2018 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference heads to Florida

Registration is now open for the 2018 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference being held Jan. 28-30 at the Don CeSar Hotel in St. Pete Beach, Fla. Participants in the 2018 event can expect to connect, learn, and get energized as they attend insightful educational sessions and valuable networking events alongside other industry leaders.

Members are urged to register for the conference soon to take advantage of a discount rate being offered through Dec. 15. Rates for the conference registration will increase by $100 beginning Dec. 16. Special hotel rates for the event will also expire on Jan. 5, 2018.

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

Since August 2006, Scott has worked with individuals and corporate clients to use internet marketing strategies like SEO, local search, social media, pay-per-click, and more. His clients have included IBM, American Express, Reader’s Digest, and Revlon.

Steve Scott will present on search engine optimization strategies

“During my career I’ve developed websites and search engine optimization programs for clients, both large and small. Helping business owners worldwide create a powerful online presence for their brands is my life’s work,” he said. “As an SEO industry veteran with a history in computer training dating back to 1990, I’ve trained and consulted with Fortune 1000 companies and have logged nearly 4,000+ hours in a hands-on training environment.”

According to Cregg Seymour, Chair of NCRA’s Education Content Committee for the NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference, attending the event will help firm owners generate new business.

“Through the premier networking at Firm Owners in 2017, we have created new relationships and strengthened existing ones. We continue to enjoy new or increased business that has benefited both our network partner firms and us,” added Seymour, who also serves as president of CRC Salomon, a court reporting firm in Baltimore, Md.

For more information and to register for the host hotel and conference, visit NCRA.org/FirmOwners.

First round of speakers announced for NCRA’s 2017 elite event

firm-owners-2015-speakerNCRA has announced that Susan Solovic, an award-winning serial entrepreneur and best-selling author, will be one of several dynamic speakers lined up to address attendees at the 2017 NCRA Firm Owners Executives Conference. The event is taking place Feb. 12-14 at the beautiful Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson, Ariz. Event and hotel registration is now open for this one-of-a-kind luxury resort set against the backdrop of the Catalina mountain range.

An Internet pioneer, Solovic served as CEO and co-founder of one of the first video-based Internet sites, a company she grew from its infancy to a million-dollar-plus entity. She is also a former small business contributor for ABC News and has hosted the syndicated radio program It’s Your Biz. She appears regularly as a small business expert on Fox Business, Fox News, the Wall Street Journal’s “Lunch Break,” MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, and other stations across the country.

She has also hosted her own PBS special called Reinvent Yourself Now: Become Self-Reliant in an Unpredictable World. Solovic is also a featured blogger on numerous sites, including Constant Contact, Entrepreneur, AT&T Business Circle, FoxBusiness.com, MasterCard, Intuit, The Pulse of IT (HP), and Samsung.

The 2017 Firm Owners Executive Conference also promises more networking opportunities, including a special networking event that will be hosted by Laurie Forster. Forster is one of America’s leading wine experts and author of the award-winning book The Sipping Point: A Crash Course in Wine. Forster has been featured in dozens of publications and has appeared on Dr. Oz., Fox Business, ABC News, and other outlets. She also hosts her own show called The Sipping Point, where she explores recipes, wines, food, travel and more.

Attendees can also take advantage of a special hotel rate that includes waived resort fees on self and valet parking as well as fitness center access, classes like yoga, and tennis court rentals. Other amenities include a free shuttle service to Sabino Canyon as well as discounts on golfing, spa facilities, and more.

Take advantage of the special extended hotel rates to plan a getaway at this beautiful resort. The special Firm Owners Executive Conference rates will be available to registrants for three days prior and three days after the actual event date. For more information or to register for NCRA’s most elite event of the year, visit NCRA.org/FirmOwners.

Firm Owners Executive Conference attendees take home new ideas, fresh approaches to business

The 2016 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference, held April 17-19 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, brought together more than 140 firm owners seeking networking opportunities and insights to the latest business trends.

Highlighting the schedule at this year’s event were two keynote speakers who each led two-part sessions. The first keynote speaker, Jane Southren, a former commercial litigator turned coach and collaborator from Toronto, Ontario, shared insights with attendees about recognizing and cultivating necessary relationships to fuel business successes. She also addressed the differences between transactional relationships versus loyal relationships, how to identify them, and how to build more loyal relationships.

The second keynote presenter, Ann Gomez, a productivity consultant and founder of Clear Concept Inc., Toronto, Ontario, addressed how business owners can improve time management by controlling chaos in their lives, planning priorities, and understanding how to own their time. She also introduced attendees to the key work habits needed to thrive in today’s busy environment and enable achieving more with less effort.

Connecting with old friends and meeting new ones, all while learning new and exciting approaches to business practices, are the major benefits of attending the NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference, according to Kathy May, RPR, owner of Alpha Reporting, which has offices in Memphis, Nashville, and Jackson, Tenn., as well as Tupelo, Miss.

“I have attended every Firm Owners Executive Conference since its inception. With each conference I am able to walk away with a new idea, a new opportunity, and above all a fresh approach,” notes May, whose firm provides services nationwide.

Other sessions on the schedule included a panel discussion about the findings of NCRA’s latest State of the Industry Survey report, led by NCRA President Steve Zinone, RPR; Kim Neeson, RPR, CRR, CRC, Chair of the Association’s Firm Owners Committee; and Mike Nelson, CAE, CEO and Executive Director of NCRA, as well as a two-part session led by Jeanne Leonard, CAE, NCRA’s Senior Director of Marketing, Membership & Communications, about market trends. The event also included a number of receptions that provided networking opportunities to attendees.

“In order to grow your business, being a part of something that is bigger than you, while at the same time the same as you, puts you on a path of growth and, with growth, success,” said May. “The reporters and firm owners attending the conference share something bigger, something the same, and they all walk away with renewed potential for growth and success.”

The National Court Reporters Foundation also recognized five new 2016 Angel donors, who pledged during the Firm Owners Executive Conference:

  • Michael A. Bouley, RDR, Bouley & Schippers, Tucson, Ariz.
  • Gail Inghram Verbano, RDR, CRR, Boothwyn, Pa.
  • Guy J. Renzi & Associates, Hamilton Township, N.J.
  • YesLaw, Santa Clara, Calif.
  • Visual Discovery, Inc., Chula Vista, Calif.

Funds raised through the Angels Program support NCRF’s initiatives, including scholarships and grants, the Oral Histories Program, and the Legal Education Program.

The 2017 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference is scheduled for next spring at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson, Ariz.

See photos from the 2016 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference here.

Discounted hotel rates extended for NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference

2016 FirmOwners_Puerto Rico_smNCRA has announced that the deadline for the discounted rates for hotel accommodations at the Caribe Hilton, San Juan, Puerto Rico, the site of the 2016 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference being held April 17-19, has been extended to April 1.

In addition to ample networking sessions, informative presentations, and a backdrop of beautiful ocean views, attendees at this year’s event will also have the opportunity to meet face to face with some of the leading vendors in the industry.

Sponsors and vendors that will be represented at this year’s event include:

  • Allen, Maxwell & Silver, Inc., which offers commercial collections and recovery, accounts receivable management, and third-party debt collecting services;
  • Courtroom Connect, which offers technology solutions and online platforms for legal and financial professionals. The company also owns the Courtroom View Network and Remote Counsel brands;
  • DepositionsConferencing.com, which provides the legal court reporting industry with services such as audio conferencing that can be recorded to create a legal record of depositions, and more;
  • Pengad, Inc., which manufactures and provides legal supplies to the business community;
  • Realtime Learning Systems/Realtime Coach, which combines the latest technologies to deliver a comprehensive learning experience for court reporting, captioning, and CART;
  • Repagencyworks Court Reporting Software, which offers a complete Web-based application designed especially for the management of court reporting agencies;
  • Thomson Reuters, which offers an array of legal solutions that integrate content, expertise, and technologies for court reporting firms;
  • Visual Discovery, Inc., which offers an array of legal videography and trial presentation services; and
  • YesLaw, which provides an array of legal services including legal videography and transcription services.

Other highlights on this year’s schedule include an opening networking reception followed by a two-part keynote speech, the first of which is presented by Jane Southren, a former commercial litigator turned coach from Toronto, Ontario, on Monday morning. Southren will share insights with attendees about recognizing and cultivating the relationships firm owners need to fuel their business successes. Southern will also explore the differences between transactional relationships versus loyal relationships, how to identify them, and how to build more loyal relationships.

Following the keynote, attendees will participate in a panel discussion about the findings of NCRA’s latest State of the Industry Survey report, led by NCRA President Steve Zinone, RPR; Kim Neeson, RPR, CRR, CRC, Chair of the Association’s Firm Owners Committee; and Mike Nelson, CAE, CEO & Executive Director of NCRA. The day will wrap up with another networking session in the afternoon, followed by special reception at El Livin, a unique restaurant located in the heart of the historic Luis Muñoz Rivera Park. The networking reception is being hosted by Verbatim Reporting, based in San Juan.

Tuesday’s schedule includes another two-part presentation by a second keynote speaker Ann Gomez, a productivity consultant and founder of Clear Concept Inc., in Toronto, Ontario. Gomez will address how business owners can improve time management by controlling chaos in their lives, planning priorities, and understanding how to own their time. She will also introduce attendees to the key work habits needed to thrive in today’s busy environment and enable achieving more with less effort.

Following Gomez’s presentation will be a two-part session led by Jeanne Leonard, CAE, NCRA’s Senior Director of Marketing, Membership & Communications, which will include a scavenger hunt.

A final closing reception will provide attendees with yet another networking opportunity to secure new connections and catch up with old friends.

This year’s event marks the first time NCRA is traveling to the Caribbean, as well as the first time the schedule will feature two keynote speakers who will address the tough issues of relationship-building and time management.

The 2016 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference, which is designed exclusively for owners and managers of court reporting and captioning firms, is considered the Association’s most prestigious event.

Hotel registration is available online at NCRA.org/forsv; by phone at 787-721-0303, ext. 2156, or 800-468-8585; or by email at reservations.caribe@hilton.com. If booking via phone or email, please refer to group code NCRA16 to secure the discounted rate. This special rate expires April 1. Please be advised that a credit card is required to guarantee room reservations.

For more information, the full schedule, and registration information for the 2016 Firm Owners Executive Conference, visit NCRA.org/FirmOwners.

Announcing the winners of the JCR Awards

The JCR Awards were created as a way to highlight the innovative and forward-thinking practices of NCRA members and to recognize how court reporters, captioners, and legal videographers are leading the profession.

These individuals and organizations are being recognized as being the best-in-class for the noted categories.

Wendy Evangelista, Claudia Booton, Judy Stevens, Rachel Fox and Chandra Monis.

From left to right: Wendy Evangelista, Claudia Booton (sitting), Judy Stevens, Rachel Fox, and Chandra Monis.

Leadership and team-building

Judy Stevens, RPR, CMRS, CPE

Lakewood, Colo.

Judy Stevens, who owns Stevens-Koenig Reporting, was nominated by several reporters and staff members, who shared stories of her leadership and drive. “I’m one of four reporters who are tag-teaming an unusual trial case. Judy’s help in guiding me through what is outside of my comfort zone is quite reassuring,” wrote Becky Collings, RPR. “I recently passed the Colorado Realtime Certification test, and Judy is getting me ready to start that next journey of my career.” Several of the nominations also spoke about the meetings, often held at her home, where reporters can get together to socialize and ex- change steno briefs. Stevens has also brought in realtime trainers or motivational speakers for her staff and reporters for these gatherings, which have built a strong support network for everyone.

Debbie Weaver receiving the 2015 Spirit of Justice Award

Debbie Weaver receiving the 2015 Spirit of Justice Award

Community outreach

Midwest Litigation Services

St. Louis, Mo.

Debbie Weaver of Midwest Litigation Services has been actively involved in supporting equal access to justice through a number of pro bono organizations in St. Louis. One of the organizations the company supports is Let’s Start, a program dedicated to assisting women and their children in the transition from prison life to society. The company supports this group by volunteering at annual fundraisers and supplying packed lunches for a bus ride to take the children to the local prison to visit their mothers. In addition, the company has participated with the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis in Read Across America, a literacy program; Motion for Kids, a party thrown for children who have parents affected by the criminal justice system; and other events.

White Coat Captioning screen from !!Con  2015.

White Coat Captioning screen from !!Con 2015.

Service in a nonlegal setting

White Coat Captioning

Saint Albans, Vt.

White Coat Captioning has been expanding its business to captioning several technical conferences, including a last-minute conference where the company replaced a group that was providing “nonsensical captions.” “People were very unhappy with the captions,” wrote Mirabai

Knight, RDR, CRR, CRC, who nominated the company (for which she works). Knight said that the company was able to completely turn around the comments. “As soon as we came on board, the entire social media reception to the captioning had completely changed. People started talking about how helpful the captions were and how impressed they were with the quality and accuracy of the captions, even saying that they wanted captioning at all their conferences in the future! It was a total reversal of the previous reception.”

Knight went on to explain that the company has been focused on the conference captioning work because it hopes to change the status quo, where the only way to get captioning was for a person who was deaf or hard of hearing to invoke their ADA rights. “One in seven people has hearing loss,” notes Knight, “so in an audience of 100 people, at least 14 will benefit from captioning.” White Coat Captioning seeks to make captioned conferences the new standard for conferences.

Christine Phipps caught in a relaxed moment during the workday.

Christine Phipps caught in a relaxed moment during the workday.

Individual member

Christine Phipps, RDR

North Palm Beach, Fla.

Categories recognized: Leadership and team-building, marketing and customer service, use of technology, community outreach

Dedicated. Hard-working. Determined. Tech- savvy. These are the words used to describe Christine Phipps by those who nominated her. “Christine Phipps is the type of person who will go out of her way,” wrote Jacqueline Andujar in her nomination. It was what inspired Andujar to go into business with Phipps, back when the company was run out of a bedroom in Phipps’ house. “Christine’s main goal is always to make her clients happy. She takes the time to listen and care.”

“Her passion is so contagious!” wrote Sherry Laurino in her nomination of Phipps. Laurino went on to say that it was Phipps who inspired her own entrepreneurial skills. “No one has more passion and love for court reporting and is committed to the growth and longevity of this industry,” Laurino said.

When she is preparing to meet a new client and show what her company has to offer, Phipps will go above and beyond to make sure the client understands and is satisfied. Even with other reporters, Phipps takes the time to update them with anything new and explains it. In addition, she has taken the time to write several articles on technology for the profession to make sure that everyone is aware of the latest trends and news.

“She is dedicated to teaching while not forgetting where she came from,” wrote Laurino. One of Phipps’ passions has been to help students of the profession and new profession. She led a charge to provide a number of students with memberships to NCRA in 2015 with posts about “Paying it forward” to the next generation, as well as donating several of the memberships herself.

“As her employee now, I have nothing but admiration and respect for her. She has been nothing but supportive, respectful, loyal, open-minded, and just an amazing person to work for,” said Andujar.

Honorable mentions

The Varallo Group

Worcester, Mass.

Categories recognized: Leadership and team-building

During 2015, the Varallo Group offered its employees a fitness program, which gave them the opportunity to establish health goals and meet and work with a personal trainer. The program was a huge success and produced immediate results that were clearly measurable, including weight loss and decreased absenteeism. An added benefit was that the employees grew closer through their shared experiences; for example, several employees ran together in their first-ever 5k race.

Cuyahoga Community College

Cuyahoga, Ohio

Categories recognized: Use of technology

The nomination for Cuyahoga Community College noted its use of technology to enhance students’ academic success, realtime writing achievement, and program satisfaction. From attending an introductory webinar before deciding to sign up for the program to its Blackboard Learning Management System, from using computer-compatible steno machines from the first day of class to accessing drills through Realtime Coach, the court reporting and captioning program uses technology to increase student satisfaction and eventual success.

Paradigm Reporting & Captioning

Minneapolis, Minn.

Categories recognized: Community outreach

Paradigm Reporting & Captioning donates to many local organizations, particularly legal associations and nonprofits that support the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. The Paradigm CART Captioning division provides many hours of pro bono services, including, in September, the captioning for the local Walk4Hearing that benefited the Hearing Loss Association of America. In addition, the company assembled 22 walkers to participate as “Team Paradigm.”

Caption First

Monument, Colo.

Categories recognized: Service in a nonlegal setting

Caption First, a company that offers remote and on-site captioning in a secure environment, established a call center that would offer stenographic relay services to people with hearing loss. The company used this as both a way to hire new stenographic professionals to hone their skills and a way to demonstrate stenographic skills to a broad audience. “It was a ‘court reporting continuum’ as it allowed new folks to work and provided relief to those who are winding down and don’t want to produce transcripts,” wrote Lesia Mervin, RMR, CRR, in her nomination. “And it, of course, highlighted realtime skills — always realtime skills.”

Cuyahoga Community College in Parma, Ohio

Cuyahoga Community College in Parma, Ohio

Schools: Leadership and team-building

Kelly Moranz, CRI

Cleveland, Ohio

At the Cuyahoga Community College in Parma, Ohio, Kelly Moranz spearheaded a mentoring program among all of the students, as well as with professionals. In addition, Moranz has supported the students in creating a new Captioning & Court Reporting Club. The club organized a Write-A-Thon (where all students had sponsors donate money as they wrote for five hours) and a bake sale. As Kristina Carmody wrote in her nomination, Moranz “generously donated and contributed time, money, and service to our fundraiser and even stayed the entire time and helped sell the baked goods while we wrote.”

Moranz is also in charge of recruiting new students for the program. Among the places that the school presents is a program called Women in Transition, which addresses women changing occupations or getting second careers later in life.

Dr. Mary Entz, Provost, DMACC-Newton holds a press conference to announce new court reporting program

Dr. Mary Entz, Provost, DMACC-Newton holds a press conference to announce new court reporting program

Special collaboration

DMACC and the Iowa Court Reporters Association

When Iowa court reporters received the news that AIB College of Business, which had been in place since the 1930s, would phase out the court reporting and captioning programs, the Iowa Court Reporters Association (ICRA) immediately went to work. The ICRA Board of Directors engaged Cathy Penniston, RPR, CRI, to investigate the matter, compile a report on successful court reporting schools throughout the country, and suggest a school in Iowa that could teach court reporting.

Penniston recommended contacting Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC), a well-established Iowa community college, to determine if it could create a court reporting program. When Stephanie Early, RDR, ICRA’s president at the time, and Bill Wimmer, its legislative representative, approached the school’s officials, they assured the school that ICRA was fully committed to assisting with the implementation of a court reporting program at DMACC.

DMACC's 2015 incoming theory students

DMACC’s 2015 incoming theory students

The DMACC school was interested in the concept and contacted other community colleges that offered court reporting programs. They also gathered more information about the curriculum and endorsements that would be needed to put such a program in place. In February 2014, the DMACC Board of Directors and the Iowa Department of Education approved the court reporting program. Then, in March, the DMACC Newton campus hosted a press conference to make the announcement about the new program: “DMACC has been working with the Iowa Court Reporters Association for more than a year to develop the curriculum, hire the faculty, and work out other details related to starting a new program.”

In 2014, Dr. Patricia Ziegler, CRI, CPE, was hired as a professor and program chair for DMACC’s new court reporting program, and in September of that year, eight students began classes at the Newton campus.

Through 2014-15, Iowa court reporters and AIB’s former vice president of admissions actively promoted the new program. More than 300 visits were made to Iowa high schools, career fairs, libraries, mock trials, and the Iowa State Fair. Through the Adopt-a- County project, Iowa court reporters marketed the profession and this new program in 26 of 99 Iowa counties. In addition, ICRA sponsored a student scholarship, and individual ICRA members mentored individual students. And in September 2015, a new class of 27 students enrolled.

The program is a success story stemming from the commitment and dedication of many, from the Iowa Court Reporters Association to the new DMACC court reporting program staff. As Penniston wrote in her nomination, “Because of the efforts of the Iowa Court Reporters Association and the hard work of everyone involved, court reporting education is alive and well in Iowa!”

Next JCR Awards

Still time to register for Firm Owners Executive Conference in Puerto Rico

2016 FirmOwners_Puerto Rico_smAttendees at the 2016 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference being held April 17-19 at the Caribe Hilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico, are invited to attend a special networking reception being held April 18 from 6:30-10:30 p.m., at El Livin, a unique restaurant located in the heart of the historic Luis Muñoz Rivera Park. The networking reception is being hosted by Verbatim Reporting, based in San Juan.

“Puerto Ricans in general are very gregarious people. We open our hearts and our homes to all,” said Elsie M. Parra, managing member of Verbatim Reporting. “When we knew NCRA was going to have its Firm Owners and Executives Conference here, our first thought was to welcome them with an activity. After all, they are coming to our island.”

Parra said she and other staff from Verbatim Reporting are registered to attend the conference, and they are looking forward to meeting other firm owners and increasing their knowledge of the business trends driving today’s court reporting and captioning firms.

According to Parra, El Livin sits above the park and offers views of both the park and ocean, backed by a décor that infuses a hint of the times of clandestine operations from the 1920s Prohibition Era to the sleek retro styles of the 1960s.

Attendees at the 2016 Firm Owners Executive Conference will enjoy an array of networking opportunities, the first of which kicks off at an opening reception on the evening of April 17. On Monday morning, attendees will hear a two-part keynote speech presented by Jane Southren, the first of two keynote speakers presenting at the event. Southren, a former commercial litigator turned coach and collaborator for the attorneys at her law firm, Lerners LLP, Toronto, Ontario, will share insights with attendees about recognizing and cultivating the relationships firm owners need to fuel their business successes. Her keynote address will explore the differences between transactional relationships versus loyal relationships, how to identify them, and how to build more loyal relationships.

Other sessions during the first day of the conference will include a panel discussion about the findings of NCRA’s latest State of the Industry Survey report, led by NCRA President Steve Zinone, RPR; Kim Neeson, RPR, CRR, CRC, Chair of the Association’s Firm Owners Committee; and Mike Nelson, CAE, CEO & Executive Director of NCRA. The day will wrap up with another networking session in the afternoon.

Tuesday’s schedule includes a two-part presentation by a second keynote speaker Ann Gomez, a productivity consultant and founder of Clear Concept Inc., Toronto, Ontario. She will take the stage and address how business owners can improve time management by controlling chaos in their lives, planning priorities, and understanding how to own their time. Her presentation will introduce attendees to the key work habits needed to thrive in today’s busy environment and enable achieving more with less effort.

The schedule for the day also includes additional networking sessions, as well as a two-part session led by Jeanne Leonard, CAE, NCRA’s Senior Director of Marketing, Membership & Communications, which will include a scavenger hunt.

Finally, a closing reception will provide another networking opportunity where attendees will be able to secure new connections and catch up with old friends.

This year’s event marks the first time NCRA is traveling to the Caribbean, as well as the first time the schedule will feature two keynote speakers who will address the tough issues of relationship-building and time management.

The 2016 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference, which is designed exclusively for owners and managers of court reporting and captioning firms, is considered the Association’s most prestigious event.

A special hotel rate of $179 per night plus taxes and fees for NCRA members expires March 25, and rooms are filling up fast. With an easy flight from the mainland and no passport required, San Juan promises attendees the perfect opportunity to shake the winter blues and return home motivated to build their business in the coming year.

Hotel registration is available online at NCRA.org/forsv; by phone at 787-721-0303, ext. 2156, or 800-468-8585; or by email at reservations.caribe@hilton.com. If booking via phone or email, please refer to group code NCRA16 to secure the discounted rate. Please be advised that a credit card is required to guarantee room reservations.

For more information, the full schedule, and registration information for the 2016 Firm Owners Executive Conference, visit NCRA.org/FirmOwners.

More information about Ann Gomez can be found at clearconceptinc.ca. More information about Jane Southren can be found at southren.ca.

Save the date for great NCRA learning opportunities

calendar

Photo by: Dafne Cholet

NCRA staff members are planning great ways for members to earn CEUs this year. NCRA members can also earn CEUs by passing the skills or written portion of certain tests, such as the RMR, RDR, CRR, or CLVS exams. Here is a short selection of dates and events (dates are subject to change).

Jan. 31             Cycle extension deadline

March 11-13   CLVS Seminar and CLVS production skills test, Reston, Va.

March 19-20   NCRA Board of Directors Meeting, Reston, Va.

March 20-22   2016 NCRA Legislative Boot Camp, Reston, Va.

April 4-20        RPR, RDR, CRC, and CLVS written knowledge test dates

April 17-19      2016 Firm Owners Executive Conference, San Juan, P.R.

July 9-21          RPR and CLVS written knowledge test dates

Aug. 4-7           2016 NCRA Convention & Expo, Chicago, Ill. (includes the Legal Video Conference, the CRC Workshop, and the National Speed and Realtime Contests)

Sept. 30           Submission deadline for CEUs and PDCs for members with a 9/30/16 cycle ending

Oct. 7-19         RPR, RDR, CRC, and CLVS written knowledge tests

Court Reporting & Captioning Week (Feb. 14-20), Memorial  Day (May 30), and Veterans Day (Nov. 11) are also all good opportunities to schedule Veterans History Project Days to earn PDCs. And don’t forget that online skills testing is available year round.

In addition, NCRA is planning webinars throughout the year, which will be announced in the JCR Weekly and on NCRA social media as they are available. Watch for more information in the JCR, the JCR Weekly, and on TheJCR.com for registration, deadlines, and other ideas to earn continuing education.

Making connections in your local community

communityconnections_Center for Neighborhood Technology

Photo by Center for Neighborhood Technology

Being involved in local business organizations opens doors for a few court reporting firms. In a previous article about business resources, several firm owners noted that being involved in their local bar and paralegal associations led to making connections for the business.

“We generally network with the lawyers, paralegals and legal secretaries groups in a few different counties, as well as support their seminars and conferences,” said Jan Schmitt, RPR, of Schmitt Reporting & Video, dually based in Vancouver, Wash., and Portland, Ore. “We also support and attend the local legal clinic functions. Personally, I am involved in our community, but I don’t consider that a part of my job, just something I enjoy doing.”

Several others noted other organizations that also helped NCRA members make connections with other local businesspeople.

“One of the best organizations I’ve joined in the past several years in terms of introductions to lawyers and local business executives is Rotary Club International,” says Jan Ballman, RPR, CMRS, of Paradigm Reporting & Captioning of Minneapolis, Minn. Rotary clubs now offer both brick-and-mortar groupings and e-clubs.

Another potential source of local connections is the local Chamber of Commerce. “I am a member of the Greater Carlisle Area Chamber of Commerce, Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC, and Better Business Bureau. I serve as a committee member on the Legislative Affairs Committee for the Greater Carlisle Area Chamber of Commerce and enjoy planning and participating in their many events,” said Linda Larson, RPR, CRI, who owns Premier Reporting in Carlisle and Harrisburg, Pa. Some local chamber of commerce events also offer support for small businesses.

NCRA member ranked in Inc. 5000 list for second consecutive year

Phipps Reporting, Inc., a court reporting firm in West Palm Beach, Fla., has been ranked by Inc. magazine as number 1751 in its 34th annual Inc. 5000, an exclusive ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies. The average company on the list achieved a three-year growth of 490 percent.

“Achieving this ranking a second year in a row, knowing that only a tiny fraction of the nation’s companies have demonstrated such remarkably consistent high growth, truly puts us among rarefied companies. Particularly in the difficult economic environment of the past few years, this recognition is acknowledgement that dreams truly can become reality,” said Christine Phipps, CEO of the company. Phipps attributes her company’s placement on the list to an aggressive growth strategy over the past 12 months, which has included an expansion of its Orlando presence.

See the list.

Your other clients

Proof 33New freelancer survey provides insight to what motivates and repels talented reporters.

By Christina Lewellen

Court reporting and captioning firms can only succeed if they have good relationships with their clients. The firms grow and thrive as lawyers, paralegals, court administrators, corporations, educational institutions, and other clients pick up the phone and schedule trusted court reporters and captioners. Successful firms market their services to existing and potential clients and constantly look for ways to add value to their list of offerings.

All of this sounds familiar, yes?

Proof 35But what about firms’ other clients? Most firms in the industry probably don’t spend too much time looking for ways to market to and serve the people who are arguably the most valuable clients to the success of their businesses: the court reporters who actually execute the jobs on the schedule. With court reporters retiring in droves and fewer new reporters entering the profession, at least in the short term, firms in some areas of the country are competing for the best court reporters in the marketplace. This scenario is likely to be further exacerbated in the coming years as the court reporter shortage deepens across the United States, according to the 2013-14 Industry Outlook Report by Ducker Worldwide. If court reporting and captioning firms are not treating their freelancers as customers, they will find that their best reporters are increasingly turning to other firms for their assignments, according to a new study NCRA conducted of court reporters who work primarily as freelancers. Waning are the days when freelancers will stand in the proverbial line with their hands out, happy to accept any job assignment on the schedule. Talented, credentialed reporters are being more selective about the work they take, and they aren’t interested in having professional relationships with firms that treat them as just another reporter on the roster.

“A firm that is not reporter-owned, has a questionable reputation, a history of poor payment, and/or unfair distribution of jobs would prevent me from taking a job with a particular firm,” says one anonymous respondent.

Another freelancer notes, “If other reporters had divulged that a particular firm lacked integrity in matters of finances, truthfulness, [or] unfair treatment of reporters, I would not tolerate this.”

Certainly, the relationship between a firm and its stable of freelancers is healthiest when it’s a win-win-win for the company, the court reporter, and the client requiring stenographic court reporting services. But the NCRA Freelancer Survey points to some forward-looking indicators that demonstrate why firm owners need to prioritize the needs of freelancers for the long-term health and success of their businesses.

Proof 36BY THE NUMBERS

NCRA surveyed freelance reporters in December 2014, drawing approximately 1,200 participants. While nearly all respondents indicated working in legal depositions and proceedings, participants also work as freelancers in courtrooms and in medical, educational, community, religious, and corporate settings. Approximately 10 percent of respondents reported working directly with end users and therefore their responses were not included in the remainder of the survey that was specific to freelancers. Of the remaining freelancers who accept work from court reporting firms rather than end users, 39 percent of participants work with only one firm with few exceptions; 28 percent work with two, three, or four firms; and 23 percent of respondents work with five or more firms.

BUSINESS CHALLENGES

In aggregate, freelancers reported time management regarding maintaining a work/life balance as their biggest business challenge (average ranking was 3.12 out of 5 with a ranking of 5 representing a major challenge and 1 representing little or no challenge), followed by finding quality work (with an average ranking of 2.97), and keeping up with technology (with an average ranking of 2.8). Lower on the business challenges scale was learning about business practices (average ranking 2.46) and keeping skills fresh (average ranking 2.5).

While these average rankings demonstrate overall sentiment among freelancers, the results are much more telling when they are divided into various levels of experience. Understanding how these challenges are viewed by reporters with varying experience levels can serve firm owners and managers as they strive to attract the most talented professionals in the market. For example, those who are new to the profession, with less than 10 years of experience, offered different responses to which business challenges were more difficult than those who have been in the profession longer.

Not surprisingly, those who have just entered the profession, that is, people who indicated that they have less than five years of experience, are significantly more likely to struggle with learning about business practices such as filing income taxes, obtaining health insurance, and the general business issues that come with working as a freelancer. In fact, based on the feedback from respondents, getting a solid handle on business practices not specific to the field of court reporting is a sizeable business challenge for as long as 10 years after graduating. After those early years out of school, more experienced court reporters demonstrate a higher level of comfort with the business practices surrounding working as a freelancer in the field.

“Business practices ought to have been more a part of the curriculum in the program,” says one freelancer.

Even though this challenge ranks high among freelancers overall, the survey shows that early reporters struggle to a greater degree than experienced reporters with striking an appropriate work/life balance. The survey responses show that as reporters gain more experience over the tenure of their careers, they are less concerned with work/life balance issues as an overall business challenge. While this finding could point to reporters struggling to hit their stride in terms of efficiency on the job, there are also likely personal factors at play such as raising young children or other personal obligations.

For firm owners, being aware of this dynamic may influence some of the professional development opportunities they provide or encourage for those who have been working in the profession for less than 10 years. Helping less experienced freelancers get a grasp on business fundamentals and providing techniques for increasing efficiencies both on and off the job could address these pressing concerns for this segment of reporters. Serving in a mentoring capacity and addressing these challenges may also lead to less experienced reporters feeling a particular affinity for the firms that support them in this way.

“We are a teaching agency, independently owned, and they receive a lot of support to grow professionally,” says Debra A. Levinson, RMR, CRR, CMRS, who serves as CEO of DALCO Reporting, Inc., a firm based in White Plains, N.Y. “Reporters, both new and even experienced, have much to learn and are not guided enough to reach their potential talent.”

Turning to mid-career reporters, the most significant business challenges shift to issues such as getting paid in a timely manner and finding work that aligns with their busy schedules. Mid-career reporters are likely juggling personal concerns such as maintaining a household, raising children, and perhaps caring for aging parents, which could result in the weighted responses in these areas. Mid-career reporters place a higher emphasis on finding steady work and making sure this work fits into their schedules, and, further, firms that pay in a timely fashion are likely to find loyal reporters in the mid-career segment.

Proof 37_1INCOME STATEMENTS

Among the most interesting findings of the survey was new information regarding freelancers’ income. Data from all respondents indicate that 8 percent of freelancers earn less than $30,000; 22 percent earn between $30,000 and $50,000; 27 percent earn between $50,000 and $75,000; 20 percent earn between $75,000 and $100,000; 12 percent earn between $100,000 and $125,000; and 11 percent earn more than $125,000 (percentages were rounded). Boiled down to its most basic findings, about three-quarters of the freelance segment earn less than six figures and less than one-quarter of freelancers earn more than $100,000 annually.

Of particular note is the impact that certification has on personal annual income. In general, freelancers who earn more than $100,000 annually represent approximately 23 percent of the population. However, among those who hold Registered Professional Reporter certification, almost 30 percent earn more than $100,000 per year. Of those who hold no certifications, whether issued by a state or a national organization, only 9 percent of respondents earn $100,000 or more per year. Simply put, according to the survey, freelancers make more money if they are certified.

Another way to look at the certified vs. noncertified numbers is where the majority of respondents fall in terms of their income brackets. Among noncertified reporters, more than 60 percent of reporters fall into an income range of $30,000 to $75,000. Among reporters who hold RPR certification, more than 60 percent of respondents fall into the ranges encompassing $50,000 to $125,000. The majority of RPRs report higher income ranges than the majority of noncertified participants, who report lower annual incomes.

As the chart below shows, the more specialized a freelancer’s certifications, the more likely he or she is to fall into a higher income bracket. Compared to RPRs, those who hold RMR, RDR, or CRR certifications are more likely to indicate higher levels of annual income.

Proof 37_2FREELANCER SENTIMENT TOWARD FIRMS

Though market conditions can vary by region, the 2013-14 Industry Outlook Report prepared by the independent researchers at Ducker Worldwide suggests there will be a nationwide shortage of reporters by 2018 due to pending retirements and increased demand for stenographic court reporting services. While most firms have not yet reported severe shortages of reporters, some anecdotal evidence shows that there is moderate competition in local markets for the most skilled reporters.

As more reporters near retirement and additional demand enters the marketplace from the legal arena and to provide accessibility, court reporting firms will need to be aware of what influences freelancers’ decisions to work with one firm over another. If skilled reporters are in high demand, knowing freelancers’ trigger points will ensure that busy firms will continue to be able to meet their clients’ needs.

On the whole, freelancers indicate that the single most important factor that influences their decision to work with a particular court reporting firm is the way that the firm owners and schedulers treat them and consider their needs as an individual. In other words, the relationship matters. On a scale of 1 to 5 (with 1 being not at all important and 5 being very important), the way freelancers are treated by owners and schedulers ranks a weighted average of 3.7. This factor is followed by the types of jobs the freelancer is generally assigned by a firm (which ranks 3.59 out of 5) and the pay being offered by the firm (which ranks 3.58 out of 5).

One freelancer notes that working with a particular court reporting firm is more enjoyable “when I’m treated as a true independent contractor and there’s no animosity or hard feelings if I have to turn down an assignment because of my availability.”

The factors least likely to influence freelancers’ decisions to work with a firm is whether the firm offers ancillary benefits, such as providing health or other types of insurance, coverage of expenses, or paying membership to state or national court reporting associations. Also ranking low on influential factors is the amount of time the assignment is projected to take.

PICK OF THE LITTER

The firms who have embraced the “reporters are clients” mentality have found that there’s a fair amount of loyalty that is guaranteed when the approach is one of a symbiotic relationship. Indeed, many firms see the value in fostering a healthy partnership throughout the supply chain. “We see the successful servicing of the legal industry as a win/win/win partnership among the court reporters, staff, and management,” says Deborah L. Dusseljee, RPR, CBC, CCP, president of Compu-Scripts, Inc., a Columbia, S.C.-based firm.

NCRA members can access a copy of the full report at NCRA.org/2015FreelancerReport. Not a member? Join today

Christina Lewellen is NCRA’s Senior Director of Marketing and Communications. She can be reached at clewellen@ncra.org.