Access to a master: The value of having a mentor

Man in a suit sitting at a steno machine next to a screenBy Joshua Edwards

Back in 2016 before giving my first speech at my local Toastmasters club, I emailed a draft of my speech to my assigned mentor, Jason. Jason is a seasoned member of our club and has given dozens of speeches over the years. He had developed a keen eye for how to craft an effective speech. Jason redlined through several paragraphs of my speech and typed a note about getting right to the point. I accepted his input and rewrote the speech. Had I not worked with a mentor and done it on my own, I would probably have droned on and on about things that are interesting to just one person — me — and barreled through the four- to six-minute time limit.

In the field of court reporting, I am a mentor to several students through both NCRA and the New York State Court Reporters Association. I try to give them the same beneficial insight in reporting as Jason gave me in Toastmasters: to avoid pitfalls, discover best practice habits, and stay disciplined and focused. I’ve heard anecdotes of students spending precious time in useless practice habits like sitting in front of a television and writing the news while the writer is turned off. (How do you know what you are writing?) A student may think that is effective practicing, but without the feedback of either paper notes or a realtime display, it is just a vain exercise.

All of us know how hard court reporting is. In fact, speedbuilding can be just as nerve-racking as public speaking. We can all empathize with the student who has been stuck at a particular speed for what feels like eons and the bitter disappointment of failing that speed test week after week. That student may be just one more failed test away from jumping ship and abandoning a significant investment of time and money. The difference between walking away in frustration and becoming a successful court reporter often hinges on wise input from a mentor.

Mentors guide students, and they offer encouragement and practical advice based on personal experience. When a student works with a mentor, that student has prime access to an individual who has mastered the craft of court reporting and worked in the field long enough to know a thing or two. A well-qualified mentor has operated in a wide variety of settings and has faced and survived both the tedious routine and the exciting challenges that can happen in the course of a court reporter’s day. Think of a young voice student who had the chance to work with the legendary opera singer Luciano Pavarotti. Pavarotti had a passion for singing and for encouraging young singers to refine their craft. He not only performed in major opera houses across the globe, but he coached many voice students as well.

Whether a reporting student needs help, an occasional pep talk, or a serious high-voltage motivational speech, the mentor is willing to commit the time and to be responsive to the student’s needs. It goes without saying that the student must be equally committed and willing to put in his or her due time and effort. Remember this is a volunteer effort. Time is valuable to us all, and being a mentor means being willing to give some of that precious time for free. Likewise, the student needs to respect the time and energy given by the mentor for his or her benefit.

I have a mentee* who occasionally sends me her transcribed assignments to look at the punctuation. While reviewing a jury charge, she had put in so many underscores denoting drops that I had to stop marking the grammar. Instead, I wrote a note in red ink: “It is critically important that you practice at a speed you can actually get down.” Her practice habits were not going to yield much success if she continued practicing at too-high speeds, dropping too many words, and trying to learn punctuation from incomplete passages.

*(Yes, mentee is a real dictionary word. Be sure to define it so you don’t get minty, men tea, men tee, or heaven forbid, meanty.)

Communication is key for a mentoring relationship to be successful, whether it happens by email, phone, text, video conference, or in person, if possible. Each week I send an email to a list of more than 90 students and working reporters. The email may cover anything related to the field. After coming back from NCRA’s Convention in Las Vegas, I wrote a lengthy piece summarizing my experiences there. Being a mentor means sharing your professional expertise to help a student reach his or her goals. Being a mentee means receiving valuable tutelage, for free, from a pro who has already been there. So go ahead and sign up. Your future may well depend on it!

Joshua Edwards, RDR, CRR, is a captioner in New York, N.Y. He can be reached at joshua@jbreporting.com.

Someone to trust: The value of peer mentorship

By Megan Rogers

Most of the discussion about mentoring revolves around students. Court reporters and captioners remember how difficult school was and recognize students’ need to have someone to go to for support and advice.

But what about after school? Reporting and captioning success in the real world require some measure of business skills. This becomes especially important if a reporter or captioner finds themselves operating as a one-person shop or running or owning a firm.

In 2016, Cassy Kerr, RPR, CRR, CRC, who owns StenoLogic in Tulsa, Okla., sent an email to the NCRA firm owners’ listserv asking for a firm-owner mentor. “I have been a reporter for 26 years and a firm owner for 13, and there are times when I need a sounding board, someone to go to with business questions, out of the social media arena,” Kerr said. “It’s hard being a firm owner, and it’s hard being a small-firm owner and a working reporter and trying to keep all the balls in the air at once.”

“I didn’t set out to be a firm owner,” explained Kerr in an interview with the JCR. “My passion lies with court reporting, but there are consequential duties that come with being a small-firm owner.” She further said: “All responsibilities fall on my shoulders, including calendaring the depositions, ordering supplies, invoicing transcripts, paying taxes, all the back office support that comes with running a business. I have outside help from my accountant, bookkeeper, scopists, proofreader, copying/scanning service, and the like; and they take away some of the pressure, but those responsibilities ultimately end with me.”

Kim Thayer, RPR, CRR, owner of Kim Thayer & Associates in Hanford, Calif., was one of the people who responded to Kerr’s message. Thayer agreed that a business mentor would be helpful. “As a reporter, you don’t realize the nuts and bolts that go into making a firm run,” she said. For example: “I had no idea all the contracts that needed to be read over and analyzed, from renting copy machines to software agreements. At the time I was leasing space for our office, so I had to learn how to deal with the leasing company. All the extra costs of running a business were probably the most surprising, employee taxes, etc.”

Thayer has a similar experience to Kerr in that she’s actively reporting. “That’s where I find the most fulfillment and joy,” she said. She’s been reporting since 1990 and bought the firm in 2005. Also like Kerr, she hadn’t previously anticipated owning a firm. “My current firm I worked for, the owner took me to lunch, told me she was retiring, felt I would be the best fi t to buy her firm,” she explained. “After a week of thinking it out, pros and cons, we went into negotiations.”

Kerr’s desire for a mentor isn’t a new concept in the business world. Sometimes this comes in the form of a peer mentor and sometimes it comes in the form of a mastermind group.

Thayer found a mentor in the previous owner of the firm, who stayed on for another couple years working as a reporter. “The greatest benefit was I was able to call and ask her about the business when something came up, so I had direct access to answers,” said Thayer.

Mentors “can provide guidance, wisdom, and direction so you don’t become mired in self-doubt,” said Sumi Krishnan in a 2015 article entitled “Why Entrepreneurs Need Mentors and How to Find Them” for Entrepreneur. Krishnan is the CEO of K4 Solutions, a technology and staffing service, based in Falls Church, Va. “You may try to use friends, family members, and colleagues as mentors. But that won’t work. Those people can’t empathize with many of your struggles the way a mentor in your industry can.” Krishnan suggests three different types of mentors:

  • The ‘mentor from afar’: “Often a stranger who doesn’t know you but is still someone who can have a great impact on how you run your business.”
  • The industry-specific mentor: “He or she can help you with industry-dependent challenges, like managing finances and choosing suppliers. These individuals rarely mentor full time, but their one-on-one advice can be invaluable, especially in niche fields.”
  • The direct mentor: “Usually professionals whom you may be paying in return for their support.”

Jason Meadors, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, has served as both mentee and mentor based on Krishnan’s categories, although he doesn’t use those terms. “If someone’s talking about how they do a certain thing — as an example, reading/signing — then rather than counter with, ‘Oh, I do it this way,’ I try to think, ‘How would that work for me?’ I’ve gotten a lot of good business tips that way, just from listening,” he said. Meadors, who also responded to Kerr’s inquiry on the listserv, has also acted as an advisor to reporters who are setting up their own business: “I tell them they should have a corporate entity, have their own cards, fi le their quarterlies, contact firms for work other than me, etc.”

Unlike Kerr and Thayer, Meadors set out to start his own firm, Meadors Court Reporting in Fort Collins, Colo. “I started my own shop on a shoestring, and not a nice new shoestring out of the pack, but a frayed and tied-together one that looked like it had belonged to a teenager trying to outrun a pack of dogs,” he said. The appeal of owning a firm, however, was “playing by my own rules.”

Meadors has also tapped into what is essentially an informal mastermind group. “I’m fortunate that in Colorado, we have a pretty collegial bunch to whom I can talk without a lot of worries,” although he admits, “I do have a few colleagues I relate to more often.”

In a 2013 article for Forbes entitled “7 Reasons To Join A Mastermind Group,” Stephanie Burns describes a mastermind group as “a group of smart people [who] meet weekly, monthly, daily even if it makes sense, to tackle challenges and problems together. They lean on each other, give advice, share connections, and do business with each other when appropriate.” Burns is the founder and CEO of Chic CEO based in San Diego, Calif. She lists advisement, collaborating, extending your network, and cross-promotion as some of the reasons to form a mastermind group. “By interacting and sharing your challenges, it’s almost certain that someone in your mastermind will have a solution for you, and you may also be able to offer a solution, connection, or tactic to help another in the group,” Burns said.

“Sometimes you just need some trusted colleagues who are at the same place in their development to hash around ideas with. That, in a nutshell, is the mastermind group,” said Adrienne Montgomerie in a 2015 blog post entitled “How a Mastermind Group Educates Sr Editors” for Copyediting.com. Montgomerie is a certified copyeditor and editorial consultant based in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. “To start your own mastermind group, list the colleagues you turn to regularly for advice (or who you would like to) and who consults you. Pick people who share aspects of your own practice,” Montgomerie said. “One or two points in common is essential, but points of contrast are very important, too. You want to be able to draw on each other’s different strengths.” She also notes: “Your mastermind group doesn’t have to be local. Online chat systems, video conferencing, or even a group email chain can facilitate communications.”

In a 2013 article for Entrepreneur entitled “Look to Peer Mentoring Groups for Ideas, Support, and Tough Love,” Brian Barquilla, who uses the term peer mentoring group, explained, “Peer mentoring groups are usually 10 or 12 owners of similarly sized, non-competing businesses who get together to help each other find faster, easier ways to build a great company.” Barquilla is the president of AdvantageB2B Consulting + Marketing in Jacksonville, Fla. Since Barquilla suggests finding peer mentors outside of your own industry, he points out: “It is likely whatever problems you face, someone in your group has faced it and remedied it, but what worked for one industry may not with another.”

Previous experience with a professional group is what got Kerr started in thinking about finding a mentor. “I became involved a couple of years ago with 4word, a Christian professional women’s organization that promotes mentors in the workplace, and that is when I first became aware that even working women need mentors, and it gave me the idea to reach out to the listserv,” said Kerr.

Kerr admitted that she doesn’t want to feel like she’s bothering a court reporting friend who may be too busy to answer obligatory questions, so having a wide network can help. Meadors explained: “Really, conventions — state, user group, and national — have been huge for me in establishing connections and listening to what others do. I had one firm owner tell me back in the 1980s, ‘I have gotten back every penny I have ever spent on NCRA conventions just for business knowledge and contacts,’ and I find that to be true. And then that leads to friendships and ongoing contacts. There are firm owners coast to coast and in between with whom I chat, all thanks to those connections.”

Perhaps the most challenging step is swallowing that pride and understanding the value of reaching out. “I shrugged off wondering what other reporters and firm owners would negatively think about a 26-yearplus reporter and experienced firm owner asking for help,” said Kerr. “I made myself vulnerable because my thoughts are we reporters need to ask for help from our colleagues, we need to continue learning and growing in our profession, and we need to stop thinking we will look incompetent if we ask for help.”

“No matter how high your position in a court reporting firm,” Kerr concluded, “I believe everyone would benefit with a mentor.”

Megan Rogers is NCRA’s Communications Assurance Specialist. She can be reached at mrogers@ncra.org.

What can you do in a month to earn CEUs?

A middle-aged white woman listens attentively during a workshop while taking notes.The Sept. 30 deadline for this year’s CEU cycle is coming up quickly, but there’s still time to earn a few more last-minute credits, both in person and online. Even if your CEU cycle isn’t ending this year, these ideas can help you stay on track and possibly even get that requirement done early.

Attend a webinar or e-seminar

Webinars and e-seminars are a great way to learn some new skills in the comfort of your own home and, in terms of e-seminars, on your own schedule. There are three 90-minute live webinars scheduled for this September:

If none of these webinars fit your schedule, check out the NCRA e-seminar library for 60- and 90-minute sessions on topics that include business, CART and captioning, ethics, grammar and language, history, official reporting, personal development, realtime, technology, and more.

Attend a pre-approved event, including state association conferences

Many state associations and other court reporter–related organizations are hosting conferences and seminars in September. In-person events give you the opportunity to network with other reporters and captioners while earning CEUs. Most events are one to three days, and several of them are in the first half of the month. Events are scheduled in Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Montana/Wyoming/Idaho, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Washington, and Wisconsin, as well as Alberta, Canada, this month. Check out the full calendar of pre-approved events here, which includes the dates, location (geographic or online), and number of CEUs.

Learn CPR or first aid

The American Heart Association, the American Red Cross, and other organizations often host seminars on CPR or first aid. Perhaps you can organize a few colleagues from your firm, court, or even your local area to team up for an event nearby. Court reporters and captioners have to be prepared for anything, so why not add safety to your list of skills? Learn more about the requirements for earning CEUs by learning CPR or first aid on NCRA.org/WaysToEarn.

Transcribe oral histories

Members who participate in the Oral Histories Program through the National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF) may earn Professional Development Credits for their time. Members can apply up to 1.0 PDC to their CEU requirement per cycle. Transcribe a 30- to 90-minute pre-recorded interview of an American veteran, Holocaust survivor, or attorney who has provided pro bono services through Legal Aid. Many people find participating in the Oral Histories Program to be especially rewarding. “As court reporters, we sometimes are too focused on the financial side of what we do, but (volunteering) is giving back. Anyone thinking of participating in one of these events should just jump right in and do it. It’s well worth it,” said Kimberly Xavier, RDR, CRR, CRC, CMRS, CRI, an official court reporter from Arlington, Texas, and a U.S. Air Force veteran, who recently volunteered at NCRF’s third Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project initiative at the 86th Military Order of the Purple Heart 2017 Convention held in Dallas. Learn more at NCRA.org/NCRF/OralHistories.

Get credit for past events

You may have already participated in activities that have helped you earn CEUs or PDCs during the last year, and the only thing you need to do is fill out the proper form to get credit. If you promoted the profession at a career fair, law school, or other event; provided pro bono services; served on a state association board or committee (including the United States Court Reporting Association); or participated in a formal mentoring program, you may qualify for credit for your volunteerism. You can submit these CEUs and PDCs here.

Cycle extensions

If you need a four-month cycle extension (to Jan. 31) to finish those last CEUs, you can fill out the CEU extension request form by Sept. 30. Note that the deadline to complete CEUs or to request an extension is the same date.

View the full list of qualified continuing education activities at NCRA.org/WaysToEarn. View other continuing education forms here or view your current transcript here. If you have any questions, please contact the NCRA credentialing coordinator.

Five ways to support the court reporting and captioning profession on #GivingTuesday

giving-tuesday-2016_jcrcomNCRA members and staff are all part of the service economy. NCRA members are keepers of the record, and NCRA staff serves its members. The profession has service in its blood, so NCRA is encouraging all members and staff to take part in #GivingTuesday on Nov. 29.

What is #GivingTuesday?

#GivingTuesday, an annual day of giving following Black Friday and Cyber Monday, was created in 2012 to empower a new community of philanthropists. #GivingTuesday is based on the concept that anyone, anywhere, can be a philanthropist. Participants don’t have to be billionaires to participate, and they don’t have to give funds. Giving can mean money, time, advocacy, or education.

On Nov. 29, NCRA members are encouraged to participate on #GivingTuesday

  1. Sponsor a student membership.

For many students, typical daily expenses combined with the cost of tuition means NCRA membership falls outside their budgeted expenses. Often when students choose which bills to pay, membership in NCRA falls off the list, despite the fact that being a part of the national association provides numerous resources, such as access to professionals for support and other benefits, that can help lead to finding jobs when they have graduated and are furthering their professional careers.

  1. Donate to NCRF.

The National Court Reporters Foundation raises funds throughout the year to support programs created to benefit the greater court reporting community. NCRF also awards four scholarships and grants to court reporting students and recent graduates each year. Donate to NCRF by calling 800-272-6272.

  1. Become a virtual mentor.

NCRA is committed to excellence both in the court reporting profession and in the next generation of court reporters. To this end, the Virtual Mentor Program brings working court reporters and students together, so students can get the guidance and encouragement they need and today’s court reporters can nurture the future of court reporting.

  1. Download crTakeNote.com brochures and posters.

Put up posters at local schools, libraries, and coffee shops. Do a presentation about becoming a court reporter for high school students, parents, and/or school counselors. Talk to a neighbor or friend about court reporting careers.

  1. Volunteer to serve on an NCRA Committee or in a leadership position and give back to the profession, make new friends, and establish new networks.

Learn 30 more ways to give back on #GivingTuesday.

Share how you plan to give on social media by using the #GivingTuesday and #crTakeNote hashtags.

Court reporters that thrive: Building career resiliency and success through mentoring

Photo by John Lynch

Photo by John Lynch

By Kevin Nourse

New court reporters face a variety of obstacles that can derail their careers. These barriers range from meeting speed requirements in their training programs to getting established in their first full-time role. Psychologists have known for decades that one important factor that helps successful people overcome their challenges is resilience — an ability to bounce back from setbacks. You can enhance your resiliency and thrive in your new career by partnering with a mentor.

In this article, we explore mentoring as an essential ingredient for helping you increase your career resilience and successfully enter the court reporting profession. You will gain insights on what mentoring is, how to find one, and tips for working with your mentor.

What is mentoring?

Mentoring is a partnership you can form with an experienced professional focused on your development and career success. This partnership is a relationship between you and your mentor where you both agree to cooperate as a way of advancing your mutual interests. Mentors agree to serve in this role because they want to help advance the profession and often gain enjoyment from helping people grow. As a mentee, you are interested in successfully completing your court reporter training and getting established in your first role.

While many new court reporters rely on social media, such as Facebook, to get support and answers to their questions, some prefer an on-going trusting relationship with a mentor. Your mentor can play an instrumental role in helping you complete your training and get established in your first role.

Who needs a mentor?

While you should focus the mentoring partnership on your unique needs as a mentee, there are some common situations where mentoring can help.

Career changers considering a career as a court reporter

Making a decision to enter a profession can be an overwhelming challenge without the right information. Career changers interested in becoming a court reporter may choose a mentor to help them determine whether it’s the right profession. Activities like shadowing experienced court reporters to observe what their day is like or conducting informational interviews with seasoned court reporters to learn more about the profession are great ways to find out if the profession is for you.

Students who are training to become a court reporter

Students in court reporting programs are faced with numerous challenges as they learn to master essential concepts and skills. Mentors can play a critical role to help students identify strategies to accelerate learning including increasing their speed. Lisa Hahn, RMR, a freelance reporter in Decatur, Ill., shared how she gave her mentee “tips to combine complex multi-syllabic words in one stroke.”

Another way that mentors provide support to students is in the form of emotional support. Rachel Barkume, RPR, is an official reporter based in Oakhurst, Calif.. She explained “family members don’t understand what court reporting school is like — every day we had pop quizzes that we had to pass as we built our speed. Even when you pass a speed test, the next day you have to work toward the next milestone. It can be very discouraging.” In these situations, a mentor can provide a supportive ear and validate the emotions experienced by a new student. By doing so, students are better able to sustain their perseverance to finish their training programs.

Steve Zinone, RPR, NCRA President and official reporter in Canandaigua, N.Y., adds that experienced mentors can also provide students “a light at the end of the tunnel” to help them maintain their resiliency with a clear vision of what life will look like once they complete their training program.

Recent graduates of court reporter training programs

Newly trained court reporters often experience stress in identifying their reporting focus as well as facing the realities of their first job. With the number of specialty areas available to court reporters as well as types of organizations that provide this service, people who are new to the profession can feel overwhelmed. Mentors can also help early career court reports explore and identify career options.

Starting out in a job after school can be highly stressful as new court reporters face the day-to-day realities that their training programs may not address. Barkume explained how she started her new job after school and was expected to perform reporting for motion call cases. She noted, “I had never experienced this before, and it was overwhelming … so I called my mentor at lunch for support and felt better equipped to complete the first day.”

Getting ready to be mentored

Before you begin looking for a mentor, be sure to do some self-reflection about what you want out of the relationship and the kind of mentor that would be a good match. The following questions will help you clarify your needs and facilitate a good match with a potential mentor:

  • What are your goals or challenges for which a mentor could help?
  • How often do you want to interact with a mentor (e.g., on a regular schedule or as needed)?
  • Do you have a preference for the geographic location of your mentor?
  • How do you want to interact with your mentor (e.g., email, in-person, telephone, Skype, etc.)?
  • Are there certain qualifications or experiences that you would like your mentor to have?

Once you reflect on these questions, you can more easily communicate your needs to prospective mentors.

Finding a mentor

You have decided that a mentor could be helpful and clarified your goals. So how do you go about finding a mentor that is a good match?

There are two ways to identify potential mentors: informal and structured. Informal mentoring relationships happen when you meet an experienced colleague at a professional event and ask them to consider mentoring you to help you achieve your goals. This approach works best if you are comfortable attending professional meetings and engaging experienced court reporters one-on-one. On the other hand, structured mentoring relationships are those that are available from state court reporter associations as well as NCRA. With these mentoring relationships, you will typically submit a request via the website and be matched with a potential mentor. Formal programs, such as the NCRA Virtual Mentor Program, often try to match mentors and mentees based on criteria such as geographic location. Barkume explains “mentees can benefit from a mentor who is in the same geographic area and knows local formats … my mentor sent me the files she used, which saved me time.”

Whatever approach you use, it is useful to have an exploratory conversation with a prospective mentor to learn more about each other. During this conversation, you will also communicate your needs and goals. Ideally, the potential mentor will be a good match. However, it may be that the prospect is not a good fit. In this case, you might consider asking that prospect if he or she knows others who might be a better fit.

Interacting with your mentor

Assuming you found a good match for a mentor, how should you interact with him or her? One of the most important ways you can successfully work with a mentor is to take ownership of the interactions. Some specific strategies you can use include:

Establish an explicit contract at the beginning of a mentoring relationship

Excellent mentoring relationships begin with alignment between a mentor and mentee about the goals of the relationship and the various process associated with working together. While it is not necessary to write a formal agreement, it can be very helpful to clarify certain issues at the beginning of the relationship. For example:

  • How often will you meet and using what communication channel (e.g., email, in-person, telephone, Skype, etc.)?
  • Who will initiate the communication?
  • What is the overall agenda for each call?
  • What are the boundaries related to confidentiality of the information you share?
  • What happens if a crisis emerges and you need to cancel a meeting? How much notice do you need from each other?
  • If the mentoring relationship is not working out for you or your mentor, how will you handle it?

Follow through on your commitments

Mutual respect is a key ingredient of strong mentoring relationships. Mentors are there to support your success as a new court reporter. As part of their role, they may likely provide advice and suggestions. One way you demonstrate respect is listening to your mentor’s suggestions, maintaining a positive attitude, and taking action on the commitments you make. By taking action, you are communicating your respect for your mentor and his or her professional wisdom. By doing so, you are establishing a positive reputation for yourself in the profession.

Communicate regularly

While some court reporters create mentoring partnerships in which they communicate as needed when they face a particularly challenging issue, the best mentoring relationships incorporate regular communication. Many mentoring partnerships start off with more frequent contact then cut back once the relationship is solidly in place. Lisa Johnston, RMR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner in Melbourne, Fla., advises mentees that “communication is key, and it is important for mentees to reach out to a mentor and not be shy about asking questions.” Johnston described how she interacted through email with one of her mentees every two weeks.

Revisit the relationship if your goals change

The goals you initially identified when you began the mentoring partnership may well change as you grow and develop. If you no longer have a need for your mentor because your goals were achieved, communicate this to him or her. Avoid the temptation to drift off and abruptly stopping communication with your mentor. Again, this is another way to demonstrate respect for your mentor.

Look out for your mentor’s needs

Many experienced court reporters act as mentors because they want to give back to the profession. However, your mentor has his or her growth and development needs too. One way to build a strong relationship that could last a lifetime is to pay attention to ways you can support your mentor. Perhaps you found an article that might interest them or met someone who would be a great networking contact for your mentor?

Consider mentoring others

Despite being new to the profession and possibly still being in school, no doubt there are others following in your footsteps who you might be able to mentor. Not only will you be supporting the court reporting profession, but you will also deepen your learning as a mentor. Zinone explained how rewarding it is when one of his mentees has developed his or her professional support network, becomes more confident as a court reporter, and begins to mentor others.

Entering the court reporting profession can be a demanding and rewarding challenge. The training programs are rigorous. Once you finish your training, there are many ways to launch your career in varying types of organizations. Resiliently bouncing back from setbacks you may face is critical to your success. By establishing a well-designed mentoring partnership early in your career, you can fulfill your dreams of becoming a successful court reporter.

Dr. Kevin Nourse is an executive coach and consultant based on Washington, D.C., and Palm Springs, Calif. He works extensively with associations to develop resilient leaders. Kevin is co-authoring a soon-to-be-released book with Dr. Lynn Schmidt entitled Shift into Thrive: Six Strategies for Women to Unlock the Power of Resiliency.

Announcing the winners of the JCR Awards

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

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

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

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

Leadership and team-building

Judy Stevens, RPR, CMRS, CPE

Lakewood, Colo.

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

Debbie Weaver receiving the 2015 Spirit of Justice Award

Debbie Weaver receiving the 2015 Spirit of Justice Award

Community outreach

Midwest Litigation Services

St. Louis, Mo.

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

White Coat Captioning screen from !!Con  2015.

White Coat Captioning screen from !!Con 2015.

Service in a nonlegal setting

White Coat Captioning

Saint Albans, Vt.

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

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

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

Christine Phipps caught in a relaxed moment during the workday.

Christine Phipps caught in a relaxed moment during the workday.

Individual member

Christine Phipps, RDR

North Palm Beach, Fla.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honorable mentions

The Varallo Group

Worcester, Mass.

Categories recognized: Leadership and team-building

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

Cuyahoga Community College

Cuyahoga, Ohio

Categories recognized: Use of technology

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

Paradigm Reporting & Captioning

Minneapolis, Minn.

Categories recognized: Community outreach

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

Caption First

Monument, Colo.

Categories recognized: Service in a nonlegal setting

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

Cuyahoga Community College in Parma, Ohio

Cuyahoga Community College in Parma, Ohio

Schools: Leadership and team-building

Kelly Moranz, CRI

Cleveland, Ohio

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

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

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

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

Special collaboration

DMACC and the Iowa Court Reporters Association

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

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

DMACC's 2015 incoming theory students

DMACC’s 2015 incoming theory students

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

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

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

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

Next JCR Awards

2016 Court Reporting & Captioning Week kicks off Feb. 14

CRCW_Week-Map_final

Fifteen states have reported Court Reporting & Captioning Week activities so far. NCRA President Steve Zinone is aiming for activities in all 50 states by the end of the celebratory week.

Official proclamations have already been issued in seven states and several municipalities recognizing the 2016 Court Reporting & Captioning Week, which kicks off Feb. 14 and runs through Feb. 20. Court Reporting & Captioning Week highlights the contributions of stenographic court reporters and captioners to society and showcases the growing number of career opportunities in the court reporting and captioning fields.

Proclamations by state governors have been issued in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, and Washington, as well as by local leaders in Johnson County, Kan., Louisville, Ky., and Miami-Date County, Fla. In addition, a growing number of NCRA members and representatives from state affiliates and court reporting schools are sharing information on how they plan to mark the weeklong event sponsored by NCRA.

Below are some of the latest activities happening during the week around the nation:

  • NCRA will donate $20 to the National Court Reporters Foundation for every new member who joins between Feb. 14 and Feb. 20.
  • NCRA President Steve Zinone, RPR, an official court reporter from Pittsfield, N.Y., will join Tonya Kaiser, president of the Indiana Court Reporters Association; Susan Gee, president-elect of the Ohio Court Reporters Association; and Kathy McHugh, president of the Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association, in a panel discussion hosted by the College of Court Reporting, Hobart, Ind., on Feb. 15. The discussion will take place online via the college’s Blackboard Collaborate and will be hosted by Jeff Moody, president of the College of Court Reporting. Panelists will share information about their careers as court reporters, the challenges they faced in court reporting schools, what motivates them to serve as leaders, why association membership is important to students and working professionals, and more. Participation is open to anyone. For more information, contact Natalie Kijurna at kijurna@ccr.edu or 866-294-3974, ext. 229.
  • Members of the Kansas Court Reporters Association will host a legislative reception at the Capitol in Topeka on Feb. 15, where they will provide a realtime demonstration. On Feb. 17, KCLive on television station KSHB will air a piece on the court reporting and captioning profession featuring KCRA President Cindy Isaacsen, RPR, an official reporter from Olathe, Kan. On Feb. 18, KCRA members will host a breakfast for the members of the board of Johnson County supervisors that will include displays of antique machines. Signs celebrating Court Reporting & Captioning Week will also be displayed on the lawn of the courthouse where the breakfast is being held. Wrapping up the week, KCRA members will host a luncheon for court reporting students with whom they’ve been having weekly study groups.

Court reporters, broadcast and CART captioners, and court reporting schools around the country will participate in the weeklong event by hosting an array of activities such as visits to high schools to showcase the profession, open houses, Veterans History Project interviews, media outreach, and more. NCRA members, state associations, and schools are urged to share with the Association updates about how they plan to celebrate 2016 Court Reporting & Captioning Week by emailing aroketenetz@ncra.org. Other activities for celebrating the week include sponsoring a court reporting student’s NCRA membership or 2016 Convention & Expo registration fee, mentoring a student, or supporting one of NCRF’s programs by making a contribution.

Looking for ways to participate? Visit NCRA’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week awareness page for an array of resources tailored for members, state associations, and court reporting schools. Resources include press release templates, sample proclamations, talking points, posters, presentations, links to the Take Note campaign materials, and more.

NCRA has also added a new power point presentation called Careers in Court Reporting to its Court Reporting & Captioning Week resource center. The presentation, which is located under the ideas and additional resources heading on the members, states, and schools section, can be customized by the user. It encourages audience members to learn more about the court reporting and captioning professions by downloading several articles showcasing careers in these fields. The page that features these articles will also capture contact information from those who access it and provide NCRA with potential leads for new members and students.

For a complete list of activities happening to mark the 2016 Court Reporting & Captioning Week, visit NCRA.org/Awareness.

For more information, visit NCRA.org. Career information about the court reporting profession — one of the leading career options that do not require a traditional four-year degree — can be found at crTakeNote.com.

NCRA members embrace #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesdayNCRA wants to thank the many members who celebrated #GivingTuesday by devoting their resources to supporting the future of the profession.

A number of members chose to sponsor student memberships in NCRA as a way to give back to the profession and support its future, according to the Association’s Membership Department.  NCRA member Patric Martin, of Bethesda, Md., an official reporter for the International Monetary Fund for the last 27 years, said he chose to support a student membership because he remembers being a student himself.

“As a working reporter, being able to help a student by sponsoring their NCRA membership is a fantastic and simple way to further our profession. I remember the struggles of learning the machine (don’t we all!), so helping out in a financial way may make that just a little easier for them. And getting students involved at an early stage will also pay dividends down the road when they become the leaders the profession will desperately need to carry it forward,” said Martin.

“It is vitally important that we support the next generation of realtime-trained court reporters,” said NCRA member Debra K. Cheyne, a CART captioner from Sherwood, Ore.

NCRA’s Education Department also reported an uptick on #GivingTuesday in the number of members volunteering to serve as virtual mentors to court reporting students.

“The reason I feel it is important to mentor reporting students is, number one, I love this profession and want others to join us, and number two, I still remember the struggle and challenge of school 16 years later,” said Brandi N. Bigalke, a firm owner from Minneapolis, Minn.

“If I would have had someone who was working in the field at the time cheering me on, I think it would have been a very motivating factor. Family and friends just don’t truly understand this profession. As working reporters and captioners, we need to stick together, and that includes cheering on those in school. Because, let’s face it, they are the future of this profession,” added Bigalke, who holds the Realtime Systems Administrator certificate and current serves on her state association’s Freelance, Technology, and Captioning Awareness committees.

Members interested in sponsoring a student membership can learn more at NCRA Student Sponsorships. More information about becoming a Virtual Mentor can be found at NCRA Virtual Mentor.

Five ways to support the court reporting and captioning profession on #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesdayNCRA members and staff are all part of the service economy. NCRA members are keepers of the record, and NCRA staff serves its members. The profession has service in its blood, so NCRA is encouraging all members and staff to take part in #GivingTuesday on Dec. 1.

What is #GivingTuesday?

#GivingTuesday, an annual day of giving following Black Friday and Cyber Monday, was created in 2011 to empower a new community of philanthropists. #GivingTuesday is based on the concept that anyone, anywhere, can be a philanthropist. Participants don’t have to be billionaires to participate, and they don’t have to give funds. Giving can mean money, time, advocacy, or education.

On Dec. 1, NCRA are members encouraged to participate on #GivingTuesday

  1. Sponsor a student membership.

For many students, typical daily expenses combined with the cost of tuition means NCRA membership falls outside their budgeted expenses. Often when students choose which bills to pay, membership in NCRA falls off the list, despite the fact that being a part of the national association provides numerous resources, such as access to professionals for support and other benefits that can help lead to professional success.

  1. Donate to NCRF.

NCRF raises funds throughout the year to support programs created to benefit the greater court reporting community. NCRF also awards four scholarships and grants to court reporting students and recent graduates each year. Donate to NCRF by calling 800-272-6272.

  1. Become a virtual mentor.

NCRA is committed to excellence both in the court reporting profession and in the next generation of court reporters. To this end, the Virtual Mentor Program is one way to bring court reporters and students together, so students can get the guidance and encouragement they need and today’s court reporters can nurture the future of court reporting.

  1. Download crTakeNote.com brochures and posters.

Put up posters at local high schools and community colleges. Do a presentation about becoming a court reporter for high school students, parents, and/or school counselors. Talk to a neighbor or friend about court reporting careers.

  1. Find 30 more ways to give back on #GivingTuesday.

Share how you participated on social media by using the #GivingTuesday and #crTakeNote hashtags.

Thirty ways to give back to the profession

10 ways Infographic_logo_2015Giving back to the profession does not require a significant investment of time or money. You might pen a simple post to your Facebook page telling the world what you love about your job or make a short presentation at your child’s school on career day. Take the opportunity where it presents itself. A friendly chat with a neighbor over the backyard fence or at a cocktail party could showcase our unique profession and perhaps become a life-altering encounter for a man or woman whose curiosity you’ve piqued.

Here are thirty ways that anyone can do to give back to the profession. Acting on just one or two is bound to create a lasting impression that will benefit our profession and all of us in it.

  1. Tell someone new what you do for a living. Be enthusiastic! Court reporters, captioners, and legal videographers do interesting stuff. It’s great cocktail party conversation.
  2. Point out the TV captions in a public place, say at your gym, a bar, a hotel lobby. Ask your friends, do you know how those captions get there? They won’t know – but they’ll be curious to find out!
  3. Write to your city council or town government, thanking them for having transcripts of public meetings. (And if they don’t provide that public service, ask them why not.)
  4. Tell the attorney you’re working with why a court reporter’s impartiality matters. It’s part of what makes us special.
  5. While you’re at it, tell the nice attorney how realtime services can help him or her.
  6. Sponsor a student member in your state or national association.
  7. Give a Career Day presentation at your local high school. Bring your steno machine and write to an iPad.
  8. Mentor a court reporting student.
  9. Offer to talk to a court reporting class about what life after school looks like. Give them good advice. Alert them to some just-out-of-school pitfalls to avoid. Be encouraging.
  10. Thank your Congressional representatives for supporting legislation that supports realtime, court reporting, and captioning.
  11. Talk to a class of law school students about the nuts and bolts of making the record. (Nobody else is going to tell them!) NCRF has materials to help you with this outreach.
  12. Thank the attorneys for hiring you, a certified court reporter, and tell them why certification matters, for court reporters as well as legal videographers. Certified means professional.
  13. Team up with a court reporter friend or two and put together a short primer of do’s and don’ts of making the record. Your local bar association will be grateful to you for the educational opportunity. Maybe your favorite law firm would like you to come in and address their young associates. Get bonus points for offering CLEs!
  14. Transcribe an interview with a veteran for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. You can earn PDCs. And it is a very satisfying thing to do.
  15. Host a Veterans History Project event for veterans in your area. Do it at a court reporting firm or court reporting school. Get your community involved! People like to honor our veterans.
  16. Get involved with students on the NCRA Student Facebook page or other student networking sites. They’ll love it! An excellent way to motivate students.
  17. Sponsor a student’s attendance at an NCRA event.
  18. Write an article for the local ABA newsletter about what to look for in a court reporter. Or write a letter to a local community organization about the importance of accessibility for all citizens, especially our fellow citizens who are deaf and hard of hearing.
  19. Pass along your experience. Write an article for your state association newsletter or the JCR about a valuable lesson learned. Your readers will appreciate the heads up.
  20. Volunteer your services (or find volunteers) for your neighbors who are deaf or hard of hearing. They might love to have CART for church or local meetings.
  21. Volunteer for a state association or NCRA committee. A great way to meet people!
  22. Attend a TRAIN event, upgrade your realtime skills — and then help others do the same.
  23. Share your expertise with your peers; put on a seminar at a court reporting event. Sound scary? Okay, sign up to learn something new yourself!
  24. Send NCRA membership forms to court reporters you know who are not members, and tell them why they should be. Size matters. There’s power in numbers!
  25. Send a testimonial (written or video) to NCRA to support NCRA’s efforts to inform people about the benefits of court reporting as a career.
  26. Write an op-ed for your local newspaper advocating for the use of stenographic court reporters in the courts; explain the value of captioning at community events.
  27. Become involved with your state CSR board. They need your expertise. And you’ll be surprised how much you will learn!
  28. Pay it forward. Remember to thank the people who’ve helped you along the way.
  29. Donate to the National Court Reporters Foundation, which will put your money to good use.
  30. Social media — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn — are great venues to tell people what you love about your job. No need to vent about rush transcripts and fast-talking lawyers. Create some positive buzz! Celebrate your profession, your career, the unique job you do where you are the expert. Be proud of your role as a court reporter, legal videographer, captioner, or CART provider. You are part of a long and proud history of service to the bench, the bar, and the public at large.