New Professional Spotlight: Brad Benjamin

Brad Benjamin

Brad Benjamin is a new freelance court reporter in Chicago, Ill. A graduate of MacCormac College, he covers various types of work including court hearings, municipal board meetings, and depositions.

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

BB | Court reporting always fascinated me. I remember watching the movie Drop Dead Fred when I was a teenager. Phoebe Cates plays a court reporter who gets fired in one of the first scenes. The judge fires her right before a hearing because she is late to court. I remember thinking, ‘Well, who will they find to replace her on such short notice?’

It wasn’t until I was 33 and looking for a career change that I came up with the idea to pursue court reporting during a brainstorming session with a friend. He had recently become a bailiff and encouraged me to consider the legal or law enforcement fields.

After researching a few programs, I concluded that I would complete the whole court reporting curriculum in about six months. I was wrong. But that’s another story.

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

BB | I started working at Sullivan Reporting Co., a Chicago court reporting agency that has been around since 1937. Although Sullivan is no longer run by court reporters, they are extremely supportive of their reporters, and I feel I could not have thrived as a reporter had I gone a different direction when starting out. In addition to a few other agencies, I am happy to say I am still working with Sullivan today.

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

BB | Despite some pretty long hours, nothing compares to being my own boss. Nothing.

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

BB | Get out there and shadow professional reporters. Pretend like you are the reporter hired for the job and accountable for producing a transcript. I shadowed reporters and scoped their transcripts for over a year while in my higher-speed classes. It kept me engaged and enthused about the industry I was about to enter and, more importantly, not intimidated by my options when I reached the end of my education.

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

BB | I always have my jump drive with me, and I’m always backing up.

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

BB | I have my Illinois CSR and am planning to earn NCRA certifications in the future. My CSR has enabled me to work in a state where there is a massive demand for court reporters and desirable jobs are widely available.

JCR | Any other thoughts?

BB | Well, ok. If you insist, I will admit my education took a while, not the six months I deliriously envisioned at the outset. However, I do not regret a single day of it and would do it all over again to have the career that I have.

Michael Hensley, RDR, a freelance reporter in Dublin, Calif., is the chair of the NCRA New Professionals Committee. He can be reached atstenomph@gmail.com.

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NCRA proclamation contest and NCSA Challenge winners announced

Lisa Wagner

Congratulations to the Arizona Court Reporters Association (ACRA) on winning the NCRA 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week proclamation drawing. ACRA President Kate Roundy, RPR, a freelance court reporter from Phoenix, Ariz., submitted the proclamation signed by Gov. Douglas A. Ducey.

This was the first year NCRA has offered the chance for state associations to enter a drawing for a free national Convention & Expo registration. A total of 16 states submitted proclamations.

“Arizona participates every year in NCRA’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week because, heck, we deserve the recognition, don’t we! We are a proud state that believes wholeheartedly that promoting our profession and recruiting for the future is our #1 priority,” Roundy said. “It’s important that we continue to educate our country of our vital role in the integrity of our judicial system as well as our essential role in providing captioning to the public.”

NCRA member Lisa Wagner, RPR, an official court reporter from Highlands Ranch, Colo., won the grand prize of a free NCRA Convention & Expo registration sponsored by the National Committee of State Associations (NCSA). Wagner delivered 11 presentations promoting the profession during the NCSA Challenge that kicked off at the 2018 NCRA Convention & Expo in New Orleans, La., and ended with the last day of 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week held Feb. 9-16.

“I think it’s so important to participate in not only Court Reporting & Captioning Week but also other events such as career fairs and presentations to help promote the court reporting and captioning profession,” said Wagner.

“We really have a unique skill, and students are truly amazed and excited to see realtime or to touch and write on a steno machine. I asked a group of eighth grade girls what they thought a court reporter did. One girl answered hesitantly wasn’t it some kind of code. When I told her that she was exactly right, that it is a code or shorthand, she had a wonderful look on her face and said, ‘I never get anything right!’ That young lady will remember court reporting. That’s why I do this, to see the looks on their faces,” she added. 

First prize in the NCSA Challenge went to Kristen Wurgler, RPR, a CART captioner from Cottage Grove, Wis., who participated in six events promoting the profession including educating co-workers about the benefits of CART captioning.

“Honestly, National Court Reporting & Captioning Week is one of my favorite celebrations of the year. It’s my privilege to work as a CART provider at the University of Wisconsin-Madison,” Wurgler said.

“My colleagues at the McBurney Disability Resource Center are disability accommodation specialists who potentially will be recommending a CART accommodation for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. They need to be familiar with how CART works, the challenges of it, and the environments in which CART can be beneficial (remote or in the classroom).  I believe every member in a team needs to be celebrated so that we can encourage and support not only each other but, as a CART provider, the students we serve as well,” she added.

NCRA’s 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week was celebrated by state associations, members, students, schools, and vendors in a variety of ways that showcased the profession and the skills needed to learn and write on a steno machine. Several-last minute activities adding to the long list of how people celebrated the week are listed below.

NCRA member Patti Ziegler, CRI, CPE, court reporting program chair at the Des Moines Area Community College was featured in a segment about court reporting that aired on WeareIOWA.com about the court reporting and captioning professions.

Watch the segment.

Madison College

The Madison College in Madison, Wis., court reporting program produced a video for YouTube about court reporting and captioning careers that features Jane Kohlwey, a current student and attorney. The school also hosted an information table on campus to showcase the professions.

Watch it here.

Plaza College in Queens, N.Y., produced a radio announcement to celebrate Court Reporting & Captioning Week that was aired on AM970 during the Joe Piscopo show. The school also hosted reporters from local newspapers and participated in the NCRA Student Speed Contest.

Students at Ohio’s Cuyahoga Community College’s (Tri-C) court reporting and captioning program also held a number of events in honor of Court Reporting & Captioning Week.

Ohio’s Cuyahoga Community College

In addition to an annual write-a-thon and bake sale in the school’s Galleria, the students obtained sponsor funds from professionals, friends, and family to write on their steno machines for four hours. While writing, they mirrored the Birdbox Challenge, by putting a blindfold on to prevent them from watching their screen. 

Other activities included a professional pop-up sponsored by the Court Reporting and Captioning Club that afforded students the opportunity to see live demonstrations and chat with professionals, and a mock deposition was held that featured Timothy Peters, a Tri-C graduate and official court reporter in the role of the court reporter. In addition, Tri-C’s associate dean, Dr. James Ploskonka, acted as one of the attorneys, while full-time faculty member Dr. Jen Krueger served as the opposing counsel. Finally, a real detective from the city of Cleveland’s police department served as the witness.


Ohio’s Cuyahoga Community College

Students were also treated to a remote demonstration of CART and caption by Tri-C graduate Deana Kohn via WebEx, during which she captioned a wide variety of events from game shows to live news broadcasts. 

Read more about NCRA’s 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week.

2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week celebrated big across the nation

NCRA members gear up for 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week

2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week is happening nationwide

2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week celebrated in the media and on social media

Thanks again to everyone who participated in 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week and who made this seventh year of celebration a great success! Mark your calendars now for 2020 Court Reporting & Captioning Week happening Feb. 8-15.

Remember, even though 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week is over, you don’t need to stop showing your pride in being a court reporter or captioner. Keep up your activities to promote the profession year-round. NCRA has a number of resources to help members promote the profession throughout the year. Below are just a few:

NCRA’s Press Center

NCRA’s Information Center

NCRA’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week Page

NCRA DiscoverSteno

Contact pr@ncra.org for more information about what’s available.

Lawmakers agree to boost court reporter pay, in face of ‘crisis’

The Idaho Press reported on Feb. 25 that members of the Idaho Legislature’s joint budget committee voted unanimously in favor of boosting pay for court reporters in the state after learning that the state is facing an unprecedented — and critical — lack of court reporters.

Read more.

It’s an honor to be mistaken for the court reporter

Sharon Velazco

By Sharon Velazco, RPR


I was recently amused when I came across the article in which accomplished female judges and attorneys were interviewed, and they were relating instances in their career when, because of their gender, they were mistaken for the court reporter. And, although I am sure it is not the intention of the author, the tone of the article assumes that to be mistaken for the court reporter would be somehow demeaning. So, to the average reader who has probably never met a court reporter, I would like to explain what it is that court reporters do and how it is actually an honor and privilege to be a member of this niche, necessary profession which, ironically, given the theme of the article, was once mostly held by men.

There’s a common tenet in the medical community, “If it’s not written down, it didn’t happen,” referring to the importance of a written record in the care and treatment of a patient. The same premise may be applied to the legal process. The written record is the foundation of our system of justice, and court reporters are the scribes and keepers of that written record. That same written record will be needed and relied on by the jurist in order to prepare and advance her case. In our American institution of jurisprudence, the legal process is dependent on the written record — the record prepared by the court reporter.

Contrary to popular belief, this is not a skill which is acquired in a few weeks or that can be performed by just anyone. This is not just a job. This is a chosen career. The uniquely qualified individual will spend an average of two to three years to complete the basic training necessary to become a court reporter. It takes about a year just to learn the stenographic theory of the writer, and then the remainder of the time is spent building speed, accuracy, and taking other classes to complement the knowledge base needed to produce a transcript. In addition to the obvious requirement for advanced English and grammar, there is the prerequisite for legal and medical terminology. It is often necessary to study a wide range of material in order to be prepared to take down the specific, vital testimony of a doctor, engineer, or other expert witness whose opinion may be crucial to a case. There is no script from which to prepare until the court reporter writes it — in realtime.

Additionally, the qualities of innate human intuition and skill combined with modern technology provides for real-time capturing of the spoken word to text in a readable, usable format, regardless of accent or subject matter. So whether that court reporter is working in a legal setting and giving realtime, immediate access to the transcript, or perhaps working behind-the-scenes doing the closed captions for a television broadcast, please know that it takes a special kind of talent, dedication, and determination to achieve the level of skill required to provide that invaluable service. And, while the closed captions are, without a doubt, appreciated by the viewer, that viewer is probably unaware that it’s all being done by a court reporter.

So, in summary, this occupation is a challenging, constant education-in-process. This occupation is flexible, exciting, and never boring. This occupation offers opportunities to travel the world. This occupation also happens to be extremely rewarding financially. So, without taking away from the successful careers and accomplishments of our respected members and leaders of the legal community whose experiences were the basis of the original article, let me turn the article’s slant the other way. I would like to ask that author, now that they know a little about what we do, who wouldn’t want to be the court reporter?

Sharon Velazco, RPR, is a freelance court reporter based in Miami, Fla. She can be reached atscribe3159@aol.com.

2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week celebrated big across the nation

Jane Kohlwey helps spread the word at Madison College during Court Reporting & Captioning Week.

NCRA’s seventh consecutive Court Reporting & Captioning Week event was celebrated across the nation by state associations, individual members, students, and firms, via an array of events ranging from open houses to contests to time spent with lawmakers.

At the national level, U.S. Rep. John Shimkus from Illinois recognized the week in a written speech submitted for the official record of the U.S. House of Representatives. In addition, U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis from Illinois delivered a similar speech from the House floor on Feb. 14, recognizing the event.

Members of the Texas Court Reporters Association were at the Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 12.

Official proclamations for the week were also issued in 16 states including: Arizona, California, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin. Official proclamations were also issued in Eugene, Ore., and Bexar County, Texas.

All states that submitted an official proclamation will be entered into a drawing by NCRA to win one free 2019 Convention & Expo registration. In addition, states that entered the annual NCSA State Challenge, a friendly contest among state associations and individual NCRA members to spread the word about the benefits of a career in court reporting or captioning, will be entered into a drawing for a variety of prizes ranging from complimentary NCRA event registrations to vouchers for continuing education. The winners of both contests will be announced in the Feb. 26 issue of the JCR Weekly.

NCRA President Sue A. Terry, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, a freelance court reporter from Springfield, Ohio, celebrated the event by participating in “Spread the Word,” an online event hosted by the College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind. Terry joined other representatives from the court reporting and captioning professions to talk to students firsthand about the benefits of a career in court reporting or captioning and to provide motivation and inspiration to those who attended.

Other schools that marked the event with special activities included Anoka Technical College in Anoka, Minn.; Green River College in Auburn, Wash.; the Captioning and Court Reporting program at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C), Cuyahoga, Ohio; Madison College, Madison, Wis.; and Plaza College, Queens, N.Y.

A number of state court reporter associations reported activities such as get-togethers for members, attorneys, and judges, as well as courthouse displays, contests, social media campaigns, and more.

In honor of the week, NCRA also released several videos of members promoting the court reporting and captioning professions by sharing what they love about their careers. The first five of the series are available at NCRA’s YouTube Channel. Members and state associations are encouraged to share the videos on social media sites as well as use them to promote the profession at career days and other events where the skills of court reporters and captioners are showcased.

See the media generated by the 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week

National Court Reporting Week recognizes the fastest fingers in New York

Read more.

Queens court reporting students compete for speed and accuracy in contest to prepare for jobs

Read more.

Help wanted: As court reporters age, craft seeks new blood

 (Subscription required)

Read more.

National Court Reporting & Captioning Week Showcased on Local Station

Watch the story.

Court Reporting & Captioning Week in Iowa

Read more.

Local court reporters recognized

Read more.

An Interview with Kaylee Lachmann, RPR

Read more.

Planet Depos Celebrates NCRA’s 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week

Read more.

See how others celebrated NCRA’s 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week.

NCRA members gear up for 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week

2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week is happening nationwide

2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week celebrated in the media and on social media

Thanks to everyone who participated in 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week and making this seventh year of celebration a great success! Mark your calendars now for 2020 Court Reporting & Captioning Week happening Feb. 8-15.

Even though 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week is coming to an end, you don’t need to stop showing your pride in being a court reporter or captioner. Keep up your activities to promote the professions year-round. NCRA has a number of resources to help members promote the profession throughout the year. Below are just a few:

NCRA’s Press Center

NCRA’s Information Center

NCRA’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week Page

NCRA DiscoverSteno

Contact pr@ncra.org for more information about what’s available.

TechLinks: Antivirus software for court reporters

Antivirus software is a data security utility that is installed on a computer system/PC to protect from viruses, spyware, malware, rootkits, Trojans, phishing attacks, spam attacks, and other online cyber threats. Geekflare offers some good tips and advice on the advantages of using an antivirus program.

Our NCRA Tech Committee has offered several articles on security in the past, and they are available on TheJCR.com. They are linked at the bottom of this article.

Lou Chiodo, CLVS, New York, N.Y., a member of the Tech Committee, has these insights to offer about antivirus programs: “On selecting your antivirus program, think globally and consider the computer platform you use. Even as a Mac user, it is my opinion that Mac users also need protection. It is not always necessary to pay for a reliable antivirus program. You will, however, get additional features and convenience from a paid platform and especially from a suite, as it covers many of the other items one may need for safekeeping your computer or device. In turn, it contributes to safeguarding your business responsibilities. Some of the extra features include: File Backup, Anti-spam, Privacy Filter, Instant Message Protection, Firewall, and Browser Toolbar Protection. 

“One final thing,” Chiodo adds, “Always download software from trusted sites.”

Chiodo offers his list of preferences in the table below.

BITDEFENDER https://www.bitdefender.com/ Best Pick for both free and paid
TREND MICRO Internet Security 2018 https://www.trendmicro.com/en_us/business.html Paid
AVAST https://www.avast.com Free and paid
AVIRA https://www.avira.com/ Free and paid
AVG https://www.avg.com Free and paid
PANDA DOME Essential Internet Security 2018 https://www.pandasecurity.com/usa/ Paid
NORTON SECURITY DELUXE https://us.norton.com/ Paid (resource intensive)
MS Win Defender – (only to be relied upon in conjunction with another Anti-Virus product) https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/comprehensive-security Paid

Robin L. Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR, a freelance reporter and owner of LNS Court Reporting & Legal Video in Portland, Ore., offers these thoughts: “At LNS, we use Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus. It is one of the top-rated programs from PC Magazine who refers to Webroot as a tiny dynamo. The program is loaded on all of our office desktops and laptops. Unlike some other antivirus programs, it will not use up your resources while keeping you safe, as most of the functionality is in the cloud. The program includes malware, ransomware, and phishing protection, a firewall bonus, and much more. In addition, we use Proofpoint for our email protection. As our IT pro, Mike, says: ‘The internet is not your friend.’ So it’s all shields up for us.” 

Then, finally, Kevin Hunt, a freelancer and agency owner based in Buffalo, N.Y., and a member of the Tech Committee, offers this invaluable advice about his experience with antivirus software: “Our firm switched to a program called Sophos that our IT folks recommended. I had never heard of this software before. After doing some investigation, we decided to implement it. We’re a networked firm running Linux with a total employee staff of 30 plus running desktops and laptops. We’re using the endpoint and email filter features of Sophos. Since this is a relatively new implementation for us, I can’t say we’ve had a long history of successful virus protection/email spam reduction with Sophos — but so far so good.”

Hunt offered his additional thoughts on Sophos Endpoint:

  1. Sophos is a top-rated endpoint solution, earning highest marks from SE Labs, Forrester, and Gartner, to name a few.
  2. Sophos Endpoint Advanced with Intercept X offers a truly comprehensive next-generation endpoint protection solution.
    1. Artificial intelligence in the form of a deep-learning neural network, which is an advanced form of machine learning that detects both known and unknown malware without relying on signatures.
    2. Consolidated protection and EDR (Endpoint Detection and Response) provides not only the ability to prevent attacks but also to stop attacks that are able to avoid preemptive detection and provide valuable forensic information to enable you to identify and remediate holes in your defenses.
    3. Automated attack response not only stops an active ransomware attack but also unencrypts any files affected before the active attack was stopped.
    4. Intercept X includes the industry’s most powerful malware cleaner that provides forensic-level remediation by eradicating malicious code as well as eliminating any residual registry key changes.
    5. Sophos’ cloud-based admin portal provides for real-time granular policy management and enforcement.
    6. Synchronized Security – probably Sophos’ biggest victory. This is the concept that security solutions should talk to each other to provide greater defense-in-depth. The idea here is that if the endpoint solution reports that a device is compromised, the endpoint client communicates this posture to the Sophos firewall (assuming, of course, you’re using a Sophos firewall) and the firewall cuts off the ability of that infected device to talk to other parts of the internal network or to the internet. Once the infection is fixed, the client communicates the “OK” to the firewall, which then restores the endpoint’s connectivity. This is a revolutionary concept and really only possible from a vendor that provides solutions at multiple levels. A vendor that only provides an endpoint solution is not going to be able to offer this type of protection if they don’t also provide edge solutions like firewalls.

Sophos Email Filter

  1. Easily integrates into the same cloud-based admin portal that manages the endpoint solution for true single pane-of-glass management.
  2. Leverages the same neural network and artificial intelligence as the endpoint solution and also takes advantage of Sophos’ massive threat intelligence database for known and potentially threatening vectors.
  3. Time-of-click URL protections checks the website reputation of email links before delivery and also when accessed, clocking stealthy delayed attacks.
  4. Leverages SPF, DKIM, and DMARC authentication techniques as well as header analysis to help better distinguish and permit legitimate emails from true threats.

The NCRA Technology 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.

More like this:

VPNs – What they are and why court reporters should use them

What you need to know to protect against cyberattacks

What you should know about the GDPR for your business

How to build a strong password

NCRA releases new job analyses for the RPR and RDR Written Knowledge Tests

Just in time for the upcoming April Written Knowledge Tests for the RPR (Registered Professional Reporter) and RDR (Registered Diplomate Reporter), NCRA has released new Job Analyses. The Job Analyses describe the domains, associated tasks, and knowledge essential for court reporters working in the field every day. The Job Analyses serve as the blueprint for the Written Knowledge Tests with the domain percentages equating to the number of questions in that area on the tests.

All RPR and RDR Written Knowledge Tests moving forward, including the April Written Knowledge Tests, to be held April 9-23, will be based on the new Job Analyses. The registration period for the April Written Knowledge Tests will open March 1 and close March 31.

Court Reporting and Captioning Week highlights need for reporters

In a story that aired Feb. 15, KMTV, Twin Falls, Idaho, interviewed NCRA member Andrea Couch, RDR, CRR, CRC, president of the Idaho Court Reporters Association, about the profession and the need for more people to enter the field.

Read more.

National Court Reporting Week recognizes the fastest fingers in New York

On Feb. 15, the Queens Daily Eagle posted an article that quotes NCRA member Karen Santucci, CRI, court reporting program chair at Plaza College in Queens, N.Y.

Read more.