By Rich Germosen, RDR, CRR
The court reporting profession is going through many changes, to say the very least. We all need to pitch in to advocate for stenographic reporting. Pre-pandemic, we all were present in the room with lawyers day in and day out. When we are in person, we might have a chance to strike up a conversation and advocate for stenography.
Before the pandemic, I used to leave literature advocating for stenographic reporting on the conference room table for the attorneys to hopefully read at some point. Trying to let ’em know we’re out here. It is on all of us to inform the public and make the attorneys aware of what it is we do and the technologies that we use. Even McDonald’s advertises. We should be on the lookout for any opportunity to teach the attorneys about our stenographic profession. Most of them haven’t a clue what it is we do even though they come into contact with us each day.
Where can we try to advocate on a daily? Well, I think in person is definitely the easiest opportunity since you are already face to face. It’s much harder these days to strike up a conversation since we’re all living in a remote world during Zoom depositions and some court hearings. Most of us have come across posts on some of the Zoom Facebook groups where attorneys have asked the court reporter: “Oh, aren’t you just taping this? I thought you were just taping it. Oh, you’re actually taking this down on a machine?” Again, they just see the top half of our bodies sitting there all day. It’s very easy to confuse a stenographic reporter these days with a digital recorder.
I know this is not going to be a very popular thing to say, but what do you guys think of this idea? We use an external camera and show/display ourselves writing on our stenograph machines during Zoom depositions and hearings for all present to see us physically writing. Focus the camera shot on your hands. We have the ability to show them that we’re writing. We have the power to show them by showing ourselves writing while on the record. I feel that we need to be seen while writing on remote jobs so that there’s no question this is a stenographic reporter.
I have recently started using an external webcam on top of one of my 28-inch external monitors. I adjust it so that I can be seen writing on my Luminex all day long. The shot is focused on my hands. I think this can be powerful if some of us were physically being seen writing and preserving the record. This is how we can differentiate ourselves from digital recorders.
Digital recorders do not have a stenograph machine. There is a way you can position the camera so that it’s not showing your feet, just your hands. I have been showing myself writing on camera, and there is no question in their minds now that I am a stenographic reporter once they see me physically writing all day. We have to let ’em know we’re out here and that we are steno.
As I mentioned earlier, pre-pandemic I used to put these stenographic advocation docs on the table where the attorneys were going to sit for the day, one by conducting, one by defending, and a couple down the conference room table. In the remote setting, we cannot hand out literature. I feel the very next best thing is to let them know they have a stenographic reporter guarding and protecting their record by having them see us in action.
It looks like in-person depositions will be coming back probably sooner than we think as they have started up in many places already. Please consider printing up some of the materials available at the NCRA STRONG Resource Library. There are some great PDFs available there that can be left in conference rooms or sent out with an invoice to attorneys.
Three that I like are entitled: Your Client, Your Case, And Your Record are Too Important; The Record is Too Important; and Protect your Record. Hire a Qualified Court Reporter.
Since we have been doing Zoom depositions over the past year or so, I have a little spiel that I say to witnesses before each job in front of all the attorneys. I tell them that it is my job to get down every word spoken in this deposition using this machine, and then I physically lift up my Luminex writer and show them the writer. This accomplishes two things: It makes the witness aware that I am a real stenographer, and it gives the attorneys in the room who may be curious as to what we actually do but never have the time to ask or have never had a conversation with a stenographer the chance to see what it is that we actually do. This is another way to differentiate ourselves.
I also have my Zoom background picture when my camera is turned off set to a shot of myself writing on my stenograph machine focused on my hands. Again, this shows them that they have a real stenographer and not a digital recorder that’s recording the proceedings for later transcription by someone who was not present in the room during the proceedings. We need to stay front and center in their minds to show them that the stenographic method is the gold standard for protecting and capturing your legal proceedings.
There is strength in numbers. If we all try to advocate just a little bit, together we can all let ’em know we’re out here. Stenographic reporting is alive and strong and not going anywhere. Take advantage of the NCRA STRONG Resource Library. There is a plethora of materials in there created specifically by stenographers that care about our stenographic profession.
Please consider speaking up at in-person depositions as well, and please consider showing yourself writing on your stenograph machine at your remote depositions so that we can be seen. Let them see you writing on your stenograph machine. They say, “Out of sight, out of mind.” Being seen writing on a stenograph machine in a remote setting can only help.