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THE SECOND HALF: Seasons of a court reporter’s journey

By Shirle Perkins

During this season I have witnessed, with joy, prom send-offs, graduations, and parties. I love spring. I remember well my last spring of high school wondering what career path I would take that would bring me joy. I settled upon applying to our local university to major in education, resolving myself to change course early if I thought it would not work out.

In the spring our secretarial lab had a happy visitor come to our class to speak on a career I had never heard of: Court reporting. The skills she outlined we would need to be successful in this profession, I possessed – grammar skills, fast typing, love for legal and medical terminology, self-discipline. I thought, “I think I’m going to like it here.” She said one could make as much as an attorney with only two years of college. Exhibit A was her brand-new car outside. It was settled. “I’m going to love it here.” I enrolled in my local community college, graduated two years later with my associate degree, and in the spring walked into my exciting new career.

I began as a freelancer, but after one year I knew it was not for me. I like familiar surroundings each day. When I trained under official court reporters, I sat in awe of the magnificence of the courtroom. I began employment at our municipal court and remained there for 13 months. I next moved up to common pleas court and worked there for one month shy of 10 years. Then I began work as a federal court reporter and have now worked here for 32 years.

Since that first spring, I have seen the other seasons of the profession. I experienced the summer of life each time I settled into my next “dream job.” I began making the money the court reporting recruiter told my class about, and life was good. One caution about a “summer season”: Do not become complacent. Court reporting school taught me the discipline of continuous practice. Lawyers and parties in the courtroom taught me that getting to 225 wpm would require assistance along the way. My elders instilled in me the importance of learning at least one new thing each day. And experience taught me the wisdom of preparing for war in the time of peace.

In his practice group, Mark Kislingbury, FAPR, RDR, CRR, cites Psalm 144:1, “Blessed be the LORD my strength which teacheth my hands to war and my fingers to fight.” Summer is the perfect season to prepare for the fall season with self-development. I practiced for what was then the latest certification to improve my realtime skills on the job, the CRR, but I never took the test.

One year my court changed direction and decided all new hires would require realtime certification, and those currently employed would have two years to become certified or face the unknown. Self-development had prepared me for this fall season. I passed my CRR on the first try and secured my future. The following fall I earned my RDR. Practice prepares us for war in the time of peace.

In 2021 I experienced my winter season. I turned 60. I thought to myself, “Wow. I am nearing the exit ramp of my career, retirement.” Like that first spring 44 years ago, I had not a clue what to do next. I had never experienced a “nothing” season.

Days after my birthday, Cicely Tyson died. She was 96! It then occurred to me that, if I lived to see 96, that would mean I had 36 years of life left in me. That’s nearly the span of another career.

Winter season is not the end; it is a new beginning. I returned to college to attain a bachelor’s in business. As I nurtured the love seed of court reporting, it sprouted other blooms. Working in the court system had made me politically knowledgeable. My fingers have recorded history for 44 years. I am now a lover of history. I changed my major from business to Africana Studies with a minor in history.

It was after age 60 that I entered the state speed contest and placed; co-led a state conference workshop; led a book club for court reporting professionals; received an invitation to instruct student reporters; and created a social media presence, Lady Stenorella, to promote the profession and enroll students into the NCRA A to Z® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program to fill our local court reporting program at Cuyahoga Community College. All of these accomplishments were after a 44-year career and counting.

As I near retirement, I am excited because I know nothing is impossible or out of reach at this age. I am in the Winter of Life, and this is my BEST SEASON!

Shirle Perkins, RDR, CRR, is an official reporter in Oakwood Village, Ohio, and the creator of @Lady Stenorella. She can be reached at