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.

Will in-person depositions vanish due to COVID-19?

On Nov. 18, JD Supra posted a blog by Esquire Deposition Solutions that addresses whether in-person depositions will return after COVID-19.

Read more.

Zoom certification for court reporters

In a press release issued Nov. 19, Phipps Reporting, West Palm Beach, Fla., announced that the firm has created a Zoom certification for court reporters.

Read more.

Tips for avoiding awkward videoconferencing malfunctions

An article posted by on Nov. 20 offers five tips for avoiding awkward video conferencing malfunctions in courts and depositions.

Read more.

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.

Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship opens to receive student applications

Rising student court reporters need not only spend time practicing faithfully, but they need to spend time researching scholarship opportunities to achieve their career dreams. For the second consecutive year, the National Court Reporters Foundation proudly announces its partnership with Stenograph, a provider of court reporting tools for more than 80 years. This Stenograph’s Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship honors the memory of Milton H. Wright, the company’s founder.

Valued at more than $5,000, this merit-based scholarship not only provides tuition payment but also includes the use of a student writer and software.

Candidates will be required to answer this essay 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?

All eligibility requirements, which must be followed carefully, are found here.

Notification of the MHW Memorial Scholarship is sent each November to all NCRA-approved court reporting programs. The deadline is Jan. 23, 2021, but please apply early.

Have questions? Email

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.

Ask the techie: Deals, deals, deals!

The NCRA Technology Committee scoured the ads to find some great Black Friday deals on tech for court reporters, captioners, scopists, and legal videographers. Check them out and see if there’s a deal that you just can’t pass by.

Five deals you will want to check out

  1. Alan Peacock, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, of Mobile, Ala., said his deal is the Casper Pillow. “The Casper Pillow is my favorite pillow,” says Peacock. “Nothing helps you more with a good night’s sleep than a real soft pillow. My favorite is on sale… Normally $69 and for Black Friday only $59. I sleep on Caspar pillows every night, and I love their products.”
  2. Check out the sale on Apple Airpods Pro for less than $200. This came highly recommended by three separate committee members: Peacock, Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, a freelancer from Memphis, Tenn., and Kelli Ann Willis, RPR, CRR, CCR, an official court reporter in Texas
  3. The Varidesk Pro is being offered for $395, Debbie Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CLVS, CRC, an official in Dallas, Texas.
  4. If you don’t want a new desk, you can try the FEZIBO 37 inches Standing Desk Converter, which you can set on your desktop and holds two monitors. Kriegshauser said that her son has this model and “loves it!”
  5. Kreigshauser’s son also recommends the ComfiLife Anti Fatigue Floor Mat.

More ways to save on Black Friday

Denee Vadell, an official in Edison, N.J., and a member of the Technology Committee, noted that Steno Works has a Black Friday Sale. 

Vadell also pointed out that Target offers a price match guarantee from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24. As part of that program, Target will match select competitors’ prices within 14 days of the purchase, and get a price adjustment for any item advertised as a “Black Friday deal” at Target or, if it is offered for a lower price at the store or online. Target also will match its own prices on other purchases if they are found for a lower price within 14 days of a purchase.

A word about computers

When it comes to computers, everyone has preferences about the make, the size, and so on, so it was hard for the committee to offer suggestions. Peacock, for instance, recommended checking Best Buy for your favorite laptops. The big-box retailer is offering a number of different models at great prices; it’s good to check out the sales to find what works for you.

Agency owner Andrea Kreutz, CLVS, of Des Moines, Iowa, recommended doing the same with the Dell outlet online. Kreutz says her company looks through the refurbished computers, and she recently picked two Latitude 3410 laptops, a Dell Multi-Device Wireless Keyboard & Mouse Combo, and Dell Dock WD19 130W, saving about 30% on each. Kreutz noted the offer also includes no interest for 90 days.

Freelancer and agency owner Robin Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR, from Portland, Ore., said: “We love Dell, too. Those are the only computers we have in our office. Our IT guy also likes to shop the refurbished bins. We have found some great deals over the years. A quick search shows Dell has Black Friday deals on their refurbished units. My preference is the XPS models.”

The Dell outlet website lets you plug in your preferences for condition, model, touch screen. 

Finally, remember that NCRA offers year-round savings through partnerships with companies like Office Depot and Lenovo. (In fact, Peacock saved an additional $5 on a Lenovo deal by purchasing through NCRA’s partnership.) Visit the NCRA website for more information; you must be an NCRA member and log in to receive these deals.

(As an Amazon Associate, NCRA earns from qualifying purchases.)

Learn how to avoid being derailed when it comes to your retirement security

Attend the NCRA 2021 Business Summit and learn how you can avoid being derailed by rising health costs and more when it comes to securing your retirement. Randy Rust with Prudential will lead The Five Retirement Derailers, one of several insightful sessions on the schedule for the 2021 event themed ‘Rise to the Challenge! Winning Approaches on Adapting to Change,’ happening Jan. 29–31 at the Hyatt Regency Savannah in beautiful and historic Savannah, Ga. Register by Nov. 30 to take advantage of the early access savings $50 on all registration fees.

If you have safety concerns about your stay at the host hotel, rest assured that the Hyatt Regency Savannah is taking every precaution to keep its guests and its staff safe. Under the hotel’s global care and cleanliness commitment, the Hyatt Regency Savannah is working closely with the trusted medical and industry advisors of the Cleveland Clinic. The Hyatt also holds accreditation for cleanliness from the Global Bio-risk Advisory Council. In addition, each Hyatt has on staff dedicated hygiene and wellness leaders to reinforce cleanliness standards.

In his session, Rust will address how rising healthcare costs, longevity, changes in the interest rate environment, market volatility, and taxes all present challenges to one’s retirement. This presentation lays out what can go wrong and why – and how you can protect yourself. The presentation also touches on the risk of becoming chronically or terminally ill.

Attendees will also learn how to navigate government agencies to secure lucrative procurement contracts, and how to take advantage of the technology resources you already have access to — for instance, LinkedIn and other social media platforms — that can expand the reach of your business and help you stay connected to clients and potential new clients. Rosanna Catalano, founder and president of Rocket Ship Consultants, a company that works with clients looking to change their professional trajectory through business consulting, career coaching, and video podcasting, will lead Business: How to Leverage Government Resources and the Technology at your Fingertips to Grow your Business.

Catalano’s varied background as a lobbyist, trial attorney, television news producer, professor, university dean, career coach, and chief agency administrator allows her to provide her clients with a unique perspective and skill set for solving problems, storytelling, and creating successful strategies.

Other schedule highlights include keynote speaker Melanie S. Griffin, Esq., who will kick off a two-part session with Maximizing Your Personal & Professional Life: The Art of Focusing, Prioritizing, and Goal Crushing, where she will provide insights and strategies to help you stretch the 24 hours in each day. It will be followed by Rebrand 2021: Personal Branding & Networking Strategies to Shine Beyond Your Competition. 

The “Hot Seat” Peer-to-Peer Solution Storming is also on the schedule. In this session, participants will be broken into groups, and each person in each group will have the chance to be in the “hot seat” and benefit from the sage advice of their peers during this interactive session. Participants will share their own experiences, what-ifs, and those twisty turns that keep them up at night and go home with solutions they can put into effect in their business. As a bonus to all participants, one person from each group will be chosen to share what was learned with the entire group.

Other sessions on the schedule for the 2021 NCRA Business Summit will cover topics such as business law, successful social media strategies, and numerous networking sessions. Watch the JCR Weekly for more information about additional sessions and speakers.

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 who is registered for the conference. Professional reporters and captioners may not register for this category as a guest. Guests are welcome at only the receptions through the spouse/guest package; attendance at the educational sessions requires a full registration.

A special rate of $225 per night is also available through Jan. 6, 2021; the rate does not include 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 offerings, and more. Register now and save.

Sponsorship information: Contact Jill Landsman, Development Relations Manager, at