The online student experience: Interview with Mike Hensley

Mike Hensley, RPR, is an unusual reporter in that he completed court reporting school entirely online. He is a 2015 graduate of Sage College and currently works as a freelance reporter in Evanston, Ill. (although he will be moving to the San Francisco, Calif., area by the end of 2017). Hensley is also in his second year as a member of the NCRA New Professionals Committee.

Why did you decide to go to court reporting school online? What factors went into your decision to choose your school?

I went online primarily because the school I was interested in was based in California, and I was facing an upcoming cross-country move to Chicago. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to attend school with the facility I found; so online schooling was the best available option to meet my needs. I also wanted the flexibility to complete school on my terms and on my schedule since I was an independent adult working full time.

How did you fit classes and practice time into your schedule?

I worked a full-time job, and even at one point, I had a full-time and part-time job while attending school. I had to be very creative in finding time for fitting in school. Luckily, my full-time job was a graveyard shift, Friday-Monday job. The job also had a lot of dead time where my boss encouraged me to bring something to do. He himself mentioned that he completed a master’s degree program while working my particular shift; so it seemed like a good fit to allow me to complete my own schoolwork. As far as practice time, I really had to push myself to forego personal activities and use my non-work time to practice as often as I could. I had to remind myself that sacrifices during school would only be temporary, and it would pay off later when I achieved my new career.

What did you do, if anything, to find a court reporting support network without having in-person classes?

I found Facebook to be a great resource for networking with court reporters. Along with that, my school provided a good source for coaches and mentors through the school staff as part of the online program. As I joined more court reporter groups through Facebook, I developed a presence among court reporters and was able to connect with several individuals who offered to become mentors and eventual friends.

Who or where did you go to for advice on steno theory, selecting software, speedbuilding, and so on?

My school primarily had a good plan of direction for guiding us with software and speedbuilding materials through their online program. As I progressed through school, I kept my eyes open for other sources of material. I obtained a large amount of information through word of mouth from other reporters and online students. Online students sharing with one another can be a great resource because we’re all looking for the most efficient and cost-effective (i.e. free) tools for practice.

What was the biggest challenge you faced about studying online? How did you overcome that challenge?

My biggest challenge was time management initially. The first two years of school were a combination of academics and speedbuilding; so I had to balance both practice time and homework time along with my work schedule. Once I completed academics, I was able to focus solely on speedbuilding, and things became less complicated. As an online student, you have to be your own coach at times. I had to really dig deep and find the drive to push myself to make time in my schedule for practice. It really helped to surround myself with things that reminded me of my goal. At one point, I kept a vision board with pictures of things I wanted as a result of my new career: things like my steno machine, vacation destinations, etc.

What advantages did you find to attending school online?

I was able to complete schoolwork at times that were most advantageous to me so that I could still maintain my full-time job. I was also able to tackle as much or as little as I wanted. Usually, I leaned towards tackling more because I wanted to finish as soon as possible. Personally, I wanted to attend school and focus on the program without any distractions, and knowing my personality, if I had gone to a brick-and-mortar school, I would have found myself distracted by the social environment. But that’s just my personal observation. I think one of the strongest advantages to online schooling is that when you know yourself and you know that you are dedicated enough to buckle down and do the work that you need to do, then it can be a very suitable option to complete school.

Describe the transition from school to working – were there any factors from having been an online student that make you think this transition was slightly easier or slightly harder?

I do admit, when I started as a reporter, it felt strange to set up my equipment in someone’s office as opposed to setting up in my living room. However, that adjustment was minor and was easily overcome. I think that being an online student made it easier for me to transition because I didn’t become accustomed to going to a school facility and being in that environment before entering the working world. In my mind, whenever I sat down at my machine, I was already in the working world. By the time I entered the field, I already felt like I had been a court reporter because I had spent so much time envisioning it during my education.

What do you think firms and courthouses should keep in mind when hiring students who graduated from an online program?

Firms should bear in mind that they may need to spend a small amount of time discussing professional etiquette with an online student, especially if for some reason the online student didn’t have the opportunity to shadow a working reporter. If that did not occur, I would highly recommend that the firm arrange for the online graduate to shadow a reporter to see what it looks like to do the job. Firms and courthouses can expect that online students are well versed in using technology to complete tasks, and therefore they are more likely to communicate through methods like email and/or text message. Online students may also be more adept at submitting work product through electronic means such as email, an online portal, or a cloud-based system.

What do you think working reporters can do to help online students specifically?

I find that a large number of online students really need a mentor  to develop the mental fortitude necessary to become a court reporter. I was very fortunate to find several mentors who gave me some fantastic advice that helped me reach the finish line. Words of a professional reporter carry a lot of weight with students. Any professional reporter who can offer even a small amount of time as a mentor can really be a huge influence on the future generation. Being a mentor doesn’t mean you’re a babysitter. It can be something as simple as being willing to have a weekly or even monthly phone call to check in and say: “Hey, how are you doing?”

Do you have any final thoughts to share?

I feel that my online education prepared me to be a new breed of court reporter. When I began working in the field, I was not afraid of jobs that involved videoconferencing or telephonic participants because I had dealt with these sorts of issues to complete my education. Online schooling also gave me an awareness of many forms of technology available to me as a future professional. When I began working, I was comfortable with completing paperwork electronically and submitting it to whomever requested it. This allows me to be comfortable in working with out-of-state agencies when coverage is needed in my home area. Online schooling also made me strongly accustomed to being realtime-ready. I was connected to a computer 24/7 through my education. Now that I’m a professional reporter, I embrace various technologies to help me do my job as best as I can. With the uncertainty of many brick-and-mortar programs, I feel that online education is truly a wonderful option to keep the education of court reporters alive and well for the years to come.

Get comfy for professional development: Exciting upcoming NCRA webinars

Front view of a person sitting barefoot on a couch with their laptop on their knees, blocking their faceCourt reporters and captioners understand the value of continuing education and always improving one’s skills, but it can be challenging to attend in-person events. With NCRA webinars, you can learn more about your profession from the comfort of your own home or office (not to mention that you can attend them in your slippers – no one will know!).

NCRA has a wide variety of topics coming up in the next month. The JCR Weekly reached out to the presenters to help whet your appetite.

On Oct. 18 at 8 p.m. ET, Tori Pittman, FAPR, RDR, CRI, will present “Intersteno: Berlin and Beyond.” Pittman is a freelance reporter from North Carolina who has a passion for Intersteno. Intersteno is “a worldwide community uniting all those using a full range of speed writing methods to quickly produce high quality texts” (including steno lovers, keyboarding champions, and verbatim writers), and they host an international Congress every two years. In this 90-minute webinar, Pittman will talk about the networking and competition opportunities at Intersteno. She describes it as “international travel that is also a business expense” and explains that Intersteno attendees “learn about reporting in other countries while exploring fantastic locations.” The 2017 Intersteno Congress was held in Berlin, Germany (NCRA members performed very well in the competitions), and the next event is in 2019 in Sardinia, Italy.

On Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. ET, Lisa Jo Hubacher, RPR, CRI, will present “Thinking about Student Training.” Hubacher is an instructor at Madison Area Technical College (which is also her alma mater) in Madison, Wis. Madison Area Technical College received one of the final Training for Realtime Writers grants in 2014 due to its curriculum redesign. In this webinar, Hubacher will discuss this curriculum model, including the redesign’s impact on the program, what’s working, and what needs tweaking. As she describes it, the webinar will cover “how to design a program based on student needs without any curriculum-design knowledge.” Hubacher says she’ll also talk about why “‘But that’s the way we’ve always done it’ doesn’t fly anymore.” This is a must-attend webinar for anyone involved in training reporting students!

On Nov. 9 at 6 p.m. ET, Santo J. Aurelio, FAPR, RDR, will present “Legal Terms, Part 1.” Aurelio has presented several language-related webinars recently, including “What Reporters Must Know about Punctuation” and “English Grammar Gremlins: Ways to Conquer Them” (now both available as e-seminars). Aurelio will present on more than a hundred and fifty terms, but he admits, “I really get a special kick out of four of them: alibi (in another place), durance vile (imprisonment), eleemosynary (charitable), and Esq.” He adds, “If I must pick one, then I guess it would be Esq., which is merely a title of courtesy, but attorneys think that it means ‘one who is an attorney.’” Aurelio will provide “economical but cogent explanations” for the words that he hopes each attendee will easily remember.

Finally, on Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. ET, Erminia Uviedo, RDR, CRR, CRC, will present “Promoting the Profession.” Uviedo is an official in San Antonio, Texas, and she serves as co-chairperson for the Texas Court Reporters Association Student Recruitment Task Force. Her efforts in recruiting and mentoring court reporting students have won her the NCSA challenge not just once, but twice in a row; in 2015, she organized participation in 13 career fairs in 15 days in San Antonio. “It is so easy and rewarding volunteering for a recruitment event,” says Uviedo. “You have the potential to reach hundreds, even if you only talk to 50.” Uviedo has also found the value in promoting the profession over social media, and she hints that “one cool thing I’ll talk about is having attendees take selfies of themselves in front of their court reporting machines and having them spread posts about court reporting.”

Members who attend the webinars will be able to ask questions directly to the presenter and get them answered right away. But if you are not able to attend the live webinar, they will be available as on-demand e-seminars after the fact. Keep an eye on NCRA’s e-seminar library for these and other topics to help grow as a professional.

A broadcast captioner sees the future in realtime

A woman sits in front of a steno machine, set up to work from home. On her desk is her laptop and paper notes propped up for easy viewing. On the wall is a television screen with a news show.By Cathy Penniston

I live in Iowa, but I make my living listening to the Canadian news. I work for The Captioning Group, Inc., based in Calgary, Alberta, as a remote broadcast captioner four days a week. But every Thursday, I take a break from the news and travel to Newton, Iowa, to teach court reporting students at the Des Moines Area Community College. My goal is to share my wealth of experience with my students. I have worked as an official shorthand reporter, a freelance reporter, a CART captioner, and a broadcast captioner, and I bring this real-world experience to my classes.

As a busy broadcast television captioner and an instructor of court reporting students, I encourage my students to embrace realtime. If my students comment that it is difficult to learn realtime, I remind them that when I went to court reporting school, there were manual Stenograph machines and typewriters. Long vowels? That would be taken care of when reporters sat down at the typewriter to type each page into English from their paper shorthand notes. Nowadays, this is all done instantaneously through high-tech machines.

But more so, I believe that realtime is vital to the continued successful future of the court reporting profession. A digital recording in a courtroom cannot accurately provide a real-time speech-to-text feed of the live proceedings to the judge. And a digital recording cannot provide live captions of breaking news or emergency information broadcast over television stations where realtime captions are needed to save lives.

At first, realtime stenography can seem quite daunting. But excellent instructors and programs can get students on the path to achieving their goals and becoming successful in the field of realtime captioning. Here are seven tips from a broadcast captioner and court reporting instructor to get started on your journey to learning realtime.

  1. Enjoy realtime and the great feeling of success when steno words translate into English correctly. Do not be afraid of realtime.
  2. Analyze and correct every word that does not translate from steno to English correctly. There is a reason for every untranslated word. Why did that word not translate? What can you do to correct that word to make it translate properly for your next transcript? Do not ignore untranslates!
  3. Know your dictionary and how words are going to translate with your dictionary. Finger combinations that work well for one student may not work well for another student. Try the suggested way to write the word. If the finger combination does not work for you, try writing it in a way that will translate for you. Define the word in your dictionary that way and write it down. Practice that word until you have memorized it.
  4. Briefs are good only if you memorize them and remember them quickly. A bad brief is worse than no brief at all. Your goal is a good realtime translation.
  5. Write out every word and add it to your dictionary for the time when you forget your brief. Do not hesitate to remember briefs.
  6. Your goal is great realtime translations, not winning a race for having the most briefs and then hesitating during speed tests trying to remember those briefs. Briefs can be your best friend or your enemy in realtime reporting.
  7. Back up your dictionary every week. Email a copy of your dictionary to yourself and back it up in the cloud.

Realtime reporting is the key to the future of our profession. Embrace realtime as you strive to achieve your goal of graduation from school.

After working for many years as an official shorthand reporter in the State of Iowa, Cathy Penniston, RPR, CRI, CSR, “retired” to pursue her dream of completing her master’s degree in teaching and working as a remote television broadcast captioner and teacher. She can be reached at cpenniston@gmail.com. This article was originally published, in a slightly different format, on the blog for The Captioning Group as “7 Things Your Instructor Wants You to Know About Realtime Writing!”

NCRA attends CTC, keeps profession relevant

Set in a moderately busy vendor hall, two women in professional garb speak with a few men who are visiting the booth. One of the women is seated at a steno machine. On the table are flyers and propped up iPads.

NCRA President Christine J. Willette (seated) and NCRA Secretary-Treasurer Debra A. Dibble speak with attendees at the 2017 Court Technology Conference.

NCRA was proud to host a booth in the expo hall at the Court Technology Conference (CTC) held Sept. 12-14, in Salt Lake City, Utah. The National Center for State Courts holds the biennial conference, which is the world’s premier event showcasing the developments in court technology. The event draws more than 1,500 court professionals from around the nation.

Volunteers at the NCRA booth at this year’s CTC event included NCRA President Christine J. Willette, RDR, CRR, CRC; Secretary-Treasurer Debra A. Dibble, RDR, CRR, CRC; Director of Professional Development Programs Cynthia Bruce Andrews; and Government Relations Manager Matthew Barusch. Other volunteers included:

  • Rockie Dustin, RPR, a freelancer in Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Phoebe Moorhead, RPR, CRR, a freelancer in North Ogden, Utah
  • Laura Robinson, RPR, an official in Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Laurie Shingle, RPR, CMRS, a freelancer in Pleasant View, Utah
  • Pattie Walker, RPR, an official in Holladay, Utah

The NCRA representatives used the opportunity to demonstrate to attendees the professional advantage of using stenographic court reporters as well as display the latest technology in realtime reporting. They also had the opportunity to speak to judges, IT professionals, and other court professionals.

“We experienced great interactions with court IT attendees. The lack of certified stenographic reporters to cover courts was a common theme expressed by many visitors to our booth. They’re really feeling the shortage,” said Willette. “They all love realtime. Many of them who use realtime said they can’t live without it. One judge called her reporter right on the spot to make sure they knew about realtime to the cloud,” she added.

The CTC serves as the venue for unveiling the latest developments in court technology to the court-professionals community, giving NCRA a prime opportunity to promote the gold standard of court reporting.

“The potentially monumental contacts that can be made at CTC are innumerable and invaluable in view of the broad expanse of crucial decision-makers who attend,” said Dibble. “We met with judges, attorneys, IT personnel, court reporters, and vendors of litigation services and technologies to court systems — everyone is looking for ways to be more effective in their roles to more efficiently execute the judicial process,” she added.

Willette and Dibble both agree that having the opportunity to demonstrate the capabilities of stenographic court reporters to those charged with implementing court-technology services helps to open doors and inspire ideas to incorporate stenographic skills into the products they offer. Attending the CTC also helps to keep NCRA members relevant as technologies evolve.

“It is imperative that NCRA be a part of that solution-finding process and be visible to every facet of this field. We spent our time listening and learning about the interests and needs of attendees, then sharing with them how we can provide solutions to their needs and how our services create efficiencies to their processes,” Dibble said.

The next Court Technology Conference will be in September 2019 in New Orleans, La. For more information, visit ctc2017.org.

Norwalk woman nationally recognized for court reporting

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyOn Sept. 11, the Norwalk Reflector posted an article announcing that Marie Fresch, RMR, CRC, a freelancer and CART captioner in Norwalk, Ohio, had earned the Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC) certification. The article explained the requirements for earning the CRC, provided some background on captioning, and shared a few highlights from Fresch’s career.

The article was generated by a press release issued by NCRA on Fresch’s behalf.

Read more.

NCRA members share ways attorneys and court reporters can work together to create a better record

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyIn a recent blog post, Esquire Deposition Solutions shared four tips for attorneys and court reporters to work together to get a better record. NCRA members Charlene Friedman, RPR, CRR; Renee Kelch, RPR; Joanne Lee, RPR; and Suzann Sanchez, RMR, contributed to the tips, which include working with the court reporter in advance and using realtime technology.

Read more.

Highlights and takeaways from the sessions at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo

Attendees at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo had the opportunity to attend an array of sessions and educational workshops designed to help them increase their professional experience and hone their skills. The summaries below highlight a few of these sessions.

Fast, faster, fastest

View from the back of a meeting room with rows of people facing a panel and a projector

Kelly Shainline, Jason Meadors, and Keith Lemons present “Fast, faster, fastest” to a full house

One of the first sessions to kick off the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo, “Fast, faster, fastest” with Kelly Shainline, RPR, CRR; Jason Meadors, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC; and Keith Lemons, FAPR, RPR, CRR, was packed with standing room only. The nuts-and-bolts realtime session went through step by step how to set up for good realtime. “My first page, I just consider it a sacrificial goat,” Meadors said to laughter, but the presenters emphasized the importance of good preparation as the key to strong realtime. For example, for legal work, the presenters said to get the appearance page ahead of time and use that to do some research. “Let’s say there’s a doctor,” said Lemons. “Look up online what kind of medicine they do — such as obstetrics and gynecology — and use that to build specific words in a dictionary.”

“I won’t be mean,” Meadors said, “but I will be firm to get what I need,” especially for CART or captioning work.

The presenters all said that they do prep the night before — although the length of time varied a bit based on how important the trial was, how many people would be seeing the realtime, and if there would be a rough draft, for example – but also emphasized the importance of arriving early to the job. Shainline said that while she often prepares brief forms the night before, after she sets up at the job, she does some practice with those briefs to help get them into muscle memory.

Gadgets and gizmos

Merilee Johnson, RDR, CRR, CRC, and Micheal Johnson, RDR, CRR, lead a session filled with dozens of specific gadgets, gizmos, and app recommendations to make life easier both on and off the job. For example, for the office, Merilee and Micheal shared:

  • a few types of charging stations, including the Satechi USB Charging Station, which charges up to six devices at a time, and the EZO power desktop, which Merilee says she’s brought on jobs as a value add to help attorneys plug in their devices;
  • second monitors, including the Duet Display app, which turns an iPad into a second screen (currently only for Apple products), and the Mimo, which is a small second monitor – both Micheal and Merilee said they’ve found it helpful to use a small second monitor to free up real estate on their laptop and move over, for example, BriefIt on a second screen; and
  • cable management gadgets, including the Baltic Sleeve, which is a Velcro sleeve that wraps around a bunch of cables, and the Safcord, which is also a Velcro solution that performs the same function as gaffer’s tape, except it’s reusable.

How to compete with some of the best

In a session that was part of the Student Learning Zone at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo, Chase Frazier, RMR, CRR, CRC; Tami Frazier, RMR, CRR; and Ron Cook, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, gave concrete tips to students on improving their writing while getting through school. The three presenters came from a variety of perspectives: a captioner, an official, and a freelancer.

Chase had strong realtime skills coming out of school, but he didn’t have his state CSR. Because of this, he went into captioning. Tami started as an official out of school because a job opened up at the right time. She said that while court work can be a little faster than depo work — and trials are more controlled — new professionals shouldn’t avoid going right into court after school. And Ron cited the freedom and money potential as perks to freelancing, but he admitted that one downside is the lack of benefits. (He is also a partner in a firm.)

Tami taught both of her sons (Chase and brother Clay Frazier) to write steno, and she did so paperless. She also emphasized perfection. When Chase was at 200 wpm, she saw that while he had the speed, he was writing sloppy and with no punctuation. She had him go back to 160 and work back up while also working on writing perfectly. Chase attributed this experience to his strength in realtime.

A woman speaks into a microphone. She is sitting amongst rows of people at a conference session.

An attendee shares her thoughts during a session at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo

“A lot of people don’t emphasize the mental part of practicing,” said Ron. “If you don’t think you’re going to get it, you won’t get it.” He provided a couple metaphors for practicing, including “slow things down” — meaning to slow things down mentally, stay relaxed, and go with the flow.

Tami recommended practicing about 10 percent faster than her goal speed (which was a technique that she used to get through school). “You always want to be pushing yourself,” she said. Pick tough dictation, she suggested — “and I’m a real believer in lit — it makes you write; there’s nothing easy about lit,” she said. She also suggested practicing a five-minute take at least ten or fifteen words per minute faster than the goal speed. But since she also emphasized aiming for perfection, repeating a take until writing it perfectly will clean up a reporter’s writing and also gives the reporter an opportunity to work in briefs and phrases. “The better writer you are, the easier the job,” she said.

Business of being a court reporter

Charisse Kitt, RMR, CRI; Jessica Waack, RDR, CRR; Mike Hensley, RPR; and Katherine Schilling, RPR, presented a mock deposition as part of the Student Learning Zone at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo. With Schilling playing the part of newbie reporter, the mock deposition went through a variety of typical situations that a new reporter may not have encountered before or covered in school. At each “freeze frame,” the panelists discussed how they would handle each situation. A few of the situations were:

Introducing yourself at the beginning of the deposition: Kitt said she makes a point of greeting all of the lawyers in the room with a firm handshake. Waack expanded on this by saying that she makes sure her ears are over her shoulders over her hips, so she’s standing with confidence and not hunched over.

Swearing in the witness: Waack suggested having a physical piece of paper with the oath to refer to. She also said to make sure to include “swear or affirm” in the wording, since some witnesses don’t want to swear, and to avoid the phrase “so help you God.” Hensley pointed out that reporters should always check with their state association or firm first to see if there’s a preset oath that the reporter should be using.

Using briefs for names, words, and phrases: For briefs, Hensley pointed out that they don’t have to make sense on paper as long as they make sense to you to write. Kitt said she likes to get to a job at least 30 minutes early so she can use the time to jot down some briefs. And Waack suggested using LinkedIn to find the proper spellings of witnesses, etc., although she added that this will likely lead to some odd friend requests. She also said that after she’s developed a brief for an acronym, if the speaker suddenly uses the full term, she simply writes the brief twice.

The witness is talking too fast: Kitt said, “Don’t ever depend on your audio,” stressing that it’s the reporter’s responsibility as the record-keeper to keep in control and stop any fast talkers to tell them to slow down. Waack says she likes to reset the speaker to the point where she lost the record by saying, “You were talking about [subject].” And Hensley favors using a visual hand signal – physically lifting his hands up off the machine to show the room that something is up with the reporter.

Hensley also emphasized throughout the session the importance of knowing your software.

Beyond English

Stanley Sakai, CRC, led a session that focused on captioning in other languages, especially Spanish. The discussion was guided partially by Sakai’s prepared presentation and partly by the audience’s questions.

Sakai has a working knowledge of eight different languages with varying levels of fluency, including Dutch, German, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish. Prompted by a question from the audience, he explained that one of the methods he uses to keep up with such a wide variety of languages is to have different devices set to different languages (for example, his tablet set in one language and his mobile phone in another). He also takes the opportunity to look up words he encounters on the fly and to read articles, etc., in a language other than English so he learns content and vocabulary at the same time.

The session description specifically highlighted Spanish, and the growing need for Spanish captioning came up in the discussion, both domestically and abroad. Sakai talked a little bit about the differences between baseline speeds in English and Spanish and how Spanish is at a slightly slower speed. He also discussed his methods for doing CART work in German and how steno systems work in Korean and in Japanese. Sakai had to adjust his steno theory in order to provide CART, which was for a German language class, and he even had to be prepared to jump between German and English. Similarly, in the discussion, he pointed out that the Korean and Japanese languages toggle between different writing systems based on the specific words, and reporters and captioners in those countries need to have keyboards that are set up to quickly switch between the writing systems at the speed of spoken language.

Read all the news from the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo.

The 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo is the place to earn new certifications

Professionals seeking to add nationally recognized certifications to their résumés can choose from several opportunities to work toward them at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo being held Aug. 10-13 at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nev.

Programs and certifications opportunities available this year include the Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR), Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC), Certified Reporting Instructor (CRI), and Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS). Note that many certifications require multiple steps to earn, so one or more components of testing may not be available during convention.

Certified Realtime Reporter Boot Camp

For those interested in learning how to pass the CRR, a three-hour long boot camp is available on Aug. 12. The CRR is recognized in the industry as the national certification of realtime competency. Taught by Kathryn Sweeney, FAPR, RMR, CRR, who helped develop the boot camp program, the course has enabled many to successfully pass the test on the first take. Sweeney is a freelance reporter and agency owner from Action, Mass.

Convention learning2In the course, Sweeney explains the testing requirements, covers NCRA’s What is an Error?, discusses what is not an error, and talks about the new online testing process. She also offers tips for self-preparation, including what to have on test day, what to do and not do on test day, and how and why candidates fail. Participants in the session should bring their equipment with them so they can take a couple of practice tests and learn how to adjust their system settings and dictionary entries. Skills testing for the CRR is offered online.

“I strongly believe taking the CRR Boot Camp will increase the chance of passing this test. When I finished my presentation in Georgia, a woman who already had her CRR came up to me and said that she wished this seminar was around when she was preparing for the test; that it had all of the information and steps that she muddled through on her own. She said it took years of figuring out what was being asked of her and then changing her writing and learning her equipment and software in order to pass,” Sweeney said.

“With this boot camp, I can help you in three hours,” added Sweeney, who also served as a beta tester for NCRA’s online testing system and as CRR Chief Examiner on behalf of the Association for 17 years.

Certified Realtime Captioner Workshop

Convention participants seeking the CRC certification can attend a 10-hour Workshop held Aug. 10-11 and take the Written Knowledge Test on Aug. 11, completing two of the three steps to the certification. (The third step, a Skills Test, can be taken anytime online.)

Leading the workshop are: Deanna Baker, FAPR, RMR, a broadcast captioner from Flagstaff, Ariz.; LeAnn Hibler, RMR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner from Joliet, Ill.; Karyn Menck, RDR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner from Nashville, Tenn.; and Heidi Thomas, FARP, RDR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner from Acworth, Ga.

Convention learning“I know you will learn something new, no matter how long you have been captioning,” said Carol Studenmund, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, a broadcast captioner based in Portland, Ore. Studenmund heads the Certified Realtime Captioner Certification Committee. “Then take the Written Knowledge Test right after the workshop — while the material is fresh in your mind — and before you know it, you are two thirds of the way to earning the certification.”

Certified Reporting Instructor Workshop

Educators interested in earning the CRI can attend a two-day Workshop, Aug. 10-11, designed to expand their level of knowledge for becoming more effective realtime reporting instructors. The Workshop covers information about the learning process, how to develop court reporting syllabi and lesson plans, and how role playing a variety of courtroom scenarios can aid students’ understanding.

“Those who attend and participate in the CRI Workshop will gain wonderful insight and skills for training the future of our profession,” said Dr. Jen Krueger, RMR, CRI, CPE, who will lead the session. Krueger is a full-time faculty member at Cuyahoga Community College, Parma, Ohio,

“The CRI credential demonstrates excellence and dedication in teaching, assuring students they are benefiting from the best instructors available and others that the court reporting profession is in good hands as those learners prepare to continue the noble and fine work of court reporters and captioners everywhere,” she added.

CLVS SeminarCertified Legal Video Specialist Seminar and Production Exam

Participants interested in earning the CLVS certification can attend the required three-day seminar from Aug. 11-13. The CLVS production exam is also available on Aug. 11 and 12, for those who are qualified. The CLVS program sets and enforces standards for competency in the capture, utilization, and retention of legal video and promotes awareness of these standards within the legal marketplace. Legal videographers often partner with court reporters to ensure the integrity of both the video of legal proceedings and the official transcript.

“Attending at the CLVS Seminar is beneficial to both experienced legal videographers as well as novices to the profession,” said Jason Levin, CLVS, with Virginia Media Group, Washington, D.C. Levin is one of the instructors leading the seminar.

“Our goal is to prepare videographers for the production and written exams, and on the last day of the seminar we actually conduct mock depositions where the attendees can operate the equipment in a deposition environment. Earning the CLVS certification sets yourself apart from noncertified videographers.  The networking opportunities of attending an event like this are well worth the investment,” he added.

 

Don’t miss the savings on lodging at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, the host hotel for the 2017 Convention. Attendees who register to stay at Planet Hollywood on Friday and Saturday nights are eligible for free breakfast and to win one of six new Kindle Fire tablets in a giveaway. Visit NCRA.org/Convention to register now.

REALTIME: There’s a little fixer-upper in all of us

Header image: "There's a little Fixer Upper in all of us" ove a background of ombre wood

By Lynette Mueller

I’m anxiously awaiting the premier of the hit HGTV show Fixer Upper Season 4! Chip and Joanna Gaines restore and renovate old homes in the Waco, Texas, area. Their design style, working relationship, and positivity are an inspiration to so many people all over the world.

We court reporters can learn valuable lessons and habits from Chip and Joanna when it comes to our daily reporting and realtime goals.

Number 1 overlaid a wooden stumpMake time for yourself and family. During each episode, Chip and Joanna always make time for their cutie kids! It’s paramount to keep in mind what’s truly important, and that is to make family your number-one priority. When I was a young mom, I always came home from the job, picked up my children, gave them a smooch, and spent time with them until bedtime. After the kiddos were tucked in bed, I headed off to the computer. Now that I’m an empty nester with no kids, of course, the computer time is done at a more reasonable hour! My two children are young adults now and thriving in their own careers. When we reminisce, they remind me that I worked hard during their formative years and how they knew I was always there for them whenever they needed me.

Number 2 overlaid a wooden stumpHave faith in yourself. When Chip and Joanna buy old properties, there is always the chance something could go horribly wrong with the renovation: asbestos, old wiring, rusted pipes. You get the picture. They stay positive and overcome all of the obstacles that come their way together. As court reporters, we will always have those bad writing days for several reasons. There are the fast talkers, the witnesses who insist on answering the question before it gets out, the thick foreign accents, or the construction noises just outside the deposition room window. We need to rely on our foundations that were laid in our training and maintain a great attitude at the same time in order to overcome those unique and particular obstacles in our depositions and/or courtroom settings. We are human and aren’t perfect. While we only use audio backup as a tool, we are the guardians of the record and need to ensure we capture the verbatim testimony on every case. Always use courtesy when interrupting the proceedings and explain the rationale for your interruption in a concise and respectful way. More often than not, one always gets a better result when staying positive.

Number 3 overlaid a wooden stumpWork hard to be the best you can be. The Gaineses are an extremely hardworking couple, for sure! In addition to their TV show, they also have their own farm with animals, they now have a bakery, the Silos, new furniture and rug lines, and a magazine, to name a few. Court reporters work hard, too. Every day we produce transcripts for our valuable clients in a timely manner and more often than not on an expedited basis. We should take a hard look at how we can “renovate” our writing and realtime skills, so that we can work smarter and not harder to meet the deadlines we are faced with more and more. Realtime is and has been an in-demand service for attorneys for several years now. Court reporters (of all experience levels) need to understand that to stay relevant in today’s legal environment, we must maintain and continually hone our skills each and every day. From a previous blog post: Being realtime-capable should be the goal of every court reporter now! My realtime goal is to always strive for 99.8 percent translation rate on every job. The prep work is essential to maintain or exceed that goal. My writing is constantly evolving (even after 30 years of reporting). Writing short is paramount to the success of my translation rate, for keeping up with the fast talkers, and also being kind to my body — specifically my back and hands.

Number 4 overlaid a wooden stumpYou’ll get a higher return on investment. After the homes are renovated on Fixer Upper, the homeowners definitely have a property to be proud of and one that is worth so much more. Once we, as court reporters, invest in our careers, we earn that return as well. The steps and path to being realtime-proficient can be time-consuming but so worth it in the end. When we go out on each job, we don’t always have the luxury of knowing when a rough draft will be requested or an expedited transcript is needed. If your writing is great, you can say with confidence, “Yes, I can get that rough draft to you!” Your “return on investment” is that your editing time is so much less than before and you will earn more dollars for doing less work! You can shout out loud to yourself with pride and confidence after you hit send: “Nailed it!” Lessening your editing time means you can go enjoy your hobbies, your family, or just sit on the couch and watch Fixer Upper!

Number 5 overlaid a wooden stumpTrust in colleagues you can go to for help and resources. In order for the homes that Joanna rehabs, she has several go-to friends and colleagues to ensure her rehabs look amazing! There’s Jimmy Don, who creates the wonderful and inspirational signs for the homeowners’ kitchens. And then there’s Clint Harp, the craftsman that builds and creates the one-of-a-kind furniture pieces. Court reporters have so many resources and colleagues to help when needed for advice, technology tips, realtime tips, and general help. I’ve found that court reporters are an extremely giving community; one just needs to ask for assistance. There are a multitude of avenues one could use to hone our realtime skills. Here are a few:

  • NCRA website. There’s a plethora of information, tips and tricks, and technology-related articles here. Go there often to check for new content.
  • JCR. Again, lots of great information all court reporting related.
  • NCRA Webinars. Soak up that knowledge at home in your pajamas if you wish!
  • Create a study group online via Google Hangout, Facebook, or Skype.
  • Regional seminars held by state associations. Learn from colleagues and stay close to home to reduce travel costs.
  • Facebook groups. My gosh, there are Facebook groups for just about any court reporting subject you could imagine. Just search and find the right one for you. It ranges from software groups, hardware, realtime, brief forms, health, fur babies — the list goes on and on.

These five lessons I’ve named are just a few to get you started on your personal “fixer-upper.” I’d love to hear about your big “reveal” after you’ve implemented some of these ideas!

Lynette L. Mueller, RDR, CRR, is a freelancer reporter in Johns Creek, Ga. She can be reached at lynette@omegareporting.comShe reports that a short video will be on her blog at the beginning of the article.

Green River Community College students participate in mock depositions

JCR logoIn January, Lori Rapozo, RPR, CRI, an instructor at Green River Community College in Auburn, Wash., brought several court reporting students to lead mock depositions during the Essential Lawyering Skills course at the Seattle University Law School. The mock depositions included swearing in the deponent and handling exhibits.

Rapozo presented the Legal Education seminar Making the Record to the law students using the booklet provided by the National Court Reporters Foundation.

NCRA member Ron Cook, RDR, CRR, CRC, a freelancer in Seattle, also provided a realtime demonstration for the law students.

Read more.