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MEMBER PROFILE: Jennifer (Jenny) Vail-Kirkbride, RMR, CRR


Currently resides in: Wellsburg, W.Va.

Member since: 1981

Graduated from: National Legal Secretarial School, Hagerstown, Md.

Theory: Don’t remember, it’s been so long ago! But it was not computer-compatible, although we did learn to write a long A (I guess the rest of the vowels didn’t matter).

A tip: When a long number keeps coming up again and again and it’s a pain to write, try making a brief by writing out the first number in words and then the next number with the number key, and that is all you will probably need for the brief. E.g.: 1099 to TEPB/9. You can do the same with phone numbers, Social Security numbers, patent numbers, etc.

Why did you decide to become a court reporter? How did you learn about the career?

I really liked Gregg shorthand in high school. One Sunday in our regional newspaper, there was a two-page spread about the official court reporters. It really piqued my interest, so I went to our guidance counselor about finding a school, and she had just gotten some literature from the school that I wound up attending, which had a copy of the NSRA publication. I checked out the salaries and how much court reporters were paid and decided to give it a try.

When I started at National Legal Secretarial School, I was lived in Dagmar Hall, an old hotel that they tried to turn into a dorm. My mom and dad couldn’t believe that they were leaving me there! We had our own dorm song that went like this: “Oh, I’m a Dagmar girl, so pity me. There are no guys in this vicinity. Every night at 11:00 they lock the door. I don’t know what the hell I ever came here for. And when I’m on that bus and homeward bound, I’m going to burn that damn dorm to the ground. I’m gonna smoke, drink, pet, so what the heck, I’m a wreck, I’m a Dagmar girl! Hey!” And we also had a “third floor” song that I better not give you the whole thing that starts out, “We are the girls of the third floor [bleep-rhyming word] corp…” and that’s all I’m going to reveal!

What has been your best work experience so far in your career?

In my 32 years as an official in state and then federal court, I have been blessed more than you can imagine by working with wonderful judges and staff. They made coming to work every day a joy. I called them my court family. When I moved to a different judge, even though I was in a different court or different city, my friends have continued with me throughout my life’s journey. I will love them and never forget them.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am most proud of the respect and support that I have been shown by my judges and colleagues. In the 1990s when realtime had not become an everyday occurrence in court and I provided my judge with realtime, he realized when attending judges’ conferences around the country that I was going out of my way for him and truly appreciated it. When I reported a daily-copy/realtime pharmaceutical patent infringement trial that involved line-and-a-half chemical formulas and was asked to read back the question, which I had gotten perfectly, but the terms were tongue twisters and I stumbled on the pronunciation of a word, the attorney said, “For the record, I want to apologize to the court reporter for the terms in this case,” which made me chuckle and think to myself, Thank you, ain’t that the truth. When I was selected as one of three federal official court reporters by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts to participate in the study in the 1990s, where our jobs were truly at risk and official court reporters won and no changes were made. And when the West Virginia Court Reporters Association gave me a surprise retirement gift when I retired as an official, that truly touched my heart.

What is your favorite book?

My favorite book is the Bible. I have tried to live out my faith by my actions and words and the love that God puts inside each one of us. We all know this can be quite challenging at times, but with God’s help every day, I try to do just that, maybe with a smile or a kind word, a random act of kindness, or praying for someone and giving thanks for all that God has given me.