wurgler, RPR, a captioner from Cottage Grove, Wis. Isaacsen and Wurgler will receive free webinars from NCRA.

The JCR Weekly reached out to learn more about what motivates this year’s grand prize winner to promote the profession. First prize winners, Isaacsen and Wurgler, will be profiled in next week’s issue of the JCR Weekly.

JCR | What were the activities you were involved in to promote the profession?

Wagner | Most of the activities were career fairs, but one was the Colorado School Counselor Association annual conference, which we have participated in for three years now, and I also was involved with a couple presentations. I participated in five career fairs: Three of them were high school career fairs, and two of them were middle school. 

 JCR | How did you identify events to participate in?

Wagner | The biggest majority of events we participate in come from requests by counselors who have had contact with us at their annual conference.

JCR | How did you recruit volunteers to help?

Wagner | The Colorado Court Reporters Association sends out what it calls eBlasts to the members. I also put articles in our publication, The Ramblings. We also have volunteer forms and rely on word of mouth. We couldn’t have participated in all these events without the volunteers, and I so appreciate everyone.

JCR | What is the biggest factor motivating you to reach out to participate in so many career day events?

Wagner | The reason I participate is to let counselors and students know of our wonderful profession and the opportunities we have. I am continually amazed that they either don’t know anything about court reporters or, if they do know something, it’s not the full extent of the areas we can work in. 

 JCR | What have some of the responses been from students learning about court reporting for the first time?

Wagner | Students are absolutely in awe of realtime! We always demonstrate realtime, and the biggest response is “That’s so cool!” I just have so much fun and really enjoy showing students what we do. 

 JCR | Do you serve as a mentor for current court reporting students?

Wagner | I have in the past, but I do not currently serve as a mentor. I just recently volunteered to be a mentor through the A to Z program in our state. 

 JCR | I am assuming you have fun participating in these events. What is the best part of participating for you?

Wagner | Yes, I do have fun. Also, it is extremely energizing for me to attend these and go back to work thinking this really is a very unique ability that we have and I am so proud to be in this profession!

 JCR | What is your goal for next year’s NCSA challenge?

Wagner | See if we can keep up this pace! 

JCR | The grand prize is a convention registration. What is the best part of attending a national convention?

Wagner | I have never been to a convention, so I think it would be to meet new people and reconnect with others I haven’t seen in a while. Also, the classes and workshops always look awesome, so I would be looking forward to that. 

 JCR | What advice would you give to other reporters thinking of participating in career fairs?

Wagner | I know it’s a commitment to take time away from our daily work, but it is so worth it even if you do it just once. One of the reasons I do this is that I feel very strongly that if we as a profession aren’t more proactive in promoting ourselves, we are not going to have the future reporters to fill some of these positions that already aren’t being filled in many states. 

 

 

 

NCRA PROFILE: Cindy J. Shearman, RDR, CRR, CRC

Currently resides in: Tucson, Ariz.

Employment type: Official

Member since: 1978

Graduated from: American Institute of Court Reporting/Lamson Business College

Theory: One made up by the owners of the school/former official reporters

What are your favorite briefs?

Briefs have to make sense and be able to stick. Just because a brief can be made doesn’t mean it will come to the front of your brain when you’re in the middle of 300 WPM.

Why did you decide to enter this profession and how did you learn about the career?

I kind of fell into it. My mom was exploring reporting but never followed through. I figured I could become a reporter and, if I didn’t like it, at least it would pay my way to go to school for something I did want to do. And here we are 39 years later.

What has been your best work experience so far in your career?

I’ve loved being part of firsts. I loved being part of the first team to caption the news in Denver, Colo., in 1989-90. It was a fun time and gave me a real feeling of accomplishment.

And I loved being part of the first distance learning program in North Dakota at Minot State University. We received a grant to create a distance program where my realtime would be sent via the internet around the state to students. It was great being part of that kind of accommodation.

What was your biggest hurdle to overcome and how did you do so?

Removing all the conflicts in my writing that I’d been taught in school. Remember, this was almost 40 years ago; conflicts were the norm.

What surprised you about your career and why?

How versatile it’s been. My husband was in the Air Force and I was able to work in a variety of different settings everywhere we were transferred. I’ve been able to caption for individuals at church, large groups at meetings, and for people needing captioning at rehab meetings, besides all the regular reporting I’ve done.

Is there something else you would like to share?

I have been able to work with the most amazing people throughout my career. It’s funny but I never thought I had a “career” until about three or four years ago; I just had a job. Reporting has been perfect for me in my life. I’ve enjoyed it, it’s made me feel like a professional, and that I was very good at something. It most importantly allowed me the freedom to be home with my kids most of the time and be there for them and yet help augment my husband’s Air Force salary. I couldn’t have chosen a better career than this!