Realtime resource guide

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
  • ProCAT
  • AristoCAT
  • Stenograph
  • Gigatron
  • Stenovations

Choosing the right captioning service

A post on May 4 by Government Video, part of NewBay Media, features the second part of an interview with NCRA member Carol Studenmund, RDR, CRR, CRC, a broadcast captioner from Portland, Ore., about choosing the right captioning service. Studenmund, who serves as chair of the Mount Hood Cable Regulatory Commission in Oregon and on NCRA’s Broadcast and CART Captioning Committee, discussed the changing role of closed captioning in the first part of the interview on April 27.

Read more.

STUDENT REPORTING: Realtime software through the lens of a student

By Ahlam Alhadi

Using steno paper was a great tool in the initial stages of my court reporting education, primarily because it was very easy to use and allowed me to focus more on speedbuilding and reading back my notes. However, as time continued and my ability to read my steno notes and write more quickly increased, my instructor and I both felt it was necessary that I begin to use realtime software since I won’t be using paper once I begin working and am at an assignment. I began to implement the use of realtime software once I reached a speed of 180 wpm. Since then I have been using realtime for all of my coursework, and I have found it to be very helpful. I can complete practice exams faster, and I can be more organized since I do not have to save stacks of steno paper.

I felt compelled to learn the ins and outs of realtime software as a student because it has such an immense impact on this profession. It enables transcripts to be produced quickly, it helps judges and attorneys get the information they need faster, and it can speed up the overall trial process. It is also the more advanced option during these times in which many legal professionals are trying to find alternative means to record testimony. In addition, many court reporters with their Certified Realtime Reporter credential earn more, and since the profession has become intertwined with this software, it only makes sense that it be emphasized among students.

I believe that it is crucial to improve myself professionally prior to entering the workforce, especially because there are perks to learning realtime while a student. Primarily, there isn’t any added pressure to know every facet and use of the software in a short period of time, and I can learn realtime as I go. Learning realtime as a student will also make life as a certified court reporter significantly easier because my dictionary will be comprised of a larger amount of legal and medical terms. This is extremely beneficial because I will be better prepared for any type of legal or medical malpractice deposition. Also, a new court reporter who is already familiar with their realtime software will be able to edit transcripts faster and more efficiently and submit court records at a more rapid rate. Likewise, the ability to turn in work sooner will ultimately allow for more assignments to be taken, which can lead to greater earnings.

The process of transitioning from steno paper to realtime proved to be quite simple given the fact that I had done my research and knew what software I wanted to purchase. Fortunately, there are many companies that provide reduced rates for students. That includes Gigatron’s StenoCat 32, Stenovations, and many more. Most court reporting programs are affiliated with a certain software company that may even offer a free student version of their software. I made sure to consider which companies would offer me the best software at a good rate and with tech support. I decided to purchase StenoCat 32, which has been easy to learn and has proven to be a viable and cost-efficient option. They offer wonderful technical support, which helped me immensely throughout the set-up process. Gigatron also offers free webinars and video tutorials that answer any questions about installation and set-up, adding terms to your dictionary, editing, and formatting.

As with any profession, its future depends on the students who will eventually be the backbone and leaders of this field. As a future court reporter, I feel it is necessary to stay on top of any and all advancements so I can offer clients as many services as possible that will allow for prompt and accurate court records.

Ahlam Alhadi is a court reporting student. She can be reached at ahlam513@gmail.com.

 

 

Episode I: REALTIME READINESS

Episode 1: Realtime Readiness -- tar Was-themed cover image with reporters, steno machines, and cablesBy Lynette Mueller

It is a period of ever-changing technology! Court reporters, in the courtroom and deposition setting, are winning with tools and gadgets to help them work smarter and provide their important clients with the technology to assist them in their cases.

I admit that I’m a technology and gadgets geek. I was so excited that the new Star Wars film opened this past December.

Here are some quotes from the Star Wars series that relate to court reporters using gadgets and technology to help them provide great realtime output for their clients.

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” — Yoda

Do embrace the realtime technology. Use it to be more productive and provide clients with a service that they crave for. If you do not, they may look to other reporters or other technology.

Some reasons that have been cited for do not include:

  • writing is not good enough
  • do not want anyone to see my mistakes
  • hookups are intimidating
  • overlapping voices can be distracting
  • no control over the environment

Here are some ways to be more confident to do:

  • improve by practice — write at least 15 minutes a day
  • analyze your writing and keep a journal
  • build your dictionary
  • keep current with technology
  • offer realtime to a client you are comfortable with
  • let your software work for you
  • relax and breathe
  • stay positive

“In my experience there is no such thing as luck.” — Obi-Wan Kenobi

In order to be realtime-proficient and keep their feed top-notch, all reporters should practice for speed and accuracy on a regular basis. Practicing and speedbuilding takes time and hard work, but the benefits are enormous In addition, being prepared for each and every job, whether it’s realtime or not, means less editing time at the computer later.

Some things to do prior to each job include:

  • create a job dictionary with brief forms, if possible, for all attorneys, participants, proper names, witnesses, case-specific terminology, and technical words
  • practice new briefs prior to the job
  • create a cheat sheet for the briefs during the job as a reminder

“In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way.” — Yoda

We need to educate ourselves as much as possible about the case-specific terminology for a realtime session and add brief forms to our dictionary in order to have our feed be top-notch. Our CAT software can help us, too. I love my BriefIt on my Case Catalyst software. During a recent fast-paced deposition, this brief form saved the day: AO*EUK (independent contractor). Embrace and learn more about your specific CAT software, and let it do some of the heavy lifting.

“It’s a trap!” — Admiral Ackbar

Don’t get caught off guard. Be prepared for every realtime job by bringing cables, power cords, router, iPads, netbooks, etc. This past month, I was scheduled for a daily copy trial in a rural town several miles from my home base that required me to stay overnight. In addition to my Luminex, laptop, and realtime software, I also packed up a mobile office that included:

  • extra writer
  • extra laptop with CAT software loaded
  • iPads
  • netbooks
  • router for realtime feed
  • portable scanner
  • Dymo labeler for exhibit stickers
  • office supplies (stapler, paperclips, binder clips, etc.)

“May the Force be with you!”

Remember that Luke was not a youngling when he learned the Jedi ways. Reporters do not need to be younglings, either, to provide realtime. I am always striving to pick up better ways to write and tips and tricks from my colleagues (even after 30 years in this amazing profession). My colleagues are a valuable resource for me. All it takes to leap into realtime is the belief in yourself and your abilities, a strong desire, hard work, and the focus to get there.

May the Force (aka realtime) be with you!

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.

NCRF: Helping lawyers and judges create the record

By April Weiner

Since its creation in 2010, NCRF’s Legal Education Program has helped hundreds of court reporters give presentations to lawyers, law schools, and judges on the importance of and the court reporter’s role in “Making the Record.” The Legal Ed materials teach law students and attorneys how to help the court reporter deliver the best record.

Reporters can deliver the best record when they can hear and understand the speakers, and when they are prepared ahead of time, whenever possible (i.e. providing industry-specific terms and names that may be used).

“If our brain has to suddenly ask itself a question and kind of sound out to our inner self what someone said because they mumbled or [we’re] kind of reading lips for the low speaker, well, that just slowed my fingers down,” says Christine Phipps, RPR, a firm owner in North Palm Beach, Fla., and one of the co-chairs of NCRA’s Technology Committee, who helped orchestrate the committee’s recent revision of the materials.

Another step in delivering the best record is recognizing for whom the transcript is being prepared.

“At the time of trial, a senior partner in the firm will actually be the person using the transcript and, therefore, will be unable to use their memory of what transpired,” says Kevin R. Hunt of Jack W. Hunt & Associates in Buffalo, N.Y., who has given many of these presentations and even authored the sample script. “If a witness nods [his or her] head or points to a place on an exhibit, that will be either open to interpretation as to the witness’s response or completely unknown. Making sure everything is verbal and uttered one person at a time ensures that regardless of who reviews the transcript, they will have an unambiguous understanding of what the witness was testifying to.”

Furthermore, the transcript is critical in the appeals process.

“In most instances, an appellate court can only review the proceedings below from a court reporter’s transcript,” says Teresa Kordick, RDR, CRR, CRC, CRI, CPE, an official from Des Moines, Iowa, and a trustee on the National Court Reporters Foundation’s board. “What is contained in that transcript is the record made by counsel, the witnesses, and the judge. It is essential that attorneys and judges know how to make good record so that the reviewing court can properly decide the case.”

Kordick used the Legal Ed materials as a starting point to modify a presentation to judges at the Judicial Branch Building, which houses the Iowa Supreme Court and Iowa Court of Appeals. Both she and Merilyn Sanchez, RMR, CRR (Ret.), of Chandler, Ariz., one of the founders of the program, stress the importance of tailoring the presentation to the audience.

“The materials are meant to be modular and easily personalized for whatever audience the reporter has,” Sanchez says. “Many lawyers would not be interested in how to schedule a deposition or what to do in preparation to assist the court reporter. You can skip over the basics and get right into the technology demonstration. Some lawyers prefer to leave the technology to their paralegals or second chair attorneys, who might be a better audience for a realtime focus.”

Keeping the law firm’s individual needs in mind helps tailor the presentation.

“If a law firm needs assistance in using realtime, a script is included to use in a realtime demonstration. You can do a quick explanation of what you can do during a realtime demonstration or actually incorporate whatever litigation support software the attorney uses into the basic presentation,” says Sanchez.

The Legal Ed materials have recently been revised to include up-to-date technological advancements in the industry.

“Many lawyers have not kept abreast of the latest technology in making a record,” says Sanchez. “It is important to educate lawyers about realtime reporting, video synchronization, and how to make the best choice for their reporting needs. Legal Ed was designed to assist reporters to educate lawyers at any level of technology sophistication.”

Technological advancements will vastly change how attorneys practice law, says Phipps.

“Streaming realtime, a live feed to everything said as it’s being said, all around the globe is now very simplistic and interactive, bringing the proceedings to wherever you may need to be. Delivering final transcripts to be used in imminent examinations in minutes is an absolute game changer,” says Phipps.

NCRF’s Legal Education Program materials include a sample presentation outline, a PowerPoint presentation, handouts, and a script. There are a number of ways court reporters can take advantage of these materials.

“Take any opportunity available to you to speak with judges, lawyers, and law students,” says Kordick. “It is always appreciated by those groups, and it benefits the reporters if we can make their (and our) jobs a little easier.”

 Law Day is celebrated each year on May 1, and many chapters of the American Bar Association, courts, and lawyers plan special events on this day. This can be a good opportunity for court reporters to be included and present on behalf of the profession. Court reporters can reach out to local ABA chapters or law firms to inquire about being included at these events.

Since the Legal Ed materials are particularly applicable to law students and young attorneys, reporters can also reach out to local law schools and firms to see if they’d be interested in a presentation.

“Use this education program to get your foot in the door with either the lawyers or their support staff and lay the foundation for a great relationship,” Sanchez said.

In addition to benefitting from lawyers understanding the profession better, court reporters can apply to receive Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for giving the presentation. A subset of Continuing Education Units, PDCs can account for up to 1.0 units per education cycle for NCRA court reporting members who are fulfilling their education requirements.

The presentation benefits the firm as well, since it results in improved transcripts that help lawyers do their jobs better, at no cost to the firm.

“Speaking at law schools or law firms is a wonderful opportunity to encourage attorneys to help you help them,” said Hunt. “The goal is a clear and usable transcript, and if they follow the suggestions in the Legal Ed presentation, it will go a long way to ensuring a transcript that meets or exceeds their expectations.”

If presenting to a law firm, the attorneys that attend such a presentation may be eligible to earn continuing legal education credits. Since each state has different CLE requirements, the law firm will have to contact their state bar to determine eligibility.

For more information on the Legal Education Program and to get the materials, visit NCRA.org/ncrf/LegalEd.

April Weiner is the Foundation Assistant for the National Court Reporters Foundation. She can be reached at aweiner@ncra.org.

TECHNOLOGY: The benefits of early adoption

person hold laptop with digital planet; light emits from video cameraBy David Ward

Because concentration is paramount for their job, court reporters don’t like disruptions — and that often extends to the equipment and other technology they use during work. Once reporters are comfortable with their writers and other gear, many are loathe not only to try to try new hardware, but often even to update some of the software that supports their equipment. This reliance on the tried and true can help a reporter stay in their comfort zone, but it also comes with a cost.

Foregoing the opportunity to be an early technology adopter means that at least some reporters may end up missing out on trends that can help them do their job better and also grow their business.

“There are so many great new tools now with reporting,” says Robin Nodland, RDR, CRR, a principal with LNS Court Reporting based in Portland, Ore. “From where it was when I started in 1980, it almost feels like we’re cheating now thanks to software that can, for example, remember complex medical terms, so if you write it two or three times, it will start to suggest it.” Though it does require both a financial investment and a willingness to learn the ins and outs of the latest hardware and technology, Nodland says being an early tech adopter has more than paid off by helping her firm generate new business.

“Being tech-savvy really resonates with our client base,” she explains. “Every single time we’ve given a five-minute tour of our technology to a client, they are beside themselves. It’s usually the assistants — the attorneys don’t want to deal with it — who are just delighted because it makes their job easier. If they go home and are not sure if they have scheduled a videographer for the next day, they can log in and double check.”

One of the main reasons LNS embraces new technology is because it now does a lot more than reporting and videography. “We are tech heavy because we have both court reporting and captioning and video conferencing over IP, so we need a real robust infrastructure,” Nodland says.

LNS has an IT person on monthly retainer to oversee and maintain the company’s servers and website. “We use ReporterBase for the calendaring, invoicing, and the repository with 24/7 access to transcripts — and it’s our IT person’s job is to makes sure it’s all running properly. He also makes sure there are backups to all our reporters’ notes and files, even though that’s really the reporters’ responsibility.”

The cost-effective early tech adopter

Not every firm or individual reporter will have the resources to invest in an array of on-site servers, let alone hire a tech guy to manage it all.

But Sue Terry, RPR, CRR, an NCRA director and freelance reporter based in Dayton, Ohio, notes there are still cost-effective ways to be an early tech adopting reporter. Terry notes that even little things like upgrading laptops and home PCs to the new Microsoft Windows 10 operating system can make a huge difference.

“I know many reporters are afraid to make that switch for fear of messing up their laptop,” she explains. “But most of the upgrades are taking place on the software side, and many reporters don’t realize how powerful they can be and how effective they can be when streaming a deposition. Once you have your router in place, no matter what CAT system you’re on, it’s easier to get the hookup when all your software is up to date.”

Being an early tech adopter also requires reporters to understand what type of new tech can truly make a difference in their business.

Dianne Cromwell, RPR, is an official reporter in Boise, Idaho, as well as the owner of the Boise reporting firm Tucker & Associates. Cromwell says that virtually every reporter can help their business with relatively low-cost investments such iPads. “Compared with the old days when you had to deal with all different kinds of laptops and other repeaters, the iPad is much easier,” she says. “The freelancers that work for our company all have their own iPads, which they provide clients.”

Asking the right tech questions

Many small business owners — and not just those in the court reporting field — may understand the importance of staying on top of technology but often don’t know how to start that process.

Terry notes that people don’t have to be all that tech conversant to be early adopters; they just have to know the right people and ask the right questions.

“Many reporters buy a new laptop or other equipment, and the settings are not optimized for their job, which is the recording of proceedings,” Terry explains. “So they think they have a crappy laptop and they go out and buy another one.”

Asking other court reporters for advice is one way to get up to speed on new technology, but Terry says reporters also can’t be shy about asking the very people they’re buying the equipment from for their input. “These are professionals, and to me what they’re also selling me is support,” she says. “It really doesn’t do you any good to get a microphone that picks up the sound in a room great if you don’t know how to set the settings to make that happen.”

Most tech and software vendors say they want those questions from court reporters. Jason Yee, marketing director with OMTI, makers of the ReporterBase line of software, notes his company routinely handles queries from their hundreds of firm clients.

“We find their interest in new technology ranges from very conservative to eager early adopters,” he explains. “We view it as our job, as software developers, to be up on what is happening technology-wise and use our experience from 30 years of developing for this industry — plus insights from our clients — to decide which technologies to incorporate into ReporterBase. Then we teach our clients why they have these new abilities and what they can do with them.”

Yee says OMTI upgrades its two main court reporting products, RB8 office management software and RB Web online office, twice annually, keeping firm owners abreast of any new features through online content as well as its annual conference.

“We have found that often clients who describe themselves as not technically savvy will embrace these foreign new concepts and abilities when they understand the benefits and learn how to use the new features properly,” he adds.

Reporting technology for a rich future

The right technology can not only assist individual reporters and court reporting firms with their current work, it can also ready them for what could massive new opportunities over the next decade.

Jason Primuth, executive vice president for NextGen Reporting, points out that remote reporting — where the reporter is far from the witness being deposed — has not really taken off in many parts of the country.

“However, we’ve seen a strong growth in the demand for remote depositions where the parties are in multiple locations, and the court reporter is generally with the deponent,” he adds. “Forward-thinking corporations and insurance companies have found significant savings in time and money by conducting remote depositions.”

Primuth has also seen a surge in the use of video technology in legal proceedings, noting, “Some of our cases require the high-quality video that only traditional videographers and a professional camera can provide. But there’s a massively underserved market for video in smaller cases with smaller budgets. Other options, such as remote streaming, make video affordable to a much broader range of cases.”

Rhonda Jensen, RDR, CRR, CMRS, president of Jensen Litigation Solutions, based in Chicago, Ill., says her firm is rapidly adding new video equipment, including HD cameras, to take advantage of the growing popularity of video.

“We’ve expanded dramatically,” she explains. “We now do promotional videos for attorneys to post on their websites, and we’re very active in the local bar associations here in Illinois where we’ve done things like ‘Women in the Legal World’ videos for them.”

Jensen adds video is already influencing many parts of civil litigation. For example, her company now works with law firms to put together day-in-the-life videos used in personal injury suits.

“If someone is injured, the attorneys often want the jury to know what it’s like to be in their shoes by showing their daily life,” she explains. “We’ve also just invested in our first GoPro camera, which can be put on the injured person to show directly what life is like from their side.”

As much as video is affecting litigation, the huge growth in video outside of the legal arena has been a real technological trigger for the court reporting industry along with the need to caption much of that content.

A report last year from Cisco’s Visual Networking Index predicted that 80 percent of all Internet traffic will be video by 2019.

Carol Studenmund, RDR, CRC, and co-founder (along with Nodland) of LNS Reporting in Portland, Ore., agrees that the surge in video, both online and off, could have a profound effect on the captioning community – but only for reporters willing to step outside their comfort zone.

Studenmund explains that over the past five years, captioning prices in the network television affiliate world have dropped, adding, “But I still see reporters who only want to do network affiliate news, and they’re willing to take less money to just do that. In the meantime, there’s all this new work.”

One area where Studenmund is seeing growth is areas affected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“The world of people with hearing disabilities are finally beginning to ask for what they’re allowed to have through ADA,” she says. “And it’s booming. One example is stadiums. How many stadiums now have to provide captions? Another is in the workplace as people are realizing that in order to participate in a workplace webinar, they need captions.”

If that’s not opportunity enough, consider the vast amounts of old videotape that could soon be converted to digital and posted online.

“There’s so much content, not just current videos being produced, but archived content from years back when they still had VHS,” Terry says. “These are sitting at colleges and universities, and they’re dying to make that content digital and searchable.”

In addition to possessing their traditional captioning skills, Terry says court reporters should start thinking and talking like early tech adopters when it comes to video.

“You have to explain to people looking to post videos to YouTube that most search engines can’t index that content unless it’s captioned and there are keywords to pull up,” she says. “We have so much video history right now that if I was just entering the business, I would be marketing video captioning as strongly as I would depositions and hearings. If you can learn to caption videos, you really have an unlimited market.”

The good news for court reporters looking to be on the cutting edge of video is that it doesn’t require that much new tech.

Studenmund, who does captioning at stadiums, including high-profile events like the Super Bowl, remotely from her home office, says other than a great high-speed Internet connection, all you really need are great earpieces.

“I indulge in nice headphones,” she adds. “When working remotely, it all comes down to hearing clearly.”

Like most early tech adopters, Studenmund says the real key is to embrace any new technology as an opportunity rather than distraction, adding, “Everything changes all the time, so you just need to be ready for that.”

David Ward is a journalist in Carrboro, N.C. Comments on this article can be sent to jcrfeedback@ncra.org.

This article was suggested by NCRA’s Technology Committee.

 

REALTIME: Learn from secret agents like Ethan Hunt, James Bond, and others

By Lynette Mueller

I live in a household with two guys. As you can imagine, our movie-going outings tend to be action films, science fiction, and comedies. Don’t get me wrong — I am not complaining in the least. I love all of those genres!

This past summer, we saw Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., flicks about secret agents and packed with continuous action. As is the case with most action films featuring secret agents like Ethan Hunt, James Bond, and others, common elements can be found throughout the movies: mysterious plots, superhuman skills and maneuvers, amazing chase scenes, continuous action, and the gadgets that help them achieve their mission or goals. The heroes generally have the same character traits: dependable, in peak physical condition, and prepared for any situation. They exercise continuously and consistently because they know it can mean the difference between life and death out in the field. They don’t cut their workouts short when they’re tired or miss a day because they’re not up to the challenge. They train hard, they train with purpose, and they train as if their lives depended on it. Even though I’m a working reporter, I feel it is imperative to practice my writing on a daily basis. There are several resources to find practice material:

In an effort to channel our inner “secret agent,” we can learn from these fictional characters in our quest to become the best professional court reporter ever!

The definition of “professionalism”: the skill, good judgment, and polite behavior that is expected from a person who is trained to do a job well

Just like Ethan Hunt in the Mission: Impossible series, court reporters should use technology tools and gadgets to solve everyday tasks and real-world problems in order to help make the job easier. Court reporters should keep in mind that in order to be effective and stay relevant, we must keep abreast of technology, embrace it, and never be skeptical of the newest innovations. This past June, I co-presented with my good friend, Keith Lemons, at a seminar about realtime tips and fears and also the gadgets we use to help us be more productive. Some of the favorite gadgets:

  • smartphones
  • iPads/tablets (realtime reading devices)
  • Apple Airport Express (output for realtime)
  • DYMO LabelWriter (create exhibit stickers and mailing labels on demand)
  • Bolse 4 Port USB AC Rapid Charger (charge multiple devices at once)

Find a full list of my gadgets here.

In the opening minutes of Mission: Impossible, Ethan Hunt dangles precariously from a mammoth four-engine turboprop plane that pushes triple-digit speeds during a steep vertical takeoff — while movie magic can make his skills seem superhuman, it’s also obvious that a secret agent must be in peak physical condition! While we court reporters may not be superhuman, we should strive to be the best we can be and keep up with our writing skills. Being realtime-proficient is the key to achieving super agent status for our clients and meeting their needs so they have the tools necessary to prepare their case. The benefits of realtime are huge:

  • improved writing skills
  • improved translation delivery
  • quicker transcript turnaround
  • job satisfaction
  • name recognition; people ask for you
  • increased income
  • readback is phenomenal

In The Man from U.N.C.L.E., the two main characters, Solo and Illya, realized they were going to have to work together, and they discussed what they knew about each other. Both of these men had clearly done research about their respective rivals and gathered information that would help them down the road to achieve their joint mission. Just like Solo and Illya, court reporters need to be sure to be prepared for each assignment and know where to search for answers to different scenarios we may be faced with on a daily basis.

In order to make our realtime feed topnotch and prepare for the job, we should reach out to our clients and/or their assistants to request as much information about the case that is available. Some things to request:

  • list of attorneys/participants
  • proper names and case-specific jargon, if available
  • previously marked exhibits
  • research online for case-specific terminology and technical terms
  • create and enter briefs into job dictionary
  • practice newly created briefs
  • create a cheat sheet with new briefs

Finally, everyone knows all secret agents are dependable and can get the job done speedy quick! Dependability means that court reporters should arrive to the job at least 20 minutes early, be prepared for each assignment, willing to comply with expedited transcript requests whenever possible, and meet transcript delivery schedules.

Court reporters, our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to be even more awesome every day!

Lynette Mueller, RDR, CRR, is a freelance reporter in Johns Creek, Ga. She can be reached at lynette@omegareporting.com. This article was originally published on Lynette’s Blog at omegareporting.com/lynette-blog.

TECH: Talking technology with Fred Middlebrooks

 

By Debra A. Levinson

Fred Middlebrooks, recently of Stenograph, has create CR-Help.com, a consulting company with the specific mission to help court reporters better understand the technology that is right at their fingertips. CR-Help.com offers subscriptions for writers, transcription software, computer equipment, and connectivity tools, such as USB, Bluetooth, and WiFi.

I sat down with Fred to find out more about this new venture and how court reporters can make better use of technology in their everyday lives.

 

Levinson: Fred, as an integral part of the development team at the world’s leading provider of hardware and software for court reporters for 33 years, what did you have in mind when you started CR-Help.com?

Middlebrooks: Respecting the demands that are put on court reporters, our service is intended to be a symbiotic-type of support. I don’t believe either can survive without the other. I created CR-Help.com to mean just that: We provide training and technology consultations to court reporters, scopists, and court reporting IT departments by phone, Web, or on site.

Levinson: How does working directly with court reporters help meet their goals?

Middlebrooks: By promoting both the profession and encouraging reporters to better use more of the technology that’s available. In some respects, reporters don’t completely realize that the CAT systems and writing machines on the market today are there to increase their level of productivity, but that only happens if they make the time to embrace the learning process. It is a commitment of their time. Since today’s page rates are static, at best, using the productivity of their tools would allow an increase in their page output per day.

Levinson: Would you classify court reporting as a technological profession?

Middlebrooks: In today’s marketplace, absolutely. What was required of a reporter 30 years ago is completely different than current needs. Between the realtime, streaming text, and captioning applications as well as adapting to the wanting it now generation, using technologies that exist proves viable to delivering it all.

Levinson: With the level of sophistication that writers have today, what is the importance of technology to working reporters?

Middlebrooks: The writing machines on the market today allow for a change in how the reporter interfaces with them.

  • Completely new electronic methods of setting the keyboard detection are available to better control when a key stroke is registered as a stroke.
  • Utilities that allow for the analysis of the strokes written give the reporter the information needed to better adjust the writing machine.
  • Enhanced connectivity: WiFi, USB, and Bluetooth. In some cases allowing the writing machine to be connected to more than the CAT system.

In my opinion, reporters need to budget time to learn and budget funds to replace equipment and update software. Given the exponential changes in technology happening, having money available for the purpose of replacing a computer every two and a half to three years and a writing machine every five to six years would be my recommendation.

Levinson: Do you feel the average reporter is sufficiently trained in order to perform the job effectively?

Middlebrooks: Yes, trained from the perspective of the skill of taking down the spoken word on a writing machine, their knowledge of the theory, and the vocabulary needed to create a record.

I believe reporters should be setting aside time in their busy schedules to better understand their software, what it can do for them, and refine their personal dictionary for better translations. Better understanding of their writing machine and how to make adjustments to match their writing style would lead to less time spent editing after the fact.

Editing is where reporters spend the bulk of their time and the process begins at the writing-machine keyboard. Problems exist with mistranslations, stacking, or splitting, and everyone likes to blame the machine. Unfortunately, the machine is not the cause. Realizing you’re fresh and ready to go at 8 a.m. but by 4 p.m. you’re not writing the same way, the answer is to tune the machine and create keyboard profiles if the steno machine has that capability. These tools are available provided you are willing to invest the time to learn how to use those tools and understand what they can do for you.

Levinson: You’ve said that reporters should allocate expenses for updates. Do you feel they stay informed about their software improvements?

Middlebrooks: As a general rule, I’d say no. There’s a population of reporters who won’t go on the Internet to check for even basic updates. People need to remember that all hardware and software have bugs and updates are necessary. Some people do check for updates from their CAT system, writing machine, and computer. Unfortunately, most people do not unless they hear by word of mouth or on forums that there is an update available. Staying up to date does require a commitment of getting into the habit to check for updates.

Levinson: Is there job security for those who embrace technology?

Middlebrooks: Yes, and from my perspective the underlying technology allows those willing to put the time in to have an excellent opportunity to highlight their skills. Anywhere the spoken word needs to be captured is an opportunity for a live reporter.

There are three options to capturing the spoken word: live court reporter, video, and audio tape. The problem with last two is that video and audio are not searchable. The only way to perform a search is through text, and the only way to produce text is with a live reporter, a transcriptionist, or speech recognition. The speech recognition works but not very well. Basing searches on text produced from speech recognition produces poor search results.

When you look at job security and embracing technology, we look to the talent of highly skilled reporters. That skill relies on technology constantly in flux, which underscores why staying up to date is of paramount importance. This is not just a job; this is a professional commitment.

Levinson: When reporters are faced with technology challenges, who should they consult with? Their reporter friends? Agency? Software support? Trainers?

Middlebrooks: Reporters and scopists, when encountering an issue with their system/hardware, should go to the source (vendor) because who better knows the writing machine software/hardware and CAT software than those who made it?

When it comes to helping you get up and running with a new release of CAT software or a new CAT system, trainers are a great resource.

When it comes to other questions about the record, dictionaries, format, briefs, and things other reporters have tried and used, then reporter friends and agencies are a great resource.

Debra A. Levinson, RMR, CRR, CRI, is a member of NCRA’s Technology Task Force. She can be reached at dal@dalcoreporting.com.

 

Realtime and WiFi: Some things you really need to know

TechLinks_logoBy Christine Phipps

When being asked to provide realtime, it is the reporter’s responsibility to make sure that happens. Clients pay hundreds of dollars for this service and expect it to work. They don’t have an understanding of all the challenges that may come in providing this service, nor do they care. So, let’s discuss a few things that may help reporters ensure delivery of their realtime product.

Here are a few things I highly recommend not to do.

  • Do not connect to county or city or hotel WiFis, or anything of the sort. These entities do things like limit the bandwidth, particularly to people who are streaming, and while it’s more to stop video streams, realtime could be recognized as a stream since it’s continuous.
  • Public WiFi oftentimes cuts connections off after a couple of hours. Have you ever been in a hotel where just searching Google feels like you’re on dial-up? Well, that’s because sometimes the company makes it drag and will try to get you to buy the higher speed package. This is not a reliable choice.
  • Cell phones should not be used either as a hotspot or to create a local area network (LAN) to provide realtime. Have you ever used a cell phone and dropped a call? Exactly! This is not a reliable choice.

Should reporters need to provide realtime over the Internet and a hard-wire connection is not possible, I highly recommend hotspots (note that while the hardware for hotspots are mobile devices, this should be a separate device from a mobile phone). I have used the Verizon MiFi for about seven years, and it has proven quite reliable. Verizon has the broadest band of coverage in the nation; however, AT&T may work better in some areas of the country. Please do the research as to which provider may work best in that particular area. For example, I’ve heard that reporters in areas like Chicago and New York, which are crammed with high-rises, sometimes carry two and three hotspots.

Part of the key to delivering realtime every time is controlling all the things that are within the reporter’s control. If reporters use a router to provide a LAN for realtime or if they use a hotspot to provide realtime, those are their solid solutions, and they can use them in a variety of situations. I recommend hooking up a realtime feed for every job and carrying an iPad mini to connect to daily. Not only do reporters familiarity with the system by setting up every day, but, by controlling this one system, they then are in control of their process of elimination.

When requested to provide realtime, not only are reporters representing themselves and their firms, they are representing a nation of court reporters. Show up armed and ready for battle!

 

Christine Phipps, RPR, of North Palm Beach, Fla., is co-chair of NCRA’s Technology Committee. She can be reached at christine@phippsreporting.com.

MARKETING: Helping your clients use realtime

By Tari Kramer

When I do a realtime hookup job, I often wonder if the clients understand what all is involved in providing them a visually appealing view of the proceedings. I have found great success when I set a laminated document on the table and the attorneys peruse it. An example of the document is below, which reporters can use as a template. The attorneys ask questions because they want to see what the steno machine looks like and how we output to their computer. In turn, I think they gain more respect and appreciation for what we do.

I use flags to alert me to areas in the transcript I need to look at. I also have a legend of these flags taped to the laptops I provide so clients understand what the flag means when it pops up on the feed. Each reporter’s flags may be different, or a reporter may not use them at all. A flagged area is simply something you stroke at a time when the reporter needs clarification on something. During or after the proceeding, the flags make it easy to find these things’ instead of trying to remember the area or finding time to jot them down quickly. Feel free to incorporate the steno definitions listed below in your writing.

An area in the transcript to fix, change, adjust:    [fix] = TP*BGS

An area in the transcript to check audio:                  [au] = A*U

An area in the transcript to verify spelling:            [sp] = S*P

This aid may not be useful for some reporters who do not use an audio backup (see the Audibility portion). However, reporters can feel free to tweak the document to fit their needs. Additionally, much of the information provided in this tool is from my own experience and that affects how I describe a realtime experience to an end user. It may not necessarily reflect that of everyone’s experience. The goal here is twofold: 1) to provide clients with some explanation of how their realtime feed is being produced and 2) to offer suggestions to clients that will help make their realtime experience as successful as possible.

Happy realtiming!

Tari Kramer, RMR, CRR, CPE, is a freelance reporter in Duncan, S.C. She can be reached at tarireporter@gmail.com.

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