MANAGING: Inspiring your team

By Judy Stevens

If any of you have heard Anissa R. Nierenberger, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI, speak at either a state or national conference, you know the value in her wisdom and the easy manner in which she delivers that wisdom. Years ago, I invited her to speak at a Colorado Court Reporters Association symposium, and even then I was impressed by the way she captivated the audience of freelance and official court reporters when she has never, herself, edited and finalized a deposition or trial transcript. However, the techniques and tips of shorter and cleaner writing are, indeed, the same as those she’s mastered in her CART career. After having watched her work her magic in that room, I knew I had to reach out to her when I wanted to provide additional training to my reporting staff.

Before doing that, though, I talked to a few reporting firm owners with whom I’m associated and told them about my desire to provide additional training in-house to my employee reporters. I was told by one that (1) it wasn’t my responsibility to provide training to them; it was their own responsibility to get their own training, and (2) no one would come to training on a Saturday that wasn’t mandatory.

With those viewpoints, which were almost 180 degrees opposing to mine, I called Anissa. “Anissa,” I asked, “what would you think about offering your ‘Tackle Transcript Turmoil’ program to my staff on a Saturday via teleconference?” We discussed many of the logistics then set a date. I sent out an e-blast to my staff and almost immediately had 13 people who RSVP’d. All of them showed up on Sat., June 17, to hear Anissa and to improve their writing style so transcript preparation became easier and more streamlined through better dictionary entries.

Now, these aren’t new reporters. Some of these reporters have been with my firm for five or more years, and some have been reporting for more than 15 years. They each learned something through the training, all stayed after the conference was over to discuss ways to make highly functional new dictionary entries based on their individual software programs, and they bonded with each other on a Saturday morning. Now, does it really get any better than that?

My point in sharing this information is to suggest that you look outside the box for assisting your staff. Gather clues on what they might need from conversations with them. I noticed that one reporter was taking one day off for every one-day assignment so she could edit that assignment. One day to edit one day? Having been a reporter, I knew that there had to be ways to assist her, short of getting her a scopist, so that she didn’t spend that much time on editing. Another reporter wasn’t using locking suffixes and prefixes to her advantage, and her rough drafts had words which, although they should be readable by most attorneys, had things like in-form-ation because she hadn’t appropriately entered each of those syllables in her dictionary. Yes, they tranned correctly, but didn’t attach correctly to make the appropriate and complete word. These were two women who I recognized immediately could benefit from Anissa’s dictionary wizardry!

Don’t think that it’s the reporter’s sole responsibility to get additional training. They don’t know what they don’t know. This was more in-depth than their previous training with their software had been and also more personalized. Anissa asked them to ask questions — specific questions to their situation — and then answered them one by one. Yes, it is their responsibility to get the training they need, but it’s your job to listen to them and to hear what’s keeping them from absolutely loving what they do. If that one thing happens to be editing, then pick up the phone and call Anissa or whoever else you might think might benefit them. Talk with your team, and you might be totally surprised at how willing they are to learn if you’re willing to make it happen for them.

What it cost me was a catered breakfast, orange juice and champagne (for mimosas, of course), a very reasonable fee for Anissa’s time, and access through our video-conferencing system. What it brought me was a team of reporters who learned something from Anissa and from each other, who might just have cleaner strokes in their files, and who might, just might, quit spending so much time editing. They shared ideas and thoughts, exchanged some phone numbers, and discussed Facebook and additional “groups” for software-specific information.

I love and value the closeness within our team. I wish all the reporters could have attended, but it was a Saturday, and it was the middle of June –one of those amazingly beautiful days that can happen in Denver.

I also wish more firm owners felt connected to their staff on a one-on-one basis to the point that they hear their transcript struggles and they feel their writing pain. I often can see it on their faces after a job. When they left this 1.5-hour training, I saw smiles and laughter and heard comments about spending the rest of that afternoon making some of the changes to their dictionaries. Now, tell me. What is that worth to you as a firm owner? Step up and be their leader.

Judy Stevens RPR, CMRS, CPE, owns Stevens-Koenig Reporting in Denver, Colo. She can be reached at Judy@skreporting.com.

 

STUDENT REPORTING: First impressions in a social media world

By Melissa Lee

In life we are granted but one first: our first step, our first day at school, our first kiss. Firsts are so important, in fact, that it has been said that there is never a second chance to make a first impression. With that thought in mind, think about this: Potential employers often use Google and Internet-based social websites to glean information about an applicant they are considering for employment. If a picture is worth a thousand words, what do the pictures on your social media accounts tell a future employer about you, and what kind of first impression will they be left with?

When you graduate, your transcript will not be the only thing you are selling. You, too, become a part of the product you are marketing. Your behavior represents not only yourself, but your future employer and your court reporting community as a whole. The activities you choose to participate in, your dress, and your appearance all become indicators to others of the person you are long before your work product is ever seen. In fact, most people will come to know of you before they know you personally strictly based on a reputation that precedes you in a field where honesty, integrity, and discretion are paramount.

Knowing this is another important “first”; that is, the first step toward making first impressions that demonstrate to others who you are and that you are who they want. Start by guarding your name and your reputation the same way you would guard your Social Security number. Be mindful not only of the things you choose to post and say on social networking sites but the things you choose to allow yourself to be a part of or to participate in.

With that said, remember that it is not always the picture you post on your Facebook or Instagram account that can have a detrimental effect on the impression you leave with others; it can be the picture you allow to be taken of you that is later tagged on someone else’s social media account. Be mindful of the things you allow to be written on your wall. While you cannot control others and their opinions, you do have control over what is on your personal page and, presumably, reflects your opinions as well. While not always fair, some will be judged guilty by association; so choose your associates wisely.

While an ounce of prevention may be worth a pound of cure regarding one’s reputation and first impressions specifically, those who do have an embarrassing hiccup in their personal histories should remember this: Do not allow yourself to be defined by your mistakes but, rather, by how you choose to overcome them, never forgetting your lessons learned today and applying them to all your tomorrows. Own your past and the mistakes it holds so they won’t later own you. Be forthcoming regarding those errors in judgment so that you will never be presumed guilty of lying by omission.

While we strive for perfection, we will never be perfect. And while no firm is looking for perfection in an applicant, they are looking for someone that represents them, their values, and their company in a way they can be proud of and that they can sell to others. Begin this day becoming the reporter you want to market in your future by developing a reputation that you can be proud of and making first impressions that will convey to others the important asset you will be to their team.

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

Stand up for your health

By Debra J. Morris

I remember the day I woke up with a spare tire. Judge Gatreaux, the judge I worked for, had a penchant for the 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. legal marathon. I had a penchant for the Enchiladas Rancheras lunch buffet at El Tío Pepe with other famished court staff. At least, to my credit, I skipped the evening’s Happy Hour margaritas, only because the preliminary hearing transcripts were due in 10 stress-inducing days. Margaritas notwithstanding, it turns out those habits were a recipe for poor health.

Verbatim shorthand reporters fit neatly into the American Heart Association’s definition of a sedentary profession. We’re one with our steno machines until proceedings end. We commute to and from the day’s work. We edit, proofread, build our software dictionaries, research our next day’s case. When we finally declare it the end of the work day, we search for companionship on social media, unwind our minds with reality television, or order that margarita at Happy Hour. All of it sedentary.

Lunchtime workouts mean returning to work uncoiffed. Fatigue and family obligations undermine evening workouts. Morning workouts take strict discipline because of looming deadlines. It’s easy to self-sacrifice for our careers, hoping for the best when it comes to our own physical entropy. Verbatim shorthand reporting is the poster child of a demanding sedentary career.

“We spend a lot more time sitting behind computers than we used to. Movement is being engineered out of our lives, and the best advice is we need to sit less and move more,” said Deborah Rohm Young, Ph.D., in an article published by the American Heart Association News.

Dr. James A. Levine, M.D., Ph.D., explains in an article for the Mayo Clinic, that research links sitting for long periods with increased blood pressure, obesity, high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol levels, and excess body fat around the waist, and as well as increasing the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. These risks of sedentarism are separate from those commonly cited as causes of cardiovascular disease, such as smoking and high blood pressure.

Young suggests taking breaks from sedentary time. That’s great in theory, the assiduous among us will argue, but that means convincing our judges, clients, or family to comply. This can be akin to herding cats.

Levine recommends a different approach that removes the need to rally colleagues from the equation. Shorthand reporters can try these examples, or use them to brainstorm individualized ideas for taking breaks from sedentary time:

  • Stand while eating lunch.
  • Stand while answering emails or making those quick phone calls.
  • Raise your steno machine’s standing-height tripod periodically through the proceeding.
  • Scope and proofread from a high table or standing desk.
  • For off-the-record work, try specialized treadmill-ready vertical desks.

“The impact of movement – even leisurely movement – can be profound,” says Levine. Young agrees. Nudge yourself, she encourages, during downtime to plant yourself less on the sofa. Be mindful of the message and search for ways to sit less, move more, and stress the importance of being physically active, she says.

In today’s world of apps and Internet proximity to others within our profession, reporters could fight back against sedentarism as a group by logging on a social media platform the number of active minutes during the work day. We could start a YouTube channel of five-minute, in-office, physical activity segments. We should explore and share ideas within our professional community ways to improve our health.

I must admit, more than once I’ve cocked an intrigued brow at television commercials for nifty standing desks. While I’ve never succeeded at proofreading on a treadmill, I know myself, and a new tablet with all the latest features just might be the incentive to make that work. The good habit I have successfully established is committing to exercise before the career portion of the day. Admittedly, an hour at the gym once per day doesn’t negate the other 23 hours of sedentary living, but prioritizing that health comes first sets the self-management, good-habit standard that leads the rest of the day. A successful career is not possible without a healthy you.

Debra Morris is a freelance court reporter from Valencia, Calif. She can be reached at djmreporter@gmail.com.

Interested in covering international depositions? Here are 10 things you need to know

By Ian Hardy

I started covering international depositions as a legal videographer more than seventeen years ago. During the time I was living in Paris, France, and I began by working on international depositions as a young legal videographer. I have had the honor of working with some great court reporters and videographers in the business, covering U.S. depositions in every major country around the world. Now, back in the U.S., I continue covering depositions worldwide through my court reporting firm.

If you’re interested in covering international depositions as a reporter or videographer, I say go for it! It can be a fun and lucrative way to explore the world.

Here are ten useful rules of thumb for working U.S. depositions abroad:

  1. The two busiest regions for international depositions are Europe and Asia. These two places do the most business with the United States, and consequently, they often have witnesses that need to be deposed in American litigation.
  2. If the country is not English-speaking and doesn’t have indigenous court reporters, it’s more likely you’ll be asked to go there. Some countries, like England and Canada, already have their own court reporters who can cover depositions.
  3. Law firms looking for international reporters always ask for two things: 1) A reporter who will get the job done without fail, and 2) Low or no travel costs.
  4. Being based abroad is a huge advantage because you’ll save your clients money on travel. If you have dual nationality or a way to be based abroad in a popular deposition region, take advantage of it. You’ll get more work.
  5. By far the majority of international depos involve willing witnesses, because compelling unwilling witnesses to appear is very difficult for attorneys to accomplish in the international context.
  6. Some countries have special rules for administering the oath, and U.S. notary powers do not extend outside of the United States. In general, the best approach for swearing in your witness in a foreign country is to ask counsel for both sides to stipulate on the record that you, the court reporter, can administer the oath.
  7. If a client asks you to cover a deposition in a foreign country, be sure to educate yourself about the time difference, visa requirements, deposition restrictions (if any), security issues, and electrical system of the country before saying you can cover it for sure.
  8. Three major countries that have restrictions on the taking of depositions are China, Germany, and Japan. China does not allow depositions, while Germany and Japan require that all depositions be taken on the grounds of the U.S. consulate.
  9. Always take direct flights, whenever possible, to minimize the chances of bags being lost or missed connections.
  10. Sometimes international depositions can be taken remotely, via videoconference or telephone; be sure to ask the attorneys if they are interested in pursuing this option in situations where travel is prohibitively expensive or difficult.

Ian Hardy is a president of Optimus Juris, in international agency specialized in deposition services for U.S. legal matters abroad. More information on global depositions for NCRA member is available at http://www.optimajuris.com/NCRA/. Hardy can be reached at ihardy@optimajuris.com.

 

 

 

 

The many joys of working abroad

While there are many attractive attributes to a career in court reporting, perhaps one of the most intriguing is the opportunity to travel abroad for work. While many of the profession appreciate coming home after an overseas assignment, a lucky few NCRA members have made it their mission to work permanently in other countries. The JCR recently reached out to several NCRA members who have established themselves as working professionals and residents outside of their native countries.

So much bigger than the United States

Since 1979, Susan Anne McIntyre, RPR, CRR, CRC, has had the United Kingdom and Europe serve as the backdrops for her work as a freelance court reporter and captioner. Her work ranges from covering U.S. depositions and international arbitrations to work in the criminal courts, as a television captioner, and providing CART services.

How did the opportunity for you to work outside of the United States come about?

There was an article in the JCR in 1978 by the partners of a London-based reporting firm, George Walpole & Sons, who ran the contract to provide reporting services to the Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey). They were looking for reporters to come over and work as there was a shortage of qualified, high-speed reporters. At this time my colleagues were all pen shorthand writers using Pitman.

What made you want to work outside of the United States?

I was a real Anglophile and the opportunity to work in London was an opportunity too good to pass on. 

What was the hardest adjustment you had to make when you moved from the United States?

There were numerous adjustments that had to be made, but leaving my family was the most difficult. I was only 21 when I moved over to London. Some of the less traumatic adjustments were: no shops open on a Sunday, getting used to lunch at 1.00 instead of 12.00 (!), learning the colloquialisms of the language, learning to spell the English way, learning that “pants” and “trousers” were two very different items of clothing, having to flat share and not being able to afford a place of my own – which was the best thing that could have happened ( I made friends that I still have today); and learning to drive on the other side of the car on the other side of the street!

Did you relocate on your own or did you have assistance from a hiring firm?

No, I had no assistance. I did it on my own.

Do you receive benefits such as health insurance, 401K, pension, or are you considered an independent contractor?

I am an independent contractor (self-employed). I work for myself under the name of Ambassador Reporting International. My aim is to let all U.S. agencies know that I’m here and to work with them to provide a professional, high-quality, reliable service to their customers on their behalf.

What has been the best experience in working outside of the United States?

Realizing that the world is much bigger than the United States of America, seeing how other nationalities live and experiencing their cultures, and travelling.

Do you plan to return to the United States to work again?

Unlikely. I have now lived in the U.K. for 38 years – 17 years longer than I lived in the United States. This is my home now.

 Will you retire outside of the United States?

Yes.

What tips do you have for someone considering working outside of the United States?

Do it legally. Find out what your wage is likely to be and then what the standard of living is for someone on that wage. Do not expect your standard of living to be what you have in the U.S. Be aware that court reporting in certain countries just doesn’t exist. Be aware that as a U.S. citizen you are still obligated to file a U.S. tax return.

What is your favorite food there? 

Curry!

From bustling street scenes to sitting alongside a canal

After falling in love with Amsterdam, Rich Alossi, RPR, relocated from California to the Netherlands and now works as a full-time freelance reporter covering patent litigation, technical matters, arbitration, and the occasional captioning/speech-to-text work. His work takes him throughout Europe and occasionally Asia.

How did the opportunity for you to work outside of the United States come about?

My husband and I visited a friend in Amsterdam in 2013 and completely fell in love with the city, the people, and the quiet yet bustling street scenes that are enabled by the cycling culture. Coming from Los Angeles, it was pure joy to sit alongside a canal and listen to the sounds of bikes zipping past. We loved it so much that the next year we returned with the intention of scoping out neighborhoods to live in. After two years of planning and a huge personal investment, we followed through on our dream.

What made you want to work outside of the United States?

 I’ve always wanted to live abroad; it was just a matter of whether my skills would transfer professionally. When we saw an opportunity to make the move, it was a no-brainer. Reporting agencies love using me for jobs in Europe because their clients save on travel fees.

What was the hardest adjustment you had to make when you moved outside of the United States?

First and foremost, I miss my family and friends terribly. Facebook is great for keeping in touch, though. We’re taking time in between working and renovating our apartment to rebuild our routines. The more we travel, the more we realize that having continuity in daily life is more important than we would have expected. Even something as small as having an exact copy of all the personal care products that we use at home, like shampoo and soap, is important. Also, being immersed in another language, I’m finding that I am subconsciously altering my English words and syntax. I’m at a frustrating point of being bad at Dutch and English!

Did you relocate on your own or did you have assistance from a hiring firm?

As freelancers, we made the move completely on our own.

Do you receive benefits such as health insurance, 401K, pension, or are you considered an independent contractor?

As an independent contractor in a socially conscious country, the Netherlands is set up very well with health insurance options and retirement plans for citizens and residents. We have affordable private health insurance, and the market here is well regulated and consumer friendly.

What has been the best experience in working outside of the United States?

I love discovering new cities and planning return trips, and that’s so easy within the European Union’s visa-free Schengen Zone. Sweden has been a surprise favorite. While I think I would have had the ability to see a few of the dozens of cities and countries I’ve been to in the past few years, it would have taken me a lifetime had I not made the move to Europe. In less than two hours from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, I can be in most destinations in Western Europe.

Do you plan to return to the United States to work again?

I do not currently have any plans to return to the United States to live or work. That said, it’s only a 10-hour flight back to California, so there’s no reason not to visit each year.

Will you retire outside of the United States?

This year we’ll be starting contributions to a Dutch pension, and I’m continuing my intensive language studies. After five years, we will be able to apply for Europe-wide permanent residency. This is for the long haul.

What tips do you have for someone considering working outside of the United States?

My biggest recommendation is to stop comparing things so much to how they are back home, or at least have good humour about it. There will be pros and cons. The grocery store won’t have the products you’ve become accustomed to. You’ll lament the tiny kitchens and strange habits of the locals. But do try to learn the local language; it’ll open doors for you.

What advice do you have for someone searching for work outside of the United States?

Remember that it’s not a vacation. The clients are paying a lot of money for a service, and you must be up to the challenges that travel imposes. What’s your fall back plan if your realtime router gets fried in a puff of smoke as soon as you plug it in on a job in another country? Can you guarantee the job will go forward if your checked baggage is lost or delayed? Will you sleep through your alarm because of jet lag? What if the law firm Wi-Fi isn’t letting you stream offsite? You’ll know the answers to these questions because you’ve planned for them ahead of time.

What is your favorite food there?

Dutch food isn’t known for being too adventurous — lots of potatoes and root vegetables with a little meat — but that doesn’t mean it’s all plain. My favorite Dutch food is the bitterbal, which is a deep-fried breaded ball of gravy that you eat with a beer after work at the local “bruinkroeg,” or brown bar (so named because of the decades of cigarette smoke that have turned the formerly white walls brown). Smoking isn’t allowed inside anymore, thankfully, but the bruinkroegen and their deep-fried delicacies persevere. By the way, a great local brew here is almost always cheaper than bottled water or cola.

Go travel the world

Leah M. Willersdorf is an Australian living just outside of London in the County of Essex. Her location allows her to cover American depositions, arbitrations, caption big-screen events, work courtroom trials and more – throughout the United Kingdom, Europe, Scotland, and Ireland. She is a member of the British Institute of Verbatim Reporters and is currently working on earning her Register Professional Reporter certification from NCRA.

How long have you worked there? How did the opportunity for you to work outside of Australia come about? What made you want to work outside of your home nation?

Well, there’s a story. For those who don’t know it, I trained in Brisbane, Australia, in 1990/1991 at university, having wanted to be a court reporter since watching LA Law in my mid-teens and wondering what the really bored-looking woman was doing as she sat in front of the judge sort of tapping her fingers. I was able to do high school work experience shadowing a real-life reporter, so I first “touched” a steno machine when I was 16. I went on to university, graduated at the end of the two-year course (though I almost threw the machine out the window when I couldn’t get 80 wpm), which began with 90 students and ended up with just 10. Subjects included written English, spoken English, law, economics, management, and of course the machine.

In 1994 I said to my mum that either I must go travel the world or I stay in Australia and achieve what we call the Great Aussie Dream – buy a big plot of land and build your dream house.  I’m sure with some trepidation, my mum said, “Do what I never did and travel the world.” My brother was also here at the time, so that did help.

I applied for my two-year Working Holiday Visa and was London-bound in March 1995 at the ripe old age of 22. Twenty-two years later I’m still on that working holiday…and loving it. Not only do I not regret a single day – not even the bad ones – but I look around me constantly and realize how very lucky I am to be living my dream.

What was the hardest adjustment you had to make when you moved outside Australia?

Two main things come to mind immediately. In Adelaide at the Courts Administration Authority, where I began my career, we used to have three reporters on a team in court. We would usually do 20-minute turns and then be transcribing our turns when not in court, so that the final transcript was ready at the end of the day for the parties (after they had filled in a requisition form, of course). On my first day at Inner London Crown Court, I asked, “So what time will someone be in to take me off?” (Weird jargon we reporters use, isn’t it?) Well, you can imagine the look on my face when I was told that I’m in this courtroom all day on my own! Needless to say, back in those days I quickly had to build up my stamina, and I’m glad I did; some assignments I’ve done sit crazy hours!

The second thing I had to adjust to was not only the currency exchange rate (don’t convert when you start working in another country) but getting paid monthly, and a different amount each month, whereas back home it was fortnightly and the same amount each fortnight because it was a governmental position. Nowadays I think I would struggle going back to fortnightly!

Did you relocate on your own or did you have assistance from a hiring firm:

No, I received no assistance from a firm; however, I did have interviews/exams lined up for when I first arrived in London.

Do you receive benefits such as health insurance, 401K, pension, or are you considered an independent contractor?

As a self-employed freelancer, all those types of things are my own responsibility now; which is another thing I kind of miss about my time of working back home as well. We had a thing called Leave Loading where you would actually get extra money when you took your statutory leave.

What has been the best experience in working outside of Australia?

The opportunity to travel the world with my quirky non-KWERTY, and that includes around the state of South Australia. I could be in a London black taxi going past Big Ben or Buckingham Palace, and I still have to pinch myself that I am living in London. Being Australian, when I travel abroad I am fortunate enough to get stamps in my passport for every time I enter/leave a country; I will be able to look back on all of my travels just in those little books, which fill up quite quickly!

Also, I have had the opportunity to work alongside a couple of great expat American reporters particularly over the last couple of years. It was an absolute pleasure to be able to do double- and triple-tracked depositions in Stockholm (twice) and The Hague with Rich Alossi. This can be such an isolating profession sometimes, but when you get to work with other reporters it’s just such a wonderful experience. 

Do you plan to return to Australia to work again?

One day I will. I would love to go back to Adelaide and see all the gold-standard reporters who inspired me to always be the best I can be and to always have affection for that weird-looking machine.

What tips do you have for someone considering working outside of Australia?

First, make sure you have the necessary work visas/permits to allow you to work in your country of choice, whether it be for a week or for a year. To this day, I still have to show my documents, and I always will have to, I imagine. The rest of the world does not have the reporter population which America has, and to go in and not have the required documents yet still work is taking work away from the locals. Also, over here in Europe, and I know in Australia and Asia as well, realtime (in whatever sphere of the profession) is in high demand.  If you can provide very clean and readable realtime, you practically have a foot in the door. Do what you love and love what you do!

What advice do you have for someone searching for work outside of Australia?

Make it known to the agencies who you work with that you are willing and able (and have a passport with a good few months’ validity) to travel for work. You never know, they may send you to a city/country which you fall in love with and then decide you want to move there. Or, better still, you could fall in love with a local. I fell in love with a Parisian and now his Paris is one of my favourite cities in the world…though my French could do with a lot of help!

What is your favorite food there?

It’s not so much a food, but Twinings English Breakfast tea – I couldn’t start my day without it! (And the British version tastes so much nicer than the Aussie version!)

My wonderful home in Asia

After scanning the JCR job ads for interesting opportunities, Mary Allred, RPR, from Alberta, Canada, relocated to Japan in 2015. As a reporter for Planet Depos, she provides realtime services in the areas of depositions and arbitrations not only in Japan, but in Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Guam, Singapore, and Macao.

How did the opportunity for you to work outside of Canada come about?

I was living and working in Calgary, Alberta. The posting for Asia was advertised in the JCR, and when I saw it, I sent an email with an inquiry for details. The rest fell into place from there.

What made you want to work outside of Canada?

I have always had the travel bug, and I had obtained the RPR certification with the intention of traveling and working around the world, including in the United States.

What was the hardest adjustment you had to make when you moved outside of Canada?

I had to learn quickly how to handle the heat and humidity.  Not a single piece of clothing I brought with me is still in rotation in my wardrobe. Also, there was a drastic but pleasant lifestyle change going from a car society to a train society. The public transport system in Japan is famous for a reason. It can take you anywhere! It also requires a lot of walking. I’ve made more than my fair share of train mistakes and ended up in strange places, but each one was its own adventure.

I was surprised that the language barrier was not as much of a challenge as I thought it would be. Everyone has probably heard the saying that most of communication is non-verbal, and I have definitely learned this is true. I was lucky as well that several phone apps are available that can take a photo and translate text to semi-readable English. I have managed to avoid washing my hair with laundry detergent for two years due to their assistance!

Did you relocate on your own or did you have assistance from a hiring firm?

The firm took care of all relocation details. I moved to Japan sight unseen and with only the knowledge I accumulated from long forgotten school information and old samurai movies. Housing and flights are covered by my firm to help ease the transition. 

Do you receive benefits such as health insurance, 401K, pension, or are you considered an independent contractor?

As a resident of Japan, my health insurance is covered under the National Health Service, which is included in taxes.

What has been the best experience in working outside of Canada?

It has been such an adventure living and working in Asia. I have worked through many earthquakes and a few typhoons. I have loved the ability to experience other cultures much more in depth than is possible during a short trip. My work takes me all over Asia, and I have been able to see shrines and temples, castles and skyscrapers in some of the world’s most beautiful places.

Do you plan to return to Canada to work again?

At this time I have no plans to leave my wonderful home in Asia.

Will you retire outside of Canada?

I’m sure someday I will return to my home in Canada, probably around the same time I finally start to enjoy the heat!

What tips do you have for someone considering working outside of Canada?

Have patience! Some days even the simplest thing can turn into an ordeal as you learn different ways to do things. Do not ever be afraid to ask for help. The language barrier can be a challenge, but being polite and understanding will make the people helping you more willing to go the extra mile to make your job easier.

What advice do you have for someone searching for work outside of Canada?

The JCR job bank was an excellent resource for me. Once you are there, there are amazing tools nowadays for meeting people and trying new things. Sign up for Meetup.com and join local Facebook groups, and in no time you’ll build a network of friends making your time in your adopted country the most amazing experience possible.

What is your favorite food there?

Impossible to list it all! Asian food is amazing.  In Japan my favorites are Japanese curry and tonkotsu ramen. In Taiwan I always look for a 50Lan tea shop and get Yakult lemonade or a bubble tea. In Korea, be prepared to burn all your taste buds off with some spicy fried chicken and in Hong Kong get the Michelin Hong Kong Street Food Guide and try everything!

 

Off to Africa straight out of school

NCRA member Shane Madill, RPR, RMR, has been based in the Netherlands for nearly a decade. From there, his major job is providing realtime court work for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. He has also worked at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Court, and the Special Court for Sierra Leone in Freetown, Sierra, Leone. Every now and then he also does some court and arbitration work in the courts in Singapore. He also occasionally works in Asia.

How did the opportunity for you to work outside of Canada come about?

When I was a student at NAIT in my second year, my teacher used to work at the SCSL (Special Court for Sierra Leone). Knowing that I wanted to get out of Canada and try something new, she encouraged me to apply. At first I didn’t get accepted, and I was pretty disappointed. But then two months later they e-mailed me asking me if I was still interested and off I went to Africa fresh out of school for my first job.  

What made you want to work outside of Canada?

The opportunity to work outside of Canada was one of the principal reasons why I chose to get into court reporting. In NAIT’s brochure, they advertised students who had gone on to work in Australia and Europe, and that sounded right up my alley. I knew from high school that outside of Canada is where I wanted to go.

What was the hardest adjustment you had to make when you moved outside of Canada?

Being fresh out of school and going straight into an international environment, there was a steep learning curve. I was extremely fortunate to have the chance to work with some absolutely amazing reporters, who taught me how to adjust my writing style for foreign names and places that I’d never heard of and other ways to continue to shorten my writing. Also, learning how to deal with thick accents, different speaking styles, and new phrases had to quickly become second nature.

Did you relocate on your own, or did you have assistance from a hiring firm?

When I left Canada to Sierra Leone, I was 20. I didn’t have anything other than a suitcase, so there wasn’t much relocating to do. The people from the SCSL helped find me a place to stay to start off with, and I moved around down there eventually on my own. 

Moving to The Hague in the Netherlands from Freetown in Sierra Leone was much the same experience. The firm I work with had an apartment at that time that I could stay in until I managed to find my own flat.

Do you receive benefits such as health insurance, 401K, pension, or are you considered an independent contractor?

I receive no benefits and am treated by my firm as a contractor. I receive a living allowance and a food allowance. 

What has been the best experience in working outside of Canada?

Being able to develop myself professionally and meeting other court reporters from all over. I don’t know where I would be without a lot of the help and mentoring I received from my colleagues from different parts of Canada and the world. I know you can develop yourself professionally anywhere you are based, but working in different countries and having to adjust my writing style and my ears to different names and accents and having to quickly adjust to different cases focused in different continents and regions of the world has helped me to believe in my ability to do my job accurately in almost any situation and provide a product that the client will be happy with, which always leaves me with a smile because I feel like I accomplish something every day.    

Do you plan to return to Canada to work again?

Not in the near future, or hopefully distant. I’m pretty happy overseas right now.

Will you retire outside of Canada?

Yes, something about the south coast of France has always appealed to me. I’m hoping to somehow manage to get there!

What tips do you have for someone considering working outside of Canada?

Research the country or city you’re thinking of moving to and the culture, and be prepared for some inevitable cultural misunderstandings to come about. I’d also advise anyone moving abroad to also look into how the income tax in that country works, because it can get tricky!

What advice do you have for someone searching for work outside of Canada?

Keep trying and searching. It can be pretty hard to get the overseas job, but once you get in and get known in the circuit, the rewards are well worth the struggle and you may never want to go back.

What is your favorite food there?

Kibbeling. It’s a snack consisting of battered chunks of fish, commonly served with a mayonnaise-based garlic sauce or tartar sauce. My personal preference is the mayonnaise-based garlic sauce. 

 

LAST LAUGH: That’s my attorney for ya

That’s sooooooo Portland
Q. What does your wife do for a living?
A. She is a baker.
Q. And where does she work?
A. In Portland.
Q. And who does she work for?
A. Liberated Baking. It’s gluten-free.
Q. I think that’s the only baked products you can sell in Portland now.
A. I know. Or if it has kale in it.
Q. Has your wife always been a baker?
A. No.
Q. Or has she done something else?
A. She’s done other things as well. She’s been a butcher and a baker. We keep joking what’s next.
Juliane Petersen
Beaverton, Ore.

Some days I feel like it
A. Uh huh.
Q. That’s a “yes”?
A. “Yes.” Sorry.
Q. You and I communicate fine. The court reporter needs a little help, especially after she’s been drinking.
Melody Jeffries Peters, RDR, CRR, CRC
Missoula, Mont.

Risks? What risks?
Q. Does that mean that there are costs associated with those risks that also aren’t covered by insurance?
A. You said “those risks.” What risks?
Q. “Those risks” are “these risks” as used in that sentence.
Laurie Collins, RPR
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Take a bath
Q. Just so I have a clean record, Dr. Stockman —
A. Sure.
Q. — can you identify idiopathic for me?
A. Idiopathic means of undetermined cause.
Q. Thank you.
A. Or some people would say because your doctor is an idiot.
Q. Alternatively.
A. Alternatively, yes
Cinnamon Boyle, RPR, CRR
Fate, Texas

A riddle a day
A. There is an infinity of issues on which I didn’t make notes about what didn’t happen.
Q. You mean, didn’t put in your affidavit what didn’t happen?
A. That’s right. I didn’t put in my affidavit that I didn’t make an infinity of, an infinite number of notes on what didn’t happen.
Deborah Elderhorst
Toronto, Ontario

A room with a view
(The defendant had just been told his at formal arraignment he would plead guilty and get out of jail but formal arraignment was two months away.)
THE DEFENDANT: That’s a long time.
DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I’m going to try to get you in ahead of time.
THE JUDGE: The wheels of justice grind slowly, but they do grind.
THE DEFENDANT: I hope I can get in the kitchen unit.
Karen Noel
Easton, Pa.

Higher power
MR. BOOTH: Fair enough. All right. We have a document we’re going to introduce as our exhibit next in line. God knows what the number is.
THE REPORTER: God does know, and it’s 169.
Leah Nelson
Wyoming, Pa.

In the hot seat
(Talking about a fast and furious email exchange between the witness and his broker.)
Q. And he answered you from the dentist chair; right?
A. I assume he was at the dentist. I wasn’t there with him, unless I was the dentist. At this time I might have pulled out a few teeth.
Robin Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR
Portland, Ore.

It’s who you know
MR. SANDERS: Has anyone ever worked with an attorney or have a close friend or family member who was a practicing attorney?
JUROR: Aside from the judge’s family — her father, sisters, uncle, and the lot — a lot of my son’s friends are attorneys. And other friends of mine are attorneys, too. There’s several attorneys I have called friends.
MR. SANDERS: You need better friends.
Liebe Stevenson, RMR
Liberty, Mo.

The power of a subpoena
Q. Is there concern on your part about testifying today, about the possibility that Mr. Plaintiff may retaliate against the raceway?
A. Do I have to answer that?
THE COURT: Well —
A. A loaded question. Do I have to answer it?
THE COURT: Yes.
A. I mean, I’d be a numbskull if it wasn’t of some concern. But I’m not here because I’m afraid. I was subpoenaed.
DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You’re not here voluntarily.
A. Correct.
Q. You did not want to testify.
A. No. Why would — why would anybody want to sit in court?
THE COURT: Well, I get paid.
THE WITNESS: I’m not.
Jan Hunnicutt, RPR, CRR
Santa Rosa, Calif.

Fractured memories
The following is an excerpt of colloquy during a deposition where a very contentious attorney was attending telephonically. After repeatedly interrupting and talking over the witness, the other present attorney had to call his name seven times before he finally stopped talking:

MR. SMITH: Joe, you are making it extremely difficult for the court reporter. You are trying to talk over the witness’s testimony. You cannot do that especially when you’re attending by telephone. So, if you would, do not talk over the witness again, please.
MR. JONES: I didn’t realize that was occurring, so I don’t mean — okay.
MR. SMITH: Well, when I start screaming your name, that means you need to stop talking because your witness is still speaking, okay? Now, Joe, ask your question, please.
MR. JONES: Well, after that lecture, I don’t quite remember it.
Angeli English
DIberville, Miss.

Fall fashion questions
Q. Had he lost weight so that his shorts were too big?
A. His shorts were a little loose-fitting.
Q. So if he didn’t hold them up, would they slip down?
A. They weren’t down below his butt, but they were probably below the normal waistline.
Q. Below where a guy like me would wear them, an older guy?
A. Yes.
PLAINTIFF COUNSEL: Objection. Normally you wear yours up under your breasts.
DEFENSE COUNSEL: I’m not quite there yet, but soon.
Lora Appino Barnett, RPR, RMR
Overland Park, Kan.

When antecedents matter
BY MR. SMITH:
Q. And are you still currently married?
A. Yes.
Q. All right. And is that the same marriage from 1970?
A. Yes.
Q. Congratulations.
A. Thank you.
Q. Working on ten myself in a month or two, so…
MS. JONES: Ten marriages?
MR. SMITH: Ten years, not ten marriages. Should have clarified on that one.
Jeni Bartel, RPR, CSR
La Mesa, Calif.

My attorney thinks he’s funny
Q. If I ask a question and the question calls for a yes or no, affirmative or negative response, even though you and I can communicate just fine by nods of the head or shrugs of the shoulders or “uh huh,” the severe — and I do mean severe — limitations of the court reporter prevent us from being able to communicate that way and have it recorded.
She’s my court reporter for 25 years or longer and I always talk about her limitations in depositions.
Doreen Sutton, FAPR, RPR
Scottsdale, Ariz.

Flip or flop?
Q. You’re not going to be able to sell it for loft apartments downtown?
A. Right. The view of the unkempt lot across the street.
MR. DOE: Hipsters will live there anyway.
Elsa Jorgensen
Birmingham, Mich.

NCRA MEMBER PROFILE: Terra Torres, RMR, CRR, CRC

Resides:  Appleton, Wis.

Terra Torres, RMR, CRR, CRC

Terra Torres, RMR, CRR, CRC

Employment type: Official reporter

Member since: 1996

Graduated from: Gateway Technical College

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

I was a straight-A student but didn’t have the approval of my parents to attend a four-year college. My high-school counselor knew of this and told me I could still have a good career by attending a tech school and becoming a court reporter. I didn’t even know what a court reporter was at the time but the promise of a good salary and only two years of schooling drew me.

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

Whenever I provide realtime, I feel both scared and incredibly proud of myself. It’s always challenging but also the only way we can distinguish ourselves from electronic recording and set ourselves as an integral part of the courtroom.

What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishment?

Passing the RMR, CRR, and CRC exams.

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

My biggest hurdle to overcome in this profession has always been confidence. I had the skills but I’d walk into a deposition very timid with counsel and nervous about what I’d encounter. It took a long time to realize I needed to get over my fears and that I was good enough. My advice to newer reporters is still practice your writing skills after graduation, and then don’t be afraid to accept tougher assignments. This will make you better.

Is there something else you would like to share, such as a personal accomplishment?

This job is so sedentary that I believe for health and quality of life reporters need to get moving. I love to both run and lift weights. I’ve run three marathons, a few half marathons and 10Ks, and recently competed in the Figure division of an NPC bodybuilding show.

Maintaining a freelance mind-set in an official world

By Risa Entrekin

Many reporters accept an officialship after years of freelancing and feel they can relax with only one person to keep happy: the judge. After the excitement wanes, however, complacency often manifests itself in job dissatisfaction and frustration. The official who maintains a freelance mind-set in an official world can avoid this and enjoy a successful and pleasant career. Here are a few thoughts on how to succeed at the business of officialships without really trying:

Technology: In this ever-changing world, the steno machine remains a steady, trustworthy foundation upon which we must build an environment to meet client demand. The “client” may be a judge, court administrative staff, a probation or parole officer, attorneys, pro se litigants and their families, or any combination of the above.

As new attorneys emerge on the scene who have been immersed in high-tech gadgetry since before they started kindergarten, the reporter’s ability to respond to their needs becomes increasingly important. Whether it is emailing transcripts in various formats or live streaming a realtime feed to off-site participants, an awareness of technological advancements and the willingness to acquire the skill and equipment necessary to respond to those advancements is crucial. One way to become familiar with the latest advancements is through technology itself: participating in Facebook groups, watching YouTube “how-to” videos, and attending NCRA and other conferences either in person or remotely.

Maintaining and improving one’s skill is always a worthwhile goal that will benefit the client as well as the reporter. A trial involving technical subject matter will always be extremely challenging, but it can be more successful and less stressful when a reporter is at the top of his or her game. Some courts even offer pay incentives for additional certifications.

Financial considerations: An officialship may create new and challenging financial considerations that are best discussed with an accountant or tax advisor. Although taxes will be withheld from salaried income, it may be necessary for the reporter to file estimated tax payments to avoid underpayment penalties. Keeping transcript income and estimated taxes in a separate account may be helpful.

Keeping good financial records is burdensome and time-consuming, but it is a necessary evil. Some officialships require additional record keeping that can seem like “busy” work to the busy reporter. However, this record keeping is simply a job that must be done. The best attitude to cultivate is one of acceptance instead of procrastination.

Organization: When time is short and days in court are long, a consistent method of organizing work and maintaining records is a necessity. Constantly prioritizing transcript requests is a must. The “Sticky Notes” tool available on the Windows desktop or the use of Microsoft OneNote can assist the reporter to be continually aware of what task needs the most urgent attention.

Proofreading on a mobile device can allow the reporter to make more efficient use of unavoidable time delays. Files can be sent and received from a proofreader using the same technology. Develop a quick and effective way of preparing a job or case dictionary for a realtime feed. This often is the difference between a mediocre and excellent realtime transmission. The official may find it helpful to organize the most urgent tasks at the close of a workday.

Teamwork: Unlike the freelance world where the reporter is often working autonomously, teamwork is extremely important for the official. Officials live in an uncertain world of budget cuts and work study evaluations, and they share their world with courthouse personnel who often do not understand or appreciate the reporter’s contribution. Officials often face threats of being replaced by other technology. The reporter’s best reaction in the face of uncertainty is to become invaluable at the courthouse. As with any public-sector job, the reporter will work with a myriad of people from a variety of backgrounds who possess many different attitudes and work expectations. A reporter should always strive to maintain a professional attitude and keep the interests of justice as his or her top priority.

Teamwork also includes working well with a future team, the reporters who will assume the official reporter positions of the future. Create a method of communicating with the reporters of tomorrow about how records, audio files, rough drafts, and final transcripts are stored. This lasting legacy furthers the cause of justice. An “In Case of Emergency” file which can be easily accessed by others will ease the transition and save time. The file should include passwords, file locations, account numbers, locations of keys, and any other information the court reporter considers important.

Professionalism:  It is human nature to have short memories of positive experiences and lingering memories of negative situations. This is one of many reasons for the official reporter to endeavor to develop and maintain a high degree of professionalism. The NCRA Code of Ethics is an additional incentive. Frankly, another reason to always maintain professional integrity is because the legal community is often relatively small and closely knit. A reporter may not know that the doddering old attorney fumbling with the newfangled evidence presentation method used to be the judge’s law partner or that the intake clerk struggling to get a degree may end up clerking for the judge before he accepts a position with a stellar law firm.

Reporters should always avoid even the appearance of impropriety. The official who becomes complacent about their duties can sometimes relax this standard and become friendlier with attorneys who frequent the courtroom. Giving advice and commenting on a case is always inappropriate, regardless of how well a reporter knows an attorney. The official should treat everyone equally, both in the courtroom and after the fact.

Always strive to honor commitments made for transcript production. Maintain communication with the requesting party throughout the production process if necessary. A late transcript now and then is inevitable and unavoidable, but a late transcript preceded by no communication from the court reporter is unjustifiable.

The official sometimes has more flexibility to volunteer with state and national associations, and yet freelancers often carry the lion’s share of this burden. Officials should encourage students by mentoring them if at all possible. This encourages the student and allows them to be more comfortable in an intimidating setting. This connection with students can benefit both the student and the working reporter. Providing pro bono services or transcribing interviews through NCRA’s Oral Histories Program are other ways officials can contribute to their profession.

An unknown author once said, “Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.” Officials should faithfully preserve the record with skill and professionalism, always being cognizant of their contribution to our collective destiny.

Risa Entrekin, RDR, CRR, CMRS, CPE, is an official based in Montgomery, Ala. She also holds NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator certificate. She can be reached at risaentrekin@gmail.com.

 

CHECKLIST: What to bring on a reporting assignment

By Robin Nodland

Long-time NCRA member and 2016-2017 Technology Committee chair offered her personal checklist for what she brings to the job. She suggests adapting this for your own purposes.

Professionalism:

  • Professional appearance
  • Professional demeanor
  • State and national association memberships
  • State and national certifications

Equipment:

  • Stenowriter w/Bluetooth connection with tripod
  • Writer cable (when Bluetooth fails)
  • Manual for writer
  • Support contract for writer
  • Laptop with sticker re: recording
  • Sound card
  • CAT software key
  • CAT software manual
  • CAT software support contract w/800 phone number
  • 2 microphones
  • Laptop stand with tripod
  • Coolpad
  • Power strip w/long cord
  • DepoBook or notebook
  • Exhibit stickers
  • Business cards
  • Pens
  • 2 USB jump drives
  • Extra tote for exhibits
  • Worksheet for assignment
  • Notice of deposition, if available
  • Directions to assignment, if needed
  • Smartphone

Extras:

  • Post-its
  • Granola/protein bars
  • Lunch money
  • Parking money
  • Cough drops
  • Kleenex
  • Water bottle and/or coffee
  • Mints
  • Highlighter
  • Red pen
  • Pill box with: acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin, allergy meds
  • Spare smartphone charger (grateful attorneys used it to charge up more than once)

Realtime jobs:

  • Stenocast
  • Router
  • Netbook(s) with realtime software
  • iPad with MyView
  • RSA shortcut book
  • Realtime/rough draft disclaimer

Court:

  • Form for “court reporter is the official record”

 

Robin Nodland, RDR-CRR, is  a firm owner based in Oregon. She holds NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator certificate and can be reached at RNodland@lnscourtreporting.comNodland was the co-chair of NCRA’s 2016-2017 Technology Committee.

 

My wonderful home in Asia

Scene of a Japanese temple surrounded by mountains, fall foliage, and water, with a bridgeAfter scanning the JCR job ads for interesting opportunities, Mary Allred, RPR, from Alberta, Canada, relocated to Japan in 2015. As a reporter for Planet Depos, she provides realtime services in the areas of depositions and arbitrations not only in Japan, but in Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Guam, Singapore, and Macao. This piece on living and working internationally is an excerpt from a full-length article in the 2017 November/December issue of the JCR.

How did the opportunity for you to work outside of Canada come about? I was living and working in Calgary, Alberta. The posting for Asia was advertised in the JCR, and when I saw it, I sent an email with an inquiry for details. The rest fell into place from there.

What made you want to work outside of Canada? I have always had the travel bug, and I had obtained the RPR certification with the intention of traveling and working around the world, including in the United States.

What was the hardest adjustment you had to make when you moved outside of Canada? I had to learn quickly how to handle the heat and humidity. Not a single piece of clothing I brought with me is still in rotation in my wardrobe. Also, there was a drastic but pleasant lifestyle change going from a car society to a train society. The public transport system in Japan is famous for a reason. It can take you anywhere! It also requires a lot of walking. I’ve made more than my fair share of train mistakes and ended up in strange places, but each one was its own adventure.

I was surprised that the language barrier was not as much of a challenge as I thought it would be. Everyone has probably heard the saying that most of communication is non-verbal, and I have definitely learned this is true. I was lucky as well that several phone apps are available that can take a photo and translate text to semi-readable English. I have managed to avoid washing my hair with laundry detergent for two years due to their assistance!

Did you relocate on your own or did you have assistance from a hiring firm? The firm took care of all relocation details. I moved to Japan sight unseen and with only the knowledge I accumulated from long forgotten school information and old samurai movies. Housing and flights are covered by my firm to help ease the transition.

Do you receive benefits such as health insurance, 401K, pension, or are you considered an independent contractor? As a resident of Japan, my health insurance is covered under the National Health Service, which is included in taxes.

What has been the best experience in working outside of Canada? It has been such an adventure living and working in Asia. I have worked through many earthquakes and a few typhoons. I have loved the ability to experience other cultures much more in-depth than is possible during a short trip. My work takes me all over Asia, and I have been able to see shrines and temples, castles and skyscrapers in some of the world’s most beautiful places.

Do you plan to return to Canada to work again? At this time I have no plans to leave my wonderful home in Asia.

Will you retire outside of Canada? I’m sure someday I will return to my home in Canada, probably around the same time I finally start to enjoy the heat!

What tips do you have for someone considering working outside of Canada? Have patience! Some days even the simplest thing can turn into an ordeal as you learn different ways to do things. Do not ever be afraid to ask for help. The language barrier can be a challenge, but being polite and understanding will make the people helping you more willing to go the extra mile to make your job easier.

What advice do you have for someone searching for work outside of Canada? The JCR job bank was an excellent resource for me. Once you are there, there are amazing tools nowadays for meeting people and trying new things. Sign up for Meetup.com and join local Facebook groups, and in no time you’ll build a network of friends, making your time in your adopted country the most amazing experience possible.

What is your favorite food there? Impossible to list it all! Asian food is amazing. In Japan my favorites are Japanese curry and tonkotsu ramen. In Taiwan I always look for a 50Lan tea shop and get Yakult lemonade or a bubble tea. In Korea, be prepared to burn all your taste buds off with some spicy fried chicken; and in Hong Kong get the Michelin Hong Kong Street Food Guide and try everything!