Imagine that

Imagine that
By Katherine Schilling

I shuffle awkwardly in my black pumps as the floors tick by one at a time – ding, ding. The stainless steel elevator doors make a poor mirror as I try to sneak a peek at my reflection to adjust those pesky fly-aways that the wind’s kicked up. Propping my sunglasses on my head instead, I try to imagine that they serve as a perfectly good headband.

“Do you solemnly swear — swear or affirm to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God? No, no. Drop the whole God part.” I rehearse the line again and again in my head, imagining I’m delivering the affirmation while another part of my brain imagines unloading my equipment in the room: tripod, then machine, then laptop, then cables. Yup, cables definitely last.

When I walk up to the receptionist with my best “I totally know what I’m doing” smile, I imagine that I don’t have a run in my tights from grazing my roller case just minutes earlier. I imagine I’ve done this a million times before.

I’m pretty good at imagining. After all, it’s what I’ve done all through court reporting school. And now I’m finally here, about to take my first deposition.

Fake it until you make it. Visualization. Mind over matter. Call it what you want, but it’s one of the key reasons I got through school. Since before my first day of theory, I had a very specific image in my head of what I would look like after my school career: pencil skirt, black pumps, roller case in hand. There would be tall buildings, cool elevators, and beautiful cityscape views from the windows. I’d be poised and articulate, and I’d take down the record with ease. My writing would be clean; my schedule, full.

The Law of Attraction is the belief that focusing on positive or negative thoughts will bring about positive or negative experiences into your life. Visualizations power that Law of Attraction. Now, no one is saying that simply imagining something will magically make it come true. If you’re a student now or have been in the past, then you know that it takes practice, discipline, focus, and a whole lot of work to pass that final test.

However, maintaining a positive spirit by keeping one’s eyes fixed on the goal is what makes all that work worthwhile. The weeks, months, and even years spent in front of the machine practicing won’t do you a lick of good if you don’t eventually reach your goal; you won’t reach your goal without a positive attitude; you can’t maintain that positive attitude without visualizing your goal.

While there is no one answer to most students’ burning questions — How much should I practice? Should I shorten my writing or write everything out? What’s the fastest way to get through school? — the one constant among all successful graduates is that they had a goal and visualized it until it became a reality.

Demoralization is, above all, the greatest threat to one’s success in school. Visualizing yourself as the successful court reporter you want to be is that imaginary carrot on a stick to help you get through the tough times, something to remind yourself why you’re sitting in front of your machine for hours. It makes the days you dedicate to memorizing briefs and scrimping and saving for the state association conventions worth it. Without that shining light at the end of the tunnel, it is easy to grow to resent the grind of school days.

Painting a magnificent picture of your future can also have the added benefit of tricking yourself into success. In my later speeds when I hit plateaus, I would get frustrated, and then I would get imaginative. I pretended that I’d already passed that test and that the ten minutes of dictation were merely a warm-up. Sometimes it worked. Like imagining a plateful of delicious food to stave off my rumbling belly, that imagined confidence shrugged off nerves and left my apprehension at the classroom door so that I could tune out the negative self-talk and just write.

Now, nearly a year and a half after I left school, has all my visualizing paid off? Well, I got my pencil skirt and pumps, but they’ll sometimes show runs in my tights or get scuffed. On the job, I’m sometimes poised and articulate; other times, I forget my own name. Sometimes my schedule is full, and sometimes it’s emptied by a rash of “cancellitis.” But that doesn’t stop me from still imagining. I’m always making new goals and focusing on them, looking forward to what I can accomplish next.

Whatever your goals are, bring them to life with powerful visualizations. Get creative and don’t skimp on the details. The more vivid the image, the more potent it will be. These self-affirming visualizations will keep your head high when things get tough, they can help you relax during tests, and they will remind you what all your hard work is for.

And just imagine what will come next.

Katherine Schilling, RPR, is a freelancer based in Richmond, Va. She can be reached at katherineschillingcr@gmail.com.

 

PROOFREADING TIPS: A fresh and tasty baker’s dozen

By Brenda Rogers-Fiscus, Deborah Smolinske, and Beverly Thomas

Proofreading is the last step in the finalization of your transcript. The proofreader’s eyes are the last ones to review the final product. It’s important to set the stage and do the most thorough job possible in order to produce the best transcript. We offer the following tips to make the task more efficient, more thorough, and more foolproof.

  1. Scoping and proofreading are not the same function. For the best results, scoping should be done by someone else and at a different time than when you proofread.
  2. Create a comfortable environment with good lighting and seating. Minimize distractions and interruptions. Try to ensure you are fed and well rested prior to starting your proofing session.
  3. Determine which method works best for you: in the software on your computer; using an app on a tablet device; printed on paper.
  4. Make sure to allot a sufficient amount of time to do the job thoroughly. Slow and steady wins the race every time over fast and sloppy.
  5. Take breaks – don’t try to read 400 pages all at one go.
  6. All research should be completed prior to commencing proofreading. You will lose the flow necessary for contextual reading if you’re stopping every half page to double-check a spelling or perform an online search for a term.
  7. Choose a reputable primary dictionary to follow (Merriam-Webster, American Heritage, Oxford) when making decisions on spellings, hyphenation, and one word/two words rather than stand-alone books that may be outdated or unsupported by references.
  8. If you encounter a word/term with which you are unfamiliar, be wary of accepting the first word that pops up in a Google search that seems to fit your phonetic. Be sure to check the definition in a reputable dictionary, and make sure it fits the context.
  9. While spot-checking the audio can be helpful, listening to continuous audio is not recommended. It is difficult to read for context, pay attention to punctuation, and listen to audio at the same time.
  10. Be aware of your weaknesses. If you habitually misstroke things like “they’re/there/their” or “it’s/its,” pay special attention to occurrences of those words. Also watch for incorrect small words like “as/at,” “it/is,” and missing words like “a” and “the.”
  11. Keep in mind the common words that are often transposed (I did/did I) and words that are only one letter different (formal/former, contact/contract), and pay special attention when they occur.
  12. If you’ve used more than one scopist to get the job done, pay special attention to consistency in capitalization, hyphenation, and other potential differing styles among scopists.
  13. Don’t forget to run a final spell-check in your software after you’ve finished proofreading. Spell-check is very good at catching double words such as “the the” and “that that,” which are easily missed while reading. Consider running the finished document through Word’s spell-check and grammar checker. While Word does have some unusual ideas about grammar (and should never be taken as gospel), it is very helpful in identifying missing prepositions, “form” for “from” and the like, as well as other small things that can otherwise be missed during proofreading.
  14. After you’ve finished your initial proofreading, go back and double-check bylines and speaker identifications as well as consistency with any special terms you’ve become aware of during the job. It’s easy to read right past such errors when you’re focused on reading for context.

    The final proofreading of a transcript is your last chance to ensure you are producing your most complete and accurate product. Don’t shortchange yourself or your clients by glossing over the small details or thinking just a quick pass will be sufficient. As you continue to produce beautiful, error-free transcripts, your reputation among your clients and your peers will flourish. The effort is well worth the reward!

Brenda Rogers-Fiscus, Deborah Smolinske, and Beverly Thomas are the primary team members of Perfect Partners Transcript Brigade, which was established in 2014. Learn more at transcriptbrigade.wordpress.com.

Reporting in Nigeria

A street scene in Lagos: A narrow paved street with a line of cars (sometimes single file, sometimes double file), cars parked or waiting to move on either side of the street, pedestrians crowded mostly on the left side. Near the background, a cluster of colorful umbrellas. In the back, white nondescript buildings. At the top in the foreground and background are electrical wires.By Jason Meadors

It was departure day for Nigeria, a three-week work trip I went on a few months ago. That day started out with a typical trip to the airport — not really stressed, but I was thinking: “What if something goes wrong?” This is part and parcel of the whole international work experience, at least for me. What if I forgot something? What if I didn’t pack the right cord for a piece of equipment? Or forgot a piece of equipment? Do I have all the right gear for the power differences? And oh, yes, I checked to make sure I have my passport for the 251st time.

Regarding the travel there: For some of these gigs, the client or paying party treats you like an integral part of the team. Sometimes not so much. For this Nigeria trip, they did, springing for business first class, which was particularly welcome on the Boeing 787 from my connecting flight in Houston to Lagos, Nigeria.

Business first class on that plane is sure comfortable. I had a glass of wine with dinner (that they kept offering to refill). I had my own television, and not the little one on the seat back in front of me, but a good-sized one in my little nook, with TV shows and movies on demand and all that stuff. And I didn’t have to jam my bag under the seat in front of me or in the overhead. I have shelves and cubbyholes for all my stuff.

And then, ah, the whole “resting while flying” thing. The little reclining icon on the controls by the seat shows a bed option. I didn’t believe it can lie down flat, but it really did, and I achieved a reclined sleeping position that, given the circumstances, is not terrible. Having flown coach about 99 percent of my traveling time, I can unequivocally state that sleeping in coach ranks somewhere between pretty terrible and downright awful.

International assignments are a sporadic thing for me. For some of my colleagues, it’s their bread and butter. I do envy those who fly constantly and have the miles to upgrade from economy when that’s all the client will buy. It makes all the difference to arrive reasonably comfortable and reasonably rested.

I was hoping to see some cool African landscape as we flew over the coast, but that was not to be. Clouds covered everything. The clouds broke up as we came closer, and it was odd not to see roads, grids of towns, or any sign of civilization. It’s sort of like flying over western Alaska, except this looks flat the whole way.

View is through the windshield of a car as if sitting in the passenger seat. A line of street vendors walk along the car holding various wares for sale. They are looking ahead.The airport at Lagos wasn’t anarchy — merely low-level chaos. After disembarking, the team I traveled with and I found ourselves in a fairly dark tunnel, finally making our way up to the immigration stations, where we were given the forms to fill out. We crouched around in the middle of the line, trying to do so. Once the forms were completed, we were ignored for a while by the immigration officers.

That was the start of the fun. Outside the airport, we had a chase truck complete with armed guards with our luggage in it and a bus to hold the lawyers and reporters. Then the bus ride started. It was interesting.

The main roads were paved, and all the side roads were dirt. Lagos is not a pretty town. What was most striking to me was there was lots of trash and lots of frenzied, aggressive driving. Pedestrians do not have the right of way. Street vendors walk down the active lanes between lines of cars that are stalled in traffic or moving slowly. The vendors push their various wares, sometimes carrying them on the tops of their heads.

The trip across town to the compound took about an hour and a half. I’d estimate our average progress at about 45 hpm (honks per minute). Most of the time, lane lines were a forgotten memory. There were a lot of roadside marketplaces with tented stalls, teeming with people.

The national car of Nigeria seems to be the VW bus. There are tons of them around, and not all in good shape, looking as tired as an 80-year-old factory worker, packed with goods and people. Lots of them were painted yellow, which seemed odd, until we figured that they were unmarked cabs. Well, unmarked but for the paint job. A number of times, the VWs cruising down the road featured the sliding door open, with one or two people hanging out to enjoy the breeze.

Our bus driver was fearless and stellar in his abilities. Maybe he can’t do what I can for a living, but I couldn’t do what he does either. The road experience made me wonder why more cars aren’t scraped and striped on the sides, or why more pedestrians’ bodies aren’t scattered about. Maybe they’re just all used to it and compensate appropriately, or maybe this was a good day.

We got to the compound, an island of cushiness in a sea of chaos. It was like an attractive Southern California subdivision, if the subdivision had a concrete-lined moat, guard towers, emergency assembly points scattered around the area, and a security briefing that told us what to do in case of gunfire. (Don’t check it out, and try to keep at least two walls between yourself and the gunfire.) The house to which I, another reporter, and one of the attorneys were assigned was done very nicely indeed. The depositions that I reported for those three weeks were in the same house. Shortest commute ever.

Sure, that’s all nice. But I hear you saying, “This is the JCR I’m reading, right? What about the reporting?”

The first day was simply nerve-wracking for me. Not because of the attorneys or witnesses (not yet, anyway), but because my realtime gear was acting up. I had done a dry run before I left home, I had done a dry run the day before the first job, and then when I had everything ready on the important day, the gear just wouldn’t cooperate. I went down my hardware and software checklists, A, B, C, D, [expletive deleted], and it’s still was not connecting. By then, everyone had shown up. I set up my backup system and got it going, but now the deposition is starting with the scent of frustration – and it was emanating from me.

The witnesses that I had were villagers from an area up the coast. Although I knew that English is the official language of Nigeria, I knew I couldn’t relax. Many of the villagers spoke their tribal language, and we needed an interpreter for that. Some of the witnesses could speak pidgin English, and so we had an interpreter for that. Some of the witnesses spoke English, but a heavily accented form that would have had me scratching my head, if my hands were not already busy. The interpreters had accents, too.

The second day of the job was better than the first. The equipment all decided to get in line and step in time and stayed that way for the rest of the assignment. I didn’t do anything differently. It just worked, even through the eight or so little blackouts that we had. And that was pretty much how the rest of the job went over the course of three weeks. Well, sometimes we went late, the accents were a constant struggle, and while I thoroughly enjoyed the attorney I worked with, he was focused, energetic, and didn’t need the breaks that we so cherish in order to recharge.

Through the witnesses, I learned a little about life in Nigeria. The deponents were from fishing villages. One was married, but not really, because he hadn’t paid the bride price. Another had kids — four boys and one girl. He was dismissive of the daughter and didn’t know how old she was. The towns’ heads was called king and referred to as Highness. And one village went to war against another, complete with gunfire and invasion and refugees. Toilets in one place were perched over the river, which carried away the waste (to another village downriver, presumably).

Fried whole fish covered with sliced cucumbers, sliced onions, and french fries with a side of ketchup. Next to the food is a set of plasticware. The plate is covered in aluminum foil.After some hard days of work, there was a consensus among the legal beagles — well, most of us — to get out and see what was outside of the compound. In Nigeria, going out to see the sights took some coordination, at least for our cautious hosts.

We staged with our new Nigerian friends who work for the corporation running the compound. We sallied forth in two SUVs, mercifully driven by Nigerians, with a chase car (black pickup), marked POLICE, complete with overhead lights. It was apparently vitally important that we stay together, because in the madcap, mad-dash Lagos traffic, whenever we’d get separated by other cars, there’d be a “WHOOP WHOOP” behind us — the siren of the chase car — and we’d rejoin.

At the roundabouts — oh, my. I’ve been taught that the cars in the roundabout have the right of way, and the cars joining traffic wait for an opening. Ha! Think more of a game of “chicken” with a generous seasoning of Demolition Derby. We were helped in our case by the chase car, lights flashing, jamming into the flow and running interference for us as adeptly as any All-Pro offensive lineman on an NFL team.

We got to the beach, a favored hangout of one of our hosts. The place was energetic in getting the plastic chairs and tables set up for us. The proprietors came around with a big dead fish on a platter. I was about to say, “No thanks,” when our host ordered five of them. Well, okay.

We walked out on the jetty, did some photo-taking at the far end, came back, and the fish started showing up. It was spicy and delicious. Well, at least it was merely spicy for our hosts and me. Another reporter on the team, Stephanie Leslie of Regal Reporting out of Orange County, Calif., announced that her mouth was on fire and took some good-natured ribbing from our Nigerian friends. The sweet potato fries that accompanied them were quite tasty. Later, we also chowed down on some beef prepared by a beachside barbecuer, coated with a spicy rub, more flavor than heat, also quite good.

The beach. Relative to my American sensibilities, it was a mixture of nice sand and a trash pit. The structures are a combination of reasonably functional, combined with ramshackle, dilapidated, and crumbling. Or crumbled.

The folks were all good-natured. I’m not gregarious, not in the United States, not in Nigeria, not much anywhere, but others in our group had no problems making new friends. That feeling of safety may have been enhanced by the guys from the chase car in their police uniforms carrying firearms.

Really, from that quiet afternoon, it’s hard to get across the variety we experienced: the entertaining kid rapper in the St. Louis Cardinals shirt, the onslaught of vendors coming to our table (I got some trinkets for my granddaughters), the sights along the roadside.

As the days wore on, the biggest reporting challenge turned out to be the accent. I tried to prep, I really did. One of the major town names is Port Harcourt. It pretty well comes out porked, but it sounds like a porked where I felt I was lucky to have made out that much of the word, until they say they flew from there, and I thought, “Oh, that can’t be right,” and of course I tried to figure it out while they kept moving along in their soliloquy.

Or another main town, Yenagoa. I looked at the word list and read Yen-a-go-a. I heard the attorneys say, Yen-a-go-a, and I thought, “Yeah. I got this.” Then I heard the witnesses talking about going to Engwa and selling fish in Engwa, and I struggled along with that and the rest of the vocabulary, and finally I started hearing a little Yeh at the start and I realized that Engwa is actually Yenagoa.

So much for the prep.

The attorneys had been interviewing local witnesses and personalities for weeks, or months, or maybe years, and their ears were tuned. Mine were not. But even the attorneys could get taken aback. One memorable exchange:

A. This is our seashore. Where —
Q. This is your —
A. — where we come at. Yes.
Q. Is your sister, did you say?
A. Seashore.
Q. Seesaw?
A. Seaside, yes.
Q. Seaside.
A. Yeah.

When you can’t tell seashore from sister from seesaw from seaside, you’re in for one great treat.

Rough drafts went out as soon as possible, which meant before the start of business the next day and preferably before the evening is done. Yup, all 300 pages, or whatever the count is, working through that accent.

Okay, I’m really not complaining. It was a good, interesting gig, and I feel privileged to have been on it.

We pretty much took depositions every workday, and since it was Nigeria, that included the Fourth of July. The worst depositions, the most dreaded, were when the witness would come in with attorneys’ assurances that no interpreter was needed that day. Because they were generally wrong.

A young woman and an older man are facing the camera with their arms congenially around each other's shoulders as if friends. The woman is holding a steno machine on a tripod.

Stephanie Leslie and the author, smiling as they leave the compound.

My first day’s job (after the realtime issue) was the baptism in fire, well over 300 pages saturated with my mental “Huh?” I heard a word, I spent a second trying to figure it out, I finally did based on the content, and by then, the speaker is 15 words further along in the speech, 10 of which I’m going through the same tortured analysis.

The other reporting stuff was pretty mundane, as these things go: realtime to counsel, rough drafts to counsel, relatively quick turnaround. However, as the days go on, mundane translates to burdensome. We kept taking depos every day and found the work piling up, swamped with returns from the scopists who couldn’t understand the witnesses any better than we could and returns from the proofers who were baffled as well. All the while, we’re keeping exhibits together, doing any techno-troubleshooting, and trying to find something to eat and a few hours to sleep. The equation of roughs, realtime, and transcript production started generating a sum value of fatigue.

The three-reporter team, with three different CAT systems, was great and fired on all cylinders. The attorneys were easy to get along with. Three of them were Brits, leading to interesting discussions on the state of things on the island across the pond.

And the witnesses, hard as they are to take down, were nevertheless fascinating. This experience certainly gave me a different perspective on life. Let me say, when I listened to the witnesses talking about going out to the swamp or river to do their personal business, when they were literally eating what they killed or pulled out of the dirt, when they told of drinking water pulled out of the ground, and the concept of phones, refrigerators, and televisions were laughable, I saw my life differently. I listened, with a mixture of fascination and sadness, to witness after witness coming in from their first plane ride, in a big city for the first time, from their hardscrabble existence.

So, you might want to ask, was it worth it?

It was good to get home after three weeks of constant heavily overtime days, but this experience was hugely informative and rewarding.

But, yeah, I’d go back.

 

Jason Meadors, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, is a freelance reporter in Fort Collins, Colorado. He also writes fiction and currently has five titles on Amazon.

STUDENT REPORTING: Preparing for your first reporting job

 

By Melissa Lee

You can “live and learn,” as they say, each of life’s lessons on your own; or you can learn from the successes and failures of others before you. Keeping the latter in mind, along with the preparedness training you have received from your educational career firmly imprinted in your mind (equipment maintenance/preparation, supplies, professional dress, etc.), the following would be some lessons learned from a working reporter to you, a student reporter, to add to your future check-off list until you build your own routine for success:

  • Always get a good night’s sleep. This may be obvious, but it’s often understated. Days can be long, but focus and stamina are key.
  • Always eat breakfast. You never know if or when a break will be taken.
  • Be sure you have snacks packed in your bag. When you begin to “drag,” this can make a big difference in your energy level.
  • Always carry cash. Sometimes lunch will be ordered in, and you should never assume that someone else will pay for the reporter‘s meal.
  • Dress professionally but comfortably. While you may think your beautiful heels look great with the outfit you have chosen, they could cause for back pain later in the day … or one day down the road.
  • Leave early so you arrive early. This will allow time if you run into heavy traffic, get lost, or have to find parking. Occasionally it has happened that two reporters were called for the same job. Food for thought: As the first of two reporters to arrive for the same job, I have never been asked to pack up and leave.
  • This could be the most difficult one to achieve when you’re stumbling through those “firsts,” but it’s just as important as anything else. As you know, when you are tense, you can see it in your writing, but others can see it on your face. Being relaxed lends confidence to your abilities and skills.

Above all, remember that while we strive to be perfect, we will never achieve perfection; that it is not the obstacles in our path that will define us but, rather, how we choose to overcome them. Always be courteous, kind, and respectful to others, and at all times remain neutral.

Remember: Always offer to provide the same services to all parties involved; the attorney that declines a copy of your transcript today may become your biggest client tomorrow. You are building a reputation that one day will precede you, so make it one that even your grandmother could be proud of.

We, as your future court reporting community, welcome you! We look forward to seeing what you can bring to our profession and wish you all the successes life can offer. Like those before us, we have continued to build a profession that we know you can be proud of, knowing that our behavior and product represent not only us individually, our employers, and our community as a whole, but also those still to come — you, the future graduates. We hope you continue to “pay it forward” and enjoy all that reporting has to offer for a career to come.

Melissa S. Lee, A.S., CCR, CRI, is a teacher at the College of Court Reporting. She can be reached at MelissaLeeCCR@gmail.com.

A fresh and tasty baker’s dozen

donut_overviewBy Brenda Rogers-Fiscus, Deborah Smolinske, and Beverly Thomas

Proofreading is the last step in the finalization of your transcript. The proofreader’s eyes are the last ones to review the final product. It’s important to set the stage and do the most thorough job possible in order to produce the best transcript. We offer the following tips to make the task more efficient, more thorough, and more foolproof.

donut1Scoping and proofreading are not the same function. For the best results, scoping should be done by someone else and at a different time than when you proofread.

 

donut2Create a comfortable environment with good lighting and seating. Minimize distractions and interruptions. Try to ensure you are fed and well rested prior to starting your proofing session.

 

donut3Determine which method works best for you: in the software on your computer; using an app on a tablet device; printed on paper.

 

donut4Allot sufficient time to do the job thoroughly. Slow and steady wins the race every time over fast and sloppy. Take breaks — don’t try to read 400 pages all at one go.

 

donut5Complete all research prior to commencing proofreading. You will lose the flow necessary for contextual reading if you’re stopping every half page to double-check a spelling or perform an online search for a term.

 

donut6Choose a reputable primary dictionary to follow (Merriam-Webster, American Heritage, Oxford) when making decisions on spellings, hyphenation, and one word/two words rather than stand-alone books that may be outdated or unsupported by references.

 

donut7If you encounter a word/term with which you are unfamiliar, be wary of accepting the first word that pops up in a Google search that seems to fit your phonetic. Be sure to check the definition in a reputable dictionary, and make sure it fits the context.

 

donut8While spot-checking the audio can be helpful, listening to continuous audio is not recommended. It is difficult to read for context, pay attention to punctuation, and listen to audio at the same time.

 

donut9Be aware of your weaknesses. If you habitually misstroke things like “they’re/there/their” or “it’s/its,” pay special attention to occurrences of those words. Also watch for incorrect small words like “as/at,” “it/is,” and missing words like “a” and “the.”

 

donut10Keep in mind the common words that are often transposed (I did/did I) and words that are only one or two letters different (formal/former, contact/contract), and pay special attention when they occur.

 

donut11If you’ve used more than one scopist to get the job done, pay special attention to consistency in capitalization, hyphenation, and other potential differing styles among scopists.

 

donut12Don’t forget to run a final spellcheck in your software after you’ve finished proofreading. Spell-check is very good at catching double words such as “the the” and “that that,” which are easily missed while reading. Consider running the finished document through Word’s spell-check and grammar checker. While Word does have some unusual ideas about grammar (and should never be taken as gospel), it is very helpful in identifying missing prepositions, “form” for “from” and the like, as well as other small things that can otherwise be missed during proofreading.

 

donut13After you’ve finished your initial proofreading, go back and double check bylines and speaker identifications as well as consistency with any special terms you’ve become aware of during the job. It’s easy to read right past such errors when you’re focused on reading for context.

 

The final proofreading of a transcript is your last chance to ensure you are producing your most complete and accurate product. Don’t shortchange yourself or your clients by glossing over the small details or thinking just a quick pass will be sufficient. As you continue to produce beautiful, error-free transcripts, your reputation among your clients and your peers will flourish. The e­ffort is well worth the reward!

 

Brenda Rogers-Fiscus, Deborah Smolinske, and Beverly Thomas are the primary team members of Perfect Partners Transcript Brigade, which was established in 2014. Learn more at transcriptbrigade.wordpress.com.

LAST PAGE: Get punny with it

On memory
Q. Prior to this accident, did you have any other pre-existing injuries?
A. I had broke my leg, my ankle, riding motocross.
Q. Which ankle?
A. My right ankle. And I’d separated my shoulder riding a skateboard.
Q. When did the shoulder separation happen?
A. Four — four, five years ago.
Q. How about the broken ankle?
A. Roughly around the same. I forgot I was 40.
Juliane Petersen
Beaverton, Ore.

Wanted: Dead or alive
Q. Just to make sure we covered this, the last trial you testified live was the Doe case in 2013?
A. I’ve never testified dead so, you know — so that’s true, yes. I’m sorry.
Elsa Jorgensen
Birmingham, Mich.

There’s no need …
Q. Could you state your full name for the record.
A. Grant Ford.
Q. F-O-R-D?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. All right. Just because I have a receding hairline doesn’t mean you have to call me “sir.”
Therese J. Casterline, RMR, CRR
The Colony, Texas

Only in Florida
THE COURT: Is there anything about your experience as a juror on the civil case back in Florida that would affect your ability to be fair and open-minded here?
PROSPECTIVE JUROR NO. 6: Other than hating it, no.
THE COURT: Well, we will do our best to give you a much better experience.
PROSPECTIVE JUROR NO. 6: It wasn’t like — I understand everything, but it was mostly — I didn’t trust the people that were on the jury.
THE COURT: Well, I can see that the people here are much more trustworthy.
PROSPECTIVE JUROR NO. 6: It was Florida.
THE COURT: There’s that.
Desiree M. Tanner, RPR
Long Beach, Calif.

You think you know someone
Q. Okay. And did anyone assist you in preparing your report for this litigation?
A. Yes.
Q. Who?
A. My paralegal.
Q. And what’s your paralegal’s name?
A. Nina Craig.
Q. And is she a licensed paralegal?
A. Yes.
Q. And where did she obtain her license or certificate, I should say?
A. At the license-getting place. Paralegal school.
Q. Where did she go to paralegal school?
A. I have no idea. Probably one in Philadelphia.
Q. How long has she been working with you?
A. She reminded me the other day, 12 years.
Q. What’s her name?
A. It’s still Nina Craig.
Q. It hasn’t changed since the last time I asked you?
A. Correct.
Susan R. Chastek, RMR
Ledgewood, N.J.

Text C to confirm
Q. Then approximately four weeks after the accident, you saw Dr. Smith because you were in the same building?
A. Yes.
Q. Did you have an appointment with him when you saw him four weeks after the accident?
A. No.
Q. How did you happen to see him? Did you just see him in the hall or something else?
A. He has his office in the same place where the chiropractor is.
Q. I understand that. Doctors generally don’t see you unless you have an appointment.
A. Yes, that’s correct, but I didn’t have an appointment.
Q. Did you go to his reception area and tell them you wanted to see Dr. Smith?
A. Yes.
Q. And he saw you without an appointment?
A. No.
Q. How did he see you?
A. I had to make an appointment first.
Heather Mastrorocco
East Rockaway, N.Y.

Hear no evil
Attorney Susens was appearing via video.
THE COURT: Attorney Susens, are you ready? Attorney Susens, you may proceed.
MR. SUSENS: I can’t hear you, your Honor.
THE COURT: That’s great, so I can say whatever I want.
MR. SUSENS: I can’t hear anything. I’m sorry.
Barbara Ulrich, RPR
Baraboo, Wisc.

Codebreaker
(This was cross examination of the arresting officer by the attorney representing a defendant who had three kinds of illegal drugs in his car.)
Q. Officer, did the defendant also inform you he had just gotten the drugs from someone or that someone was going to place the drugs in the car?
A. No.
Q. No? Okay.
A. What he said to me: the drugs were some other guy’s drugs.
Q. Did you at any point get the feeling that he didn’t know that the other two drugs were in there?
A. (Pause.) I got the feeling that he has seen the movie before.
Q. Okay. I got you. We’re talking in code.
Karen Noel
Easton, Pa.

Heard it through the grapevine
The mother was suing the ambulance company, claiming they did not give her son adequate triage and he died. To lead into the following questions, she is claiming she’s had dreams where her son is talking to her about his death.
Q. Have you had any other dreams or visions about Sam’s death?
A. I can’t recall right now.
Q. Has the Lord ever spoken to you about Sam’s death?
MR. SMITH: Objection. Hearsay.
Sue Ash, RMR
Norfolk, Va.

Can I connect with you?
MS. SMITH: So I want a five-minute break. I need to go to the bathroom. This deposition has been less than an hour and a half.
MS. JONES: Are you finished?
THE WITNESS: It’s an hour and a half already?
MS. JONES: Are you finished with your question, is what I’m asking.
MS. SMITH: I want to review my notes to make sure I haven’t missed anything.
MS. JONES: I am objecting to her asking any further questions. Go ahead. Just as you said, you’re the queen of the deposition today.
THE WITNESS: Can I just like check in on Facebook and tag you guys? Make it official?
Jessica F. Story, RPR
Lynn, Mass.

What lawyers do for fun
(The witness’s name is Phillips. PNM’s counsel is Mr. Phillips, with two ls.)
HEARING EXAMINER STEVENS: PNM, you have cross-examination? And Mr. Phillips, you reserved 60 minutes.
MR. PHILLIPS: I will not take 60 minutes. That is for sure. But I didn’t want to give up the opportunity to address a Mr. Phillips and see how the court reporter does with the colloquy. It’s a test.
Mary Seal, RDR, CRR
Albuquerque, N.M.

 

 

 

How to impress attorneys

By David Ward

Much like an umpire in baseball or softball, today’s court reporters are expected to do their job so well that they end up being a very quiet enhancer of the legal process, save for the barely audible clicks as they use their keyboards.  But that role, an essential as it is, can make it a challenge for reporters to create a memorable impression on the attorneys they work alongside. Yet impressing attorneys is an important part of the new business development for both independent contractors and firm owners – and to be good at it, reporters need to be seen as more than simply a professional with some cool technology at their fingertips.

“Personality always plays a big part as far as I’m concerned,” explains Frank Dunn, CLVS, owner of Boston-based Dunn Reporting Services. “You need to be able to relate to the attorney and have a good working relationship. But there’s a point when it’s time to be quiet and a point when it’s time to make conversation, and reporters really need to know when those points are.”

Tere Moore, RPR, CRR, CRI, owner of Cincinnati’s Top Quality Reporting Services, says: “The most successful reporters I have seen display charisma and have a happy and bright demeanor. They remember personal things about their attorneys and are able to chit-chat about sports or issues of the day. Most of all, showing attorneys little tips and tricks on their computers goes a long way.”

Small talk can break the ice and create a good impression in plenty of business situations, but Denver-based Lisa Knight, RMR, CRR, owner of Knight International Court Reporting, stresses it always should done judiciously.

“My experience is that attorneys are people and they’re human and there’s one thing that they’re focusing on when they’re doing a deposition and one thing only: and that’s surviving that deposition,” says Knight, whose husband is a lawyer. “I always try to feel out the room and develop a rapport with the attorney. But I also know that if he’s got two boxes of exhibits dumped into the room, he has his computer open, and he’s working, it’s not my time to talk.”

A friendly, outgoing business manner and knowing when it’s appropriate to engage attorneys will help impress attorneys, but if, and only if, that’s backed up with great reporting.

Dayton, Ohio-based Sue Terry, FAPR, RPR, CRR, says: “One thing that works in impressing attorneys is being consistently timely, professional, and especially knowledgeable about reporting, the transcript, the record,” she says. “When you help attorneys out with the little things, they remember that.”

Terry, who is NCRA’s Vice President, offers seminars where she provides advice and guidance for new reporters and says the thing she stresses during all these events is that on first impression, all reporters may seem alike to the attorneys and the support staff at a law firm.

“We come in the door carrying a machine, we pull it out and set it up, we pull out our exhibit stickers and we’re ready to go,” she says. Terry advises reporters to take advantage of the opportunities to do a little something extra when they do happen. This can help differentiate you from other reporters. “That means not just trying to sell the attorney realtime but also showing them how to use it, explaining how they can use it afterwards to generate a report, and then actually showing them how to generate that report. Those are things that can help you stand out.”

Jenny Ebner, owner of Ebner Reporting Services based in Springfield, Ohio, agrees: “Spending time with the client to explain what we do and how we do it has always been a tool I have used, and it has brought me business.”

Ebner says she recently helped a firm she was doing work for by staying after the hearing to explain to the attorneys exactly how the reporting software works and how to use the realtime output to their advantage. “Before I did that, they were very angry with our firm because they didn’t feel they were getting what they expected when, in fact, no one had explained how to use the output,” she says.

Going the extra mile may not work or can go unnoticed, leading reporters to sometimes feel that they’re being taken advantage of for little extras they provide.

But Ebner says every reporter should want to do those things, noting the best way to create a positive impression is to put the client and the job first. “That doesn’t mean staying from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on a job,” she says. “But it does mean not saying they can only stay three or four hours because they have another appointment.” Being accurate, timely, and the best investment for the client go a long way, she says, in offsetting any of the client’s concerns about hiring.

Using a client-centric approach to grab the attention of and impress both current and potential new attorney clients also means taking the time to find out exactly what the law firm wants from a court reporting firm, says Nancy Varallo, FAPR, RDR, CRR, who along with her husband Ed, owns The Varallo Group in Worcester, Mass.

“Court reporting is a service profession in a high-pressure, high-stakes business,” she explains. “When you show your clients that you understand their needs and when you show them you are willing to customize your approach and bend over backwards to meet their needs, that’s how you impress attorneys.”

Varallo also stresses the importance of thoroughly doing your homework, including researching if not the exact case, then at least the terminology used in that business or legal category. “I hear of reporters who don’t prepare, and then they take time during the deposition to question the attorneys about spellings and other information that they could have already researched,” she says. “Go above and beyond to do something special for the client that they didn’t ask for but that will impress them.”

This doesn’t have to be a time-consuming process, but it needs to be done for every deposition or trial. “If I’ve been given the case name the day before, I going to do a google search to see if it’s online because you can often pull up some of the pleadings from the court dockets,” Terry says. “For just about any category, you can find a glossary online for it — that can be a great way to prepare. You don’t know if any of the words will come up, but just glancing through that glossary can help you be better prepared.”

Terry adds many attorneys may seem too preoccupied to appreciate this preparation but says: “They may not notice that you know the terminology, but they’ll notice that you have a very clean realtime feed. And you’ll then be able to turn that transcript around much faster. And that’s one of the ways I’ve always been able to keep busy because [the attorneys are] not waiting on me.”

Most lawyers take pride in what they do, and they expect, but also appreciate, the reporters who work alongside them in the legal process do as well. “I think most attorneys do realize the value and benefit of hiring a skilled stenographer,” says Lisa DiMonte, RMR, CMRS, CEO of Planet Depos, which is headquartered in Washington, D.C. DiMonte adds that reporters should realize that in the current legal climate, the lawyers themselves often have little say in choosing a reporter. “Unfortunately, sometimes these decisions are coming from the client of the law firm, leaving the attorney’s hands tied.”

But DiMonte says it’s still important to impress attorneys by becoming invaluable as a service provider. “That means constantly enhancing our writing skills and knowledge through continuing education, certification, and CAT software training; using the latest technologies, including the latest stenotype machines, laptops and iPads for realtime, CAT and other industry apps; saying yes to difficult requests and assignments; and turning around work faster than requested,” she says. “I think having a genuine passion for what you do translates into a positive and memorable experience for the client. When you are no longer passionate about what you do, it’s time to think about doing something else.”

Much like the court reporting community, lawyers can run the gamut from some who are fresh out of law school to those with 50 years or more of litigation experience. While their age, or for that matter gender, won’t necessarily play a role in how easy or hard an attorney will be to impress, Moore notes the cool software, wireless tablets, and other tools of modern court reporting can catch the eye of younger lawyers.

“Younger attorneys are more impressed by our technology,” Moore explains. “We should make a point of getting back into the law schools and exposing them to it earlier, so that they know how realtime and streaming to their experts can be to their benefit.”

Varallo says reporters need to keep in mind that different attorneys will be impressed by different things. “I would guess that older attorneys are more likely to clutch hard copies of transcripts and younger attorneys are more likely to accept the latest technology, but I don’t know that we’ve heard that from court reporting firms,” she says. “Transcript turnaround time remains a key differentiator; to the degree court reporting firms can use technology to get transcripts in their clients’ hands sooner rather than later, that is something that attorneys of all ages appreciate.”

In addition to being great at your work, Dunn says court reporters can also create a positive impression by being active in the local legal community and caring about the issues that concern their clients. “My office in Boston sponsors the local Federal Bar Association annual reception. We’re basically the court reporting agency sponsor, and we’re allowed to invite 10 people from our office, and we get to see everybody,” he says. “Things like that are helpful.”

Dunn also advises that being there when an attorney is really in a jam can trigger respect from law firms. “We get last-minute requests from people,” he says, stressing the importance of having someone available to answer questions immediately. If the attorneys get your voice mail, Dunn says: “they just hang up. They want a live person, and they want to know when they ask, ‘Can you get me somebody?’ that we’ll do our best. You need to be reachable.”

Ebner adds that reporters should realize that while they provide a highly valued skill, this is a service business and that one of the better ways to impress attorneys while building that business is to be a great and friendly service provider — in essence, killing them with kindness. “It helps to always be nice and forthcoming with information they need and or want,” she says.

David Ward is a journalist in Carrboro, N.C. Comments on this article can be sent to jcrfeedback@ncra.org.

 

 

IN MEMORIAM: John T. “Jack” Loynd, Sr.

John T. “Jack” Loynd, Sr., who was an associate member of the National Shorthand Reporters Association (which became the National Court Reporters Association) for many years, passed away at the home of his daughter on March 25, 2017, in North Waterboro, Maine, aged 94. He was previously a nearly lifelong resident of Waltham, Mass.

Jack served in the Army Air Corps in World War II and then in the Air Force during the Korean conflict. He was for a time a hearings stenographer for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and then Chief of Elevator Inspectional Services for the state.

He is best known to our members for his evening and Saturday speed classes, at which he would preside from his rec-room desk, which for the occasion would be covered with a dozen tape recorders belonging to his students. (Starting and stopping all these machines would be a full-time job in itself.) Those students will never forget finger-spelling “Harriet Z. Quackenbos.”

It is likely that nearly every Merit reporter in Massachusetts, as well as numerous RPR candidates, passed through Jack’s home at one time or another, with some hopefuls attending for years before finally attaining their certifications. Doughnuts and coffee were always included in the minimal price of admission.

Jack was an old-time Bostonian, with a huge fund of stories of State House politics and anecdotes, now gone out of fashion, about the Irish versus the Italians.

Jack had a true generosity of spirit. When one of our members was hospitalized for a week  and given a six-hour furlough to take the Merit exam, Jack went to the hospital and dictated to her every day of that week. She passed all parts! Jack refused any payment for this signal service, but did accept a certain amount of Irish whiskey, which was amortized over the ensuing years.

In 2009, the Massachusetts Court Reporters Association held a celebratory dinner – or, as we call it here, a “time” – for Jack at his favorite Waltham restaurant. Jack had for some years been using a printout of one member’s Case Catalyst dictionary as a source of short forms in his classes. On this occasion, he was honored by Stenograph Corporation with a free Catalyst license (probably the only one ever granted) which, together with a donated laptop, enabled his students to look up words on their own.

Jack was predeceased by his wife, the former Margaret McGlone, who ran a dance studio through which passed (in parallel to Jack’s classes) probably every little girl in Waltham and surrounding towns. Her studio’s production of “Annie” is legendary. Jack is survived, as well, by six children and their spouses, and about 36 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Expressions of sympathy may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital of Memphis, Tenn.

He will be missed.

Jonathan Young, FAPR, is a CART captioner based in Waltham, Mass. He can be reached at cartbyjonathan@aol.com.

NCRA MEMBER PROFILE: Lisa Grimminger, RMR, CRR, CRC

Currently resides in: Ceresco, Neb.

Employment type: Official

Member since: 1988

Graduated from: American Institute of Business, Des Moines, Iowa

Theory: Computer-compatible Stenograph theory

What are your favorite briefs?

KALGS (calculation)

KHAOEUPT (child support)

B-L (basically)

FRAUL (first of all)

FUFRT (forfeiture)

 

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

After taking the entrance exam at American Institute of Business in Des Moines, Iowa, I was encouraged to try their court reporting program. That turned out to be good advice.

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

In 2015, I assisted a federal reporter, Sue DeVetter, RDR, CRR, for a few days during a realtime trial in Omaha, Neb., which inspired me to maintain forward movement by writing as flawlessly as possible every day, pass the CRC, and keep improving. It is easy to become isolated and complacent in our profession, and networking with other reporters gives me resilience to bounce back from setbacks.

I am also constantly creeping on the Facebook groups for court reporters, although I don’t usually post anything. I have learned so much by following you all, even from questions that start out with, “This may sound like a stupid question, but…”

Have you had challenges to overcome in your profession?

I was four years into court officialships and the mother of two children in daycare, hating my job and berating myself for yelling at my toddlers like a drill sergeant every morning. Once I switched to freelancing, the combination of motherhood and court reporting became less of a struggle. Our toddlers are now about to graduate from college, and I went back to being an official a year ago. I miss the freedom of working from home but needed benefits not available to independent contractors.

Do you have a favorite tool?

It’s that dreaded time of year when I have to renew my support contracts with Stenograph for my Diamante, iCVNet, and Case Catalyst, but those are my true tools of the trade that make realtime and quick transcript turnaround possible for me. However, it’s the exhibit labels from my Dymo Label Maker that get the most appreciative comments from attorneys!

What is your favorite book or movie?

I just finished Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly, which has me thinking about volunteering for NCRF and participating in the Oral Histories of Holocaust Survivors, which would be a harrowing, yet fulfilling, experience.

PROMOTING THE PROFESSION: My best reporting job ever

By Melody Jeffries Peters

1995 was the first year Professor Greg Munro at the Alexander Blewett III School of Law invited me into the classroom on the University of Montana campus to do a realtime deposition for 85 future lawyers. Though we’ve never kept track, we know we’ve done it for 15 years for sure, so I’ve been afforded the opportunity to address well over 1,200 students.  These students become attorneys, and I’ve subsequently encountered a large number of them in my work.

Each year we do a mock deposition about a real case that Professor Munro had involving drinking in a livestock barn and a subsequent horse accident. The demonstration is interactive, educational, and funny. When they talk about drinking only one beer, I quickly write: “Liar, liar, pants on fire,” and very quickly we’ve got the students’ attention. When the attorneys misspeak, I toss in: “Come on, you gotta spit it out.” Laughter erupts, and we are all truly enjoying this!

After we complete the mock deposition, I’m given the floor. This year, we handed out a number of iPads so the students could view CVNet and try their hand at it. Technology has changed greatly over the years, but I find it’s useful showing the deposition on a big screen of some kind. I explain the challenges of technology and how it’s not my forte and that, by default, since I sign the checks in my office, I am the IT department, but the first two letters are SH! They nod in sympathy.

This is also my chance to explain why reporters can be reluctant to do realtime. I share the story of covering court where the couple’s names were Yvonne and Al. Yvonne and Al did everything together. Yvonne and Al were good parents. My stroke for and is A-N. My stroke for al is A-L. The judge was seeing a number of creative uses of the word anal that day.

Working in Montana, reporters can wear a lot of hats. I get to familiarize the group with all the different kinds of reporting, and I touch on official, freelance, and CART work.

I grab their collective ears and tell them I have to know when the case involves Mr. Pierce and Mr. Pearce, and the key is I need to know ahead of time. “Ankylosing spondylitis”? Share that word with your reporter before the deposition, I tell them. Deadlines? Make sure you address those too, I say.

I cover a vast array of topics from marking exhibits to scheduling, and from enunciating to courtroom protocol. I remind them I’m trying to make a record, not set one, so they need to speak slowly. Videotaping, video conferencing … we cover it all at breakneck speed, violating my own aforementioned rule.

Handouts? You bet. We provide NCRA’s “Making the Record” brochure along with some swag and a few articles on who’s responsible for paying the reporter’s bill. [Ed. Note: The Making the Record materials have been expanded through the National Court Reporters Foundation. See sidebar for more information.] My office creates a legal-sized laminated list of every attorney and law firm in the county that we give to the students. This list is the best marketing tool ever. I provide a transcript of the deposition for the students to work with, which becomes a learning and teaching tool.

The presentations and transcript production I do at the law school are unquestionably the best pro bono work I can do as a firm owner. Because of this exposure, I’ve been asked to do seminars for lawyers, I did a PowerPoint presentation for the New Lawyers Group held at the law school, and I’ve been included as a sponsor for the Women’s Law Caucus, to name just a few. At the law school’s luncheon, I have been recognized, along with other volunteers, as a contributor to the success of the law school.

This year Professor Munro’s thank-you note said that he’d received the most comments ever about our demonstrations and he couldn’t thank me enough. However, I am forever grateful for the chance to strengthen the relationship between attorneys and court reporters. Every lawyer loves to win in court, but who doesn’t love a win-win situation? The law school gets a relevant presentation in realtime, I get to meet aspiring lawyers about to enter the field, we promote NCRA, and everybody is better off because of our collaboration. That’s a win in my book!

 

Melody Jeffries Peters, RDR, CRR, CRC, is an agency owner and freelancer in Missoula, Mont. She can be reached at mjeffries@montana.com.

 

 

Making the RecordNCRF’s “Making the Record” tools help reporters teach lawyers

The “Making the Record” brochure, originally created in 1937, has been updated over the years to help the bench and bar better understand the factors that make a clear record and is now housed as part of the Legal Education program materials provided by the National Court Reporters Foundation. The materials include not only a free, downloadable pdf of the brochure, but a Powerpoint presentation that can be adapted by reporters for the audience, outlines, and handouts that can be presented as part of a presentation. Materials are available at NCRA.org/NCRF/LegalEd.

NCRF’s programs are supported by tax-deductible donations to NCRF.