Preparing for that first court reporting assignment

In a blog posted Sept. 5 by JD Supra, Planet Depos shared with court reporting interns a number of  tips to help them transition from their student role to the official reporter on any assignment.

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‘I know you’re exhausted, but you can do this’

Elise Townes, RPR

Elise Townes, RPR, a freelancer from Rockford, Mich., posted the following in the Facebook group “Encouraging Court Reporting Students.”

Why do you love court reporting? Share your reasons with us at jcrfeedback@ncra.org and post with #whyilovecourtreporting.

Tonight was a pretty big night for me. I just submitted my very first transcript to the attorneys! This has all been about seven years in the making. I’m a single mother, and this whole process has not been easy!

I felt like it took me forever to get out of school. My school (The College of Court Reporting) was fantastic! I just had to work while I was in school and had two young children, so it took me a bit longer. 

After that, it took me a few more years to become certified. It was tough finding time and energy to practice, especially not being in school. I finally decided to quit my work and focus solely on practicing for the last leg of the RPR, and it worked. I was finally certified in December of last year and then earned my CSR certification right after.

I was a teen mom (twice). I have had to struggle immensely for this, and it’s all been to give my kids the life they deserve. They’re the reason for all of it. A few months ago, I accepted a job as an official reporter in Colorado and made the huge move from Michigan.

I’ve only been working for a month, but it feels so amazing to be able to say I finally made it and to tell all of you that YOU CAN DO THIS. Don’t give up!!! I know you’re exhausted. I know you’re feeling burnt out. I know it feels like it’s taking forever. Persevere and power through because you’ve got this, and it’s worth it!!

Why I love court reporting: Aimee Edwards-Altadonna

Aimee Edwards-Altadonna is a freelance reporter in California and a CCRA board member. She recently posted this in the Facebook group “Encouraging Court Reporting Students.”

Students, I want to talk to you about how quickly your life can flip into an amazing place once you are certified and out there busting your butt as a court reporter. There is so much work out there, and it’s just crazy. I could work every single day, multiple jobs a day if I chose to. Instead I choose to work about 8-10 jobs a month and am comfortably making six figures by my fourth year reporting in California’s Bay Area and Central Valley. It’s a true story, and I promise you it’s there for the taking if you work hard.

I am about 4 1/2 years into working now, and in that short period of time, my family’s lifestyle has been able to change dramatically for the better. We went from living paycheck to paycheck as a family of four as I struggled through the end game of certification, finally passing all three legs of the Califonia CSR after winning my appeal on the skills portion and overcoming a pretty horrific ankle injury on the night I qualified for the CSR. We were so strapped, my dad had to help sign for the loan for the $2,000 upgrade to professional software. He even paid for my $1,000 local CSR prep class since I could no longer travel for school with my busted ankle — we were financially spent and had nothing else to give to school — but I didn’t give up. Thanks, Dad. I tell you this to give you perspective. We have been the family living on $26 for over a week until the next check came in and just hoping nobody got sick or broken or any other unforeseen event that can happen with a young family with no safety net.

And yet today I am writing you from the Airbnb in Venice on leg two of an epic 25-day trip to Italy! Worry-free because I just worked extra hard last month and billed out twice as much, so I was set to not work this month. We did a long layover in London and are going all over Italy and Sicily and Cagliari for Intersteno so I’m writing off a portion of this awesome adventure.

This career allowed us to plan and pay for this amazing trip. My kids had never been on a plane, let alone a plane to Europe, and my husband and I have waited 21 years to take this trip. At 9 and 12 they will have such a broad world view, and it will change them at their core for the better for having been explorers in another country. This is a profession that can give you the freedom you’ve dreamed of and can take you places you can’t imagine and didn’t even know you wanted.

When you’re feeling stressed or wondering how long it will take before it’s your turn, just remember that the other side is a magical place of freedom and release and all the amazing things. Even on the ickiest day, this is still the best job ever, and we can’t wait to help you get to the other side. On the dark days, I hope this message will inspire you to keep going. I promise the other side is so worth all of the struggle.

Keep going. Just keep going!

NCRA member gets investor for online system for court reporters

NCRA member Lauren Lawrence welcomed her first outside investor to her tech startup, Stenovate, according to the July 5 Startland, a news site that reports on Kansas City innovators. Stenovate is billed to be an online platform for court reporters, scopists, and proofreaders that simplifies organization and collaboration.

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New Professional Spotlight: Amanda Harwell

Amanda Harwell

By Selana Scott and Michael Hensley, RDR

Amanda Harwell is a graduate of MacCormac College in Chicago, Ill.  As a new professional court reporter, she has started her career with gusto.  Providing coverage for the Chicago area, she handles many different types of proceedings.  Ask anyone who has worked with her, and they’ll tell you she is a force to be reckoned with. She recently spoke to the court reporting students at MacCormac College and gave them advice on how to handle the constant questions from families about when they will be finished with school. When her family was asking, she said she corralled them in one room and made them listen to a recording of someone speaking at a rate of 200 WPM, while she transcribed the recording for them all to see. Needless to say, no one questioned her again about when she’d be finished with school.

JCR |How did you become interested in becoming a court reporter?

AH |I became interested in becoming a court reporter for many reasons. I knew coming straight out of high school I wanted to go into the legal field, but I did not want to commit to the years of necessary schooling. After winning multiple typing class competitions, my typing teacher in high school encouraged me to look into court reporting. After some research, school visits, and talking with seasoned reporters, I was aware this was the career for me.

JCR | Where did you first start working once you graduated/certified?

AH | Immediately following certification I started my employment with Planet Depos.

JCR |What do you love most about being a court reporter so far?

AH | My favorite thing about being a court reporter is the versatility. Being a reporter, you really have to be able to adapt to a number of circumstances, personalities, and deadlines. It keeps me on my toes! I never feel bored, unmotivated, or looking for the next best thing being a reporter. I know that each day will bring different opportunities.

JCR | What advice do you have for students who are near the end of their education?

AH | Never stop practicing. The more consistent you are with practicing following graduation will only make the real world that much easier.

JCR | Why do you think it’s important to give back to students now that you are a new professional?

AH | I believe being a young professional reporter is something that not a lot of students get to see. I know when I was going to school it was difficult to feel like I could achieve this goal considering the age gap of the working reporters I had come into contact with. My ability to relate to the students and their personal educational experience provides realistic insight that is valuable.

JCR | What’s your favorite accessory (gadget) that you bring with you to every job?

AH | I do not work a day without my USB microphone extender. I swear by it. After having my audio compromised with the shuffling of exhibits and attorney notes, I realized I needed something to avoid that from consistently happening. I found a USB extender that allows my microphone to be above the table and avoid being knocked out of place. It is beautiful!

JCR | How has your NCRA certification helped you in your career thus far?

AH | My NCRA certification has allowed me the opportunity to work with a wonderful company. Having my RPR has also made it much easier for me to become certified in multiple states and broaden where I can take work.

JCR | Any other thoughts?

AH | Tell your friends! Court reporting is one of the most rewarding careers there is.

3 Reasons why you should consider court reporting as a career

Education News posted an article on June 26 citing the reasons why someone should consider a career in court reporting.

Read more.

Networking advice for students

Cuyahoga Community College’s (Parma, Ohio) Captioning and Court Reporting Club President, Todd Robie, held a “How to Network at a Conference” seminar on April 3 for all students in the program. Both on-campus and online students were invited to participate. Robie gave valuable pointers for small- to mid-sized conventions and events. As he pointed out, these are your future colleagues and people you may have the opportunity to work with or for in the future. Make it your goal to start building your network!

Here are a few tips and tricks to review and take along with you to a conference you may be attending:

  1. What’s the best thing to get out of a conference? Connections! You want them to remember you and you to remember them.
  2. Everyone expects to meet new people at a conference and to talk with them.
  3. Wear your nametag! It can be a conversation starter in itself.
  4. Remember, folks are especially receptive to students so take advantage of that while you can.
  5. Take the initiative, as that sets you apart from others right from the start.
  6. Start out in a group if you are nervous and then branch out individually.
  7. You are terrific! Keep that in mind because it takes a terrific person to take on the challenge of this career and you have a lot to add to the profession.
  8. Start by preparing and having two basic introductions in mind along with two questions to start conversations. One intro should be a quick one and the second should be two or three sentences. Good news – you can use the same ones over and over again!
  9. Remember, the goal is to turn that conversation into a networking opportunity.
  10. Check out the layout/floor plan of the convention in advance. Common areas are the best places to network.
  11. Take the time to review the schedule and circle potential networking opportunities. Most of your connections will be made outside the sessions in such places as food lines, coffee and drink stations, and breaks.
  12. Do a little research on who is attending the convention and who you would like to meet. Make a list of them.
  13. Keep a file of any business cards you receive and ask them if you can contact them with any additional questions you might have as you continue on your journey as a student.
  14. Take the time to write down what you talked about with the individuals you’ve spoken with.
  15. Of course, dress appropriately.
  16. Feel free to send the people you meet a thank-you email.
  17. Most importantly, enjoy yourself and all those you meet!
  18. So go ahead and join your state and national organizations and make your plans to attend these conventions and conferences!

Don’t miss your chance to save on 2018 Convention registration fees. Register by July 23 to save!








New captioning company in Idaho

NCRA members Andrea Couch, RDR, CRR, CRC, and Anissa Nierenberger, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI, are the owners of a new captioning company, IdaCaption, located in Boise, Idaho.  IdaCaption provides on-site and off-site CART and broadcast captioning services.

Read more.








Ask the techie: Condensing software

The Realtime and Technology Resource Committee is taking your questions on topics surrounding realtime and technology. Send the questions you want the technology committee members to tackle to jcrfeedback@ncra.org.

Dear Techie:

I am a freelance reporter and thinking about starting my own business. It’s so intimidating thinking about the many facets of running my own firm! First on my list: Which condensing transcript software should I be considering? There are so many options available that it makes my head spin and I’m not sure which one to choose. Please help!

Concerned About Condensing


Dear Concerned:

Congratulations on taking the next step in your career! Indeed, there are many things to consider when starting your own firm. Glad we are here to help get you started on the right track.

There are several options available for word indexing and condensing. Here are our suggestions.

Cheri Sullivan, RPR, of Memphis, Tenn.: We selected YesLaw after meeting them at the convention in Nashville in 2013. The customer support team has always been great to work with. It is easy to link exhibits, insert a signature/notary seal, insert a picture of the witness, and even place “original” or “copy” on the style page. All eight of us have been happy with YesLaw overall.

Robin Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR, of Portland, Ore.: We have ReporterBase, a.k.a. RB, for calendaring, transcript production, and invoicing. We produce the transcripts with RB. With it, we can digitally sign, hyperlink exhibits, and create bundles that include full size, condensed, and word indexes. We create these paperless PDF bundles for all clients. We still have clients that want paper and Etran as well.

Keith Lemons, FAPR, RPR, CRR, of Nashville, Tenn.: For cross-CAT platform use, our company uses Min-U-Script.

Myrina Kleinschmidt, RMR, CRR, CRC, of Wayzata, Minn.: After testing several programs, we decided that YesLaw was the best program for our needs. It’s easy to link the exhibits, and the transcripts look great. An added benefit is the transcript generator software integrates with their video synchronization tool so it is a good program to have in case you ever decide to try video/transcript syncing.

Alan Peacock, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, Mobile, Ala.: I use Min-U-Script Pro. It’s easy to use, and the final product looks great! Support is available and very helpful as well.

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, from Memphis, Tenn.: I use Min-U-Script and absolutely love it! The exhibit linking is another great feature of this particular software. You may add in multiple users, along with their signatures and notary seals for electronically signing the transcripts. I can’t say enough good about it.

Dana Hayden, RMR, CRR, CRC, of Fayetteville, Ark.: I currently use YesLaw for all the reasons already mentioned: It’s very user-friendly, and they have good customer service. You can link exhibits, provide a link to the attorneys for them to download the transcript in every imaginable format (although you have to manually create and include the ptx version, which I would love to see YesLaw incorporate like Stenograph did in their CaseCAT), and all the attorneys have to do is click the link to download/save to their computer. It also has lock-out restrictions if needed, such as to send for read/sign only.

Send your questions about realtime and technology to the technology committee members at jcrfeedback@ncra.org.








PROFILE: Catherine J. Phillips, FAPR, RMR, CMRS

Catherine Phillips, FAPR, RMR, CMRS

Catherine Phillips, FAPR, RMR, CMRS

Freelance court reporter
Currently resides in: Ocala, Fla.
Member since: 1988
Graduated from: Jones Business College, Orlando, Fla.
Theory: I truly do not remember, but after reporting for over 36 years, I call it “Cathy’s Theory”

JCR | Why did you decide to earn an NCRA certification?
PHILLIPS | Personal satisfaction, plus I had just opened a freelance firm and my
business partner and I felt it would help market our firm being certified.

JCR | You have been involved with some of NCRA’s committees. Can you tell us a
little about what you’ve done and how it affects your perspective about the profession?
PHILLIPS | I have chaired NCRA’s National Committee of State Associations; chaired Constitution & Bylaws Committee; chaired the Committee on Professional Ethics; been a member of the Council of the Academy of Professional Reporters (or CAPR); and served on the Nominating Committee. I have learned from every committee I have ever served on within NCRA. I have never been just a dues-paying type member. I am one to always be involved. Being involved helps you to become a better advocate for this profession. It keeps you current on the changes in the industry and how to keep yourself viable within the industry. It has also allowed me to network with a lot of reporters, and I have made many lifelong friends.

JCR | Do you have any advice for students in school and people who are just getting out of school?
PHILLIPS | My one piece of advice I cannot stress more to students and new reporters is to learn time management. If you are not an organized person, get organized. This business will provide enough chaos, and if you are organized (if only in your professional life), you will be ahead of the game.

JCR | Why was it important for you to earn the RMR certification?
PHILLIPS | After receiving my RPR, the next natural progression was to attempt the RMR. It is important to me to challenge myself to improve my craft and aim for the next level.

JCR | Why do you think professional certification is important?
PHILLIPS | I believe it’s important to keep achieving the next level. Even if your clients don’t know what your certifications mean, other reporters definitely will, and they respect your level of achievement.

JCR | What would you say to encourage others considering professional certification?
PHILLIPS | I received my RPR 10 years after I started reporting and received my RMR 9 years after that, so 19 years after I first started reporting. I encourage reporters that you don’t have to have just finished school to attain these advanced certifications. Just practice, and you will reach your goals.

JCR | What has been your best work experience so far in your career?
PHILLIPS | What I love about court reporting is my work experiences change every single day. We are exposed to so many different things that I never even knew existed; or if I did know about them, I’ve learned more about them. Some days are more interesting than others, but it’s always interesting.

JCR | What surprised you about your career?
PHILLIPS | In 1996 I took a leave of absence to do a home therapy program with our son. Before then, I went to work every day and pretty much was just going through the motions. During my leave, I realized how much I loved reporting and how much I missed it when I couldn’t do it. After my leave is when I got involved in my state association in Florida and then NCRA. It was then that I realized I didn’t just have a job, I had a career. I had a renewed love for court reporting.

JCR | What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishment?
PHILLIPS | In 2015, I was awarded the Emily Mann Distinguished Service Award from the Florida Court Reporters Association, and I also became an NCRA Fellow of the Academy of Professional Reporters (or FAPR). Receiving these two distinctions from one’s peers was very humbling. For them to acknowledge all I had contributed to the profession — that was very rewarding. Of course, I haven’t done all I have done for both associations for the recognition; I do it because I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy doing it.