New NCRA CEO announced

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyThe Daily Record (Baltimore, Md.) posted an announcement on Oct. 2 about Marcia C. Ferranto being named NCRA’s new Executive Director and CEO. The piece was generated by a press release issued by NCRA on Ferranto’s behalf.

Read more.

NCRA’s 2016 Convention & Expo: Something for everyone

Convention-JCRcom-BoxAdOnline registration for NCRA 2016 Convention & Expo happening at the Hilton Chicago, Chicago, Ill., Aug. 4-7, closes July 29, so hurry and register now to participate in the vast array of continuing education sessions, networking opportunities, certification preparation workshops for the Certified Realtime Reporter and the Realtime Systems Administrator, and, of course, all that’s new on the Expo floor.

Whether you are an official, freelancer, broadcast or CART captioner, legal videographer, educator, student, or legal services provider, this year’s schedule has something to help you be the architect of your future. Plus attendees who need CEUs can earn up to 2.45 of them with a full registration and optional workshops.

Among the educational session highlights are:

Freelancer business 101. Presenters: Lisa DiMonte, RMR, CMRS; Jan Ballman, RPR, CMRS; Marjorie Peters, RMR, CRR; and Dave Tackla, CLVS

Compassion fatigue and job stress. Presenter: April Kopp, LCSW, MFA

Your cloud-based office. Presenters: Nancy Bistany, RPR and Kim Neeson, RPR, CRR, CRC

The secret business of court reporting. Presenter: Debbie Bridges Duffy, RPR

Beyond the captions:  Captioner roundtable. Presenters: Merilee Johnson, RMR, CRR, CRC; Bill Graham; and Deanna Baker, FAPR, RMR

90 apps in 90 minutes. Presenter: Sara Wood, CAE

Tax tips for court reporters. Presenter: Charlotte Ogorek

Best practices for realtime reporting. Presenters: Jason Meadors, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC; Christine Phipps, RPR; and Sandy VanderPol, FAPR, RMR, CRR

Anywhere, anytime:  Online testing. Presenter: Marybeth Everhart, RPR, CRI, CPE

Are you an independent contractor or an employee? Presenter: Chris Wojcicki

Video equipment configuration:  Real world equipment setups. Presenters: Richard Hayden, CLVS, and Jason Levin, CLVS

In addition, students, educators, and school administrators will enjoy a selection of sessions tailored specifically to their interests and needs.

Other highlights for the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo include professional speaker and humorist John Wagner, who will address the topic of “Pride in the Profession” when he takes the stage as the keynote presenter during the Premier Session; the national Speed and Realtime Contests; the installation of NCRA’s 2016-2017 Officers and Board of Directors; and the presentation of the Distinguished Service Award, the highest award bestowed by NCRA. Networking opportunities will include receptions, the annual awards and NCRF Angels luncheons, and the President’s Party.

Remember, the deadline for online registration is July 29. For more information and to register for the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo, visit NCRA.org/Convention.

The nation is Taking Note

NCRA’s publicity campaign garners widespread attention.

 By Christina Lewellen

In September, NCRA launched what is easily the most comprehensive publicity campaign the association has ever waged on behalf of the stenographic court reporting and captioning profession. Armed with an independently produced research report that calls for a wave of new opportunities in five short years, the association’s Take Note campaign combined clever paid marketing opportunities with difficult-to-secure public relations efforts to shift the public’s perception of the future of the profession.

The results, to date, have been impressive. Though the year-long campaign is still in its early phases, the nationwide attention has been notable. On the heels of the Wall Street Journal’s August coverage of NCRA’s speed and realtime contests in San Francisco, the remainder of 2014 was marked with some significant media hits, resulting in millions of awareness impressions across the country. In plain speak, this means that more people than ever before have court reporting and captioning on their radar as a profession worth considering.

PUBLIC RELATIONS SUCCESSES

While articles and television spots can never be guaranteed, public relations is a powerful component of the Take Note campaign. Not only is media coverage free of charge, but readers and viewers consider editorial information more credible than paid advertisements.

Working closely with an award-winning public relations firm, NCRA has issued a series of press releases and media alerts touting the messaging of the Take Note campaign (for more background on the campaign, see the article in the September 2014 issue of the JCR). These message points include the new job opportunities that will increase in a few short years, the flexibility and earning potential that the field offers, and the ways in which stenographic court reporters serve the community at large. Clearly, the key points are resonating with the media, as NCRA was featured on the number one rated morning show, Fox and Friends, in early October on the network’s “On the Job Hunt” segment. The report highlighted various venues in which stenographic reporters can work and noted that starting salaries often rival other professions that require a four-year degree. In November, CNBC aired a story in its career segment showcasing court reporting as a career and highlighting the coming need for qualified candidates to fill jobs over the next five years. The story featured NCRA President Sarah Nageotte, RDR, CRR, CBC; NCRA member and student Katherine Schilling; and Margaret Ortiz, CRI, director of the West Valley College in Saratoga, Calif., discussing the benefits of the profession including potential earnings, flexible benefits, travel opportunities, and court reporting programs. A similar segment ran as part of CNBC’s Nightly Business Report.

Other articles highlighting the positive aspects of court reporting as a profession have recently run in California’s Daily Breeze and San Gabriel’s Valley Tribune. The Chicago Sun Times and its affiliates profiled the profession and posted online a supplemental video featuring Chicago-area professionals.

The association continues to work closely with other national media outlets that demonstrated interest in the Take Note story. The next phase of the public relations effort includes reaching out to more regional media outlets, particularly those in the states projecting the greatest demand (California, Texas, Illinois, and New York).

INNOVATIVE PLACEMENT

In addition to public relations efforts, the Take Note campaign features a disciplined paid media campaign. NCRA certainly doesn’t have a budget akin to Target or Apple, so it’s important to invest the limited pool of advertising dollars in venues that prove to have viable results.

One avenue for this targeted approach is the American School Counselors Association’s magazine. The full-page ad touting court reporting as a career lands right in the middle of this audience’s field of vision on a monthly basis, raising the awareness that school counselors have about opportunities in the profession.

The campaign also targets potential students directly with a series of tried-and-true Google ads and Facebook ads. From September through November alone, the Take Note campaign was displayed in these venues approximately 12 million times, and more than 27,000 people visited crTakeNote.com to learn more about the messaging of the advertisements.

Since the launch of the campaign last fall, hundreds of leads have funneled through the site to NCRA certified and participating court reporting programs. The goal, over the course of the campaign, is to see enrollment increase in court reporting programs across the country.

 #StenoTweets

One of the more innovative components of the Take Note campaign is the #StenoTweets outreach on Twitter. Plenty of folks in the profession do not begin to profess an understanding of Twitter, but it’s hard to argue that Twitter is where the next generation of court reporters and captioners are having meaningful conversations. With that in mind, NCRA launched #StenoTweets, an aspect of the Take Note campaign that allows the social media team to have one-on-one conversations with young people who are struggling with career-related decisions.

In a nutshell, the social media team on the Take Note campaign is actively researching tweets and monitoring Twitter activity surrounding those who indicate they are searching for a job or dealing with college and/or career selection issues. If, for example, a Twitter user tweets something like “Why is choosing a career so difficult?” or “I hate that you’ve basically got to start choosing your career path from the age of like 17-18. I change my mind so many times,” the social media team has a response strategy to communicate directly with potential students.

Working in conjunction with NCRA president Sarah Nageotte, custom responses combining both steno and its English translation encourage students to consider court reporting as they weigh these career-related decisions (see example).

While the social media strategists certainly can’t respond to all Twitter users, the #StenoTweets campaign features more than 15 canned responses that work in a variety of conversational scenarios to point would-be students toward crTakeNote.com.  This type of direct conversation resonates with younger audiences and may capture the attention of those who aren’t aware of the opportunities in the stenographic court reporting space.

NEXT STEPS

As the holiday season came and went at the end of 2014, the Take Note campaign conserved its resources (it’s pretty difficult to get anyone’s attention amid the shopping frenzy, even for those companies and organizations with millions of dollars available for advertising). Now, with the buzz surrounding the 2015 Court Reporting & Captioning Week and students gearing up to make decisions about their post-high-school life, the Take Note campaign is ramping back up with its targeted placement strategy.

In addition to the relentless pursuit of regional media coverage, the campaign will continue to focus on social media engagement and targeted print and online ads. Publicity-worthy events, presentations, and other resources are also in the works, so stay tuned to crTakeNote.com and TheJCR.com for more information as the campaign unfolds.

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

 

 

Mark your calendars for learning opportunities in 2015

In the upcoming year, NCRA has planned many opportunities for members to increase their knowledge at onsite conferences or through other learning opportunities and to build their marketability through certification testing and networking opportunities.

NCRA offers several in-person, on-site conferences, each with a slightly different focus. On Feb. 8-10, NCRA will host the Firm Owners Executive Conference, an event focusing on business and marketing for court reporters and court reporting firms. The event, which will be held in Palm Desert, Calif., also offers many networking opportunities for attendees. NCRA’s TechCon, which will be held on April 10-12 in Denver, Colo., rounds up the latest trends in technology for both court reporters and legal videographers. Finally, the NCRA 2015 Convention & Expo, the largest annual gathering of court reporters, captioners, scopists, legal videographers, trial presenters, and other legal service professionals, will return to New York July 30-Aug. 2 for a wide range of continuing education seminars, social events, and networking opportunities. More information is available at NCRA.org/meetings.

Also during 2015, NCRA will be transitioning from on-site testing for its skills portion of the RPR, RMR, CRR, CBC, and CCP to an online testing procedure. The last chance to test at a brick-and-mortar site for these tests will be May 2. Registration for the May 2 test will open March 2 and close April 3.

The Written Knowledge Test for the RPR and CLVS will be held during four periods: Jan. 8-20, May 4-16, July 8-20, and Oct. 19-31. The RDR, CBC, and CCP Written Knowledge Tests will be held during the May 4-18 and Oct. 19-31 periods. Registration dates and fees are available at NCRA.org/testing.

In addition, NCRA staff and volunteers are developing additional continuing education opportunities for members. Watch NCRA.org and the JCR Weekly CEU Corner for more information.

NCRA membership renewals driven by Coach wristlet giveaway

A chance to win a Coach wristlet each week is being attributed in part by NCRA to a record number of membership renewals received in the month of November.

The first winner in November was Joann Bunze, RPR, a freelance deposition reporter from Fuquay-Varina, N.C. Bunze, who began her career in 1996 as a full-time freelance reporter in New York, launched her own agency, Noteworthy Reporting Services in Raleigh, N.C., three years ago. She said she holds membership in NCRA because of the support the Association provides her.

“I also appreciate knowing there’s a place I can go to get up-to-date information on where our industry is going. NCRA has always been there for me to answer questions, to help further my knowledge of my industry, and sometimes just for a good laugh when reading the JCR and finding out that some of these crazy things don’t only happen to me.”

Other winners of a Coach wristlet included Elsie Terada, RPR, from Honolulu, Hawaii who has been a freelance reporter since 1996; Linda Marquette, RPR, a freelance reporter from Encinitas, Calif.; and Sandra Bray, RDR, CRR, from Denver, Colo., a freelance reporter who began her career in 1983. Bray said she renewed her NCRA membership in order to keep her hard-earned certifications current and because she believes the Association protects the profession.

Still time to renew membership

NCRA membership expires each year on Dec. 31. There are three easy ways to renew membership before it gets too busy with end of the year holidays and activities.

  1. Online: NCRA.org/renew
  2. Telephone: Call 800-556-6272, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. EST.
  3. Snail mail: Return your renewal form to NCRA

NCRA donates $17,000 in books to court reporting schools

Just in time for the holidays, students at 22 NCRA certified court reporting schools across the nation received older versions of the association’s Glossaries for Court Reporters book, which was updated in summer 2013. More than 650 books, representing a $17,000 value, were given away by NCRA to the various schools.

“Rather than destroy the older version of the book, we decided to donate the copies to schools since the information they contain is still very relevant,” says Jim Cudahy, CAE, NCRA’s CEO and executive director. “NCRA is committed to today’s students who represent the future of the court reporting profession. Providing them with viable resources like these books reflects this commitment.”

According to Carrie M. Robinson, RPR, CRI, a realtime reporting instructor at Gadsden State Community College in Gadsden, Ala., the donation of books by NCRA is a welcomed resource for students learning to write realtime and shows NCRA’s dedication to aiding in the success of future court reporters.

“NCRA’s recent donation of Glossaries for Court Reporters provides an amazing resource for all reporters.  It is especially useful to our students who are not only learning to write but who are learning the imperative responsibility of researching unfamiliar terms,” Robinson said.

In addition to Gadsden State Community College, the following court reporting schools also received copies of the Glossaries book from NCRA:

Alvin Community College, Alvin, Texas

Anoka Technical College, Anoka, Minn.

Brown College of Court Reporting, Atlanta, Ga.

Bryan University, Los Angeles, Calif.

Clark State Community College, Springfield, Ohio

Community College of Allegheny County, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Court Reporting Institute of Dallas, Dallas, Texas

Cuyahoga Community College, Parma, Ohio

Everest College, Henderson, Nev.

Green River Community College, Auburn, Wash.

Hinds Community College, Raymond, Miss.

Kussad Institute of Reporting, Austin, Texas

Long Island Business Institute, Commack, N.Y.

New York Career Institute, New York, N.Y.

Orleans Technical Institute/Court Reporting, Philadelphia, Pa.

Prince Institute, Montgomery, Ala.

Realtime Center for Learning, Westbury, N.Y.

Sheridan Technical Center, Hollywood, Fla.

St. Louis Community College-Meramec, St. Louis, Mo.

StenoTech Career Institute, Piscataway, N.J.

Sumner College, Portland, Ore.

 

The 2013 version of the Glossaries book is available for purchase at NCRA.org/store.

2012 | 2013 Annual Review

There has never been a better time to be a part of NCRA

Jim CudahyWhen I accepted the NCRA Board of Directors’ offer to serve as the association’s executive director and CEO in May 2012, I presented a vision of the future that largely was built around what I saw as the top priority — the need for a “game-changing” initiative that had the capability of altering the landscape of court reporting education. More to the point, I felt that we needed to take steps to get far more students enrolled in court reporting programs and to increase the percentage of qualified court reporters emerging from schools.

The urgency behind the educational initiative we launched a year ago, as well as a number of other priorities, initially emerged as findings from Writing Our Future, which effectively had become NCRA’s de facto strategic plan. But we needed more than a de facto strategic plan; we needed an actual strategic plan. Our new strategic plan, which, based on the five-year horizon it encompasses, is entitled “Vision 2018.” As they should, our priorities are designed to stretch NCRA’s capacities and capabilities to take on new challenges, to try new approaches, and to make wider and more efficient use of available resources, most notably our volunteer capital.

Vision 2018: 6 Strategic Priorities

Vision01Ask any court reporter, captioner, or CART provider in which three areas NCRA should focus its primary efforts, and in virtually all cases one of three answers would be some version of building wider recognition and appreciation of stenographic reporting. This point was reemphasized to us in last fall’s membership needs assessment, and thus Awareness and Outreach serves as the first of our six strategic priorities.

Court Reporting and Captioning Week

A major success story for NCRA earlier this year was the introduction of a new concept within our awareness efforts: Court Reporting and Captioning Week. The idea was to get members to focus disproportionately on awareness efforts during a single week in February. NCRA provided an array of tools on our website — from press release templates to customized logos highlighting NCRA certifications to presentations and more — and then we took to social media, digital newsletters, and other media to encourage the entire court reporting community to get involved. The results were astounding with not just members but schools, state associations, and vendors taking up the cause. In 2014, we will have the second annual Court Reporting and Captioning Week while we otherwise push the entire court reporting community to work on Awareness and Outreach throughout the year.

Outreach

In 2012-13, NCRA continued a sustained effort to work with other organizations from the legal fi eld and deaf/hard-of-hearing community to reach out to their members in an attempt to build awareness of court reporting, captioning, and CART. This included visits to and/or exhibits at several meetings and conventions — e-Courts in December and the ABA’s Tech Show in April, as well as a visit to the National Center for State Courts and the National Association of Court Management. We also published an article in the January/February edition of Court Manager magazine on the merits of using realtime in a judicial setting. Overall, we attempted to better connect our outreach efforts with our overarching Awareness and Outreach efforts, something we will do more in 2014 and beyond.

New Public Relations Capability

In late 2012, NCRA commissioned Bendure Communications to serve as the association’s public relations agency. Bendure has proven to be the ideal partner for NCRA in that its model is not that of the large-scale agency that takes on all the work. Instead, Bendure follows a model of rapid-fire exposure for hundreds of members simultaneously. Whether a member has earned new certification, taken part in the Veterans’ History Project, or otherwise earned some distinction large or small, they now have the capability of quickly getting word out to their local media through NCRA and Bendure. The overall effect, then, is a consistent, growing drip of media exposure for the industry at large.

AdvocacyLegislative Boot Camp

In March, 75 state leaders came to the Washington, D.C., area for three days of intensive training through NCRA’s Legislative Boot Camp. This program always includes a “Hill Day,” during which we take leaders to Capitol Hill and allow them to roam the halls of Congress, meeting face to face with members of Congress to talk about issues of significance to court reporters. This year, we encouraged both houses of Congress to support legislation known as the U.S. Local Courthouse Safety Act. This legislation would allow local courthouses without metal detectors and other types of security equipment to procure it at no effective cost from the federal government. NCRA’s efforts were buoyed by the Capitol Hill visits by 75 of our members, and we will persevere to get this legislation passed.

State Mini-Boot Camps

The popularity and effectiveness of Boot Camp at the national level has led to several requests to conduct customized versions of the event at the state level. Over the past year, we have hosted events in Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Maine. Our government relations staff then has the opportunity to hone and sharpen messaging and tactics based on the specific c legislative threats and opportunities within those states.

State Support

While NCRA certainly has a major presence in Washington, D.C., our legislative efforts occur on a more consistent basis at the state level. From mobilizing efforts to adopt or strengthen state certification for court reporters to counseling state associations on grassroots efforts to protect the positions of officials, from pursuing legislation aimed at instilling higher ethical standards to governing the relationship between court reporters and their clients, our government relations team plays a key role — often behind the scenes — in helping our members at the local level.

FCC Captioning Standards

For many years, we have worked with organizations from the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities to demonstrate the importance of captioning standards to the Federal Communications Commission and others. This past year, NCRA had a productive meeting with FCC representatives to discuss the need for captioning standards and to bring the perspective of realtime captioners to the table. We are confident that discussions will continue to fully engage our allies within the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities. Beyond that, NCRA works on an ongoing basis with the U.S. Congress to advance issues related to captioning, most recently in pushing a bill that would require closed captioning in movie theatres and on in-flight movies. Obviously such captioning does not require the services of a realtime captioner; however, it is by pushing for overall availability of quality captioning that we are able to demonstrate both the differences between captioning of live events and static content and that NCRA’s pursuit of captioning standards is not just about serving the interests of our members.

Realtime Writers Act Grants

During this period of federal government sequester, securing funding from Congress for any purpose has been nearly impossible. Nonetheless, this year — as we have in years past — NCRA was able to work with court reporting schools across the country to get more than $1 million in distributed grants to support the Realtime Writers Act we guided through Congress many years ago. At a time when our schools can use such funding more than ever, NCRA once again was able to deliver.

Ethics First

For 2013-14, we bid adieu to NCRA’s Ethics First Task Force, as it has completed several years of work in casting attention on the importance of court reporters and the clients with whom they work conducting business in accordance with established ethical standards. The Ethics First Program is a great example of how a task force of NCRA volunteers can mobilize for a cause, do great work, and then pass the torch to NCRA staff to carry outits vision on an ongoing basis.

Education
Last August, the NCRA Board commissioned a sustained effort that had as its ambitious goal to increase the number of students enrolled in court reporting schools and to increase the percentage of qualified court reporters emerging from those schools.

Vision for Educational Excellence Task Force (VEETF)

With a year of meetings and conference calls under its belt, VEETF presented three separate initiatives to the Board in June, all of which were approved and incorporated into the coming year’s budget.

1. Market Demand Study

One area of focus coming out of VEETF will be to commission a comprehensive study to determine the demand for court reporters, captioners, and CART providers over a defined period (three to five years). Such market intelligence will inform schools’ student recruitment efforts, allowing them to point to more specific data than currently exists of demand not just on a general basis, but within geographic and specialty-area pockets.

2. Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)

This will be a bold, new approach to expose large audiences of potential court reporting students to the career opportunities available through stenographic court reporting. Using the MOOC concept, which is gaining traction and popularity in education circles, NCRA would build a portal through which it would offer modulated educational sessions at a low cost to teach a simplified theory. While the supporting elements need to be constructed, the general concept is that would be students would have the ability to learn a simplified theory through use of an iPad/tablet app or a steno-overlay keyboard, so as to avoid the large initial cost of purchasing a steno machine. The concept, further, is for large numbers of students to take part in the course either informally through the Internet or through a structured, distance-learning program via high schools.

3. Court Reporting Instruction

A large challenge that all schools face is that the percentage of students that successfully emerge from their programs to become court reporters is alarmingly low. For an abundance of reasons, this must change. The third VEETF subgroup focused on what can be done to dramatically improve graduation rates. Hope exists here because some court reporting programs graduate a much higher percentage of students than the average. We need to know what it is that distinguishes these programs from others, and NCRA has embarked on a second study that will seek to isolate the variables in court reporting instruction that breeds such levels of success before finding ways for all programs to emulate those best practices.

CareersinCourtReporting.com

This year, NCRA launched a new website, CareersinCourtReporting.com, which replaced our bestfutures.com website. The new site included new content and messaging that focuses more distinctly on the individuals who visit the site and the questions they might have about court reporting rather than on pigeon-holing existing NCRA content to fi ll an alternative need of student recruitment.

Advertising

Throughout the year, NCRA purchased social media advertising that used micro-targeting techniques to focus on individuals with a higher propensity to consider court reporting as a career. To supplement these efforts, NCRA ran advertising in the Wall Street Journal Student Edition and in School Counselor magazine to reach out directly to students in classrooms, as well as to the many high school guidance counselors who serve as gatekeepers to the decisions of millions of youth across the country.

Enrollment Down, Number of Programs Reduced

The reality on the ground throughout the country points to the critical need for education to be a major strategic priority for NCRA now and in the years ahead. While enrollment in programs on a national basis tends to see ebbs and flows, in 2012, we saw several schools close their doors, and we saw enrollment down 8 percent from the year prior. Those numbers are not sustainable either for schools themselves or for the long-term viability of the industry. We have seen numbers rebound. We do know that our macro-level recruitment support can have a positive effect, and we feel confident that our larger efforts to support court reporting programs and to improve court reporting education will lead us to a new era of growth for schools and the industry.

Professional DevelopmentBeyond anything else, NCRA’s bottom-line benefit to its constituents is providing the tools for court reporters, captioners, and CART providers to build the knowledge and skills to advance their careers and then to get recognition of their achievements through certification.

Best-in-class events

NCRA’s TechCon, now heading into its third year, offers a suite of technology-focused programs (CLVS, Realtime Systems Administrator, and Trial Presentation) and brings them to a singular venue so that networking and economies of scale can take place where it makes most sense. In 2014, we will take TechCon to Atlanta, Ga., and we believe the continued buzz that this event has created will allow the program to grow and thrive.

The Firm Owners Executive Conference took place in February adorned with a new approach to networking and new content focused around the general concept within NCRA’s new resources strategy. Firm owners reacted positively to educational content that challenged the status quo, which compelled them to look inside their businesses to see whether they were doing enough to understand and meet the needs of their clients. They heard directly from attorneys, branding specialists, and through survey data, from themselves. Beyond that, we reorganized social events and a dinner to allow for enhanced networking, all of which had a positive effect on the event. In early 2014, we head to Orlando.

Our convention in Nashville, as you’ll see throughout this issue of the JCR, was a highly successful event with a broad array of educational options and networking opportunities. We look forward to welcoming the court reporting, captioning, and legal videography professions in San Francisco next summer.

ResourcesOne of the key benefits on which NCRA members rely is the association’s ability to package and deliver information. They look for information about technology, trends in the profession, and how they can better position their services to clients. In packaging information, what NCRA does is create resources. As the industry evolves, as competition becomes more fierce, it is incumbent upon us to respond in kind with the resources members need in a new world.

Firm Owners Economic Benchmark Survey

Once again, we presented the results from NCRA’s Firm Owners Economic Benchmark Survey at the Firm Owners Conference. This year, we incorporated more market intelligence into the mix. That is, we asked more questions of firm owners about what types of companies hire court reporting firms, who within the companies makes the hiring decision, and what factors do they use to make the decisions. NCRA has at its disposal the ability to gather such information on a larger scale and make it available to all firms and freelancers to inform their business practices.

New Markets Task Force

A generation ago — maybe a little longer than that — the concept of using a stenographic court reporting machine to provide broadcast captioning led to an entire new application of the skills of NCRA members. In drips and droves, we hear of members who ply their craft in boardrooms and in other nontraditional environments. Are there opportunities out there that can be leveraged to open new markets to court reporters? What haven’t we thought of? What could we do to investigate, promote, or accelerate such new applications? That will be the purpose of NCRA’s New Markets Task Force that will begin work in 2013-14.

The New NCRA Sourcebook

The NCRA Constitution & Bylaws mandates that NCRA publish annually a directory of members. For decades, NCRA had watched distribution of its membership directory — the Sourcebook — dwindle, this as members grew accustomed to NCRA’s online Professional Services Listings (PSL). We changed tactics and began distributing a slimmer version of the Sourcebook to every NCRA member as a way to breathe new life into an old product, make the product more valuable to advertisers, and to kick-start a new era of networking for every member. We have also revamped our PSL to serve as a closer companion to the print edition of the Sourcebook.

 

Vision06Each year, when their membership renewals arrive, NCRA members must make a calculated decision — does the value provided through NCRA membership meet or exceed the cost of dues? Our ability to attract more members and to keep a higher percentage of our current members is contingent on our ability to deliver on an understood Member Value proposition.

New Customer Service Center

In December, NCRA made a major change to its internal operations by moving to a full-service, external customer service center known as BrightKey. By all accounts, the service provided to members and customers contacting NCRA has been superior to that which we had witnessed in recent history — requests are being fulfilled more quickly, complaints are down, and follow-up is occurring in expedited fashion.

TheJCR.com

The idea here is to leverage one of NCRA’s most significant and recognized products and brands, the JCR, by launching an online complement, TheJCR.com. Beyond packaging the content that is contained within the JCR on an ongoing basis, we will take the JCR and turn it into a full-fledged news service, pumping out content to members and the full marketplace on news-cycle-type basis that is more in line with the way people consume news and information in today’s age.

AND FINALLY…

I’d like to say a few final words about NCRA’s volunteer capital. As a volunteer driven organization, NCRA simply could not exist without the time, effort, and expertise of the seemingly endless line of members who step up to fulfill key roles within the association. While a number of NCRA committees have done great work in recent years, some have not reached their potential based on a lack of clear purpose. For 2013-14, we have revamped our committee structure. Most notably, committee charges are more ambitious and are, as much as possible, specifically linked back to elements of the strategic plan. The Board further is empowering committees while providing additional resources that will allow them to work more independently, but within a strategic framework that is designed to ensure that everyone is pushing in the same direction. I have never been as energized as I am right now about presenting our accomplishments for the past year and outlining our path for the coming year. There has never been a better time to be a NCRA member, and I thank each of you for your continued support and involvement.

Viewpoint: COPE Opinion 44 – Facing new Challenges

The Viewpoint column allows readers to express their thoughts on various topics. Statements of fact or opinion are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily express the opinion of NCRA or anyone connected with NCRA.

Nonstenographic and some stenographic competitors are offering free video by having the reporter, or recorder, also shoot a video of the deposition. A general perception is it’s not that difficult to set up a camera on the table and record a deposition. Recently, in response to the competitive pressure, some NCRA members and agencies are wondering if they should make the same offer. Doing so is in direct conflict with the NCRA Committee on Professional Ethics Advisory Opinion 44.

In the face of market competition, we cannot forget that as Guardians of the Record we are to produce a neutral record of the highest quality. Unattended video recordings are similar to incomplete transcriptions of poor quality digital audio recordings; they undermine the neutrality of the record. The COPE opinion supports the standard to have both a court reporter and a legal videographer, where each is providing the professional service of an official record, neutral to all parties, without missing portions or adding aesthetic influences.

For reference here is the question that was addressed in opinion 44:

Should a court reporter act as both the verbatim reporter and the videographer for the same proceeding?

The advisory opinion includes the statement of a reporter’s “ethical duty not to enter into a business relationship that compromises the reporter’s ability to produce an accurate record.” It goes on to state, “The paramount duty of the reporter is to produce an accurate record.” In conclusion, the opinion states, “The committee on Profession Ethics has determined that a reporter may not act as both the videographer and the verbatim reporter for the same proceeding.”

As stated in Advisory Opinion 44; “Acting as the videographer for a proceeding can be a very complex endeavor as evidenced by the number of Standards set forth by NCRA’s Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS) Committee. For example, (CLVS) Standard 43 states that ‘The videographer shall continuously monitor the video recording with a monitor/receiver that is connected to the output of the VCR.’ The committee believes that a single person cannot continuously monitor the recording while simultaneously producing a stenographic reporting of the proceeding.”

We can now fast-forward from this opinion that was originally published in 2006. Since then, technology has changed, and the competitive marketplace is putting pressure on stenographic reporters to provide additional services at little or no extra cost. Attorneys who expect more for less are not going away. Competition from alternative methods of creating the record continues to grow in both the courts and the deposition setting. Firm owners and reporters are just trying to survive in the face of mounting competition.

Nonstenographic methods require that a media file be created as part of the transcription process. Often this is either a video record of the proceedings or an audio record. Court reporters continue to emphasize that technology can fail and a reporter provides a more accurate record. But the alternative method providers can point to reporter failures as well. No method is 100 percent perfect, but I would argue that verbatim reporters are better at capturing an accurate written record. One major advantage is that a verbatim reporter can request clarification contemporaneously, eliminating any inaudible or other problems with the official record.

What the nonstenographic recorders market is a lower cost, a media file, and a transcription of the proceedings. This appears to be a very attractive offer to attorneys who are looking to control discovery costs. They get both a transcript and a video of the witness’s deposition. This price and level of service pressure has prompted stenographic reporters to consider offering to act as both the videographer and the reporter in a deposition setting. But is the offer as attractive as it seems?

NCRA, through the CLVS program, educates legal videographers about the necessity to remain neutral, not only in their actions and the services they provide but also in the product that is supplied to the parties. This is an important distinction; the video must also be neutral. Unlike a verbatim transcript, with a video deposition, prejudice may be introduced by the picture composition, angle of the camera, or the quality of the reproduction, for even the most accurate recording.

There is a very real risk that the video cannot be used in court because it is ruled as prejudicial. In multiple cases, it has been ruled by the court that a video cannot be played for the jury after sustaining an objection that the technical quality of the video introduced prejudice. These rulings have been based either on poor quality of the picture that unfairly influences the perception of the witness, poor quality audio, or even due to unwanted background noise in the audio portion of the record. In those cases, despite having a video, attorneys were left to read testimony into the record. The attractive offer of free video loses some of its attraction if the video can’t be used in court.

You may ask yourself, “It’s a video. How can that be prejudicial?” Think about watching a grainy surveillance video of an investigative report that follows a subject who is to be perceived as a suspect, or a reality show that catches a character unaware in an embarrassing whispered comment. The perception of those video examples introduces a preconception about the subject on screen. They are standard techniques used to influence the viewer and, therefore, introduce an element of prejudice. These dramatic examples are not the neutral video record required for a legal proceeding.

Having a properly framed shot of the witness, a neutral camera angle, and constant monitoring of the audio feed are the responsibility of the legal videographer. Without a videographer at the deposition, it is difficult for the reporter to perform those tasks and make a stenographic record but easy to inadvertently introduce prejudice into the video record.

Often the free video that is offered to attorneys is recorded by low quality Web cameras that do not gather light and reproduce images as well as professional cameras. The result is a grainy image that subliminally affects the perception of the witness by the viewer. Two additional shortcomings of a video from a tabletop Web camera without a dedicated videographer are the framing of the witness and the angle of a shot.

A witness will move from side to side during a deposition; without a videographer present, they often move out of the frame. To account for this, an unattended video must have wide enough framing to compensate for the witness movement. However, a wide shot diminishes the witness’s size in the picture frame, and this affects the viewer’s perception of the witness. A wide shot also increases the likelihood of distractions being included in the picture, such as the attorney representing the witness, other people in attendance, laptops, coffee, and water.

Camera angle for a scene is a technique often used for dramatic effect by Hollywood filmmakers but has no place in the deposition setting. In depositions produced without a videographer, setting the camera on the table results in an angle that is below eye level of the subject, which is commonly known in filmmaking as a low angle. When the subject is shot from a low angle, the result is they appear “larger than life.” Alternatively, if the camera is mounted on a wall above the distractions on the table, it produces a high-angle shot, above eye level, which diminishes the screen presence of the subject and again alters the viewer’s perception of the witness.

Visual perception of the witness is one area important to a CLVS, but the testimony is in the audio track. In Hollywood films, a Foley artist has the job of adding background noise, the creaking stairs in a horror movie, a scream off camera, or the sound of a siren approaching. All this audio adds to the viewer’s impression of the scene. But in a deposition, the clear recording of testimony is important to capturing a clear record, and there is no place for added audio distractions.

Background noise, the buzz of a cell phone, or the rustling of paper are common occurrences in a deposition. Without a videographer present who is constantly monitoring the audio and trying to compensate for these recorded distractions, the record may not be clear. In the worst case, extreme audio distractions will not be brought to the attention of the parties at the time of the deposition. They then have no opportunity to rehabilitate or clarify the record if necessary.

In conclusion, and despite competitive pressure, Advisory Opinion 44 holds up to the test of time. If it is important enough to take a deposition, then it should be important enough to have it done correctly.

What is the value in an offer that provides a free video that is not a fair representation in the eyes of the court? It is the duty of representatives to each party to the action to examine the content of the video thoroughly not only for complete ness but also for fairness. As shown in prior cases, attorneys were able to exclude the video from being presented in court due to the prejudicial nature of the technical qualities of the media.

This article is an effort to arm each of us with the knowledge to educate our clients of the pitfalls of an unattended video record. Will it stop the competition from offering it? No. Will it stop some clients from taking advantage of it? Probably not. But perhaps, with this information, we can all take the high road and point out that free video may be at the expense of a neutral record, and it is worth exactly what you pay for it.

Firm Owners Executive Conference registration now open

NCRA’s Firm Owners Executive Conference, which will be held Jan. 31-Feb. 2 at the Ritz-Carlton, Orlando Grande Lakes, is now accepting registrations. This exclusive conference offers unparalleled opportunities for court reporting agency owners and senior management to grow their businesses and gain key insights into emerging industry trends. What’s more, this conference attracts the court reporting elite, creating a valuable networking experience for all who attend.

Preliminary information about the conference and registration information are available online at NCRA.org/firmowners.

Dana Hayden Wins 2013 Speed Contest

2013 Speed Contest Winners

At the 2013 NCRA Convention & Expo in Nashville, Tenn., Dana Hayden (left) of Huntsville, Ark. won the 2013 Speed Contest. Deanna Boenau (center) of Sarasota, Fla., earned second place and Donna Urlaub (right) of Chicago, Ill., earned third place in the Speed Contest.

Contestants wrote and transcribed three five-minute legs – 220 Literary, 230 Legal Opinion, and 280 Testimony – and qualify for each leg with an accuracy score of 95 percent or better. The best combined score wins the championship.

Speed Contest – Overall

Place Names Errors Percentage
1. Hayden, Dana 15 99.569%
2 Boenau, Deanna C. 27 99.295%
3 Urlaub, Donna M. 28 99.287%
4 Humphrey-Sonntag, Melanie L. 33 99.164%
5 Wissenbach, John 32 99.147%
6 Bryce, Jo Ann 38 99.037%
7 Tyler, Karen L. 38 98.959%
8 Cortopassi, Kathy A. 83 97.763%
9 Radavich, Bernice E. 96 97.469%
10 Frazier, Clay James 94 97.440%
11 Germosen, Rich 108 97.154%
12 Brezina, Thomas R. 123 96.720%

Literary

Place Names Errors Percentage
1 Bryce, Jo Ann 1 99.909%
2 Boenau, Deanna C. 4 99.636%
2 Urlaub, Donna M. 4 99.636%
3 Hayden, Dana 5 99.545%
4 Humphrey-Sonntag, Melanie L. 7 99.364%
5 Tyler, Karen L. 9 99.182%
6 Wissenbach, John 10 99.091%
7 Cortopassi, Kathy A. 13 98.818%
8 Menck, Karyn D. 17 98.455%
9 Casey, Joyce Z. 18 98.364%
9 Cook, Ronald L. 18 98.364%
10 Germosen, Rich 20 98.182%
11 Jansen, Naren 24 97.818%
12 Frazier, Clay James 28 97.455%
13 Radavich, Bernice E. 29 97.364%
14 Brezina, Thomas R. 31 97.182%
14 Frazier, Tami 31 97.182%

Legal Opinion

Place Names Errors Percentage
1 Humphrey-Sonntag, Melanie L. 1 99.913%
2 Urlaub, Donna M. 4 99.652%
3 Wissenbach, John 5 99.565%
4 Boenau, Deanna C. 7 99.391%
5 Hayden, Dana 8 99.304%
6 Bryce, Jo Ann 10 99.130%
7 Radavich, Bernice E. 11 99.043%
8 Tyler, Karen L. 15 98.696%
9 Cook, Ronald L. 18 98.435%
10 Casey, Joyce Z. 19 98.348%
11 Frazier, Clay James 27 97.652%
12 Germosen, Rich 28 97.565%
13 Brezina, Thomas R. 29 97.478%
14 Cortopassi, Kathy A. 34 97.043%
15 Frazier, Tami 38 96.696%
16 Jansen, Naren 53 95.391%

Q&A

Place Names Errors Percentage
1 Hayden, Dana 2 99.857%
2 Tyler, Karen L. 14 99.000%
3 Boenau, Deanna C. 16 98.857%
4 Wissenbach, John 17 98.786%
5 Urlaub, Donna M. 20 98.571%
6 Humphrey-Sonntag, Melanie L. 25 98.214%
7 Bryce, Jo Ann 27 98.071%
8 Cortopassi, Kathy A. 36 97.429%
9 Frazier, Clay James 39 97.214%
10 Radavich, Bernice E. 56 96.000%
11 Germosen, Rich 60 95.714%
12 Brezina, Thomas R. 63 95.500%