Please pick the answer closest to your current situation
I’m still not working as much as I was at the beginning of 2020. – 28.8%
I’m working both in person and virtually, and my workload is about the same. – 24.4%
I’m working virtually, and my workload is about the same as it was before. – 18.4%
I have more work during this time. – 11.4%
I’m back to work in person, and my workload is about the same as before. – 11%
I’m not working at all. – 6%
NCRA recently emailed a survey to members about their current situation, and about 2,000 members responded. The answers provide a snapshot of the profession as the United States comes up on six months since the first Americans were quarantined in response to COVID-19. While various states have re-opened fully, other areas continue to limit some activities once normal – and many law firms continue to allow staff to work virtually. To get a better sense of the current situation, the JCR reached out to a number of members to learn more about their current experiences.
Lisa Andreasen, RPR, a freelance reporter in San Diego, Calif., shared the experience of many members when she said, “My work has changed to mostly remote.” She said the work has been “not as complex, with fewer experts.” She also said she likes remote work and hopes it will continue.
Montrell Vann, RDR, CRR, an official court reporter in United States District Court in Atlanta, Ga., said he also enjoys teleworking. He is experiencing “less in-court time.” He said there are no jury trials or court trials, only essential proceedings.
“I’m just glad to still be employed,” Vann said. “I do miss the jury trials and court trials. Transcript income has decreased.”
Erika Seguirant, RPR, is a freelance reporter in Thornton, Colo., who is no longer working. She had been taking two depositions a week, as well as occasional trials.
“I am not taking any depositions at this time for several reasons, the main one being that we have chosen to homeschool my two young children until the virus subsides and the world calms down,” Seguirant said.
Bobbie Umstead, RPR, a freelance reporter in Jacksonville, Fla., said her work has picked up.
“March through May I had four depos or less each month,” Umstead said. “It is now busier than ever.”
Umstead said she does 95 percent of her work via Zoom.
“I dislike not being able to hear clearly from time to time via Zoom and/or telephone and miss socializing with counsel, witnesses, etc.,” she said. “No travel and parking is the only plus. I’m sure once I adapt 100 percent to the new life, I will be fine. This change reminds me of the ‘old days’ when the computer became the norm, and it took several months to adjust and learn the new world of reporting.”
Here are some more responses from NCRA members:
Kristine Grigsby, RPR, a freelance reporter in Traverse City, Mich.
I did not work from March 4 until the middle of June because of COVID.
As soon as [northern] Michigan reopened, I began to take in-person depositions as well as remote depositions. My work has picked up a lot in August. I am doing in-person, part in-person/part VC, and completely remote deps. I am doing more remote deps because I have my office set up to do that now and, at this time, I could probably stay busy every day with just the remote deps. All of my in-person deps are done with everyone having to wear masks because it’s the law in Michigan, which has made it even more difficult to perform our job. I feel there are pros and cons to both in-person and remote. Most of the remote deps have had some sort of technical difficulty on someone’s end, and testimony can cut out. Doing in-person deps does put me at risk, but we are wearing masks and trying to maintain a distance of six feet apart. However, I have found that with everyone wearing a mask, I am much more stressed and feel I have to now interrupt more because I cannot understand people as well.
I like the fact that I can stay home with the remote depositions, but I also have to find someone to watch my dog because she tends to be around me all the time and will bark if someone knocks on the door or if someone rings the doorbell. I do put a sign on my door to discourage that from happening. I feel that the remote depositions have not been as professional, and I have had a witness testifying in his semitruck. I’ve heard of attorneys and witnesses smoking during remote deps, although that has yet to happen to me. I really don’t feel that remote depositions are taken as seriously as an in-person deposition. I have been quite shocked at some of the behaviors that have gone on during remote depositions that I have learned of through Facebook court reporting group sites.
I’m happy to have a job, but I am stressed out a lot more. I feel like we are now being asked to do more than we have in the past, and I have heard some court reporters are not charging for these additional services, and, in fact, some are giving these additional services away for free. That makes me angry. This is our profession, and I feel we need to be paid for the services we provide and not give things away for free. I am 50 years old and have been reporting since I was 21 years old. I feel like I’m wearing out with this profession. I feel like the younger attorneys are not taught to make a clean record, and this is very disappointing and very challenging. I really wish they knew more about our profession and how their actions and the witnesses’ actions impact the court reporter.
I guess the bottom line is we have to adapt. Everyone is having to adapt. I’m just going with the flow for now.
Kimberly Hendershott, RPR, CRR, is a freelance reporter in Oakland, Calif.
I am only doing jobs virtually; nothing in-person. I am able to take more jobs now that I’m home and not dealing with the commute. The first couple months were slow, but there is so much work out there now.
I went back to Zoom depositions only from March to July since trials were on hold, but now I’m doing a two-month long asbestos trial on Zoom and loving not being at the courthouse. I imagine I will be doing a lot of that since they have so much backlog, but I think it will depend if the courts decide this method works and how long it is necessary to do so. At the very least my hope is the hearings will be on Zoom going forward.
My biggest challenge is not getting enough exercise. Pre-COVID, sometimes the walk to and from the car and at lunch is the most exercise I could squeeze in on a busy day when I have a daily transcript to get out. But now it’s just running up and down the stairs to get something to drink or eat.
I love the change though, and if I could stick to virtual-only forever, I would! I just need to get an exercise bike for the busy days – ha!
Sharon Vance, RPR, is a freelance reporter in Mullica Hill, N.J.
Yes, my workload has changed. Before the pandemic I appeared at depositions two to three days a week and limited my travel to an hour, occasionally an hour and a half. There were definitely some weeks I worked less because of my “part-time” status. I did not work for a little over a month when the pandemic first hit from the second week in March until the end of April. I resumed work in April, at first working only one or two jobs per week, and increasing now to working four to five days per week.
My work was and is deposition testimony. I take work primarily from one agency. I can see that some of my scheduled work from that agency has increased because the reporter who took work that would have been too far for my comfort to travel is not working right now, so the agency has given some of that work to me since it is all via Zoom and travel time is not an issue.
There are pros and cons to the changes, but overall, I have had a positive experience. I love the extra time I have eliminating the travel to and from depositions, especially if the job cancels. Since this is all new, everyone has a learning curve, so it seems to me everyone is more accommodating to all involved, which as you know in our field isn’t always the case. On the flip side, testimony can be difficult — just like in-person — with internet connections, accessibility to technology, weather, interpreters/accents, echo in room, masks, etc., but, again, I have found that everyone seems to be much more understanding in this scenario than when we appear in person and have to struggle with some of these things.
I am just thankful that we as a profession rallied around each other — especially those of us who have not completely embraced the technology of today over the years before this pandemic (meaning I’m a dinosaur LOL) — and helped to get as many reporters working as possible. In some instances, this meant teaching attorneys how to use technology to continue conducting depositions so reporters could continue to work!
Would you like to share your experience working during COVID-19? Let us know at email@example.com.