By Jordan Groves
Jessica Williams, 44, lives in Muscle Shoals, Ala., where she is married to Jeremy Williams and has two daughters, Savana, 23, and Julianna, 8. She is currently an official in Tuscumbia, Ala.
JG | How did you learn about court reporting?
JW | I learned about court reporting when I previously worked as a judicial assistant for 13 years for Judge Jacqueline Hatcher. I learned to scope and proofread for our court reporter, Shelley Bishop. She encouraged me after several years of helping her to look into it, and I thought I would give it a try. I wish that I had done this many years ago. It would have been nice if I had even really known about court reporting school out of high school.
JG | Where are you currently working? Have you always worked in that capacity?
JW | I work as an official for Judge Kyle Brown at the Colbert County Courthouse in Tuscumbia, Ala. I have been there for two years. I also freelance on the side when I’m available for Huseby Global Litigation. I started out freelancing for Baker Realtime Worldwide Reporting & Video when I graduated and obtained my temporary license while working on my certification tests. It gave me a lot of good experiences and helped me to choose what path I wanted to take.
JG | Was it hard to obtain your first job after graduation?
JW | No, not at all. I started searching for available jobs before I even graduated. I reached out to many different court reporters, official and freelance, who led me in the right direction.
JG | What is your favorite thing about working as a court reporter?
JW | My favorite thing about being a court reporter is getting to be in the middle of the courtroom and taking down all the good stuff. As a previous judicial assistant, I just got to listen outside the door. Now, I get to be in the hearing and taking it all down. I have learned so much over the past several years in the courtroom. I also love the freedom and the money. I love being an official because of the benefits.
JG | You completed all of your schooling online. Were there any challenges? If so, how did you overcome them?
JW | Completing school online was definitely very challenging. I had to be very dedicated to practicing and to making sure I set aside enough time for school and my family. I, however, had the blessing of having my paralegal background as well as my medical transcription background.
I started school online at the College of Court Reporting in 2014 and graduated in 2017 with an associate’s degree in court reporting. After graduating I went to test, and it didn’t go very well. I was very nervous because I hadn’t been in a classroom since high school. There were also things that I didn’t get being strictly an online student, or I felt that I didn’t get. Ms. Leah at Gadsden State helped me push through the nerves and clean up my dictionary, and on my way I went. Online school is very difficult but can be accomplished with the right mindset and mentors.
JG | Do you have any advice for students?
JW | Court reporting school at any age can be accomplished. I worked a full-time job, and I also had two children when I was in school. I actually started right after my little girl was born.
I would advise students to make a schedule and keep to it. It always helped me to get up before work when it was quiet and practice. I also practiced on my lunch break at work and at night when I put the kids to bed. Most importantly, have a mentor or have a couple of mentors. It helped me tremendously by having court reporters help me along the way.
Don’t ever give up. Keep pushing through the hard times even when you are stuck on a speed. You will eventually get through it with practice and hard work. I would also advise to have a great dictionary and to define all the words if you write it a certain way so it will translate in your dictionary and it doesn’t conflict with another word.
Jordan Groves is a freelance reporter in Pike Road, Ala.