A blog posted Feb. 7 by Kramm Court Reporting offers nine tips for attorneys to know about the realtime services court reporters offer.
Nashville, Tenn., court reporting firm Elite Reporting Services issued a press release on Jan. 30 stating that it has experienced a trend in requests for realtime court reporting since 2016.
Realtime reporting is the subject of an article posted Oct. 25 by the Newton Daily News, Newton, Iowa. The article notes that while realtime reporting is a relatively unknown profession, it is considered to be one of the top careers in the country. The article was generated by the Des Moines Area Community College Court Reporting Program.
For some reporters, the startup costs of realtime can be worrisome. But starting up doesn’t have to cost a lot, say those who are already realtiming. Start with what you have, they suggest, and add on as money becomes available.
It’s not necessary to run out and buy two new iPads when you decide you want to start providing your realtime feed to others. Everyone has an old computer with Windows on it. And just like that, you, too, have a computer you can use to sell your realtime feed. There is a huge benefit to using your own equipment (although it does cost more money). I find it easier just to have my own iPads at the ready. They are all set up to my specific realtime configuration (WiFi using a LAN). All I have to do is press “connect,” and I’m ready to go! Fewer things to worry about and more time to focus on perfecting my realtime feed.
– Lisa Knight, RDR, CRR
Realtime Systems Administrator
TRAIN Subcommittee co-chair
We hear it all the time: Realtime is expensive. Sure it can be, but it doesn’t have to be! When getting started, do your homework and don’t go out and buy whatever you read is popular on Facebook. Start with an old/unused computer or tablet you have laying around the house, and check out the Realtime resource guide for a list of free realtime-viewing software you can use. Before you know it, you have a free realtime set up! Once you’re ready for more bells and whistles, start building your realtime collection slowly. After your first realtime job, you will have an idea of what baseline equipment you need, and then you can start building and personalizing it from there. Will you need a router, or do you want to use StenoCast or stream it through the cloud? Do you want to use a free version of a realtime viewing software or purchase a license or lease? How many viewing devices will you need? These questions can be answered on a budget, so start with small and free, and work your way to investing wisely. Getting started is the key ingredient to shopping on a budget.
– Merilee Johnson, RMR, CRR, CRC
Realtime Systems Administrator
TRAIN Subcommittee co-chair
Eden Prairie, Minn.
There is a reason realtime is expensive. We provide a skill that very few have. Our steno machines are expensive, our amazing software is expensive, and tablet s expensive. However, old equipment works just as well as new equipment. It doesn’t take much to start your realtime journey if you have an idea of where to begin. You don’t need the top-of-the-line equipment when you start. All you need is a laptop, a steno machine, a router or WiFi capability, realtime software, and either another laptop or tablet for streaming the realtime. You can find first-generation iPads that are cheaper, and you don’t need to start off with a Luminex. After working hard and getting thrown right into the water, I am now so confident doing realtime that I went out and bought five iPad minis of my own. Once you start, you won’t be able to stop. The momentum is a wonderful thing that will bring you exponential growth if you harness your skill the right way.
It is very important to know what you are investing in and shop around and get as much information as you can before making any purchases. Make sure the keyboard on the laptop makes editing easy for you. I once had to return a laptop because the page up, page down, home, and end keys were shared with the left, right, up, and down arrow keys, and I just could not edit like that. Overall, I think the startup costs are worth it, and if you implement training and teach yourself not to be afraid, you are bound to succeed and exceed your expectations.
– Sharon Lengel, RPR, CRR
TRAIN Subcommittee member
First, go with the attitude that you are going to do what it takes to make your investment back. Have a plan to market yourself to your firm, your clients, and other firms.
If you’re on a shoestring budget, work with your CAT vendor to see their options and costs. Again, talk to other realtime reporters to find out their solutions and costs, with the plethora of realtime options out there. There are Internet-streaming methods that are available for providing realtime where you may not even need tablets or throwdowns.
In addition to talking to other reporters, attend seminars. Join Facebook groups — like the TRAIN group — or other listservs, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. So what if you sound like a newbie? Everyone was a newbie. That’s why you’re asking: to gain from their experience.
But keep in mind as you cost-cut your way into the beginning of realtime that success means that you’ll ultimately have to spend what it takes to achieve mastery of the best options available for your realtime clients.
– Jason Meadors, RPR, CRR, CRC
TRAIN Subcommittee member
Fort Collins, Colo.
What the International Monetary Fund’s verbatim reporters do on a regular basis for executive board meetings has caught the attention of another one of its members. Already well known to authorized users at the Fund, China requested the reporting department to provide realtime verbatim services when it hosted the G-20 meetings this year.
Using our stenographic machine shorthand skills, Marita Yslas, RPR, and I send our verbatim text through a software program on computers or iPads. The encrypted and password-protected text is streamed simultaneously with the meeting. Twenty users were connected during February’s meeting in Shanghai and here at headquarters.
Tao Dong, a lead organizer of the China 2016 G-20 team and liaison with the Fund, said: “The G-20 team was very impressed by the realtime streaming transcription. We benefited indeed from the comprehension of the speeches for the governor and other Chinese meeting participants. The magic iPad app allowed users’ interaction by scrolling through the text. We were able to comprehend and retain much more of what we read and heard, and what we simply missed.”
This isn’t the first time the reporting department’s innovative techniques have been called upon in an international setting. In addition to providing the service to the deputies of the International Monetary and Financial Committee in various locales, the G-20 Chair for the 2010 meeting in Korea also requested the service. The Korean team wasn’t sure what we were offering when we suggested it for their meeting held in Washington that year. Within five minutes after meeting, though, the team leader announced, “You’re coming to Korea! We need this ‘real timely’ for all our meetings.” His misnomer may be close to reality.
The Fund’s Secretary to the Board, which is the department I work in, expects to again ask for verbatim realtime services to be provided by IMF reporting staff in Chengdu, China, in July and at the Leaders’ Summit in Hangzhou, China, in September. In Korea in 2010, I covered the private dinner of the Leaders’ Summit, sitting behind President Barack Obama. In my own mind, that made it the “G-21,” as I was present as a leader in stenographic realtime provision.
Patric Martin is an official reporter from Bethesda, Md., who works for the International Monetary Fund. He can be reached at email@example.com.
G-20 (also called Group of Twenty) is an international forum for the governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF or the Fund) is an international organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., of “189 countries working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.”
The International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC) advises and reports to the IMF Board of Governors on the supervision and management of the international monetary and financial system, including on responses to unfolding events that may disrupt the system. The IMFC usually meets twice a year.
Professionals considering taking the Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR) test have the opportunity to gain an advantage by attending the CRR Boot Camp being offered for the first time at the NCRA Convention & Expo being held at the Chicago Hilton in Chicago, Ill., Aug. 4-7.
NCRA’s CRR certification represents realtime proficiency for those who earn it as it is recognized in the industry as the national certification of realtime competency. Holding the CRR also can lead to an increase in salary, as noted by a number of recent NCRA surveys.
“As the CRR Chief Examiner in Massachusetts, I saw so many candidates come back time and time again to take the certification test. It was bittersweet. They couldn’t pass, but they kept trying,” said Kathryn Sweeney, RMR, CRR, a freelance reporter and agency owner from Acton, Mass., who helped develop the boot camp program and will be teaching it at the NCRA Convention & Expo.
“The idea of the boot camp came about when the Board of the Massachusetts Court Reporters Association (MCRA) approached me with questions as to why there were not more people passing the CRR exam and what I could do to maybe help those candidates,” said 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.
“They gave me two hours and a place to give a seminar back in October of 2009. It was originally named ‘Ready? Begin.’ Those are the two most dreaded words for even the most skilled court reporter,” Sweeney said.
Because it was felt that the original name of the program might actually scare people away, it was renamed the CRR Dress Rehearsal. Over the years, however, said Sweeney, the presentation turned into a three-hour session and was appropriately renamed again to the CRR Boot Camp.
Word about the program has been spreading across states, according to Sweeney who most recently presented the session at the Georgia Court Reporters Convention. Other state court reporter associations have also been contacting her about presenting it at their meetings, leaving her very excited about having the opportunity to bring it to an ever wider audience.
“Word finally spread to NCRA, and I was offered a webinar, which I gave last August. After the success of that, I was invited to their annual convention this year,” said Sweeney.
Unlike NCRA’s newest certification, the Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC), which requires participation in a 10-hour workshop before being able to take the test, the CRR Boot Camp is not a prerequisite for taking the CRR test. However, said Sweeney, it can certainly help with increasing the chances of passing on the first take.
In the course, she explains to attendees 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 on working on 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 are also asked to bring their equipment with them because Sweeney said she also lets them take a couple of practice tests, as well as manipulates the system settings and dictionary entries.
“There is so much material. Even if just one thing I teach resonates with an attendee, one thing that they can go back and fix or change, it may just be the one thing that pushes them over the hump and gets them that CRR designation,” said Sweeney.
One reason she attributes the program’s success in helping CRR candidates be successful in passing the test is because much of the material she covers about being prepared includes information often missed, such has having flash drives or SD cards properly formatted, which is included in the recommended reading on the testing website or contained in the pre-test emails they receive.
“The most frustrating part of being the proctor at brick-and-mortar testing sites was that I could not help the candidates. It was simply not allowed. They were supposed to just know all this stuff. Heck, candidates showed up without their driver’s license because they didn’t know they needed to show it to me,” she said.
“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.”
Perhaps the greatest benefit of taking the CCR Boot Camp is that attendees will know if they’re ready to take the test or not, while those who have taken the test before will realize why they didn’t pass, she noted.
“I am a huge proponent of not throwing money away. If you’re not quite ‘there’ yet, then don’t spend (the money) on this test. You will learn what you need to work on before you take the plunge and sign up for the test. You will know when you’re ready, instead of just winging it and hoping for the best,” Sweeney added. “The CRR really is the easiest test you’ll ever fail. But why fail at all? Learn what you need to do in order to pass. Come to my boot camp!”
Sweeney, who has been a court reporter for 25 years, is also past president of MCRA and served a total of eight years on its Board of Directors.
To earn the CRR certification, professionals are required to hold the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) certification, be a current member of NCRA, and pass a realtime testimony skills test at 200 words per minute with 96 percent accuracy.
For more information about or to register for NCRA’s CRR Boot Camp and the 2016 Convention & Expo, visit NCRA.org/meetings.
An article posted May 11 by GraysHarborTalk, Montesano, Wash., features an interview with NCRA member Connie Church, RPR, CRR, CRC, a freelance reporter. She provides realtime services for people who are deaf and hard of hearing in her community in addition to reporting depositions and court proceedings.
The Realtime Systems Administrator Workshop and Exam are being offered during the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo, Aug. 4-7 in Chicago, Ill. This workshop provides firm owners, IT support staff, freelance reporters, and official reporters with the boost they need to improve their professional marketability and technical proficiency. Registration information for the workshop and the Convention & Expo, as well as a schedule at a glance, can be found at NCRA.org/Convention.
The day-and-a-half workshop focuses on all aspects of realtime hookups and litigation support that rely on realtime connections, including cutting-edge wireless realtime. Attendees will learn how to quickly troubleshoot realtime issues, based on real-world scenarios, as well as explore all aspects of connectivity from serial communication to more advanced networking concepts, including wireless connectivity. Workshop attendees who pass the Exam will earn the Realtime Systems Administrator certificate.
“I thought I knew everything I needed to know about realtime since I do it all the time and have for many years. But that’s not true,” says Lori Byrd, RPR, CRR, an official court reporter from Winfield, Kan.
“One of the biggest reasons I keep seeking some kind of upgraded certification is because of something a court reporting friend once told me: a 30-year-old certificate doesn’t mean as much as a fresh one. A reporter who continually seeks to better himself or herself is more the type of reporter I would want to hire if I were looking for one. I want to do top-of-the-line work, so I feel strongly I need to be a top-of-the-line reporter,” Byrd adds.
NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator Program and Exam were developed and are implemented by the absolute experts within the field of producing realtime writing. The curriculum includes a two-step process: A lecture-based workshop is followed by a practical exam of a candidate’s ability to perform the duties of a realtime systems expert in real-world situations. Key components of the program and the text include: computer basics, connectivity basics, serial products, streaming products, and troubleshooting scenarios.
“I have been providing realtime hookups since 1989, and I felt it would be beneficial to have this certification so that attorneys coming into my service area will have a greater comfort zone about the quality of the realtime they will receive,” said Ginger H. Brooks, RPR, CRR, a freelance reporter from Jackson, Miss.
While there are no prerequisites for NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator Workshop, candidates should have a basic knowledge of realtime and a strong knowledge of their hardware, software, and equipment. Each workshop participant receives a copy of NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator Guide, which mirrors the program’s curriculum and provides in-depth information on a range of related topics.
“It was a great opportunity to have a refresher course,” says Brooks. “It has given me an opportunity to discuss with prospective clients our state organization, NCRA, and the benefits of hiring a qualified realtime reporter for depositions. You may feel that you do not need this certificate, but there is always something new to be learned.”
For more information and to register for the Realtime Systems Administrator Workshop and the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo, visit NCRA.org/Convention.
By Merilee Johnson and Lisa Knight
Congratulations! You have worked hard at improving your writing. Your translation rate gets better with every job you take. You are finally ready to make the next step and start offering your realtime feed for others to view and use. Time to celebrate!
No! Wait! Panic sets in!
Does my CAT vendor offer realtime software for me to use? How much does that cost? Can I write to other realtime software with my current CAT system? Do I want to write to other realtime software? Do I want to use cables or StenoCast or do it all wirelessly with a router? Do I need a tablet, or should I use a laptop?
NCRA’s TRAIN Subcommittee has you covered. We have been working with CAT vendors to gather this valuable information to help you make a decision, and we have compiled it into a handy guide for reporters to quickly and easily determine their options and take their next steps.
An investment into a realtime future can add up fast, but it doesn’t have to. This is not about taking out a second mortgage to purchase all the realtime accoutrements at one time. Many realtime reporters don’t run out and purchase six iPads at their nearest Apple store. Most are methodical (that’s why we are so good at what we do). They may choose to purchase one refurbished tablet or computer and discover what works best for them. One by one, they add to their realtime stock.
Many people have an old computer (or two or three). Reporters can easily turn that into a realtime computer for counsel without paying anything to make that happen. Providing realtime (and getting paid for it) does not have to cost reporters an arm and a leg. Often, one realtime job will typically pay for that new or refurbished tablet the first time it’s used. By the second realtime job, reporters are increasing their margin of profit. Many reporters are losing money by not writing realtime, plain and simple.
Ready to get started? Use this guide to help determine the next realtime step. Is your current software and hardware compatible with cables or StenoCast using your old computer? Can you write to your computer wirelessly using a router without purchasing a license from your CAT vendor? Is your equipment and software license set up to provide a wireless stream out of the conference room to the other side of the world? The answers to these questions and more are here in this realtime guide.
Merilee Johnson, RMR, CRR, CRC, and Lisa Knight, RDR, CRR, are co-chairs of NCRA’s TRAIN Subcommittee.
The TRAIN subcommittee wishes to thank the vendors who participated in gathering this information. Their time devoted to this guide was extremely valuable.
- Advantage Software