By Lynette Mueller
I’m anxiously awaiting the premier of the hit HGTV show Fixer Upper Season 4! Chip and Joanna Gaines restore and renovate old homes in the Waco, Texas, area. Their design style, working relationship, and positivity are an inspiration to so many people all over the world.
We court reporters can learn valuable lessons and habits from Chip and Joanna when it comes to our daily reporting and realtime goals.
Make time for yourself and family. During each episode, Chip and Joanna always make time for their cutie kids! It’s paramount to keep in mind what’s truly important, and that is to make family your number-one priority. When I was a young mom, I always came home from the job, picked up my children, gave them a smooch, and spent time with them until bedtime. After the kiddos were tucked in bed, I headed off to the computer. Now that I’m an empty nester with no kids, of course, the computer time is done at a more reasonable hour! My two children are young adults now and thriving in their own careers. When we reminisce, they remind me that I worked hard during their formative years and how they knew I was always there for them whenever they needed me.
Have faith in yourself. When Chip and Joanna buy old properties, there is always the chance something could go horribly wrong with the renovation: asbestos, old wiring, rusted pipes. You get the picture. They stay positive and overcome all of the obstacles that come their way together. As court reporters, we will always have those bad writing days for several reasons. There are the fast talkers, the witnesses who insist on answering the question before it gets out, the thick foreign accents, or the construction noises just outside the deposition room window. We need to rely on our foundations that were laid in our training and maintain a great attitude at the same time in order to overcome those unique and particular obstacles in our depositions and/or courtroom settings. We are human and aren’t perfect. While we only use audio backup as a tool, we are the guardians of the record and need to ensure we capture the verbatim testimony on every case. Always use courtesy when interrupting the proceedings and explain the rationale for your interruption in a concise and respectful way. More often than not, one always gets a better result when staying positive.
Work hard to be the best you can be. The Gaineses are an extremely hardworking couple, for sure! In addition to their TV show, they also have their own farm with animals, they now have a bakery, the Silos, new furniture and rug lines, and a magazine, to name a few. Court reporters work hard, too. Every day we produce transcripts for our valuable clients in a timely manner and more often than not on an expedited basis. We should take a hard look at how we can “renovate” our writing and realtime skills, so that we can work smarter and not harder to meet the deadlines we are faced with more and more. Realtime is and has been an in-demand service for attorneys for several years now. Court reporters (of all experience levels) need to understand that to stay relevant in today’s legal environment, we must maintain and continually hone our skills each and every day. From a previous blog post: Being realtime-capable should be the goal of every court reporter now! My realtime goal is to always strive for 99.8 percent translation rate on every job. The prep work is essential to maintain or exceed that goal. My writing is constantly evolving (even after 30 years of reporting). Writing short is paramount to the success of my translation rate, for keeping up with the fast talkers, and also being kind to my body — specifically my back and hands.
You’ll get a higher return on investment. After the homes are renovated on Fixer Upper, the homeowners definitely have a property to be proud of and one that is worth so much more. Once we, as court reporters, invest in our careers, we earn that return as well. The steps and path to being realtime-proficient can be time-consuming but so worth it in the end. When we go out on each job, we don’t always have the luxury of knowing when a rough draft will be requested or an expedited transcript is needed. If your writing is great, you can say with confidence, “Yes, I can get that rough draft to you!” Your “return on investment” is that your editing time is so much less than before and you will earn more dollars for doing less work! You can shout out loud to yourself with pride and confidence after you hit send: “Nailed it!” Lessening your editing time means you can go enjoy your hobbies, your family, or just sit on the couch and watch Fixer Upper!
Trust in colleagues you can go to for help and resources. In order for the homes that Joanna rehabs, she has several go-to friends and colleagues to ensure her rehabs look amazing! There’s Jimmy Don, who creates the wonderful and inspirational signs for the homeowners’ kitchens. And then there’s Clint Harp, the craftsman that builds and creates the one-of-a-kind furniture pieces. Court reporters have so many resources and colleagues to help when needed for advice, technology tips, realtime tips, and general help. I’ve found that court reporters are an extremely giving community; one just needs to ask for assistance. There are a multitude of avenues one could use to hone our realtime skills. Here are a few:
- NCRA website. There’s a plethora of information, tips and tricks, and technology-related articles here. Go there often to check for new content.
- JCR. Again, lots of great information all court reporting related.
- NCRA Webinars. Soak up that knowledge at home in your pajamas if you wish!
- Create a study group online via Google Hangout, Facebook, or Skype.
- Regional seminars held by state associations. Learn from colleagues and stay close to home to reduce travel costs.
- Facebook groups. My gosh, there are Facebook groups for just about any court reporting subject you could imagine. Just search and find the right one for you. It ranges from software groups, hardware, realtime, brief forms, health, fur babies — the list goes on and on.
These five lessons I’ve named are just a few to get you started on your personal “fixer-upper.” I’d love to hear about your big “reveal” after you’ve implemented some of these ideas!
Lynette L. Mueller, RDR, CRR, is a freelancer reporter in Johns Creek, Ga. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. She reports that a short video will be on her blog at the beginning of the article.