By Deborah Kriegshauser
Realtime stage fright: Will I be prepared? Will my equipment hook up to the judge? Will it hook up to the attorneys? Will it translate appropriately? What will they think when there’s a steno outline or a mistran? Oh, yeah, we all fight those demons. We are all human; remember?
Being a federal official, we have the capability to log onto our federal docketing system and can pull up the briefs written by the parties as well as the charging documents or complaints. Take advantage of that opportunity. You truly will get a feel for the terms and spellings you need to have in your steno dictionaries, be it the job dictionary or your main dictionary. Nothing’s more satisfying than to see people’s names translate correctly, especially on the attorneys’ laptops. Pull up those witness lists as well, as the exhibit lists that are filed ahead of time. They’re a wealth of information! Get those case-specific terms entered into your dictionary ahead of time. You can fight this monster!
I freelanced previously in my career. In the deposition setting, you never know what you’re walking into. What a nightmare in itself! The best thing you can do is keep up with your steno dictionary entries. Improve on your prefixes and suffixes. Practice your number drills. There’s lots of phone numbers and addresses and Social Security numbers in depositions.
While we all strive to have everything as perfect as possible, remember that realtime is still considered a rough draft but that rough draft can be of benefit to all parties. Your judge is going through voir dire and when approached about striking a witness for cause, he cannot recall the prospective juror’s answers; pull up the realtime and do a juror number search. Your Spanish-speaking interpreter is interpreting the spoken words to the defendant and they lose their place reciting the commentary and questions that were sped through by the judge and counsel; consult the realtime on the screen at the podium. Realtime is so valuable! I need spellings of people’s names mentioned as witnesses or DEA/FBI agents; pull up the realtime file and plug in those spellings with counsel right there on the spot!
By using reverse psychology, I conquered the fear of my realtime not being perfect on the screen. As I would tell my judge, that’s a sign that that person is just speaking way too fast or maybe it’s because my hands, fingers, and shoulders are just exhausted from writing so long without any break. I have actually scored a break by the judge realizing there were suddenly more untrans on the screen. He realized it was suddenly time for everyone to have a break. He truly does not have an evil spirit!
Invest in your realtime skills! In our profession, it’s simply a matter of life or death. We need our realtime skills to maintain this great profession and keep it alive and well!
Deborah Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CRC, CLVS, is an official court reporter based in St. Louis, Mo. She holds NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator certification. She is a member of NCRA’s Technology Committee.