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.

VOLUNTEERING: NCRA’s Virtual Mentor Program gives back to both sides

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” For many of the court reporting students and professionals who are involved in NCRA’s Virtual Mentor Program, those words ring loudly. The program pairs working court reporters with students to create relationships that often lead to long-term friendships for both parties.

Though the program is not new to the association, NCRA is working to expand it by encouraging more members to volunteer and more students to take advantage of the unique resource. The program, which is available on NCRA.org, provides students interested in finding a mentor with access to a directory of NCRA volunteers broken down by the categories of captioners, CART providers, officials, and freelancers. Students can search the directories to find an NCRA member they feel would be suitable for meeting their needs.

The site includes a list of state court reporting associations that offer virtual mentor programs. There are also student and mentor guidelines available to help ensure both parties have a common understanding and appreciation of each other’s time, as well as a list of questions frequently asked by students who are being mentored. According to both students and NCRA members, the program provides valuable benefits to everyone involved.

“I’d heard about mentorships being a vital part of the industry since orientation day at school. When I heard that mentors are working reporters who dedicate themselves to answering students’ questions, it was a no-brainer for me to look for mentors,” said Katherine Schilling, a student at West Valley College in Saratoga, Calif.

“Now that I’ve been in school for a while and I understand just how much there is to learn about the profession – and that it can’t all be covered in school – mentors are a must-have. It makes much more sense to ask your questions and voice your concerns while in school rather than on the job,” added Schilling, who plans to work as a freelancer reporting in Japan upon graduation.

Court reporters and captioners are in a unique position to mentor students because they empathize with the difficulties of getting through court reporting school and being a new reporter or captioner.

“Unless you have a close friend of family member who is a court reporter, it will be hard to find people outside of your pool of classmates to talk to about your court reporting woes. A mentor has gone through everything that you are now facing and has come out of it alive and kicking. They’re living proof that it can be done, and the stories they tell you about their time in the field will help to stoke your excitement about the profession,” Schilling said.

NCRA members who have served as volunteer mentors report that some of the benefits they earn go deeper than just being able to give back to the profession. In many cases, the mentorships lead to long friendships as well.

“I remember very well what it was like to be a new reporter. As good as my school was, there was no way they could have prepared me for the realities of actual reporting. Everyone needs someone who has been there to answer questions and reassure them they are not crazy,” said Jeanne Cahill, RDR, CRR, CBC, an official reporter from Magnolia, Del., who has been in the profession for 29 years and has mentored about 10 students through NCRA’s program over the last 10 years.

“I was fortunate to have an extremely knowledgeable, helpful, and patient first boss. I also made friends with a wonderful coworker who took me under her wing in my first year. Twenty-nine years later, I helped her get her dream job, and we are once again coworkers,” she added.

Volunteering to mentor has allowed Sherryl Davis, a captioner from Parker, Colo., the opportunity to step out of a self-centered approach to life and see things from another’s perspective, as well as working one-on-one with someone. “I remember the challenges of court reporting school, and I empathize with students. Knowing that someone else has been where they are is a great benefit to the students,” adds Davis.

“The greatest benefit to mentored students is that they know that others want to help them,” said Santo “Joe” Aurelio, a retired court reporter from Arlington, Mass., and a mentor since 1959. “I strongly feel that all reporters should help student. I consider it their duty.”

Lisa Selby-Brood, RPR, turned to NCRA’s Virtual Mentor Program when she returned to court reporting after a 17-year hiatus. She said her experience homeschooling her son led to a love of teaching, resulting in her volunteering to be a mentor. Since reentering the court reporting field, Brood, who works as a freelance reporter in Palm Harbor, Fla., estimates that she has mentored between five and 10 students each year.

“The greatest benefit of being a mentor is the satisfaction of helping a student through to completion, especially if you hook up with them in the early speeds and see them graduate. It is a real feeling of accomplishment for both of you,” Brood said.

“For students, if they do it right, they have a leg up from their counterparts. If they ask all the questions that pop into their head throughout a couple of years, then most of those questions are answered by the time they go to their first job,” she added.

“NCRA’s mentoring program is extremely important to students. I feel that a new graduate without a mentor might not continue reporting if there is no one to reach out to when things get incredibly tough,” said Cahill. “My own sister, who graduated before me, became frustrated with her first freelance job and quit reporting after a year. I wish she had had a mentor to talk her through that tough first year.”

Students and NCRA members interested in learning more about the Virtual Mentor Program can find more information at NCRA.org.

Through school and back again: A new CART provider’s journey

Back before the stress, frustration, and soul crushing — ahem, challenging — days of court reporting school, I did something much easier: I went to a four-year university.

And I loved it. So much so, in fact, that I just wouldn’t leave. I blissfully flitted from Greek mythology to earthquake science to Italian and racked up almost 30 more credits than I needed to graduate. I like to be thorough. And I do find the vast majority of subjects (sorry, economics) quite interesting.

At the time, I justified this binge of academia with a dreamy “I love learning!” The older, wiser, and bitterly indebted me, who is still paying for it all, thinks I might as well have just said, “I hate money!” But I digress.

The point is that as soon as I heard about CART in theory class, I knew it was the career for me. Being able to directly help others access their education while working in an intellectually stimulating and ever-changing environment, actually using that knowledge of Greek mythology in everyday life? Sign me up!

Going through court reporting school with the goal of becoming a CART provider was not as straightforward as preparing to become a reporter. For reporting, the dictation is legal in nature, the class requirements are determined by the court reporter’s board, and realtime is something you’re only encouraged to do after a couple of years in the field. CART is somewhat of an afterthought or even seen as something you can resort to if you get stuck at 180.

My teachers gave me some great suggestions on how to prepare myself for CART, but without the formal instruction and guidance provided in my court reporting classes, I was often left to my own devices and made some mistakes along the way. Fortunately, I did find a fantastic CART class at a different school late in my education, and I highly recommend taking one if you can, but I think classes like these are all too rare.

In my most productive summer ever, I finished school in June 2013, passed the July CSR, and started working in August. Since I know not all students have access to CART training, I would like to share my top 10 tips — both the things I did and wish I had done — to prepare for CART work straight out of school.

1. Clean up your realtime. Get used to punctuating while you write, resolving your conflicts, and practicing your numbers for those math classes. Do not neglect accuracy; remember, you shouldn’t be doing much editing when doing CART. Push for speed as well, but keep it balanced. While I think low- and mid-speed students should be working on fixing fingering problems, I see no problem with high-speed students defining misstrokes if they don’t conflict with anything. I have 30 entries just for INSTRUCTOR, and my eternally dragging right ring finger would destroy my realtime if I didn’t define, for example, “SAPBLD” as “sand.”

2. Become a fingerspelling champ. This is the number one thing I wish I had worked on more, and I still have not achieved champ status. I used to sit in trial-speed classes and fingerspell random words.

CART JCR Weekly photo13. Sit out. This is invaluable. I actually still sit out with experienced CART providers and always pick up new and brilliant tips. Just figuring out where to sit can be challenging in this job, not to mention what you should do if, for example, the professor turns on an uncaptioned video or speaks in another language. I jot down questions during class, and the CART provider is always happy to talk afterward.

4. Get comfortable with other people looking at your screen. I know it’s scary at first! I was the student who would find an isolated corner and tilt my screen away from of any other human’s possible line of sight until my teacher forced me to get over that by standing behind me and staring at my realtime. Because you know what your clients will do? To practice, grab a bored family member, be the weirdo at Starbucks with all your equipment, or set up smack-dab in the middle of your lab — no small text or screen tilting allowed.

5. Keep your legal briefs and software settings separate. You don’t want 25 lines per page, you don’t want “Q BY MR. ATTORNEY” randomly popping up, and you don’t want the word “pathos” translating as “page objection sustained.” In addition to having a legal dictionary, I have two separate user IDs in my software so I can switch from CART to court reporting without adjusting my layout settings.

6. Know your software. You’ve heard it a million times, but there’s a reason for that. Setting up phonetic translation and being able to manipulate your display, for example, are crucial. Two minutes before class started one day, my client asked me to change my text color, background color, and text size. It should have been simple, but there were unexpected problems, such as the black background causing my include files to be invisible since they were programmed with black text. Then my headers turned on unexpectedly, causing huge jumps in my display.

It was just a mess. That day still haunts my dreams.

7. Get a mentor. Or get two, as I did. I’ve bothered these wonderfully patient women with panicky questions on such topics as wardrobe, taxes, salary negotiation, and even wedding reception locations. (Obviously, we became friends. I would not suggest beginning your relationship with wedding-related questions, but consider yourself lucky if it ever does go there.)

8. Read up on CART ethics and guidelines. You know all those lovely codes you’re responsible for knowing as a certified court reporter? There’s a whole different set of rules for CART, and issues such as confidentiality and client sensitivity are a big deal. NCRA’s website is a good place to start.

9. Get certified. No, it’s not necessary, and I know some phenomenal writers who aren’t. But it helps to get your foot in the door, gives you more options, especially during school breaks when jobs are scarce, and covers you if employers ever decide to start requiring it. As a bonus, someone usually wants to throw you a party.

10. Build your dictionary like crazy and know it well. I know reporters who started taking depositions with fewer than 20,000 entries, but I don’t think that would work in CART. That being said, prefixes and suffixes are imperative and allow you to create significantly more words than entries, so it’s not as hard as it may seem to have a functional dictionary. I practice to anything I can get my hands on: newspapers, books, magazines, podcasts, my little sister’s textbooks, and lists of names. This will help you get used to writing unfamiliar words. You know what I’ve never written on the job? “Beyond a reasonable doubt.” You know what I have written? “Ethylenediaminetetraacetate.”

 

Christine Ahn is a court reporting student in Santa Monica, Calif. She can be reached at christineahn1@gmail.com.

What can a mentorship do for you?

I often hear fellow students remark that they want to find a mentor. Some of them have asked me how I found mine, and they almost always have some confusion about the nature of the relationship.

It seemed like I lucked out in my pursuit of a mentor, but looking back, I actually made my own good luck. I noticed an email from a local reporter hanging on the board in my school lab. The reporter was willing to have students sit with her. I thought if she was willing to let a student intern, she might want to mentor an eager student. I emailed her, introduced myself, and asked if she would be willing to mentor me. I received an enthusiastic “yes” in response.

My mentor is now my friend. We share mutual interests, like cooking. We like Starbucks. Our husbands share the same first name. On top of all that, my mentor is fully invested in the field of court reporting, and she thrives on pushing students forward. We keep in touch by email, text, and Facebook. We meet for coffee and lunch. From the beginning, we just clicked.

Secretly, a part of me kept waiting for her to tell me the formula to getting through court reporting school without tons of practice and frustration. My mentor possesses many gifts, but magic is not one of them. She could only promise me that I could do this. I had to practice and work hard, but I could make it happen. She also promised to be there for me, good or bad, and she has been. Teary calls and celebratory announcements and everything in between—she has seen it all.

A mentor can be a lifesaver, but they can only match what the student puts in. Both sides must share their expectations for the relationship and each side must also follow through on what they promise to provide. The student must invest the blood, sweat, and tears. The mentor is a coach and cheerleader. The student does the heavy lifting. The mentor is the spotter. With the mentor’s encouragement, the student is the one who must win the fight.

A mentor can offer:

  1. Encouragement and advice
  2. Practice tips and tricks to help increase speed and accuracy
  3. A shoulder to cry on
  4. Interning and networking opportunities

A mentor cannot offer:

  1. An easy, practice-free plan through the 225 wpm speed class
  2. Motivation to get to class early to warm up or stay late for some extra practice
  3. Mind-reading — keep in touch!
  4. Magic tricks

Most importantly, mentors cannot force students to participate in a healthy, effective mentor/mentee relationship. The student must show an interest, stay in touch, reach out, communicate, and follow-through.

Anyone looking to participate in a mentor program can find connections through state associations, NCRA, and Facebook. Not every connection fits, and that’s okay. Once a relationship is established, make sure to keep the most critical aspect of any successful relationship: communication.

For a student, a mentor can be an important part of a balanced training, a stepping stone on the path to success. The mentor gets to impart some real-world knowledge and experience to a future court reporter and colleague.

 

NCRA has a Virtual Mentor Program to connect interested reporters and students. Students may be in any part of their training, including those who are considering going into reporting as a career. The website also includes resources on state associations and other mentor programs, guidelines, and common questions.

 

Roanna L. Ossege-Martin is a certified scopist pursuing an AAS in Judicial Court Reporting at GateWay Community College in Phoenix, Ariz. She can be contacted at roannao@cox.net.

Case study: Orleans Technical’s internship course

The Court Reporting Internship course at Orleans Technical Institute in Philadelphia, Pa., is one of the school’s greatest program accomplishments. The Court Reporting Internship course prepares students to fill the demand for official courtroom and freelance reporters, broadcast captioners, and CART reporters.

The course also places students on externship sites, provides mentoring, and provides in-class instruction.

The school has onsite faculty and support staff dedicated to providing its interns with one-on-one career advice and job search assistance. In addition, the school’s employment specialist networks with employers from agency owners to local court systems, and that specialist builds relationships in order to help graduates find employment opportunities. Over the past five years, Orleans has maintained a 99 percent job placement rate.

Internship program overview

Internship is the capstone component of the court reporting program. It provides training and education in occupational settings both on-site as a classroom and mentorship experience and off-site as a court experience and a freelance experience.

The interns are introduced to four learning environments: classroom instruction, mentorship, court experience, and freelance experience. The intern receives educational credit upon completion of the internship along with the opportunity for a continued work site assignment leading to future employment. The internship component is a requirement for graduation, and it must be completed within one term.

The flow of all internship and externship activities is regulated by the instructional supervisor, the mentorship supervisor, and the internship coordinator. The internship class is set up for 60 hours of classroom time. The externship experience is set up for 90 hours over a 15-week period.

The court reporting curriculum pairs skill and speedbuilding on realtime steno equipment with additional courses in medical terminology, legal terminology, and court procedures. During the RPR class, students are given the opportunity to train for and receive their notary certification.

The court reporting program recently implemented the Realtime Coach online learning system as part of its curriculum. This program has helped all of its students increase speed and accuracy through structured practice sessions. The students develop computer-compatible, realtime machine shorthand skills of up to 225 words per minute, and they learn to transcribe and edit their own shorthand notes using CAT software.

An internship manual is available for the interns to use throughout the duration of their internship. This manual provides a comprehensive overview of the program and expectations along with the required forms needed for completion of the program.

The internship/classroom phase

The court reporting internship course has evolved into one of the most exciting experiences that the school’s students have encountered. In this course, students receive the final phase of court reporting instruction, which prepares them to successfully transition to the world of work. At this juncture, the students receive all of the necessary finishing tools needed to enable them to fill the demand for official courtroom and freelance reporters, broadcast captioners, and CART reporters. Under the guidance of the internship coordinator, the intern is expected to complete internship requirements during one semester.

Onsite: As a classroom and mentorship experience, the interns meet once a week with an instructional supervisor and a mentorship supervisor. The instructional supervisor meets one-on-one with the interns to review and analyze all transcripts and provide individualized feedback to enhance the professionalism of each student’s work.

The mentorship phase

The mentorship supervisor meets weekly with the interns to discuss their experiences and to assist in helping the interns make necessary adjustments as they plan for the other phases of their internships. The mentorship is there to provide students with support and clarity on issues that develop from externship experiences.

The captioning lab

Plans began three years ago to develop an internship component that would allow the students to gain experiences that would take them out of the classroom and into the actual worlds of court reporting, CART, and captioning. Sitting in the classroom and discussing different career tracks did not seem to be effective or productive. School officials and faculty felt that students should be provided with an atmosphere where they could experience the various career paths themselves. This would greatly contribute to their knowledge and their ability to make decisions about their futures.

The most exciting thing that has happened to the Orleans Technical Institute Court Reporting Internship is the implementation of a new captioning lab. The staff brainstormed and came up with the idea that if the upper-level students were exposed to the latest up-to-date technology and software prior to their graduation, it would help them become more confident and secure in the knowledge they obtained. The staff wanted to make all current steno technology and software possibilities available and accessible to them. Thus, the staff created a laboratory where students were allowed to work, utilizing all of the tools and equipment that the school was able to purchase, including up-to-date computers, monitors, speakers, and software. In the lab, the instructor and students are able to review video reenactments for classroom discussion and observation. Each computer is equipped with live and simulated captioning software. Different versions of the latest CAT software have also been installed. This provides an opportunity for the higher-level students to explore different versions before making a decision regarding the professional software they will need to purchase later on. They are exposed to as much professional equipment as possible in the lab, including Eclipse, Case CATalyst, and Stenovations. The lab is also equipped with live and simulated captioning software on each computer.

The externship phase

The internship coordinator is responsible for regulating all on-site and off-site internship activities. The interns must adhere to the established timelines, guidelines, rules, and regulations set by the internship coordinator for the duration of the externship period. All externship orientation and training is conducted by the school’s employment specialist or sponsor, who makes contact with NCRA or Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association members who are affiliated with court reporting agencies. The court reporting agency is informed of the requirements and expectations of the school’s externship program. Once the contact is initiated and solidified, the agency is approved by telephone or by mail and is asked to sign an externship site agreement, which provides written instructions for the students’ externship activities. The employment specialist/sponsor reviews the externship site agreement via telephone with the on-site supervisor. A packet of information is then sent to the on-site supervisor at the externship site to be signed and returned prior to the placement of students. Any other type of externship site training, follow-up pertaining to questions, daily logs, sponsor evaluations, oversight of students’ notes and transcripts, and so on, is the responsibility of the employment specialist/sponsor.

Each student arranges his or her out-of-school schedule individually with the sponsor to ensure that no conflicts exist in any program-related activities. The internship instructor and the mentorship instructor meet with each student once per week to discuss and review field experience and also to plan for the remainder of the student’s externship experience. In addition, a daily log sheet is completed and validated by the sponsor once a week. The sponsor agrees not to overburden the students with additional requirements over and above the school’s requirements because the students are still maintaining their speedbuilding and have academic responsibilities in addition to their externships. The interns are not allowed to work or earn pay while on externship.

The employment phase

The sponsor assigns actual court reporters to the interns, thus allowing them exposure to different types of procedures (i.e., arbitrations, workman’s compensation hearings, OSHA hearings, etc.). Upon completion of weekly assignments, the agency’s court reporter reviews the intern’s transcripts and renders an evaluation of the assignment on the daily log sheets. All evaluations are based on current industry standards as deemed by the on-site agency. Once the evaluations are received by the school, the transcripts are graded by the instructor according to NCRA standards. This creates an equitable and fair measurement of demonstrated competency and skill attainment of the students.

Orleans Technical Institute has been an ongoing and consistent source of well trained graduates in the Philadelphia area since 1986, maintaining a 99 percent placement rate. Another sign of the success of this program is that the majority of the Institute’s graduates received their first job offers during their internship phase.

EMPLOYER FEEDBACK FOR ORLEANS INTERNSHIP PROGRAM

“For several years, I have had the pleasure of participating in the internship program for court reporting students at Orleans Technical Institute. I can state emphatically that the students who have reached the pinnacle of graduation have been well prepared in all facets of court reporting. Some of Orleans Technical Institute’s interns have been working for my firm, Kaplan, Leaman, and Wolfe Court Reporters, for several years and have performed their duties with professionalism and exhibited exemplary skills and knowledge.”

Gregg B. Wolfe, RPR
Kaplan, Leaman and Wolfe Court Reporters

“As an employer of many graduates from Orleans Technical Institute’s court reporting program, I would highly recommend it to any sincere candidates. The staff at Orleans is dedicated and professional. The program is approved by NCRA and offers the highest quality preparation for this lucrative career. Graduates are placed immediately with either freelance firms or the court system. I have seen many programs, but Orleans is the best.”

Dianne M. Varallo-Kushmir, CMRS
DiscoveryWorks Global