March marked a year of living with the COVID-19 pandemic and all the changes it brought. These surveys were sent to NCRA members throughout the month to get an idea of how they are doing. Here are the results of the surveys and some comments from members explaining their answers.
What is your work level now?
Working as much as I want to at the same level as before – 26.3 percent
“There is always lots of work here in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I have cut down to two firms that I freelance for plus a few of my own clients. Firms seem to be short on reporters, as I have to decline work from time to time. I have been doing Zoom since late May and I love it. I love not having to drive back and forth to jobs, setting up and packing equipment. I really hope Zoom is used after the pandemic as well. I have an old flat-screen TV hooked up to an HDMI cable to make my Zoom screen larger from my secondary laptop where I have the Zoom on. I use my other laptop for just writing. I can do realtime with session code – really easy, still can do uncertified transcripts. So all is great! There are a few problems with people not knowing how it works and connectivity issues, but on the whole, that’s probably 1 percent of the time. I feel very fortunate at my age (66) that I can still work and contribute more to my retirement at this late stage.”
Rose Halendy, a freelance reporter in West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
“Since we got up and running by Zoom in April of 2020, I have been working regularly. I went back to a few in-person questionings (Canadian term, perhaps) when things opened up for a bit, but that was shut back down in December of 2020 and I’ve been Zooming again ever since. But I also do criminal court, and we have been continuing that with the aid of courtroom screens, masks when appropriate, and Webex. I feel I have been extremely fortunate. I am keeping busy at home with my Zoom assignments, and by going into court I am getting my ‘people’ fix.
“Once I got my office set up in a way that would work for me, I think what I’ve liked about Zoom is that I can sit down 30 minutes before my assignment and be ready to go. No more travel; no more parking. We can take short lunches, and I’ve always got something yummy to eat. No more packed lunches. And a real bonus has been that when they do their screen sharing, I can now see the same document everyone else is looking at! I’ve always been the only one in the room who wasn’t able to see what was being discussed.
“Some stressful things have been the technology, of course. You never know what kind of connection your witness or lawyer will have, and often it is difficult to hear and/or interrupt to get clarification. It also limits the activities other family members can do in the house because of noise.”
Cindy Sewers, RPR, an official reporter in Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Working as much as I want to though less than before – 20.3 percent
Working much more and happy about it – 17.5 percent
“I’m working from home remotely for a full year now. I’m able to say yes to more job requests because I don’t have to travel to each job. My commute time is now productive because I’m able to accept more jobs. I love my job as a CART provider because I’m able to use my stenography skills to help those with a hearing loss. Many job requests are coming from groups and organizations who are doing their best to be inclusive. These groups are discovering that using the auto-generated captions are not acceptable or as accurate and have committed to hiring a live CART provider for their events. I take the time to explain why it’s better to use a live provider instead of the auto-generated captions or AI. When needed, I take the time to help the facilitators with the technology and explain the different options to which captions can be displayed. I’m finding that this personal touch is appreciated and goes a long way.”
Catherine Zelinski, a CART captioner and freelancer in Norton, Mass.
Not working as much as desired due to lack of opportunity/economy – 11.7 percent
“I have been reporting 36 years (in August) as a freelance court reporter in Southern Illinois. I have always loved my job and my clients. Once COVID shutdown began, my business came to a screeching halt! One of my clients continued with Zoom deps. For the past year, I have mostly worked only for him. I get emails for Zoom deps weekly from other firms, but I’m not interested at this point in my career to begin new relationships. So I have chosen to report less. I am also working for my husband in his business. During the next few months, I will be making a major decision. I know my business will pick up again, and it’s not my clients’ fault that this happened. I am just no longer in love with my career. I am too young to retire. I will just begin a new chapter. Time will tell.”
Pamela Bramlet, RPR, a freelancer in Harrisburg, Ill.
Not working by choice (for example, retired or student) – 6.9 percent
Other – 6.8 percent
Working too much due to COVID changes/economy – 6.8 percent
Not working as much as desired due to caregiving responsibilities – 2.1 percent
Not able to work, everything is closed/I have not been able to adapt my services – 1.7 percent
How much virtual work are you doing?
I am doing more virtual work and hope it continues – 46.3 percent
“Our workload has continued to increase, for which we are grateful, with virtual depositions accounting for well more than half of our schedule. With quality connections and equipment, I really enjoy working from my home office. Much of the time I used to spend driving I can now spend doing other things and/or take additional work.
“On the fun side, if remote oath requirements remain in place as I expect they will, reporters may have the opportunity to live in a warmer climate during the winter months or a cooler climate in the summer. From a very practical standpoint, reporters who obtain certification to work in states that have a lot of litigation could help with the court reporter shortage.”
Myles Megee, RPR, CRR, CRC, a freelancer from Shawnee, Kan.
“I am busier than I’ve ever been. Not having to spend hours in traffic and lots of money on gas, tolls, and parking is a blessing. I have only done approximately 10 live jobs in the last year since the pandemic started, and the rest is all virtual work.
“I work five days a week taking Zoom hearings and depositions, and I use scopists and proofreaders full time. I feel that I get so much more work this way. I hope it continues to stay this way into the future. If we have to go back to the old way, business will slow down again to a snail’s pace because we have to spend too much time and money on traveling to and from our jobs.”
Andrea West, RPR, a freelancer and agency owner from Lake Worth, Fla.
I am doing more virtual work and hope to go back to in person – 19.7 percent
“I had my first Zoom depo last October when it had already been going for five-six months. Since perhaps December of last year or January of this year, I’ve been back to a workload that is like what I had before the pandemic started. It’s been mostly virtual, but I’ve had maybe five to less than 10 in-person jobs since the pandemic started.
“As for my feelings about virtual work – I absolutely do not like it at all. I cannot wait for in-persons to come back and for Zoom to be a last-ditch effort, if it even survives when the country as a whole opens back up. All the positives my friends and colleagues have said about virtual work I do not get to experience because of my unique living situation that makes work at home — well, it makes it miserable. I don’t like it at all. The cons by far outweigh the pros.
“The only thing that gets me through it are my mom’s words she has told me all my adult working life, applicable always but even more on a not-so-good day: ‘The only thing worse than a job is not having a job.’”
Michael Solorzano, RPR, a freelance reporter in Los Angeles, Calif.
I have done virtual work for a while, not a big change in the last year – 13.4 percent
Other – I am retired or a student – 6.9 percent
I am working in person, not much change since pre-pandemic times – 5.2 percent
I am working in person more and hope it stays that way – 4 percent
I am unable to work much due to COVID or other circumstances beyond my control – 3.1 percent
I am working in person and hope to do more virtual in 2021 – 1.2 percent
Most of my work (more than 50%, whether part-time or full-time) comes from …
A single firm that I work for as an independent contractor – 31.4 percent
Multiple firms that I work for as an independent contractor – 23.7 percent
A single employer – 28.4 percent
A single firm that I own or partially own – 11.7 percent
Court where I work on a per-diem or independent basis – 4.8 percent
I market my services …
Not at all – 63 percent
By networking – 17.5 percent
By reaching out to firms (court reporting) in my area – 9 percent
On the internet – 6.1 percent
By reaching out to firms (other) in my area – 2.4 percent
In print – 2 percent
Looking to the rest of 2021, what is your outlook?
I’m optimistic about my career, and I’m optimistic about the profession. – 70.8 percent
“I’m very optimistic for my area as far as court reporters are concerned. We have been, fortunately, very busy, and I am set to start an in-person, modified for social distancing, of course, trial next week. I have to admit I’m a little bit anxious (not for COVID concerns) and excited all at the same time!”
Elise F. Cashman, RPR, a freelancer and agency owner from Atlantic Beach, Fla.
“I love my profession and am grateful for all that it has provided for me and my family. I do feel that court reporters are here to stay and that we are, by far, the best method for creating an accurate record.”
Stacy Drohosky, RMR, CRR, CRI, an official reporter in Hammond, Ind.
“In the last five to six months in the New Orleans metropolitan area, we are moving more and more to in-person depositions. We are still doing Zoom depositions, but I see the trend more so to in-person growing all over the state of Louisiana. I recently did an arbitration, and it was also in person. We all wore masks and were socially distanced. The arbitrator did allow whoever was testifying and/or questioning to remove their mask as long as it was OK with everyone in the room. And I will tell you that it worked perfectly for me as the reporter. Most of the reporters I talk to are like me. We are all extremely busy these days and have been for several months. Usually during the holidays we all slow down, but last year toward the end of the year that was not the case. Everyone I spoke to was super busy. So I believe this year will be a stellar year for what last year cost us in business/revenue. Right now there are way more jobs than court reporters! And I see this going into the future for a long time.”
Wilma Geraci, RPR, a freelancer from Destrehan, La.
I’m optimistic about my career, but I’m not optimistic about the profession. – 18.1 percent
I’m not optimistic about my career, and I’m not optimistic about the profession. – 7 percent
I’m not optimistic about my career, but I’m optimistic about the profession. – 4.2 percent