NCRA leadership quoted in article about profession

JCR logoThe Ledger, Memphis, Tenn., posted an extensive article on April 20 that quotes NCRA President Nativa Wood FAPR, RDR, CMRS, and Director Max Curry, RPR, CRI, about the high demand for court reports and potential incomes.

Read more.

7 ways to differentiate yourself as a job candidate

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Photo by CarbonNYC

According to industry projections, in less than five years the demand for court reporting will exceed supply, resulting in more than 5,000 open positions. However, you cannot assume that simply having a court reporting degree will get you hired. Naturally, the most important piece to getting hired is to hone your craft, and you can only do so through practice, but this alone is not enough, as everyone else looking for court reporting and captioning positions will have the same skill sets.

Whether you are a student or a seasoned professional looking for a new opportunity, these seven principles will help you secure that next job.

Networking

Everyone you meet is part of your network and could end up being instrumental in helping you build a successful career, and you should treat them accordingly. Always be courteous and professional in your interactions. This includes instructors and classmates in school, people you meet at your state association and NCRA events, and people you meet at your internships.

Cathy Carpenter, a freelance reporter from Seminole, Fla., and the 2016 recipient of NCRF’s New Professional Reporter Grant, agrees that networking is a must.

“I can’t stress enough how important it is to network with as many reporters as you can,” Carpenter says. “The knowledge and support I get from others in our field is invaluable. There are a lot of firms out there. Speak with multiple reporters who work for different firms to get information on policies and procedures and then find the best fit for you.”

Get involved

Getting involved with an organization such as NCRA or your state association provides an opportunity to network and show other reporters and future employers how passionate you are about the profession.

“I met one of the owners of the firm I work with through our state association while I was a student, and after my initial phone call, another reporter that was in the office at the time remembered me from past conventions,” says Carpenter. “Court reporters love to help students, and they remember the ones that attend meetings and conventions and ask questions.”

Make the most of your membership by attending events and joining a committee. As a student, you can earn a free membership to NCRA through NCRF’s Oral Histories Program by transcribing two interviews, and it doubles as great practice to hone your craft.

Find a mentor

“I was very fortunate to grow up with a family-owned court reporting business,” says Angela Baker, RPR, president of Depo International. “When I was 12, I began frequenting the Depo International office after school and in the summers. I thought it was super fun to work in the production department with all of the fancy copy machines and stamps and assortment of pens and Post-Its galore. My mom – court reporter extraordinaire [Patricia Carl] – still brings up the time my bestie tagged along with me to the office, and we made up our own business cards for Angela Carl & Associates. That’s really where it all started.”

Even without a familial connection, you can find a mentor. Find a court reporter or captioner whom you admire, and ask them if they’d be willing to meet for coffee or schedule a phone call to discuss the profession. The term mentor often sounds more official than it needs to be. It can be a casual relationship between an established professional and an aspiring one, built through an initial conversation soliciting advice. You might even already have a mentor without realizing it.

Once you have a meeting set up, prepare a few initial questions (e.g. How did you get into court reporting? What advice would you give a student like me who aspires to own my own firm?). Then let the conversation flow from there. The last question you ask should always be “May I stay in touch with you?” With their permission, you can continue to reach out periodically to ask a question, share an exciting update, or schedule another coffee or lunch. You should follow up after the initial meeting with a thank-you though since they are a busy professional who took time away from work to help you. This can be an email, but a handwritten thank-you note will set you apart. After a few interactions, you’ll have built a relationship, and when you’re job hunting, you can ask this person if they have any advice on where to look.

“My first jobs out of school were facilitated through my mentors,” Carpenter says. “They put me in touch with firm owners or were firm owners themselves.” Carpenter’s mentors vouched for her work ethic and professionalism to help get her started.

You can also find mentors through NCRA’s Virtual Mentor Program, and many state associations have their own mentoring programs as well.

Treat your internships like a job

Some students treat their internship as yet another requirement for graduation. Successful students, however, will treat it as a semester-long job interview and will soak up as much knowledge and experience as possible.

“[Students] have a great deal to learn to become a seasoned reporter or captioner,” said Audrey Greco, vice president of business development for Karasch & Associates. “During their internship, they have experienced all of the various types of jobs, i.e. video depositions, depositions, arbitrations, hearings, classes, events, remote, on-site, etc. whether it be in captioning or litigation in order to build confidence.”

Your internship supervisors will be your references for jobs and may even hire you themselves if they are able.

Résumé

All your involvement and internships will mean nothing if your résumé isn’t perfect. Remember that you are entering a profession where accuracy is required, and your résumé is no exception.

“Spell-check your résumé! So many times we see spelling or grammatical errors, and, unfortunately, those candidates do not get an interview,” Baker says.

Firms often have different preferences for résumés and cover letters. When approaching a firm about a job (either to be an employee or as a freelancer), it’s helpful to use your network to find someone at the firm to ask what they are looking for specifically. For instance, Baker is looking for something that stands out: “In order to set yourself apart with a résumé in our age of technology, a video résumé would be outstanding. At a minimum, put a professional photo of yourself on the cover letter. This will add a personal touch, make you relevant and different, and show your enthusiasm for working in this very rewarding and interesting profession.”

Certifications

Add some letters after your name to further differentiate yourself. Certifications showcase your dedication to the profession and commitment to improving yourself to be the best reporter possible.

For some, certifications will be a requirement for getting hired, “as clients are requesting certified providers more and more,” Greco notes. Certifications can set clients’ minds at ease knowing that they have hired a qualified reporter. Greco also suggests becoming a notary.

Ultimately, as more reporters add certifications to their names, you must do the same or get left behind.

Intangibles

There are always little things that you can’t put on your résumé, but you can do to set yourself apart from others.

“We are most interested in hiring team players who are accountable, professional, reliable, and willing to go the extra mile to meet the standard of service that we are known for,” says Baker. “Service to our clients is of the utmost importance, and we always strive to go above and beyond the standard. Basically, we seek out individuals who love their profession.”

“Be punctual, be present, communicate, never be afraid to ask a question, and always strive for excellence,” Baker adds. “Keep up on technology. You will be working with the most brilliant, educated pool of clients — trial lawyers — and being kind and respectful, in addition to seeking to always perform at 100 percent, will set you apart.”

This is where networking and internships are really important as these people can vouch for your professionalism, punctuality, reliability, and the standard of your work.

By following each of these recommendations, you should be well on your way to securing that first job out of school. For additional help, look for articles on each of these individual principles in future editions of the JCR.

April Weiner is the Foundation Manager for the National Court Reporters Foundation. She can be reached at aweiner@ncra.org.

Looking for a job? Visit NCRA’s online classifieds to see what’s currently available.

What is NCRF’s Corrinne Clark Professionalism Institute?

In 2015, the National Court Reporters Foundation established the Corrinne Clark Professionalism Institute, which is dedicated to aiding the education of court reporting students and new professionals about professionalism, branding, and building a successful career. Named for the late Corrinne Clark — wife of the late Robert H. Clark, NCRA’s longest tenured librarian-historian — the Institute was made possible by a generous donation contributed by Donna Hamer, Santa Paula, Calif., Robert’s cousin.

NCRA members find value in promoting at career fairs

DSC_0094_squareMore and more court reporters and captioners have realized the value in attending career fairs as a way to promote the profession. Most recently, Darlene Parker, RPR, a broadcast captioner, and Steve Clark, CRC, a CART captioner, presented at South Lakes High School in Reston, Va., on March 17. Because the high school is so close to NCRA headquarters, a staff member was able to join them.

“Presenting at this year’s career fair at South Lakes High School was a great opportunity to showcase our skills and professionalism of court reporters, broadcast captioners, and CART captioners,” said Clark. “Working as a team, we presented all sides of the professional – the management and training, as exemplified by Darlene Parker of NCI; the support, certification, and advocacy by our professional organization, thanks to Megan Rogers, NCRA’s Communications Assurance Specialist; and the skills and technical side of captioning as displayed by my live demonstration.”

Parker, whose son is a junior at the high school, noticed a call for volunteers for the fair, which was held for sophomores. “When I contacted the school,” she said, “they were thrilled to hear from me. The woman said she had been trying for years to get someone to represent the court reporting profession.” She asked Clark to help her with the presentation, especially with giving a practical demonstration. They set up a table with a couple laptops — one of which played the award-winning promotional video produced for the Take Note campaign on a loop and the other connected to Clark’s realtime feed — as well as a couple tablets wirelessly connected to the realtime feed. The table also offered fliers and posters with more information.

DSC_0101“The kids were fascinated by the realtime we displayed,” Parker noted. “One girl’s jaw dropped, and she did not close her mouth until the demo concluded.” Parker noted it was helpful to have someone to talk about the profession (possibly in front of the table to draw kids in) and someone to write live. She said it’s important for the steno machine to be visible. “Ask the kids what their names are and write them,” she said. “They love that.”

Parker had reached out to NCRA for materials, noting, “Consult NCRA’s website for helpful handouts, including fun facts.” And there’s no end to the amount of information to share with the students.

“Explain how the machine works and highlight that 5,500 jobs need to be filled in the next few years. Highlight all the different venues a court reporter/captioner can work in — as an official, a freelancer taking depositions, reporting the United States House of Representatives or United States Senate floor and committee proceedings, as a remote or onsite CART captioner for an individual in the classroom or workplace and/or at conventions, as a remote broadcast captioner, as a remote or in-stadium or in-arena captioner, and finally as a captioner in theaters. Mention that most positions offer a flexible schedule and the ability to work from home. Mention that it is a great profession for those who like words and technology,” said Parker. “And last, but not least, mention the return on investment — two to three years of schooling for an excellent salary and a rewarding career.”

Ruth Levy, RPR, a freelancer in Richmond, Va., who has recently reached out to NCRA for materials, commented on how important it is to promote the profession at these venues specifically.

“When I was a sophomore in high school, a court reporter came to my typing class and spoke about being a court reporter,” said Levy. “She asked if we liked to type. She asked if we were good at playing any instruments. She asked if we liked LA Law. I raised my hand for every question. A light bulb went off, and I knew right then and there I would love to be a court reporter.” Levy has been in contact with “a local high school that does more legal assistant and technical courses,” but she’s no stranger to promoting the profession. “While I was [attending the Academy of Court Reporting] and finishing up, I would travel with the career placement adviser and speak to high school students about being a court reporter. She would talk, and I would demonstrate,” said Levy. “It was a great feeling to pay forward what I learned in my 10th grade typing class.”

Erminia Uviedo, RMR, CRR, a freelancer in San Antonio, Texas, who has participated in more than a dozen career fairs since November, echoed Levy’s sentiments: “Just like we at one time had someone enter our classroom, sit down at a little-known type of machine, spooling out little white paper covered in lettered ink, that piqued our interest then, we must remember that feeling of when our dream began, what sparked our interests, what made us go out and seek a court reporting school. We need to remember how all it took was that one person to demonstrate machine shorthand to realize that’s exactly what we wanted to do as a career and how it has lead us to the point that we are now.”

Uviedo — along with Tonya Thompson, RPR, an official in San Antonio, and Leticia Salas, RPR, an official in Houston, who have also been active in promoting court reporting in Texas — had several tips to share.

“When attending career fairs, we have learned that the next generation is technologically savvy and quite ambitious. Many are articulate and looking for a profession that provides perpetual education and holds their attention,” said Thompson. “They are captivated with our cool keyboards and are intrigued with the ability we have to write at the speed of sound. They quickly sit behind our writers and get so excited when we show them how to write their names. They squeal with joy as their names scroll across the computer screen as their friends watch.” Thompson noted that “the excitement of a career fair is almost as exciting as attending a national convention” and that she finds that it “rejuvenates our excitement in the profession.”

Salas added, “I think it’s extremely valuable in promoting court reporting because it’s a very rewarding career. To be able to always have front row seats in people’s lives is a privilege.” She’s also noticed that career fairs are a good place to help people see the connection between court reporting and captioning: “I’ve realized that not many people have the knowledge of knowing what closed-captioning and CART are really all about and that these two avenues are roads of the court reporting profession.”

“I have learned that nine times out of 10, your audience — teachers, counselors, parents, or high school students — will be always be amazed with a realtime demonstration. Out of all the careers or schools spotlighted at career fairs, court reporting is always one of the most popular. The machine does most of the attracting on its own,” said Uviedo.

Based on her experience, she has several practical tips for others who are interested in putting on a career fair: “Have a nice Trifold display board and plenty of handouts. Make sure there are websites, Facebook pages, or Twitter profiles for them to easily be able to search for online. The ideal amount for a successful fair is four court reporters: two to reel the audience in, and two to demonstrate realtime on their machines.” Parker and Clark chose to keep the steno machine in sight but behind the table to protect it, but Uviedo recommends having the machine front and center. “Always let the audience sit at the machine and be very hands-on. Always let the students take selfies of themselves on the machine. They will do the advertising for us, easily reaching hundreds of others who will hopefully be interested in what kind of machine did they just see a picture of, engaging them to comment on what it is, where to find out about court reporting, etc.” Uviedo has also combined forces with San Antonio College’s court reporting program. “Always have sign-in sheets. And when there is an open house coming up, mass text everyone on the sign-in sheets to invite them to the open house,” she said, so students can easily take the next step.

NCRA members who are interested in presenting at career fairs have a variety of resources available from the Association. The Resource Center at crTakeNote.com has fliers, posters, a PowerPoint presentation, and a promotional video (both generic and customizable for a specific program, etc.). Members may also find value in the resources at NCRA.org/Awareness. These materials are focused on Court Reporting & Captioning Week, but members can adapt them for other promotional purposes or to find ideas for how to showcase court reporting and captioning. Members who do participate in career fairs or any other promotional activities are encouraged to contact Annemarie Roketenetz, NCRA Communications Manager, at aroketenetz@ncra.org for possible inclusion in the JCR. Keep in mind that any photos will likely need to hide any identifying features of minors, especially faces.

NCRA President Steve Zinone addresses court reporting students in Ohio

SteveNCRA President Steve Zinone, RPR, an official court reporter from Pittsfield, N.Y., presented a keynote speech to students, faculty, guests, and online students at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio, on Feb. 17. Zinone shared with students his career experiences and highlights, as well as the importance of being involved in court reporting associations at the state and national level, and offered advice on how to succeed in the profession. He also noted the many job opportunities open to court reporters including official positions, freelance reporters, captioners, and CART captioners. Zinone was invited by the program’s Captioning & Court Reporting Club.

Watch the keynote.

Future-Proof Your Career

Future-Proof Your Career

No one can predict the future, but one thing is relatively sure — court reporting firms across the country are likely facing a host of challenges in the next 5 years to 10 years. There are larger trends, such as the gradual shift in the legal culture away from depositions and trials and toward mediation, as well as what appears to be a hypersensitivity to cost, that have emerged among law firms and their clients that have led them to take a closer look at all their expenditures.

Those challenges are in addition to the reporting field’s specific issues, such as the rise of large national firms, as well as the rapid changes in technology that are making some long-time staples of court reporting, like the printed transcript, a thing of the past.

All this uncertainty may be causing some new reporters to wonder what they’ve gotten themselves into.

But Chuck Cady, RMR, head of Cady Reporting Services in Cleveland, Ohio, as well as current president of the National Network of Reporting Companies (NNRC), points out that for veteran reporters, a bit of uncertainty about the future is par for the course.

“Court reporters have been looking over their shoulders for more than three decades at technology coming down the pike that is going to impact them — and so far we’ve been able to stay right in the middle of the game, which is a good thing,” Cady says.

That doesn’t mean court reporters should be content with the status quo. “You keep doing what’s working and what’s benefiting people now, but with one eye on the horizon,” Cady says. “You also need to be willing to adapt to whatever changes are coming.”

That kind of “future proofing” can either be an easy fix or it can require a dramatic change in how you do business, depending on the size of your company and the market that you’re in. For instance, current NCRA President Nancy Varallo, RDR, CRR, notes that adding skills, such as realtime, has always been an effective way to improving your prospects.

“A lot of individual reporters feel they don’t want to add new skills now, because they may only have a few years left in the business,” explains Varallo, the head of The Varallo Group in Worcester, Mass. “But we feel reporters still need to look at ways to offer more so they can assure not just their own future but the long-term longevity of our business.” Along with realtime, Varallo suggests individual reporters and firms also look into new businesses, such as CART or captioning, or even check out the medical transcription business.

“I think diversification helps all court reporting firms. Even if you want to sell your firm, a buyer will want to see diversification,” Varallo says. “During my NCRA presidency, we have a new group, the New Markets Task Force, that will be looking at new opportunities.”

TO CUT OR NOT TO CUT

One of the big questions court reporting firms, especially small and mid-size companies, are facing is whether to respond to the belt-tightening taking place in the legal community by trimming their own expenses.

Rick Levy, RPR, the owner of Network Reporting in Miami, suggests firms must adjust to a new reality in the industry. “Copy sales are depreciating because people are becoming more cost conscious,” he says. “Court reporters have to respond by cutting out silly or wasteful expenses.”

Cady agrees but adds, “Balance should prevail, and you have to be careful not to cut overhead to the point where you’re also cutting quality, cutting service, and impacting the loyalty of your people.” Cady also notes that keeping up with the latest technology requires a financial investment that is not easy to eliminate.

“Technology, while it saves times and effort, also means you have to have an IT person, servers, and proprietary software licenses,” he says. “So you have to be careful how you save and how it impacts both the people and the industry you’re in.”

While he’s also an advocate of keeping a close eye on costs, Mason Farmani, COO and managing partner with Los Angelesbased Barkley Court Reporters, says firm owners can protect against the ups and downs of an uncertain future by acting a bit more like traditional businesses.

“Capital and figuring out how to make capital available for your business is really important, because during the times when no one is paying the bills and/or everyone is asking for a discount, you can still ride through it,” Farmani says. “That can be a line of credit or coming up with a way to streamline your invoicing to make things less costly and speed up payment.”

He notes that while law firms are increasingly aggressive in negotiating for discounts, reporting companies can be proactive in mitigating those demands.

“One way might be going to clients and getting them to buy electronic transcripts. Now you’re eliminating the cost of paper, you’re eliminating the cost of labor and mailing, and you can pass on those savings to your clients instead of giving them discounts,” Farmani says.

He adds that firms can also provide their best clients with value-adds. “Let them use your conference room without making them pay for it — or provide a concierge service for visiting attorneys, helping them find space for depositions or directions to and from the airport at no charge,” he explained. “That way, clients not only begin to look at you as a one-stop solution, but you’re also building trust since the law firms know they’re getting charged only for the work and there are no hidden fees.”

Jason Primuth, executive vice president and co-founder of NextGen Reporting, a company with locations in California, Delaware, New York, and Pennsylvania, took that idea a bit further, noting that the key to future proofing your business isn’t so much about cutting your own expenses, but rather about working with law firms and clients to help them control their own costs.

NextGen has been focused in recent years on providing technology and expertise to enable remote depositions. “We see such a staggering opportunity,” Primuth says. “The deposition industry is an estimated $4 billion business annually, but can you imagine how much is spent just traveling to those depositions, or the hotels or added billable time that’s incurred?”

Providing clients with the ability to do depositions remotely requires some financial investment, but Primuth suggests the real key is operational execution. “You need to manage a lot of details in order to be good at remote depositions,” he explains. He also says that while law firms have the need for remote depositions, they don’t necessarily have the awareness.

“Very few law firms come to us and say, ‘Hey, I need a remote deposition so I don’t have to travel.’ Instead, it’s a conversation like ‘I’ve got to fly to San Antonio next week, and I don’t want to.’ And then we can tell them that they don’t have to. All of that comes out of having a conversation with your clients where they can tell you the things they struggle with,” Primuth says.

“When people talk about reducing court reporting costs, they always focus on the page rate, thinking, ‘Oh, we’ll just charge less per page, or pay the court reporter less,’” Primuth continued. “But for most law firms, it’s not those direct costs, it’s the indirect costs that hurt. So we’re focused on helping the firms reduce some of their other overhead expenses rather than just cutting court reporting costs.”

DON’T JUST TRY; DIVERSIFY

One of the standard pieces of advice for any business owner is diversification, and for court reporting firms, that’s traditionally meant adding legal videography to a traditional deposition business. But you might be surprised at the variety of businesses that can be combined with court reporting.

Premier Real Time in Seattle, for example, is just one of three business units of ProMotion Holdings, a company owned and run by Ron Cook, CRR, RPR, CRR, and his business partner since 2007, attorney Steve Crandall.

ProMotion’s other two divisions are ProMotion Law, a trial presentation and consulting business, and ProMotion Arts, a full-fledged new media company offering everything from traditional video production to advertising, mobile software development, social media, and corporate communications.

“From our view, court reporting is just one way of creating content,” Crandall explains. “And we view ourselves as a content technology company that can include content capture, content creation, content curation, and content dissemination. For us, it’s all pretty integrated.”

One of Crandall’s clients is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who originally approached them simply to videotape one of their meetings.

“After talking, we were able to show them we could help them not just by capturing what they were doing at these convenings, but by helping them capture and manage a large spectrum of content of which video is just a portion,” Crandall says. “And by providing realtime text, we made every piece of that content searchable.”

Even for those court reporting companies that want to strictly focus on legal clients, Crandall says they can still work with law firms to provide Web-based videos on a host of consumer health and safety issues, for example, that end up serving as marketing vehicles for the attorneys.

“If you’re a court reporting agency and you think your only opportunity is on the deposition side, then you’re missing where the future is going,” Crandall says. “Because the future is going to be all these big corporations with corporate counsels who are all concerned with compliance and accessibility and how to communicate information to consumers and employees and how to minimize risk so that someone doesn’t come back later and say they didn’t communicate effectively.”

Crandall also notes that his firm’s businesses did not require a huge initial investment. “When we started out doing this, we were using our deposition cameras, so it doesn’t require anything new to provide a realtime feed. More than investing in new equipment, this requires a willingness to be constantly learning about what the new technology is — and then be able to articulate what that new technology can do for your clients,” he says.

David Tackla, CLVS, and vice president of Tackla & Associates Court Reporters based in Cleveland, Ohio, suggests that the ability to cross-sell clients on a host of video services has helped lessen some of the impact contracting has had on his firm’s bottom line.

“The way I get new business is through my video services,” Tackla explains. “If I get a request for a new service, our standard answer is, ‘Yes, we do it,’ and then we figure it out.”

For Tackla, that means services such as two-camera depositions (both cameras on the witness — one wide angle, one close up, with the image dissolving back and forth thanks to software-based video editing) as well as teleconferencing, phone depositions, and down-streaming depositions. “You have to have all types of services because if you don’t have it, they’ll find someone who does,” he says.

Tackla is also a big advocate of working jointly with other firms to take on the challenges court reporting will face in the coming years.

Tackla & Associates is a member of Table 8, a consortium of firm owners that works with each other both to stay ahead of business trends and to generate new business. “In Table 8, we all share technology, we all share ideas,” he says. “And if I have a client who needs a deposition in another city, I call up an owner personally and tell him or her that one of my best clients is to coming to your town and to take care of that client like he or she was your own.”

As president of the NNRC, Cady is also an advocate of the concept of strength in numbers, and he says that one key role his group plays is to help all its members prepare for the future.

“If you have people assigned the responsibility of looking to see what’s coming down the road, that helps everyone,” Cady says. “We have a standards and technology committee that looks for new things on the horizon and evaluates their feasibility.” While NCRA and many state court reporting associations are keeping abreast of new technology, Cady notes, “Having more ears to the ground is not a bad thing.”

Even with all the uncertainty ahead, most firm owners are fairly upbeat about the coming years. One reason is that one of the biggest potential technology threats to traditional reporting — the development of speech-to-text software that can actually work in a multi-voice courtroom or deposition setting — now looks increasingly unlikely for at least several more decades. “Am I optimistic? I would say yes — at least for the next 15 to 20 years,” Cady says. “Beyond that, we can’t really see.” Primuth adds, “I wouldn’t have started another court reporting company without having a lot of optimism about the industry.”

Varallo even suggests that the coming years could be a period of surprisingly solid growth for court reporters. “One huge new market that’s coming is the captioning of videos for businesses. What businesses are finding is that everything is going to video, but video alone is not searchable. So if you want your video to be search-engine optimized, you’re going to need to have text as well,” she says.

Accessing that new revenue stream — as well as any others where a searchable transcript is the desired end — likely will require some education of the business world first. “It’s up to us as reporters and firm owners to let companies know who we are and all we can do,” Varallo says.

Court reporting cited as a top-paying profession with no four-year degree required

The court reporting profession was recently showcased in an online article posted on the Internet career blog Careerdare.com, as a top-paying career that requires no college degree.

The article, which highlights five jobs that can pay as high as $100,000 a year without requiring a traditional four-year degree, noted that the court reporting profession is predicted to grow over the next several years and offers the potential for advancement especially for those who pursue certified training that allows them to assist the deaf and hard of hearing.

Recently, the court reporting profession has also been highlighted on the Internet career site Monster.com, Moneycrashers.com, and AOL Jobs.

Secrets of success – Joyce and Bob Zaro: Have desire to learn and be a team player

Joyce K. Zaro, RPR, and Bob A. Zaro, RPR, are owners of Zaro+Zaro Realtime Reporting, LLC, and they live in Tigard, Ore., a town nine miles southwest of downtown Portland. Bob and Joyce have worked together in every aspect of reporting. As official reporters in state court for 23 years, they sometimes shared trials, proofread for each other, and even shared an antique double-sided desk in their courthouse office. In 2002, when the state’s layoff of officials began, they jumped into the deposition world, with Bob working as an employee for an established reporting firm and Joyce working as an overflow deposition reporter for multiple firms, a CART reporter, and a broadcast captioner. Prior to working together, the two met at Bryan College in Los Angeles, Calif., where they completed their education in 1979.

What made you decide to start your business?

Bob: Ten years ago, owning a business was not at all in our long-range plan. We both were very happy in this new experience of working outside the courtroom, which gave us quite a renewed enthusiasm for reporting. It was refreshing to have our skill and experience appreciated after fighting so long to try to convince the court administration that we realtime reporters, an integral part of the court’s team, were more efficient and useful than electronic recording, despite the impending budget cuts.

Joyce: A great benefit of my being an overflow deposition reporter was getting to know and work with many reporters, from one-reporter firms to the large national companies, all of them run with their own style. I learned a great deal during those first five years A.C. — after the courthouse, as we now call it. I know now those experiences prepared me for what was in store next. In 2003, I was blessed to connect with a wonderful, respected reporter in Portland, and I become a regular sub for her. She had built her business over the past 20 years by giving personal, friendly service and providing an excellent product. The clients she attracted were similar in personality, and it was a delight to report for them. When she decided to retire in 2008, I was presented the amazing opportunity to take over her business.

As business owners, what have been the challenges? The rewards?

Joyce: Since Bob was still employed with the other firm, my first challenge was just hoping I could continue my mentor’s previous success. The learning curve was steep as I navigated scheduling, invoicing, and paying reporters who were now subbing for me, and general organization of the business. Bob finally joined me, and we started working together again, which is the biggest reward!

Bob: Working together again is indeed the best reward. It has also been rewarding to build our team with like-minded reporters and production help so we can provide the best service possible. One big challenge we face daily is trying to balance work and everyday life. Because we are so used to working on transcripts at all hours of the day and night, weekends, and holidays, there is not a nonreporter spouse who says, “Okay. Enough for now. Let’s go do something else.”

How important is networking to building a business and becoming successful? Can you provide some examples of good networking that could help court reporters?

Bob: Networking to find fellow reporters to help you is a crucial part of building your business. We know this because Joyce and I benefitted from it when we left the courthouse. If we hadn’t participated in our state association as official reporters, we would have missed out on meeting and forming great relationships with the deposition reporters in our state, who graciously helped us make a smooth transition out of court.

Joyce: Unless you happen to arrive at the same deposition, freelance reporters generally don’t see each other outside of state or national association conferences. As a result, relationships formed while we network and learn and share are so important, such as when we need help covering a job, an answer to a procedural question, or if a student needs mentoring. Our common goal is to provide excellent service to the attorneys, and if we can work together to accomplish that, it helps everyone’s business succeed.

How important are credentials and continued education in becoming successful?

Bob: Keeping current with technology is the cornerstone of being a successful reporter. We started by typing transcripts on onion skin paper with carbon paper for copies. We now can wirelessly transmit our transcripts to an attorney’s iPad. Without continuing education to keep us informed of new developments and helping us implement them, we would have been left behind. Learning never ends with this job, and the challenge keeps it interesting.

Joyce: Absolutely. And, like Bob said, the interesting challenge is what has kept me taking tests. I do not enjoy it, like some, but the personal realtime challenge I gave myself was enough to keep me going. I believe it makes a big difference when another reporter or a scheduling paralegal can see that you have met standard requirements for competency. Even though Oregon is not a state with mandatory certification, we encourage all new reporters to keep taking those tests until they pass them.

What few adjectives would you use to describe a successful court reporter?

Joyce: Someone with keen attention to detail, who is self-disciplined and motivated, with a desire to be a team player.

Bob: Possess good common sense; be professional, yet friendly; have a desire to learn; believe in service before self.

Any final comments on getting where you are today?

We will be forever grateful to Nancy Patterson and our dedicated teachers who poured their experience and knowledge into us to prepare us so well.

 Do you want to nominate someone for the “Secrets of Success” series? Send your pick into the JCR’s Writer/Editor, Linda Smolkin, at lsmolkin@ncra.org.

Careers in Court Reporting website

Careers in Court Reporting
In recent months, NCRA has launched a new website: CareersinCourtReporting.com. On this site, you’ll find information about the court reporting field as a career option.

The Start Here section includes FAQs and career choices within the profession. Website visitors can learn more about what’s entailed if they choose a career as a court reporter, freelance reporter, or captioner. The site also provides a list of court reporting programs organized by state, along with their websites, for additional information. There are also links to educational videos from professional court reporters, including a series called “What’s in my bag?”

The website is a great resource for high school and college students, as well as those who are looking for a career change. If you’re already in the court reporting profession and volunteer your time at school or job fairs, consider introducing the site as a resource. Mentioning the website allows people to learn even more when they have time to research the field. If you have a website or LinkedIn profile, consider adding a link to help prospective students and future court reporters find more information about the profession.

Remember the time when you wanted to join the profession? What were your interests? Your traits? Your skills and strengths? If you meet someone who has a similar background or interests, tell them about your profession and about our site at www.careersincourtreporting.com.