Ongoing coverage of the NCRA 2019 Convention & Expo

NCRA 2019 Officers and Board Members

Keep up to date with voting results, award announcements, and more events currently taking place at the NCRA 2019 Convention & Expo in Denver, Colo.

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Bruce A. Matthews Honored with NCRA 2019 Distinguished Service Award

Bruce Matthews, FAPR, RDR, CRR, and Sue Terry, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC

The National Court Reporters Association announced Bruce A. Matthews, FAPR, RDR, CRR, a retired court reporter from Lakewood, Ohio, as its 2019 Distinguished Service Award winner. Matthews was honored at a special awards ceremony held at NCRA’s annual Convention & Expo taking place in Denver, Colo.

The NCRA DSA recognizes the distinguished work and service by an individual member for the benefit of the court reporting profession, including service to NCRA as a member, a committee member, a director, or an officer of the association. Other displays of distinguished work include contributing to the JCR, service at the state or local court reporters association, or in the field of public relations or public affairs. Award winners are nominated by their peers and are recognized at NCRA’s Convention & Expo.

Matthews began is career in 1973 after graduating from Clark State College. Among Matthew’s most notable reporting assignments have been covering  Kent State Grand Jury hearing, the bankruptcy trial of American businessman Daniel H. Overmyer, numerous toxic shock syndrome cases, a lower Lake Erie Antitrust case, and patent depositions. He also took the deposition of Art Modell, former owner of the NFL Cleveland Browns on why the NFL Oakland Raiders should not move to Los Angeles, Calif.

Matthews has also presented numerous seminars about technology, ethics, and realtime.

Active at the national level, Matthews is a past president of NCRA and has served on a number of the Association’s committees as a member or as chair including the Legislative, Resolutions, Finance, Nominating, Realtime, Contests, Convention and Constitution & Bylaws committees. He has also served on numerous advisory and task forces, and is a past NCRA Secretary-Treasurer, and past chair of the National Court Reporters Foundation Board of Trustees.

At the state level, Matthews is a past president of the Ohio Court Reporters Association (OCRA) where he has served on numerous of its committees. He is also involved in the state’s A to Z(TM) Intro to Machine Shorthand program.  

He is the recipient of numerous awards including the past president’s awards from OCRA and NCRA, and the Past Chair Award given by NCRF. He is the only member of OCRA to have received the Glenn Stiles Distinguished Service Award and the Martin Fincum Award in the same year.

Matthews and his wife, Deborah, have three daughters and one son.

NCRA member is candidate in local council race

NCRA member Mindy Moore, a freelance court reporter and firm owner from Warren, Mich., was quoted in an article posted by the Macomb Daily profiling candidates running for the local city council.

Read more.

NCRA member making her dream a reality with Stenovate

Lauren Lawrence, seated, with Karen Fenaroli of the Fenaroli Minverva Fund and Karen’s husband, Paul.

Lauren Lawrence, RPR, from Kansas City, Mo., recently started a new business, Stenovate. She told JCR Weekly more about it.

JCR | Can you give us a little information about Stenovate?

LL | Stenovate is the only organization and collaboration platform built specifically for legal transcript professionals. There are two major benefits: First is streamlined project management. We designed a tool that allows reporters, scopists, and proofreaders to work together seamlessly on a single platform. Second, we’re in the process of building a freelance marketplace for finding help and picking up extra work. The marketplace will include professional profiles, ratings and reviews, and a job board so that it’s easy to find good help. The idea for Stenovate has been in my mind for years, but we’ve only been in development since December of 2018.

JCR | What made you see a need for Stenovate?

LL | Over the last six years, as I hunted for the perfect unicorn scopist and proofreader, I started to get really frustrated with the process. It takes effort to find good help. You can spend a lot of time vetting someone, and it still may not be the right fit. Then add in all the disjointed tools we needed to collaborate: Facebook, email, Dropbox, text, PayPal, etc. Everyone has a slightly different system, so it was tough to get on the same page and be truly efficient.

Finally, when I learned about the reporter shortage, I realized how important it was that reporters maximize their time doing what they do best: reporting. I started talking to a lot of people on the phone, asking about the tools they used, what they would like to improve about their process, and what the “perfect” tool would look like. Their feedback was fantastic, and the need for a new solution was clear. I just had to figure out how to make it happen.

JCR | Tell us about the big news of a new investor.

LL | When I started looking into creating Stenovate, I had no idea the amount of capital and connections it would take to make it successful, but I was determined to help reporters. So I started self-funding the project, but I knew that wouldn’t be sustainable if we wanted to make a great product. I knew the court reporting community was supportive. After all, we have more than 500 people on Stenovate’s waitlist, but there comes a point when you have to go out on a limb and look to the business community to see if anyone believes in you and your idea enough to back you up financially. Karen Fenaroli, my initial investor, is a crusader for small, women-owned businesses, and she was the first one to take a chance on Stenovate and on me. We all have to start somewhere, but if we have capital and support, it allows us to be user-focused. This opens the door for other opportunities that help us improve our product faster.

JCR | What will the new investment allow you to do?

LL | It takes a lot of brains and a lot of hours to build something like Stenovate. I’ve recently brought in a few amazing women to help me. While I know and love everything about court reporting, I’m not a software designer, a business analyst, or a client success manager. Those are really important roles, and our new investment is allowing Stenovate to establish a solid team of smart, compassionate, and innovative leaders who aim to help our community thrive.

JCR | Are you still looking for investors?

LL | The short answer: Yes. I’d be happy to talk to anyone seriously interested, especially if they can offer industry insight in addition to capital. We’re looking for strategic investors who can help guide us to do what is best for our users and the transcript community as a whole. Our industry is at an inflection point. With Stenovate, we have an opportunity to empower our users and benefit the industry at the same time.

JCR | What are next steps for Stenovate?

LL |We’re launching Early Access for our beta users Aug. 6! For the next 30 days, we’ll be hanging onto their every word of feedback and making continuous improvements. Then we will open up the platform to the public so that everyone can work better together. The current version of Stenovate has the project management component, but we’re furiously building the freelance marketplace as we speak. We have lots of other little features up our sleeve that we can’t talk about quite yet. We’re working as fast as we can, and we’ll keep you updated as we launch new features. If you haven’t already, join the waitlist at www.stenovate.com to stay in the loop!

JCR | What is your court reporting background, and are you still working as a court reporter?

LL |I graduated from AIB College of Business in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in court reporting and moved straight to Kansas City to start freelancing. I remember getting my first reporting job from a phone interview without a résumé. They really needed the help! Since then, I have focused on building my dictionary and getting realtime ready. Providing realtime has allowed me to cover big trials, have a transcript about Trump in the Huffington Post, and even travel abroad to places like Italy and Peru. It’s been a total whirlwind!

Now, I’m reporting very little due to Stenovate’s major time demand, which means I’m not getting paid either! Startups are not a walk in the park or for the faint of heart, but if I can keep my team paid, I can skip vacation and live on PB&J. Have you ever tried something and then wondered how you ever lived without it? I know that’s going to be Stenovate. I’m so inspired by the court reporting community’s work ethic. My sole purpose right now is to save us time and headaches. I know how hard we work. I know how bad we need this. As my mother always says, “I’m here to help.”

Melinda Walker honored in Congress

NCRA member Melinda Walker, RPR, CMRS, was recognized in the July 24 Congressional Record by Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland on the occasion of her retirement as Chief Reporter of the Debates. She was also recognized on July 22 by Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California.

See Rep. Hoyer’s speech here.

NCRA member wins spot in 2019 National Small Business Week contest

Balboa Capital, a leading lender that specializes in small business loans and equipment leasing, announced in a press release issued June 6 that NCRA member Diane Emery, CMRS, founder of Executive Reporting Service, headquartered in St. Petersburg, Fla., was awarded $500 as a runner-up winner in its 2019 National Small Business Week contest.

Read more.

Shining a light on NCRA members

Isaiah Roberts, RPR

There’s no doubt about it: NCRA members take on some exciting, fascinating, and downright inspiring work. At the beginning of June, NCRA launched a new Web page as part of NCRA.org and our NCRA 2.0 effort to capture some of these stories highlighting our members. Recent additions to the site include Isaiah Roberts, RPR, and Stan Sakai, CRC, and their work captioning Coachella; Lisa Migliore Black’s experience with a Project Innocence death row case; and the fun of being court reporters on film from Helga Lavan, RPR, and Kate Cochran, RPR.

The purpose of the page is to shine a light on all NCRA members – court reporters, captioners, legal videographers, scopists, proofreaders, teachers, and everyone else – who have an inspiring story to share with other members. Too often, people in this profession are noticed only when there is a mistake, and the high standards you hold yourselves to may some days feel self-defeating. Let these stories remind you of the many great opportunities these professions offer. Whenever you need a reminder of all the cool things that you can do with your skill set, please take a look.

And if you happen to have a story about a great experience of your own, please share it with us at pr@ncra.org.  The great stories you offer about your work can be help more people understand how exciting and important your work is. NCRA will consider all submissions for one of NCRA’s publications or possible use on a promotion website maintained by NCRA.  

2019 class of Fellows of the Academy of Professional Reporters announced

NCRA has announced the 2019 class of Fellows of the Academy of Professional Reporters. The recipients will be recognized during an Awards Luncheon at the 2019 NCRA Convention & Expo in Denver, Colo., being held Aug. 15-18.

The 2019 class of Fellows are:

Susan M. Horak, RDR, CRR, an official court reporter from Columbus, Ohio, and Marjorie Peters, RMR, CRR, a freelance court reporter and firm owner from Pittsburgh, Pa.

Horak began her career in 1976 and worked as an official court reporter for the Franklin County Municipal Court in Columbus Ohio, from 1983 to 2017. As a member of the Ohio Court Reporters Association (OCRA), she contributed numerous articles to the membership publication, The Buckeye Record, and worked on key legislative issues, including modernizing the language in Ohio’s Revised and Administrative Codes regarding court reporters. Horak also held several positions at OCRA, including serving as District C Representative (2006-2008), Secretary-Treasurer (2008-2010), and President (2010-2011). She joined NCRA in 1976, serving for many years as a Chief Examiner for NCRA testing in central Ohio. Horak currently serves on NCRA’s Skills Writing Test Committee and the Proofreading Advisory Council.

Marjorie Peters

Peters and her firm cover complex realtime and various types of litigation, large and small. Beginning in 1999, she joined the Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association’s (PCRA) Board of Directors as a district representative and has served on numerous committees. She also has been a continuous supporter of the Community College of Allegheny County Court Reporting program. Peters has been a member of NCRA since 1991 and has served on several of the Association’s committees. She currently serves on the Education Content Committee.

Membership in the Academy symbolizes excellence among NCRA members. The designation of FAPR represents an individual’s dedication to the court reporting and captioning professions and expresses the highest level of professional ethics.

To be nominated for membership in the Academy, candidates must be a Registered Member of NCRA with at least 10 years of professional experience and have attained distinction as measured by performance in at least three of the five performance categories. This performance could include publication of important papers, creative contributions, service on committees or boards, teaching, and more.

Careers in court reporting: From Grandma’s diner to Rick Springfield

Aaron, Adam, and Kenneth Alweis

By Heidi Renner

Brothers Adam and Aaron Alweis recently each reached career milestones. They were both named the chief reporter for their respective courts in the New York State Unified Court System this year. Aaron, RPR, CRR, CRC, is chief in the 6th District and Adam, RPR, in the 5th District, but their careers as court reporters started well before 2019.

Their father, Edward, was a court reporter who retired in 1989, and they also had two uncles and an aunt who worked in the profession. It can all be traced back to their grandmother who owned a diner in Miami Beach in the 1940s. One day a court reporter came in, sat down, and ended up telling her all about his job. She decided it sounded like a great opportunity and told her children that’s what they should do. Their father had just started in court reporting when he went in the Army and worked in the Judge Advocate General Corps. They say it probably saved him from going overseas to Korea.

“We grew up in the profession,” Adam said. “We had some involvement most of our lives. It sort of just happened that way.”

Aaron said their father thought it was very important for them to have a marketable skill. They also say credit must go to the tremendous support their mother, Mary, has given to their father and how encouraging and supportive she has always been to her three boys.

“I was typing transcripts for my father since I was 12 years old,” Aaron said.

“I got out of school and within 12 hours, I was doing my first deposition,” Adam said.

At one time the family owned a freelance reporting agency and all three brothers worked for it. The third brother, Ken, is now a lawyer and partner in the firm of Goldberg Segalla.

Both brothers remember their father saying: “Thank God I found this profession; otherwise, I don’t know what I’d end up doing.”

Aaron went to graduate school for business, which he said has worked very well with being a court reporter. He was looking for a marketing position after college but didn’t find one, so he went back to court reporting and has stayed there.

Both Adam and Aaron started official court reporter positions and have been working in the courts for years.

They talk to each other often about their jobs.

“We bounce ideas off each other all the time,” Adam said.

Aaron has taught his children to scope, but he said none of them have wanted to start a career in court reporting. They both say they are in a profession where you are never bored.

“You’ll never find another profession where you are continually challenged by the material in front of you,” Adam said.

“It’s fascinating, it’s better than TV, it’s a front-row seat to history,” Aaron said. It’s a tremendous field. You can come into the field from any background. Whatever you bring into it adds to your knowledge base.”

Aaron said he remembers the first time he offered realtime in 1992 in a case involving a defendant who was deaf. Back then, offering realtime involved carrying a 50-pound computer into the courtroom. They also set up a viewing area for people from the community who were deaf and wanted to watch the proceedings.

“The advantages today are just tremendous,” Aaron said. “I recently did a CART assignment (outside court) where I sat with a hearing-impaired person at a conference. They were so appreciative to have access to what was going on. It’s because of the court reporting profession that people can do this. You make a difference in people’s lives.” Aaron also said he has been “incredibly fortunate to have the support and love and understanding from my wife, Miriam, through all of the very long hours involved in being a court reporter.”

“The advantages are far more than when we started,” Adam said. “We didn’t have realtime or captioning. Now with the technology, there is so much people can do with us. We are dying to have new blood come into the profession. This is a great field to get into; people should really think about it.”

While every day brings something new in their careers, both brothers have some cases that stick in their minds more than others.

Aaron remembers a case involving the death of the former New York Yankees manager Billy Martin and through that meeting some very interesting people.

Adam Alweis taking the testimony of Rick Springfield

Adam remembers an unusual case involving singer Rick Springfield being sued.

Adam said when Springfield got up to testify, he was fascinated at what Adam was doing and asked how he did it. Adam told Springfield it was like writing music, and the keys are like putting notes together.

“If it helps, you can think of me as the rock-and-roll court reporter,” Adam told him.

NCRA member and CART captioner honored

Kristen Wurgler

Recently the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Division of Student Life, honored NCRA member Kristen Wurgler, RPR, with the Wisconsin Idea award, recognizing her work and commitment at the institution for having a positive and significant impact on one or more communities beyond the borders of the campus.

Wurgler, a CART captioner from Cottage Grove, Wis., works at the university’s McBurney Disability Resource Center alongside a team to provide remote services to deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) students as an option for their captioning accommodation.

“I was incredibly honored to just be nominated, let alone win,” said Wurgler. “It means the world to me because it came from colleagues for whom I have the greatest respect. I feel blessed to be in the company of people who are deeply committed to being of service to others and believe that all people deserve equal treatment,” she added.

In a speech delivered at the award ceremony, it was noted that Wurgler’s work on campus, while often behind the scenes with little recognition, is integral to advancing access for students with disabilities.