Magna Legal Services opens new office in Colorado

In a press release issued Oct. 13, Magna Legal Services announced that it has opened a new office in Colorado to better serve the Denver legal industry.

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Register now for NCRA’s 2021 Business Summit and save

Early access registration opens Oct. 15 for NCRA’s 2021 Business Summit, themed “Rise to the Challenge! Winning Approaches on Adapting to Change.” Early access offers a limited time to save on registration fees for members, nonmembers, additional attendees, and guests. The 2021 event is taking place Jan. 29-31 at the Hyatt Regency Savannah in beautiful and historic Savannah, Ga.  

“Each year I’ve attended this remarkable event, I’ve expanded my network of professional influencers and personal friendships, as well as taken home new ideas that have helped me to grow and strengthen my business and my staff,” said NCRA President Christine Phipps, RPR, a firm owner from North Palm Beach, Fla.

“Please join us as we kick off a new year and shed the isolation blues with masks and social distance in the beautiful city of Savannah at what is sure to be the ultimate one-of-a-kind experience known as NCRA’s Business Summit,” she added.

During early access registration, which runs through Nov. 30, the cost to register is $695 for NCRA members, $795 for nonmembers, $595 for additional attendees from the same firm, and $175 for a spouse/guest attending social functions only. Fees will increase after Nov. 30 by $50 for members, nonmembers, and additional attendees. The cost for a spouse/guest will increase by $25. Please note that the spouse/guest registration category is reserved for a spouse/guest of an attendee that is registered for the conference. Professional reporters and captioners may not register for this category as a guest. Guests are welcome at the receptions only in this package; attendance at the educational sessions requires a full registration.

A special rate of $225 per night is also available beginning Oct. 15 through Jan. 6, plus tax and other fees for single, double, or triple occupancy. The cost for quad occupancy is $250 per night plus tax and other fees. The cutoff date for the discounted rates will be Jan. 6, 2021, or until the room block is filled, whichever comes first.

Make plans now for one of NCRA’s most popular networking and learning events and take advantage of all Savannah has to offer from waterfront views, delectable dining, unique shopping, historical haunted offerings, and more. Register now and save.

Sign of the times

Mayleen Ahmed, RMR, CRR, CRC

By Mayleen Ahmed

When the photos came in from Mayleen Ahmed, RMR, CRR, CRC, the person profiled for the November/December JCR, the JCR had to ask more questions about her backdrop with her name and credentials in one of the photos she submitted. We thought it was a great idea with all the remote work that is being done; all your information is right there with you in your picture if you want it to be. Here’s what Ahmed told us about it.

As to your question about my background, I had a smaller background initially. When the pandemic hit, my first thought was about recreating a “business as usual” scenario to assuage any concerns of working remotely from both the agencies I cover for and their clients. I immediately purchased cables — Xfinity was not providing home service — and I wired my own home, including hiding the cables under the rugs. I tested many different remote platforms and realtime service providers and ensured I had the tools in place to provide whatever remote services were requested. I spent hours searching the right image and creating a virtual background with my name. Our world had suddenly changed. I wanted to show them what the new world would look like.

While testing all the new devices and my new virtual background, I learned it decreased bandwidth, it was not recommended for legal settings, and it ate all my body parts if I moved. I then went online and downloaded an image of a conference room that fit my image and matched my desk perfectly. Staples.com has two-hour printing services. I had a background printed and available curbside by the end of the afternoon and before my first remote assignment in the last week of March.

My first background was the perfect size, but it soon became too small as I found it limited my range of motion. Once it became apparent that remote work was our new future, I decided to upgrade my background, just as I upgraded to dedicated desktops and all the new gadgets that allow me to do my work easier and provide better services. I spent hours looking for high-quality images of conference rooms that represented my image and the type of work I covered. Once I found an adequate image, I purchased the rights to the image at high resolution. I did an online search and found a customized backdrop provider that promised to have my backdrop to me in less than a week. I ordered a full 12 x 8 backdrop that is held up with a tripod I ordered from Amazon. This new “remote” office allowed me a greater range of motion, more space, and provided a sense of “home” to the attorneys. Since my background is not virtual, I have no issues with being eaten alive digitally, loss of bandwidth, and I have a background even with the platforms that do not support a VC.

My selected “conference room” image has two whiteboards. One board has my name and credentials preprinted thereon. I use the other side of the board to place the logo and information of the agency. I printed signs of the agency with their logo and information that is attached via Velcro to the white “board” in my “conference” room. It’s almost like a customized remote office. This allows me to change my office at a moment’s notice for last-minute coverage. I wanted the attorneys to feel confident that I just did not wake up and turn on my computer.

While small, these details make a great impact. It separates us from the larger crowd. The agencies I work with take great pride in the quality of work they provide — and it starts with me. Videographers, attorneys, paralegals, and clients have mistaken my background for a real office. To me, it is business as usual — remotely.

Mayleen Ahmed, RMR, CRR, CRC, is a freelance court reporter based in Seattle, Wash.

U.S. Legal Support explores remote deposition best practices with top litigators

In a press release issued Oct. 1, U.S. Legal Support, based in Houston, Texas, announced that the firm recently hosted a live panel webinar featuring top litigators, who shared how they have been able to successfully prepare for and conduct remote depositions, addressed common questions and provided strategic tips and insight to the audience filled with hundreds of litigators nationwide.

Read more.

Roberts has prize-winning photo for NCRA contest

Maxine Roberts, RDR

Maxine Roberts, RDR, an official in Akron, Ohio, is the winner of the NCRA Marketing Photo Contest. She told the JCR Weekly a little about the photo and how she feels about winning.

JCR | What gave you the idea to have pictures taken with your steno machine? 

MR | I’ve been a court reporter for more than 30 years and have never captured or seen a photo of myself while on the job. Of course, I’ve seen very brief snippets of myself from coverage of different cases on the local news stations, but I wanted to do something fun with it to create a memory for myself as I near retirement.

JCR | Do you have plans on how you want to use the photos?

MR | I will probably print and frame it for myself.

JCR | Why did you decide to enter this profession?

MR | I knew nothing about the court reporting profession when I decided to embark upon it. At the time I was working at a local hospital on a part-time basis while attending the university. Knowing neither was what I wanted to do, I took to the ads in the local paper and ran across an advertisement for the Academy of Court Reporting and decided to try my hand, or hands should I say. I’ve now been at it 35 years, and here I am today.

JCR | What did you think when you heard you won our contest? 

MR | I was completely surprised. Who knew a last-minute decision would produce a winning photo?

JCR | Anything else you would like to add?  

MR | I want to thank NCRA for choosing my photo and thank my photographer, Lonnie Griffin Photography, for taking care of me at the last minute.

NOTE: Roberts will also be featured as the NCRA member profiled in the October JCR.

2020-2021 NCRA Sourcebook goes digital

The first-ever NCRA digital Sourcebook has launched. Download it now and start reaping the many new benefits offered by the #1 publication attorneys, legal assistants, paralegals, and anyone else looking for the right court reporting, captioning, or legal videography professional can rely on to find the perfect match for their needs. 

The 2020-2021 digital NCRA Sourcebook is new in format but still contains the robust content users have come to expect from it. In fact, the new digital version offers even more features to help enhance the user experience. The digital edition is also downloadable and available free to anyone who wants to access it. Just click here.

“The digital version of the 2020-2021 NCRA Sourcebook still offers the same design as the printed version, including sections that sort individual members alphabetically by name and by geographical location. In addition, the color-coding users have been accustomed to remains, making it easy to quickly identify the services an individual offers,” said NCRA President Christine Phipps, RPR, an agency owner from North Palm Beach, Fla.

“As an added benefit, NCRA is also sharing the link to the Sourcebook digital edition with the legal community and trade publications, as well as to organizations that serve the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities. Your name and industry contact information is now accessible to everyone who downloads this digital edition,” Phipps added.

Among the new features the digital edition of the NCRA Sourcebook offers are:

The search feature on the digital edition has also been enhanced and allows users to use select words or phrases to search for information. Type in the name of a person you are looking for and the pages on which that name appears will be shown below the search box. The search feature can also be used to find states, cities, counties, or even company names.

Finally, a notes feature allows users to leave a note on any page to view later. Only the user who leaves a note will have the ability to delete it. Notes will remain with a page so they can be used as a bookmark to help users keep track of people or companies they want to find again.

Other additions include new sections that offer information about NCRA’s committees, approved schools, member benefits, upcoming events, advertising opportunities, and more.

Members are encouraged to share the link to the digital 2020-2021 NCRA Sourcebook with current and potential clients and to keep it nearby as a handy directory when looking to connect with other NCRA members.

Important reminders for your remote deposition

A blog posted Sept. 10 by JD Supra offers up a checklist to keep in mind when scheduling virtual depositions.

Read more.

Benchmark Reporting Agency recognized by Minnesota Lawyer for third year

Benchmark Reporting Agency in Minneapolis, Minn., announced in a press release that it has been voted Best Court Reporter & Deposition Service and Best Deposition Video Provider by Minnesota Lawyer in its annual Minnesota Reader Rankings Award.

Read more.

The perfect prescription

By Jennifer Wielage

Jennifer Wielage, RPR, CRR

As a high-achieving, success-driven court reporter, I am certainly no stranger to stress and its effects on one’s mental and physical well-being.  

Many years ago, as a result of my harried lifestyle, I spent much time in the doctor’s office. Panic gripped me often in the middle of the night. My heart raced. I was short of breath. I remember many times being rushed to the ER with a crippling fear I was dying.

When test after test came back negative, my doctor wrote me a prescription. I looked down at the blue paper he pulled from his pad. On it, he wrote: Your Erroneous Zones by Dr. Wayne Dyer.  “You are prescribing a sex book?” I exclaimed.  He laughed and said, “No, ‘erroneous’ means error.” He explained that I had errors in my thinking. He promised that this book would help me look at my life differently, and if I heeded Dr. Dyer’s advice, my health issues would resolve. I left the office, head held low, feeling discouraged. I contemplated changing physicians.

The prescription sat on my desk for over a year; eventually getting buried and forgotten under a pile of papers.  My life had not changed nor gotten better. In fact, now I was suffering with even more health ailments, random body aches, horrible seasonal allergies, ovarian cysts, asthma, and an autoimmune thyroid disease called Grave’s disease.  

Deep down, I knew my workload was intense, my commute was exhausting, and I was flat-out beat from reading transcripts into the night, but I never imagined work could be the cause of my ailments.  

My story is a pretty common one. In America stress is the leading cause of premature deaths. Approximately 120,000 people die annually of work-related stress.  Chronic stress can affect your brain, suppress your thyroid, cause blood sugar imbalances, decrease bone density and muscle tissue, raise blood pressure, reduce your immunity and ability to heal, increase fat deposits around your abdomen that are associated with heart attacks, strokes, and elevated bad cholesterol.  

Thirty-three percent of Americans feel they live in extremely stressful conditions.

At that time, however, I believed that I was a victim of overworking and stress. I did not take any personal responsibility for any of it because I believed that life was happening to me.  Thus I felt powerless. It was as if I was in the third row of a minivan, being driven by fear, doubt, and insecurity; and I had no clue that I could actually decide to climb into the driver’s seat of my life and take the wheel.

There’s an old adage: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”  Many years later, I finally read the book.

My mind was blown. I knew immediately it was just what the doctor ordered. It was such an integral part of my healing journey because it taught me that I could choose the life I wanted instead of playing the victim to my circumstances. The book was my first step on my journey toward feeling more empowered in my life, taking charge, and understanding that I did have the ability to feel amazing.

Because of my experience overcoming fear, letting go of my limiting beliefs, and getting out of my own way, I was propelled to become a life-balance coach so that I could help others, particularly my fellow court reporters, who also struggled with stress, overwhelmed with a hefty workload, to find more peace and contentment in their lives. For me, living a life of balance was my key to calm and it became my passion to share my experience.

As we all know, in March of 2020, the world changed drastically due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In such a short period of time, work came to a screeching halt and food and supplies were harder to obtain. We were instructed to remain in our homes to prevent the spread. Many experienced the effects of the virus and/or mourned the loss of a loved one.

Many of us have found ourselves in fight-or-flight mode. The term “fight-or-flight” is a term that stems from our ancient ancestors’ choice when faced with danger. They could either fight the tiger or run away from it. In the 1920s American physiologist Walter Cannon was the first to describe this syndrome. He realized that a chain of rapidly occurring reactions inside the body helped to mobilize the body’s resources to deal with threatening circumstances.  

What often happens in today’s fast-paced world is our minds create situations where the fight-or-flight button is triggered from a perceived danger, even if we are not in actual danger, things such as traffic jams, work pressures, or family difficulties. Our bodies go through the same immobilization/fight-or-flight process. Chemicals course through our bodies, wreaking havoc on the state of our health.

This is what I was experiencing in the doctor’s office all those years ago, and this is what many of us are experiencing these days with the global pandemic.

There’s good news. We can learn to manage our minds around anything, even Covid-19.

I am going to offer three erroneous beliefs that are common today in the climate we are facing as court reporters.

Error #1: I have no control.

The truth is you actually do. Even though circumstances arise over which we have no control, we always have control over one very important thing: our thoughts about our circumstances.  

Our circumstances are completely neutral. Circumstances are events that occur in the world or in our life. A circumstance is not opinion. It is a fact that can be proven in a court of law. A circumstance is something that everyone in the world would agree on.

Our thoughts about our circumstance are what make all the difference.  The good news is: We are completely in control of our thoughts.  They’re ours to think and no one can change them without our permission.

Why do our thoughts matter? Because thoughts create our feelings. When we think negative thoughts, we experience negative feelings. When we think uplifting, positive, and empowering thoughts, we feel uplifted, positive and empowered. Our feelings drive our actions and our actions create our results. This is why our thoughts really matter. Our thoughts are the mainframes that keep everything functioning or not functioning. We can shift our thoughts from those that do not serve us to ones that will empower us.  

One thought that has helped me during the pandemic is: Life is happening for me. There are always blessings that come from hard times. Look for them, embrace them, and trust your ability to overcome whatever comes your way. This is empowering.

Error #2: Life is so uncertain now.  

If we are honest, life has always been uncertain. Each day is a gift. We have no idea what circumstances will come our way, nor should we worry about what may potentially happen.  Worry is one of those useless emotions. There is absolutely no upside to worrying.  It keeps us stuck, prevents us living our purpose and steals our present joy.  

Instead of worrying, we need to try to focus on things that will create positive results in our life.  We can use our energy instead to propel us in the direction of wellness, i.e., eating well, exercising, and taking time out to breathe. These actions will put us in the driver’s seat and will make us more resilient against whatever comes our way.

Error #3: I can’t make money because there is a global pandemic.

I lovingly want to assure you that, while there are those who will come up with reasons why they cannot work during the pandemic, many people are busy, making money, not just in spite of the pandemic, in many cases because of the pandemic.  We, as court reporters, have such an amazing skill, one that blows people’s minds. While it’s true we have to learn a new method of reporting for the time being, working from home has many benefits, e.g., the ability to be barefoot, wearing yoga pants to work, having our dog or cat lying next to us while we work, not to mention an extremely stress-free commute!

Just recently, I was lying on the beach, relaxing, when I spotted my doctor playing ball with his son on the sand. I smiled thinking about his prescription for me all those years ago and what a huge impact it had on my life.  In his wisdom, he knew I needed to journey inward in order to be healed and to become who I am today.  I believe it was all part of God’s divine plan for my life.

My friends, let us use our challenges as the fuel that ignites a fire within so that we can, ultimately, evolve and grow, not just as court reporters, but as the people we were created to be!  

Jennifer Wielage, RPR, CRR, is a freelance reporter in Edison, N.J. Her website is Rainbowbalance.org.

Last chance for early access savings for NCRA Connect 2020!

Last chance to catch the early access savings on full and half registration package fees for the NCRA Connect Virtual 2020 conference happening Aug. 7-9. These savings end tonight at midnight.

Full registration to the NCRA Connect Virtual 2020 includes access to all three days of activities, including all non-CEU activities and 16 CEU sessions of the registrant’s choice for a total of 1.6 CEU credits. The early access member cost for full registration is $300. The regular price is $325 for regular registration. A half registration package is also available that includes access to all three days for all non-CEU activities and seven CEU sessions of the registrant’s choice. The member cost for half registration is $180 for early access and $200 for regular registration. The special rates for students are $60 for members and $75 for nonmembers.

“In a field where we are constantly learning, continuing education is essential. Whether I’m presenting the seminar or attending the seminar, my hope is always that every attendant will take away at least one relevant concept when the seminar is finished,” said Allison Hall, RMR, CRR, an official court reporter from Tulsa, Okla., who is presenting a session called “Work Smarter, Not Harder,” at the NCRA Connect event.

“Continuing education isn’t about a requirement; it’s about learning and molding yourself into the professional you want to be, one seminar at a time,” Hall added. Her session will offer attendees ways to up their efficiency, increase their profitability, and reduce the amount of stress they often experience in this high-stress field.

Over the course of three days, attendees will have the opportunity to choose from sessions that address being audited by the Internal Revenue Service, teach best practices for marking exhibits electronically during remote proceedings, and more. In addition, there are sessions geared toward students, such as the one on understanding the profession after they graduate. There are even two yoga sessions being held on Saturday and Sunday to help attendees get their day off to a great start.

Attendees also will have the opportunity to participate in a number of fun networking parties, including specialty ones geared toward officials, freelancers, captioners, firm owners, new professionals, and students and teachers.

“Networking is essential in our profession. Attending an NCRA convention will put you in the right place at the right time to meet the right people that can help you advance in your career,” said Teresa Russ, CRI, a captioner and freelance court reporter from Bellflower, Calif.

“Oftentimes you never know what to expect when you accept a job, whether it’s captioning or covering a depo. The seminars are designed to meet the needs of the challenges court reporters, CART and broadcast captioners, and students will possibly encounter,”  she added.

Other learning session highlights include a presentation by Matthew Moss, RPR, an official court reporter from Denver, Colo., who will present “Motivation, Beating Obstacles, Achieving Goals, and Growth Mindset,” and “What Every Court Reporter Should Know About Punctuation to Transcribe Correctly,” being led by the renowned Dr. Santo “Joe” Aurelio, FAPR, RDR, (Ret.) from Arlington, Mass.

NCRA member Karen Peckham, RMR, CRR, an official court reporter from Westminster, Calif., said she is looking forward to NCRA Connect Virtual 2020 because the last time she was able to attend an NCRA Conference was when it was held in San Francisco, Calif., in 2014. She signed up for the virtual event, she said, because she wants to earn her CEUs.

See the complete schedule of sessions, including networking opportunities, exhibitor showcases, and the virtual vendor hall, at NCRA.org. For more information about registration and nonmember registration pricing, visit the NCRA website. Remember, sessions will be available to view through midnight, Aug. 25, after the event, so you won’t have to worry about missing a minute of this virtual experience.

Register now.