TRAIN realtime roadblocks: Realtime technology and startup costs

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

Littleton, Colo.

 

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

Woodmere, N.Y.

 

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.

 

 

TRAIN: No fear! Getting past realtime roadblocks

What’s preventing you from providing realtime? The Technology Subcommittee asked realtime providers through the TRAIN program for their best tips in getting past the roadblocks and into the groove.

How do you fight the fear of your realtime feed not being perfect? Breathe! After 32 years of reporting, I still get nervous for the first five minutes of any deposition. How in the world am I supposed to make my realtime feed readable when they are speaking at breakneck speeds (and they are often mumbling or their speech is unintelligible)? First, take a deep breath, and know everything will be okay. I promise! Once you administer the oath in a very slow-paced and methodical way, you set the stage for counsel to
continue in a slow-paced and methodical way.

Also, make sure you are prepared. Do your case preparation before the deposition starts. They don’t have a prior transcript? Get the complaint. They don’t have a copy of the complaint? Google the case name/number. There’s so much information out there these days, there’s no reason you can’t prepare (creating brief forms for tricky words you might come across). It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it!

Lisa Knight, RDR, CRR
Realtime Systems Administrator
Co-chair of the TRAIN Subcommittee
Littleton, Colo.

When asked what holds reporters back from providing realtime, the nearly universal answer is fear; fear that your writing isn’t completely conflict-free, fear that you aren’t comfortable with the technology, fear that your translation rate isn’t good enough, fear of having someone watching your screen, let alone judging your untrans and mistrans.

This feeling also applies to other areas of your life. Trying something new always causes some sort of anxiety, but if it’s something you want to do, excitement overrides that fear. Realtime is no different.

Take it one step at a time, and don’t expect perfection in the first week, month, or year, but go ahead and take your first step. Start by setting up realtime for yourself and get used to seeing your writing on your screen. Slowly address your untrans and mistrans, and watch for trends in your writing that you can improve upon. Once you’re comfortable with that, set up a second screen next to you so you get used to the
technology. Eventually, slide that screen in front of someone. Before you know
it, realtime will become your new norm, and you will be encouraging others to get started as well.

Merilee Johnson, RMR, CRR, CRC
Realtime Systems Administrator
Co-chair of the TRAIN Subcommittee
Eden Prairie, Minn.

Do you remember the first time you tried to ride a bicycle? When you knew the training
wheels were off or your mom or dad had let go of you, did you panic and fall to the ground? Many of us did, but we got up again, dusted ourselves off, and tried and tried again until we were sailing down the street on our own power. That’s how it is with writing realtime.

Nothing that is good, challenging, or worthwhile comes easily. It takes practice. It takes
perseverance. It takes endurance. It takes grit. Don’t be consumed by your fear. Embrace the challenge just like you did when you overcame the fear of riding your bicycle without the training wheels. Don’t let a less-than-perfect translation defeat you. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try, try again.

You can do it! It might not be easy, but it will be rewarding. As you see the translation
percentage on your screen getting better and better, you will be saying to yourself, yes, I
knew I could do it!

Mary Bader, RPR
TRAIN Subcommittee member
Medford, Wis.

I think this affects us all in individual ways. Some are afraid of making an error; others get nervous when they know their work is on display and they have to be kept on their toes at all times; some might feel intimidated walking into a medmal or a pharmaceutical case and are hoping the words come out right. Whatever the case may be, I have learned that fear can be a good thing.

I watched a TED talk once about stress and how you can make it your friend, and that put realtime into a whole new perspective for me. Instead of seeing stress as this horrible anxiety taking over your writing, you have to be the one to conquer your stress and fear and turn it into adrenaline.

As an adrenaline junkie, I can tell you that I absolutely love everything about realtime. I
love the way I get a little nervous, I love the way it keeps me sharp throughout the day, and I love that my writing is even better because I am editing on the fly, trying to make my transcript as flawless as possible for less editing time later. Grab ahold of your fear and don’t let it conquer you. Sometimes you have to fake it till you make it and simply believe in yourself and know that you are competent and capable of doing a stellar job.

In order to provide excellent realtime, you need to couple control of your fear with preparation. As good as you may be, you will be even better if you are well-prepared. Try to get a list of anything and everything that will be used during the deposition — names, esoteric terms, countries, etc. You won’t always have this luxury, but in most cases, if you are providing realtime, attorneys will be willing to inform you of the content and spellings of words that might come up.

Another way to prepare is to insert all of this information into your software the night
before instead of waiting until the day of. If you can make your caption page and even appearance page beforehand and a list of J-defines ready to go, you can spend your time before the depo making sure your connections are properly hooked up and less time inputting all of this time-consuming information before being bombarded with business cards.

Sharon Lengel, RPR, CRR
TRAIN Subcommittee member
Woodmere, N.Y.

If the fear is ever completely gone, then you’re probably being unrealistic about what you’re providing. Everyone runs into issues that are overwhelming. You lower your fear when you train to address those issues competently with the best effect that you can provide. Then that fear channels into energy to solve the problems that crop up.

Write realtime for yourself first, and practice on the methods that produce the best results on your screen. Mastery of your software and writing methods will reduce your fear.

Talk to other reporters who provide realtime. Expect mistakes to happen. Don’t discount them when they happen, and work to remedy and overcome them, but they will happen. And once you’re providing realtime, constantly work to better yourself with your knowledge, your skills, and your technical know-how, and always with the knowledge that what your clients are seeing is better than what they’d have if you were not there.

Jason Meadors, RPR, CRR, CRC
Fort Collins, Colo.

After more than 30 years of reporting, I still have that uncontrollable fear of providing
realtime. I get that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach before each job — even though I set up the night before, have my job dictionary built, my EZ Speakers defined, input case-specific terminology, and have Googled industry terms on the case.

Fear is normal for everyone. Even the best of the best in our profession, I’m sure, experience that tug of fear every now and then. We must not let fear hold us back, though. Court reporters need to embrace the future of court reporting and move ahead — the future is realtime.

Some reasons cited by other reporters for not taking the leap to realtime:

• My writing isn’t good enough.
• I don’t want anyone to see.
• Hookups scare me.
• I don’t know where to start.
• The realtime feed is not perfect.
• I don’t know how to handle overlapping voices.
• I worry about how to control the environment.

When I do start having that feeling of fear, I take a step back and remind myself to do a few things in order to control the situation — and these are simple steps that you can take too:

1. I do my realtime testing and job dictionary building the night before in order to be ready for the next day’s job. A detailed prep session will relieve the perceived stress.
2. I control my breathing. It has a calming effect on the whole body.
3. I don’t overthink my realtime sessions. Fear and anxiety thrive when I imagine the worst. I go in the deposition setting with the confidence that I will do the best job I can.
I’ve already prepared and done the testing — I know I’ve got this!
4. I think about the last realtime session I provided and how well it went. Yes, the fear was present, but the client was extremely pleased with my output. I get a “high” for a job
well done!

In an article on Inc.com, Geoffrey James says: “Fear is the enemy of success. Large rewards only result from taking comparably large risks. If you’re ruled by fear, you’ll never take enough risks and never achieve success you deserve.”

The benefits of realtiming for your clients and yourself are many.

• improved skills
• less editing time
• improved translation delivery
• quicker transcript turnaround
• job satisfaction
• name recognition (people will ask for you specifically)
• increased income
• phenomenal readback

Overcoming your fear of anything will give you the focus to achieve great things and to do what you really want to do. It takes much effort to strive to become realtime-proficient, but the rewards are worth it!

Lynette L. Mueller, RDR, CRR
TRAIN Subcommittee member
Johns Creek, Ga.

Additional materials from TRAIN for developing realtime skills can be found at NCRA.org/Realtime.

Sign up now for the Realtime Systems Administrator Workshop at the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo

man tangled in cordsThe 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.

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.