Boston strong

Nancy Varallo, RDR, CRRI live outside Boston, and for me and my family, terrorism struck close to home last April 15 when two bombs went off at the fin­ish line of the Boston Marathon. There were deaths and grievous injuries, and our city’s easygoing self-confidence took a hit. Terror­ists had struck. Would they strike again?

On that terrible day, the Boston Red Sox were playing at Fenway Park. Diehard fans, like me, had low expectations for our Sox this season because the prior season was a disaster. The Sox had collapsed, riven by locker room tensions, ego-driven mal­contents on the field, and a manager who failed to bring the team together. The Red Sox finished dead last in 2012. Could they improve on that in 2013?

Red Sox icon David Ortiz rallied his team with defiant words, “This is our city! Stay strong!” Only days later the Red Sox played again, and 38,000 fans crowded Fen­way Park—as usual. The city of Boston was not going to be cowed by fear of terror­ism. For baseball fans out there, you know how this story played out. The new Red Sox grew long beards as a sign of team cohesion and solidarity in the face of terrorism and, most importantly, played to win. And win they did! Against all odds, they upended the experts’ predictions and finished first in 2013—and then won the World Series. What a turnaround!

The 2013 Red Sox hit the jackpot for many reasons, but for those of us who watched them play the 162 games of base­ball’s long season, the biggest reason was easy to see: they played to win, every day. They never gave up. They never coasted along; they always gave it their best shot.

We are court reporters, and the lessons for us are clear: be the best reporter you can be. Every day. Don’t be dispirited by competition or fear of technology. Resolve to perform better today than you did yes­terday. Don’t be complacent. And week by week, in the daily grind of a long year, you will succeed.

Like my city of Boston, the Red Sox adopted “Boston strong!” as their man­tra. Those two words were mowed into the centerfield grass of Fenway Park, and Boston Strong became the calling card of the revitalized Red Sox, their credentials as players: You can’t beat us down! We will claw our way back and find a way to win. And they did.

We court reporters have all the tools we need to win our competitions in the mar­ketplace. Realtime services are unbeatable. Nobody except stenographic court report­ers can reliably deliver top-drawer realtime. It’s our calling card, and our ticket to suc­cess. Our marketplace is impressed by good realtime; they know what an advantage it is for them; they know how to use it. It’s up to us to deliver it, day in and day out.

2013 was a magical season for the Red Sox and all the fans of Red Sox Nation. My trips to Fenway Park were exciting and, yes, inspiring. My beloved Sox were showing us how it’s done, one game at a time. And the ultimate prize was theirs: the World Series.

What’s your World Series? Where do you want to be professionally this year? What goal of yours is out there, waiting for you to make it a reality? Credentials matter. Do you have your RPR? RMR? CRR? Now’s the time to go after them.

The World Champion Red Sox had an exuberant victory parade through down­town Boston, where the city came out by the thousands to cheer their baseball he­roes. I can’t promise you a ticker tape pa­rade through town, but when you achieve your goals, you will be amply rewarded. Set a goal, work hard, reach your goal. How sat­isfying! How rejuvenating to your self-con­fidence! Be Court Reporter Strong this year, and experience a renewed sense of pride in yourself as a topnotch professional.

 

Nancy C. Varallo, RDR, CRR, is NCRA’s current president. She can be reached at president@ncra.org.

Thirty ways to give back

Nancy Varallo, RDR, CRRFor years, at every NCRA event and state association get-together, I have taken the opportunity to talk about the importance of giving back. For more than three decades now, my life has been dedicated to our shared profession; court reporting is an integral part of who I am. So many good things in my life have come from my decision to become a court reporter! It has been a rewarding career, and I am grateful for it.

I am a cheerleader for court reporting and a staunch advocate of giving back to the profession that has given me so much. I like to encourage my court reporter colleagues to get involved as well, in any way that suits them. It need not require a significant investment of time or money. You might pen a simple post to your Facebook page telling the world what you love about your job or make a short presentation at your child’s school on career day. Take the opportunity where it presents itself. A friendly chat with a neighbor over the backyard fence or at a cocktail party could showcase our unique profession and perhaps become a life-altering encounter for a man or woman whose curiosity you’ve piqued.

I’ve come up with thirty ways that one can give back to the profession. Perhaps not all of these suggestions will suit you, but acting on just one or two is bound to create a lasting impression that will benefit our profession and all of us in it.

  1. Tell someone new what you do for a living. Be enthusiastic! Court reporters, captioners, and CART providers do interesting stuff. It’s great cocktail party conversation.
  2. Point out the TV captions in a public place, say at your gym, a bar, a hotel lobby. Ask your friends, do you know how those captions get there? They won’t know – but they’ll be curious to find out!
  3. Write to your city council or town government, thanking them for having transcripts of public meetings. (And if they don’t provide that public service, ask them why not.)
  4. Tell the attorney you’re working with why a court reporter’s impartiality matters. It’s part of what makes us special.
  5. While you’re at it, tell the nice attorney how realtime services can help him or her.
  6. Write a check and sponsor a student member in your state association.
  7. Give a Career Day presentation at your local high school. Bring your steno machine and write to an iPad.
  8. Mentor a court reporting student.
  9. Offer to talk to a court reporting class about what life after school looks like. Give them good advice. Alert them to some just-out-of-school pitfalls to avoid. Be encouraging.
  10. Thank your Congressional representatives for supporting the Local Courthouse Safety Act — or tell them why it’s important to support it.
  11. Talk to a class of law school students about the nuts and bolts of making the record. (Nobody else is going to tell them!) NCRF has materials to help you with this outreach.
  12. Thank the attorneys for hiring you, a certified court reporter, and tell them why certification matters, for court reporters as well as legal videographers. Certified means professional.
  13. Team up with a court reporter friend or two and put together a short primer of do’s and don’ts of making the record. Your local bar association will be grateful to you for the educational opportunity. Maybe your favorite law firm would like you to come in and address their young associates. Get bonus points for offering CLEs!
  14. Transcribe an interview with a veteran for the Library of Congress Veterans’ Project. You can earn PDCs. And it is a very satisfying thing to do.
  15. Host a Veterans History Project event for veterans in your area. Do it at a court reporting firm or court reporting school. Get your community involved! People like to honor our veterans.
  16. Get involved with students on the NCRA Student Facebook page or other student networking sites. They’ll love it! An excellent way to motivate students.
  17. Sponsor a student’s attendance at an NCRA event.
  18. Write an article for the local ABA newsletter about what to look for in a court reporter. Or write a letter to a local community organization about the importance of accessibility for all citizens, especially our fellow citizens who are deaf/hard of hearing.
  19. Pass along your experience. Write an article for your state association newsletter or the JCR about a valuable lesson learned. Your readers will appreciate the heads up.
  20. Volunteer your services (or find volunteers) for your deaf/hard-of-hearing neighbors. They might love to have CART for church or local meetings.
  21. Volunteer for a state association or NCRA committee. A great way to meet people!
  22. Attend a TRAIN event, upgrade your realtime skills — and then help others do the same.
  23. Share your expertise with your peers; put on a seminar at a court reporting event. Sound scary? Okay, sign up to learn something new yourself!
  24. Send NCRA membership forms to court reporters you know who are not members, and tell them why they should be. Size matters. There’s power in numbers!
  25. Send a testimonial (written or video) to NCRA to support NCRA’s efforts to inform people about the benefits of court reporting as a career.
  26. Write an op-ed for your local newspaper advocating for the use of stenographic court reporters in the courts; explain the value of captioning at community events.
  27. Become involved with your state CSR board. They need your expertise. And you’ll be surprised how much you will learn!
  28. Pay it forward. Remember to thank the people who’ve helped you along the way.
  29. Donate to the National Court Reporters Foundation, which will put your money to good use.
  30. Social media — Facebook, Twitter — are great venues to tell people what you love about your job. No need to vent about rush transcripts and fast-talking lawyers. Create some positive buzz! Celebrate your profession, your career, the unique job you do where you are the expert. Be proud of your role as a court reporter, legal videographer, captioner, or CART provider. You are part of a long and proud history of service to the bench, the bar, and the public at large.

Convention Royale

Nancy Varallo, RDR, CRRNCRA’s Convention & Expo in Nashville, Tenn., was a week to remember. There were fantastic moments, many of which are highlighted in the convention coverage in this issue. But this annual event is about far more than the networking, educational opportunities, and official association business that happen on-site. The convention is a new beginning. It’s our opportunity to celebrate the successes of the past year and set goals for the coming year. It’s the headline event that energizes all of us for the year ahead.

And the energy is palpable. Attendees have shared with me that this year’s four-day event was the most upbeat and fun NCRA gathering they can remember. It really was a “Convention Royale.” This year the installation of the Board of Directors featured officers and directors who were all dressed in tuxedos — yes, the women, too — bringing together time-honored tradition with the contemporary style and edge that distinguishes today’s NCRA.

The educational seminars showcased the state of the art and the emerging opportunities in our ever-expanding profession. You had to be there to appreciate the buzz generated by the panoply of new technologies designed for court reporting, captioning, and legal videography. Our engaging speakers made topical presentations that captured the attention of their audiences. Learning is fun! Ask the 1,100 professionals who were present this August in the lavish Gaylord Opryland resort. There were seminars, vendor exhibitions, cocktail parties, the Grand Ole Opry, and endless opportunities for greeting old friends and making new ones.

If you couldn’t join us this year in Nashville, please join us next August in San Francisco. I can promise you, you’ll love it!

Many of the seminars in Nashville were videotaped and you can view them as e-seminars at NCRA.InReachCE.com. Make sure to peruse the in-depth coverage of convention highlights in this issue.

Did I mention we had a lot of fun? Casino Royale was the theme of the Saturday night party, and I can tell you it was one of the most memorable social events of my entire court reporting career. I’d like to thank everyone for being dressed to the nines and making the evening glamorous and festive.

Coming off of my convention high, I realize more clearly than ever that we have turned a corner as an association and as a profession. We have focus and direction, as our executive director Jim Cudahy explains in his column on page 11. Frankly, I couldn’t be more excited about my year as your president. We’re off to a great start.

Just as NCRA is poised for growth and success, so too is personal growth within your grasp. Last month I asked you to take at least one action to encourage young people to consider joining us in this rewarding profession. I hope you have taken that step. I also urged you to accept the challenge to become realtime ready and certified. There are mentors out there to help you; seek them out.

The annual Convention & Expo is the official kickoff event for the coming year. We all left Nashville with renewed energy to tackle the goals that matter to us. Together, you and I can accomplish great things.

Find your calling

Nancy Varallo, RDR, CRRI am so proud to say I’m Nancy Varallo, your newly installed NCRA President. I want you to know I understand the trust you’ve placed in me, and I take my job seriously. Our professional organization is a great association, and I am honored to be leading it for the 2013-2014 term.

We call it the profession of court reporting. But are we a profession? The dictionary says a profession is “a calling requiring specialized knowledge and academic preparation.”

A profession is a calling. Do you feel called to court reporting? Well, I do. Before court reporting school, I had studied music in college and taught piano to make ends meet. And guess what? I found out I didn’t like teaching piano. Each week my students went through the motions, showed up for their lessons without having practiced, and sat down at my piano expecting to play perfectly. Really? Where was the effort? Where was the love of playing? The respect for the composers whose music they tried to play? Why on Earth did they expect to succeed, having done nothing to ensure their success?

I’ve never believed that success is a result of spontaneous combustion; I believe you must set yourself on fire! So in 1978, after two years as a music major, I switched keyboards and enrolled in court reporting school — and set myself on fire! Yup! No wing and a prayer for me. I got out of school in just six months.

Six months? That’s on fire! How’d that happen? Well, the simple truth is I fell in love — with court reporting, with the very idea of it. I was determined to succeed.

Today, I’m still in love with this profession. And as your new president, I challenge each of you to set yourself on fire, If all of us did that, we’d galvanize our whole profession, making court reporting, our profession, richer and fuller and more vibrant than ever before.

This profession is filled with men and women who understand that being a respected professional requires staying abreast of technology, continuing education, and daily devotion to the hard work of being successful. It’s an act of love — an expression of respect for yourself as a top-tier professional. You should be proud of your hard-won skills. NCRA is our community — an association whose 100 years of existence is our shared heritage. We are here to be a part of that brain trust. We’re a community. We’re family.

This year, I challenge each of you to take at least one action that encourages a young person to enter this profession. We need more stenographic reporters. Our future depends on it. And an equal-opportunity career in court reporting is a smart choice, especially in today’s difficult economy.

State and local budgets are constrained; services are being cut; our colleagues in the courtroom are being replaced by digital audio recording. Federal rule changes, the inroads of alternative dispute resolution — all have had an impact on us. And new technologies will continue to alter the horizon.

The parade of horribles is sobering. But give up? Not on my watch! We have been successful for 100 years, and we have the tools to adapt to the demands of today’s marketplace. That’s the message I am most anxious to leave with you: Our future is bright. We’re not going to fade away. We have the skills the marketplace values, and that’s our ticket to a secure future.

Court reporters are innovators, another skill highly valued these days. You’d be surprised to learn the novel ways entrepreneurial court reporters are deploying their skills. These reporters understand business, and they have created markets for their talents in colleges and universities, in major league sports and Fortune 500 companies, in hospital emergency rooms, on top-secret government missions, in politics, even in Hollywood. That’s a record of success. They have set themselves on fire!

So put your best foot forward. I urge you not to be distracted by the companies and technologies and people we compete with. There’s always competition. But the marketplace that determines the value of our services is driven by the realtime services we provide — draft transcripts, realtime hookups, classroom CART, captioning, and the new and exciting niche markets made possible by our realtime skills. We are the best at capturing the spoken word and translating it instantly into text. To those of you who are not yet Certified Realtime Reporters, I offer this challenge: Set yourself on fire! Find a mentor. Practice. Bring your skills into the 21st century. Today we have every reason to celebrate our profession and the professionals who make it great.

This column is reflective of Nancy’s presidential speech delivered in August at NCRA’s Convention & Expo in Nashville.