Court reporting a good fit for farming family

My name is Andrea Franje. I am 31 years old, and I have been married to my husband, Eric, for eight years. We have three beautiful little girls: Blakely, 7; Charlie, 6; and Gracie, 4. We live in New Sharon, Iowa, which is also where we grew up. We love raising our girls in a small-town atmosphere. Eric is a full-time farmer, so we are right in the middle of harvest. He works on his family farm, and we also have a small cattle operation of our own.

UTS | What got you interested in the program and what brought you to Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC)?          

AF | I styled hair for 12 years, and I loved it. With my husband being a farmer, it is not uncommon for him to be out late at night. Once my oldest daughter got into preschool, we realized very fast that my late-night schedule was not going to work. I was going to need to find another job.

My court reporter friend, Brook Blackwell, RPR, CRR, had been posting on Facebook about court reporting jobs. I was able to go sit in on some hearings with Brook one Thursday afternoon, and I was intrigued with her job. I wanted to learn more about it. That following Saturday they were having an information meeting at DMACC. After that, I knew it was something I needed to pray about. I felt very compelled to apply. Thankfully, I was accepted.

UTS | What has been the most challenging part of getting through school, and what are you doing to overcome it?

AF | I think the most challenging part of school so far has been balancing my life. I never want anything to come before my family. I do not want any of them to feel like I am giving more of myself to my schooling than I am to them. This program really does require a lot of your attention, though. I always try to do everything with 100 percent effort. 

I had to resign from some extracurricular boards. I knew I was going to have to take some things off my plate if this program was going to be doable for me. I try very hard to be focused on whatever I am doing at the moment. If I am in wife mode, I want to be giving that my all. If I am in mom mode or school mode or church mode or friend mode, I want to be sure I am giving it my all. I have found myself figuring out a new definition for living in the present. 

UTS | What has been the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

AF | This question has been the hardest to answer because I have received so much great advice. I would say that there are a couple of things that stick out to me.

One: If this was easy, everyone would do it. Court reporting is such a small community of people that you inevitably feel like family even if you don’t know them well. You are able to connect with them in a way that you cannot connect with anyone else. I think that is such a cool thing. It is like the secret language you used to have with your friends when you were little, except now we are all adults. 

Two: You will fail in this program more times than you will succeed. This program is unlike any other program. Once you have passed a test, it is almost like you are back at square one. You don’t get to relish in the moment of passing very long before you are hit with a higher speed you need to tackle. I try to keep this in the back of my mind when I do not pass a test.  It can be discouraging at times to feel like you are hitting a wall constantly, but that moment when you do pass, it is so exhilarating!

UTS | What do you like to spend your free time doing?

AF | We love doing anything as a family. We installed two ponds in our pasture a few years ago, and we love to go out there with the girls to fish. We stocked it up really well, so they cast out and catch a fish right away. We also love to sing. My husband and I are on the worship team at my church, so our girls see us musically involved there all the time. My husband will sit down at the piano at night, and we all just sing whatever song he decides to play. Those are the moments that I know I will miss when my girls are all grown up.

UTS | Have any plans for when you finish school? What is your dream job?

AF | I would love to become an official reporter. With my family, I love the hours, benefits, and pay. I would love to work in District 8 when I graduate. It would be wonderful to be working in the district in which I live. I have been lucky enough to get to know some of the reporters in this district, and they are all wonderful. They have reached out and helped me through so much already. I am looking forward to the day that I can call them my colleagues.

 Angela Franje is a student at Des Moines Area Community College in Newton, Iowa.

New deadline for Student Intern Scholarship

The National Court Reporters Foundation Student Intern Scholarship deadline has been extended to Dec. 31. Two $1,000 awards will be given to qualified court reporting students who have completed their internship. Eligibility requirements include current NCRA student membership, speed test requirements, and a minimum 3.5 GPA. Applicants will be required to submit a nomination form, letter of recommendation, and an essay. Judicial, CART, and captioning students are encouraged to apply. Please visit the NCRF Student Intern Scholarship page for full submission details.

Stenograph partners with NCRF again to sponsor student scholarship

The National Court Reporters Foundation is pleased to announce that nominations are being solicited for Stenograph’s Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship, a scholarship that honors the memory of Stenograph’s founder. Students from NCRA-approved reporter education programs are encouraged to apply for the merit-based two-year award, which is worth up to $5,000 per year and will include use of a student writer and software.

This scholarship is offered through the National Court Reporters Foundation. Students must meet the eligibility requirements and submit the completed documentation listed below to qualify for the scholarship. Notification of the MHW Memorial Scholarship is sent each November to all NCRA-approved court reporting programs.

Applications being accepted through Jan. 23, 2021. 

Eligibility

To be eligible to apply for the Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship, students must meet the criteria below: 

  • Attend an NCRA-approved court reporting program
  • Have completed an NCRA A to Z ® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program
  • Have received an NCRA A to Z ® Certificate of Completion
  • Have attained an exemplary academic record (3.5 GPA or above)
  • Have passed one skills test writing 80-120 words per minute at the time of submission 

Document requirements

The following documents are required to be submitted for application:

  • Speed verification form
  • A copy of the student’s most recent transcript
  • A two-page, double-spaced essay responding to the following question: “What is one problem that you see facing the professions of court reporting and captioning today, and how would you propose to solve it through the use of technology?”

Click here for more information or to access the application for the Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship.

For more information on the Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship, please contact the Education Department at schools@ncra.org

Listen up! Remote depositions MassBar Beat podcast

On Nov. 16, the MassBar Beat podcast featured O’Brien & Levine President Kenny Zais, attorney Julianne Fitzpatrick of Kenney & Sams, and court reporter Laurie Berg for a wide-ranging discussion about best practices and pitfalls of remote depositions.

Read more.

You got this! You can do it!

Debbie Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CLVS, CRC

By Debbie Kriegshauser

“You will learn from those challenges. You will attain that speed level. Changing your behaviors, overcoming negative habits, it’s challenging. It’s hard. You have to talk to your inner self and come to the realization that you have to get rid of self-doubt and negative thoughts.”

Debbie Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CLVS, CRC, Chair of NCRA’s Student/Teacher Committee, and an official reporter in Dallas, Texas, gives students a pep talk.

I recently listened to a motivational speaker through a TED talk that was posted online. What this man had to say was amazing, and I couldn’t say it any better, so I’d like to share a few of his comments when it comes to dealing with the frustrations and setbacks in the speed building universe of court reporting school.

We all need to set goals. What is it that you’re trying to accomplish at the moment? What is the next speed level you need to attain? How will you get there?

You have greatness within you. You have the ability to do more than you can ever begin to imagine. Anybody, through hard work and practice, can perform at a level of excellence, but when you’re doubting your greatness and you don’t know what your limits are, it’s easy to act like you don’t have it within you to succeed. You must believe you have something special. You have greatness within you. You do have the ability to become a great reporter or captioner.

Failure is not an option. You have to say to yourself over and over, “I will fail my way to succeed,” and say it again, “I will fail my way to succeed.” You will fail many speedbuilding tests along your journey, but you also have what it takes to accomplish that goal. Don’t let your mindset play games with you. Begin to believe and feed that belief by listening to other working reporters, going to seminars offered online, and attending reporting conventions. You will walk away with a sense of pride and will be so pumped up and ready to challenge yourself, believe in yourself, ready to stretch yourself to the next speed building level.

Challenge yourself, and make it OK to fail and learn by your failures. Don’t allow the fear of failure to bring you down. Pick yourself up and dust yourself off, and figure out what it is that’s tripping you up and work on that. Practice those tripping hazards over and over until it feels comfortable. Consult with your mentor, if you have one, or seek out a mentor that can get you through the tough times.

Another thing to keep in mind is:  Detoxify your life. There’s a lot of people who never achieve their true goals in life because they’re surrounded with too many toxic, negative, energy-draining people. You’ve got to look at the people in your life and ask yourself:  What is this relationship or friendship doing to me? How is it impacting my life, my learning ability, and my comprehension? Are they an asset to me or a liability? Are they always bringing me down and causing me to have that negative mindset of thoughts of constant failure? Do they elevate my spirits or constantly tear me down?

Hang around people who you can learn from. If you’re the smartest person in the group, find a new group so you can continue to learn from others. There are two types of people: Nourishing people and toxic people. Nourishing people bring the best out of you. They encourage you. They inspire you. They hold you accountable. Toxic people are critical people. They always tell you what you can’t do when they haven’t done it themselves. Don’t let anybody tell you what you can’t do. They don’t know what’s possible for you. Think about some people that you need to bring into your life that you can learn from and that you can grow from.

When you’re uncomfortable and you’re stretching for the higher speed and you’re grabbing that challenge by the collar, you’re going to get thrown to the ground again and again and again. But when you have the determination and know that what you’re doing is right, that gives you energy and drive and empowers you to do your best. You will learn from those challenges. You will attain that speed level. Changing your behaviors, overcoming negative habits, it’s challenging. It’s hard. You have to talk to your inner self and come to the realization that you have to get rid of self-doubt and negative thoughts.

In the trials and tribulations of court reporting school and training to become a court reporter or captioner, you are the star of the show. You are the director. You are writing the script, and you will be the one who will determine whether your ultimate goal in life to be a court reporter or captioner is a smash hit or a flop. You determine that. Working on yourself, talking to yourself, that’s so very important. Overcoming that negative conversation, that inner dialogue that’s going on all the time in your head is vital. You need to stand up to yourself and empower yourself to know that you can really accomplish your goals and dreams. Yes, it’s hard work and effort but hard work and effort will pay off in the end. Your reporting skills will take you places that are literally amazing, and you’ll develop a strong sense of happiness.

Your Oscar award is waiting to be claimed. Just remember: We’ve all been there and we’re all here for you! Use your resources wisely!

Debbie Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CLVS, CRC, is the Chair of NCRA’s Student/Teacher Committee and an official reporter in Dallas, Texas

‘You’ll thank me later’

By Loretta Berrigan

Loretta Berrigan

Loretta Berrigan, a court reporting student at the Community College of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, Pa., has only been in school for little over a year, but she is already finding a valuable way to contribute by participating in her school’s peer tutoring program. “Cut to a few weeks since I’ve started tutoring my peers, and you’ll find me singing a whole different tune. I know how cliché this sounds, but I like to think that they help me just as much as I help them.”

In trying to learn remotely and adjusting to this new normal, peer tutoring looks a bit different than it did when we were all on campus together. For us, peer tutoring consists of getting together on Zoom at a designated time for review sessions, and it gives me the chance to meet the students who are a year below me and really just getting started in the program. I do dictation of words, phrases, and sentences so they can work on accuracy, which will help them when they get to speedbuilding.

When my professor/supervisor/advisor/unofficial therapist, Mary Beth Johnson, CRI, first approached me about doing some peer tutoring for those in the year below me, my first instinct was to panic, especially because I was, and still am, working on my own speeds and trying to get out of my own head and through my own roadblocks. In my head I was screaming, “But Mary Beth, I need a tutor!” But because I want to be an asset to the program in any way that I can, I took a deep breath and told myself that perhaps it would be beneficial for not only the students I would be tutoring, but for myself as well.

Cut to a few weeks since I’ve started tutoring my peers, and you’ll find me singing a whole different tune. I know how cliché this sounds, but I like to think that they help me just as much as I help them. Some of the time is spent with me dictating words, phrases, and sentences for them to write. And then some of the time, which is just as important, is spent just talking back and forth about successes and struggles and providing moral support and comic relief. It makes me feel good to be able to talk with newer students and offer suggestions on how I got through theory, especially the dreaded word lists. (You all know what I’m talking about.) But more so than that, it keeps me driven and helps me to remember where I was just a year ago and how far I’ve come over the course of that year. So, if you ever get the chance to become a peer tutor I would say to agree and panic simultaneously. You’ll thank me later.

Loretta Berrigan is a court reporting student at the Community College of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Student creates steno fashion

Diana Ruiz

These days you can buy steno machines in just about any color: not just white and black but green, red, pink, and even purple and gold. But there is one thing that hasn’t really changed about steno machines; no matter what the color of the machine, the keys remain gray or black.

Diana Ruiz, a student at Downey Adult School in Downey, Calif., had an idea to make her machine look unique and start a business at the same time.

“I went online in search of cute keypads,” Ruiz said. “No luck! I even went to my local steno guy and sure enough only black and grey keypads. So, I started school and every time I looked at my keys, I knew that I could make them myself, so I did. With the help of my husband, we created a way to be able to make them quickly and efficiently. And thanks to my mom and the professional court reporters who tried them out before I put them out, came KLOR Steno Key Design.”

Ruiz originally started court reporting school in 2004, but after a couple of years her life took a different turn. She got married and became a stay-at-home mom. At home with her two boys Sebastian and Zach, ages 10 and 7 respectively, she started getting into crafts such as photography, sewing, and knitting. Now back in school after 16 years, she is finding a way to combine her two passions.

“I got KLOR started by making a few sets [of keypads] for myself and professional court reporters to try out. Once I got feedback from them,” Ruiz said, “I decided to open an Etsy shop to sell them. I did very little advertising when I opened my Etsy shop. Social media was what passed along the word that they were available, and it took off from there.”

Ruiz doesn’t just sell bright colors and polka dots. She has faux leather, animal prints, holiday themes, and even Breast Cancer and Autism awareness keypads. If none of those designs appeals to her customers, she can create a custom design. Some people just want a little flair on their keyboards, so she also sells a la carte vowel keypads for a more subtle look. And her business is still expanding.

“One thing I noticed when I came back to school was that people were trying to create their own practice boards,” Ruiz said, “so I added a ‘tool’ to the Etsy shop. It is made of thick foam keys to be placed wherever they want such as a mini binder or a clipboard. I also just came out with speed lapel pins for students, in speeds going from Theory to 225 wpm. As a student, I wanted a reminder for myself to see how far I have come.”

Attending school online is something that is important to Ruiz, as she wants to be home to support her family. She says she feels a sense of achievement each time she passes another speed level. Starting her business with her husband is a way she can stay focused on her family and share her love of court reporting at the same time.

“My feedback has been amazingly positive,” said Ruiz. “I am always so happy to hear what people have to say. I’m just super happy that I am able to provide a little spark to students and court reporters when it comes to their keys, and if that means flowers or Christmas lights on their keypads well then that’s what I will provide.”

Diana Ruiz is a student at Downy Adult School in Downey, Calif. You can view her KLOR Steno Key Design collection at http://www.klorstenokeydesign.etsy.com

Safety first in prep and conducting exams

CLVS Council members Robert Butcher, Tim Janes, David Jenkins, Mindy Sindiong,
and Andrea Kreutz

In preparation for the Fall CLVS Production Exam, NCRA staff took great measures to ensure the safety and health of everyone attending were at the forefront of planning. Following state COVID guidance, all staff, CLVS Council members, and attendees were required to wear face coverings, practice social distancing, and adhere to designated room occupancy loads. In addition, all in attendance were required to sign a personal health self-assessment before entering the NCRA offices. The assessments required attendees to confirm that they had been fever-free for more than 48 hours prior to entering the NCRA offices, that they possessed a face covering, that they washed and or sanitized their hands upon arrival, they were not living or caring for a COVID patient, and they were not sick.

Other safety precautions included mandating that candidates for the exam arrive no earlier than their assigned time, sign a COVID-19 disclosure regarding testing requirements, have their temperatures checked upon check-in, and bring their own headsets. NCRA provided everyone in attendance with latex free gloves.

Thanks to the safety steps taken by NCRA staff, CLVS Council members who attended said they were very comfortable administering the hands-on workshop held prior to the exam as well as administering the exam itself.

“I was very comfortable. Masks were required. We wiped down all tables, chairs, and equipment between each testing candidate. Hand sanitizer was readily available and used often. I never felt that my health was at risk,” said CLVS Council member Andrea Kreutz, CLVS, from Des Moines, Iowa.

“The CLVS Council discussed with our national team the extra personal protection equipment that would be necessary to make sure the CDC guidelines were followed. Once we arrived, we walked through each protocol to verify we knew the best procedures to maintain everyone’s safety,” she added.

“I was perfectly comfortable working at NCRA headquarters. Everyone worked together as a team to sanitize and observe physical distancing protocols,” said CLVS Council member Robert Butcher, CLVS, from Lakewood, Colo.

Butcher, who also holds NCRA’s Trial Presentation Professional certificate, said it was important for him to attend in person because of the opportunity it provides to allow council members to work with and test candidates in a hands-on manner and be able to evaluate them in person.

“I did not hear any safety concerns expressed by any testing candidates,” he added, echoing Kreutz’s belief that the candidates could see the measures taken were to protect everyone attending.

“We also made sure to allow for social distancing within the exam room itself.  In years past, the mock deponent and attorneys would sit closely together. This year’s test gave an accurate representation of current COVID distancing in depositions,” Kreutz noted.

“I believe the candidates felt we were taking as many precautions as possible with the hand sanitizer being readily available, along with a fresh mask and getting their temperature taken,” added CLVS Council Chair Mindy Sindiong, CLVS, from Lawrenceburg, Ind. “It all seemed very smooth and organized.”

As for the spring 2021 CLVS Production Exam, members of the CLVS Council agree they will be ready.

According to Kruetz, the council will continue to work diligently with NCRA staff to protect all parties. “We will closely monitor the CDC guidelines as they change and are hopeful that we can provide a safe, comfortable environment for the testing process,” she said.

“Be confident that we are all in this together. The CLVS Council takes safety seriously and we will continue to observe any local restriction and health safety requirements,” Butcher added.

“We have an amazing group of professionals who care about the industry and the CLVS standards we operate by. I am encouraged as we move forward in this new COVID/post-COVID world, that we will find legal video and legal tech services become more critical than ever in the legal process,” he said.

“It is because of this CLVS must rise to the challenge. I am confident as the CLVS Council continues to work together, re-writing study and testing materials, this council will elevate the industry and our standards to the next level, strengthening the industry and our role within the legal process. We must be forward thinking and persevere even in the face of current challenges. We hope to see you in Spring 2021,” Butcher added.

Fall CLVS Production Exam held at NCRA HQ

By Mindy Sindiong

Back row left to right: Robert Butcher, CLVS, David Jenkins, CLVS, Jon Moretti, CLVS, Tim Janes, CLVS
Front row left to right: Andrea Kreutz, CLVS, Mindy Sindiong, CLVS

On Oct. 21, six brave CLVS Council members volunteered their time and made their way onto airplanes and flew east to Reston, Va., during the COVID-19 pandemic. The CLVS Council believes that the best way to verify if a candidate is ready for the high-stress legal videography field is to see them in action. The hands-on test can be nerve-racking but capturing legal video in a room full of attorneys during COVID-19 won’t be easy either. Candidates are evaluated on their knowledge of video equipment, conduct during a simulated deposition, and the quality of their recorded files.

[Read about the safety precautions NCRA followed for the exam.]

Beyond the test, we are not just legal videographers. We also do advertising, business marketing, drone services, picture-in-picture, remote video, and remote picture-in-picture. We do this without recording in video conferencing software or any potentially unsecure platform. The Council’s 2021 goals include rewriting the CLVS Guide to Video Depositions, updating the online learning modules, and hosting regular, online interactive discussions with members. We want to make sure the court reporter is confident they are hiring the best candidate for their clients when they request a CLVS.

The CLVS Council would like to thank the NCRA staff for their hospitality and willingness to assist us in conducting the testing process during these challenging times. Big applause to Cynthia Andrews, Senior Director, Education and Certification; Amy Davidson, Director, Certification and Testing; Ellen Goff, Assistant Director, Professional Development; Tess Perdue, Certification and Testing Program Manager; and Sandra Bryant, Credentialing Coordinator.

CLVS Council members who attended the production exam at NCRA’s offices in Reston, included Chair Mindy Sindiong, CLVS, Lawrenceburg, Ind.; Robert Butcher, CLVS, Lakewood, Colo.; Tim Janes, CLVS, Louisville, Ky.; David B. Jenkins, CLVS, Minnetonka, Minn.; Andrea M. Kreutz, CLVS, Des Moines, Iowa; and Jon Moretti, CLVS, Kalamazoo, Michigan.

CLVS Council Chair Mindy Sindiong, CLVS, is from Lawrenceburg, Ind.

Don’t miss this Holiday E-Seminar Bundle sale

Add the NCRA Holiday E-Seminar Bundle sale to your shopping list. The four e-seminars from NCRA Connect Virtual 2020 are available at a special price for a short time.

The sessions available are:

  • Delegate to Dominate: Working with Scopists & Proofreaders by Lauren Lawrence, RPR (0.1 CEU)
  • Motivation, Beating Obstacles, Achieving Goals, and Growth Mindset by Matthew Moss, RPR (0.1 CEU)
  • Transitioning to Captioning 101 by Amanda Lundberg, RPR, CRC (0.1 CEU)
  • Web Conferencing Tips for You and Your Clients, by Dean Mueller (0.1 CEU)

A bundle of all four sessions is $75 member/$100 nonmember. Single sessions are $25 member/$30 nonmember. They are available for purchase Dec. 1-18 for viewing Jan. 1-31.