New Professional Spotlight: Caitlin Albrecht

Caitlin Albrecht

By Jan Ballman, FAPR, RPR, CMRS

Caitlin Albrecht is a freelancer from Plymouth, Minn., who graduated from Anoka Technical College in Anoka, Minn.

JCR | What was the hardest part of transitioning from school to the real world?

CA | For me, it was the realization that my writing was still my writing.  It may sound silly, but whenever I thought about that far-off day when I passed my last test and sailed out of school on cloud nine, I believed that a magic switch would flip, and I would suddenly have stellar writing.  No longer would my hands freeze up and my heart start pounding its way out of my chest.  From now on, writing would be a breeze as I focused on the finer things of life, like what steno machine I would select or what I would do with all the extra cash now that I was working.  I can smile and shake my head now at my naïveté, but at the time, the shock of realizing I had to now take professional jobs and still deal with that paralyzing stress threw me into a tailspin. 

JCR | What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started out?

CA | That it’s OK to not be perfect.  While I still strive for perfection in my writing and transcription, I don’t beat myself up anymore about not achieving the unattainable standard I set for myself when I first began working.  Providing realtime for clients has been a scary step for me, but also one of the biggest helps.  I’m forced to admit that I don’t write everything perfectly, but it also boosts my desire to get every word down accurately the first time around.  Ironically, throwing myself out there and showcasing my imperfection has skyrocketed my confidence and made me a better writer in the long run.

JCR | What is your next goal?  What is a long-term goal?

CA | My current goal is to obtain my RPR.  I completed the written test and first two legs while in school and have been working at that last Q & A leg ever since.  I really struggle some days when I think about tackling that last leg, but my mentors and fellow reporters have been hugely encouraging and supportive.  I know I belong in this profession; once I get my RPR, everyone else will know it, too.  In the long term, I want to replace those letters with the RMR certification, and eventually become a Registered  Diplomate Reporter.

JCR | Who is your mentor?

CA | I have been blessed with a number of incredible mentors, but the most influential have been Jan Ballman, Mary Mitchell, and Merilee Johnson.  Jan was my mentor in school and really got me thinking about the reporter I wanted to be once I graduated.  Mary walked me through my first years as a brand-new reporter and showed me how a true professional tackled the difficulties of reporting life (while still looking cool as a cucumber … I’m still working on that part).  Finally, Merilee has been the catalyst for my success in providing realtime.  Without her encouragement and selfless investment in my training, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today in the profession.  These women have inspired me with their innovation, excellence, and determination, and I couldn’t be more grateful for them.

JCR | Do you have any advice for reporting students?

CA | Be kind to yourself and keep at it.  I remember sitting in school and taking test after test, hopeful that maybe this time I’d write well enough to move on.  It was the easiest thing to start an internal dialogue in my head about how I should have had a better brief for that four-stroker, or how everyone else in the class seemed to be doing just fine while my shoulders slumped in defeat.  Court reporting school is tough!  In the end, though, it really comes down to staying positive, outwardly and inwardly, and sitting down day after day in front of your steno machine and choosing to fight for every word.  It really is a battle some days, but the outcome is worth it.

JCR | What do you like to do when you’re not reporting?

CA | I have been a student in Kung Fu San Soo, a self-defense martial art, for over a decade, and there’s nothing like getting on the mat to shake (or punch) out the stress of the day.  I also volunteer with my church’s youth group and enjoy doing everything from having honest life discussions with the teens to attending the high school sporting events, concerts, and theater performances they’re involved in.  When I’m not doing either of those things, I enjoy diving into a good Bible study or learning how to play new board games with my boyfriend, Matt.

Convention winner Garcia excited about future

Alexandria Faith Garcia

We recently held a contest to give a free 2019 NCRA Convention & Expo registration to a new member who joined between May 17 and June 30. Alexandria Faith Garcia was the winner. She told the JCR Weekly about her journey to court reporting.

I have an aunt who is an official court reporter in Harris County, Texas, and that is how I found out about the court reporting industry. I chose to do court reporting because I saw how many different paths you could take as a reporter, such as being a freelance reporter, a captioner, or having an official position in court. I liked the idea of having different options so that I could see which one fit me best. When I found out that you could caption at events such as sporting events and concerts, that is what intrigued me. I hope to caption for those kinds of events sometime in the future.

My family is what kept me motivated during school and practice time. Growing up less fortunate than others really pushed me to finish school so that I, along with my mother and sister, could have a better life for not only ourselves but for our future families as well. They were a constant support throughout school. Being able to go through the experience of theory and speedbuilding was tough at times, but it has been the most rewarding thing I have ever done for myself and for them as well. Now it has even inspired my sister to push through court reporting school, and I cannot wait for her to become a fellow reporter.

While in school, I had the opportunity to attend Texas Court Reporters Association and NCRA conventions. Those were a lot of fun. I loved learning more about this profession that I did not know about, such as the different contests that I could participate in once I became qualified. The continuing education in this field is never ending.

My advice for future court reporters is to keep pushing through school no matter how hard it gets. Keep going because there’s a whole world of things to do and places to go. Do the homework even if it’s tiring and boring. Make time to practice outside of school. It will only make you write faster and help you memorize briefs and phrases. Transcribe as many tests as you can because that will only make you better. There were times when I felt I couldn’t put my fingers in a position to press the right keys or when I thought I wouldn’t be able to reach a certain speed, but now I look back and see how silly it was to think I wasn’t able to do those things because I am doing them now. During the moments I didn’t feel motivated, I pushed through and made myself practice, and I must say that the compensation has been rewarding.

I recently started my career in May of 2019, and I can see the change and impact it has made in my life. I’m currently a deputy court reporter in juvenile court. Everything is fresh for me, and I’m learning a lot as I go along, and, luckily, I have amazing people I can turn to when I need help. Overall, this journey from the start of school until now has been such a big blessing for myself and my family. I very much look forward to the future I have in court reporting.

New Professional Spotlight: Amanda Harwell

Amanda Harwell

By Selana Scott and Michael Hensley, RDR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JCR | Any other thoughts?

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

My (not-so-secret) life as a weekend rock star

By Patricia Nilsen (with Kiki Kim)

Patricia Nilsen

As a lifelong fan of Mötley Crüe, the glam-metal band that became famous in the 1980s, my dream as a child was to someday meet the band. In the mid-2000s, an inspirational Mötley Crüe reunion show at Madison Square Garden in NYC gave me this wacky idea to start an all-girl Mötley Crüe tribute band. The fact that I played zero instruments seemed just a minor detail at the time. A friend of mine — blonde, like the Crüe’s lead singer — loved the idea and said she could sing. I thought: “Done, here we go!” And Girls Girls Girls was born. I asked my husband for a bass guitar for my 31st birthday, and he obliged with a shiny pink bass and the words he would probably one day come to regret: “You better actually play that thing.”

I was working as a full-time federal official in the Southern District of New York in Manhattan — a pretty busy gig, if you’re not familiar with it. Lacking the time for lessons to start with the fundamentals, I essentially learned online. I also couldn’t be bothered to learn how to use a pick — my fingers had always been fast on the machine, so I went with what I knew.

I had been noodling at home for a few months when I saw an ad for a ladies’ rock camp, which seemed like a good place to meet my future bandmates. Most importantly, I needed a guitarist that could really shred. Sadly, the guitarists at camp were more Jewel than Lita Ford. I did, however, meet a wannabe drummer who did finance by day and just came for fun: Kiki Kim. She and her friend invited me to ditch camp at lunch to get a beer – rock ’n’ roll already! Over drinks, I told her my idea, which she probably laughed off as a “Sure, I’ll join your (finger quotes) band.” We exchanged business cards, and that was likely the last she thought she’d ever hear from me.

To find the last piece of the puzzle, my graphic-artist husband photoshopped our faces over an iconic photo of Mötley Crüe with a blank over guitarist Mick Mars’ face and the words “YOUR FACE HERE.” I used the picture in an ad containing the same language Mars used for his own ad in search of the band that would eventually become Mötley Crüe: Seeking “loud, rude, and aggressive [fe-male] guitarist.” Months went by with no reply, and I was ready to hang it up when I finally got the call. Denise “D” Mercedes, who had played in a famous influential punk band called The Stimulators in the 1980s, hadn’t played in 20 years but loved our ad so much that she said: “I just gotta see who these chicks are!”


We were now a full band, and it was time to play. In contrast with my sweet and innocent idea of practicing in my city apartment, D, our lone professional musician, knew how to find rented rehearsal-studio space. And, boy, could she shred. My friend couldn’t sing over the loud guitar and was gone by morning. My finance-professional beginner drummer took one look/listen at D and wanted to follow suit. Fortunately, my powers of persuasion were as strong as my will to start this band, and I convinced her to stay at least temporarily (spoiler alert: she stayed for good). And now we were on the hunt for a new singer. The three of us continued rehearsing for months until we found one.

Our first gig was at a club in Jersey, where we played the owner’s birthday party. We hired a party bus to shuttle our friends from New York City for the show, and it was an incredible time! Little did I know that what seemed like the culmination of a dream was only just the beginning. Over the next two years, we played almost 50 shows. I spent two to three weekends a month in a van, visiting new cities, making new friends, and rocking my heart out.

I was living three distinct lives: Patricia, band manager and court reporter; Patty, wife, New Yorker; and Nikita Seis, Goddess of Bass. My life as a court reporter wasn’t much different except that I took more Fridays off and spent Monday watching the black nail polish slowly chip from my nails, in a daze, with a smile on my face and bags under my eyes. We had enough adventures to fill a book. Our rise was fast, as was our fall. The potent mix of four women with strong and distinct personalities led to a dramatic breakup.

During our time off, one member moved on to form a different band, and I had my first child. During maternity leave, I created a photo book of our time together as a band that made us nostalgic and drew us back together, supposedly with new insight into what went wrong and how to change it. Three years after our breakup, a reunion show was in the works, and I was newly pregnant with baby number two. Four months later, I squeezed into my stage clothes (with much lower heels!), and we packed Brooklyn Bowl with a crowd as eager for our return as we were. Everyone was flying high, so I found a replacement bassist and continued just managing the band from home. Now that I had more time, I was able to take the management role more seriously and brought us to new markets, better money, the cover of The Village Voice, and our first international tour in Mexico.


But two years later, the wheels fell off again, and the band broke up for all the same reasons and more. In total, we played exactly 100 shows in 16 states before I moved to Nashville, when I thought that chapter had finally ended. In December 2018, I was a freelance reporter who hadn’t played in three years. Thanks to maintaining our presence on social media, we had continued to receive inquiries from random clubs and people who wanted us to play their brother’s barbeque for chump change. But then I got the email: Netflix wanted us to play a private party in Hollywood for the premiere of the upcoming biopic about Mötley Crüe, The Dirt. It was contingent on all four members of Mötley Crüe signing off on us. Phone calls were made, singers auditioned, and the bass was officially out of the case. We landed the gig with about seven weeks to get our act together!

The film producers chose four songs and would decide if the crowd liked us enough for an encore — no pressure! Before the show, we were thrilled to hear that Mötley Crüe singer Vince Neil and drummer Tommy Lee were in the house. We hit the stage in front of a capacity crowd at the world-famous Whisky a Go Go and ripped into our namesake song, “Girls Girls Girls.” The energy was electric; it felt amazing. During our fourth song, “Kickstart My Heart,” Tommy Lee and the actor who played him in the movie came dancing down the stairs and made their way to the stage, leading to the cue to play our encore, “Live Wire.”

Watching the drummer who made this music famous air-drumming to my band was a moment I will never forget. After the show, Tommy told us our set was “dope,” and we all went home smiling from ear to ear. I share this story because it all began as a crazy idea I had. The most I imagined was playing a gig for our friends at a real New York City venue. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would create something bigger than myself, and that 13 years later, it would still be going. As court reporters, we tend to think that our job is our life and that we don’t have time for anything else. But one of the greatest benefits of this career is the flexibility, and we can do what we choose in our off-time. Choose big. Dream big. And don’t be surprised when your dreams come true.

Patricia Nilsen, RMR, CRR, CRC, is a freelance reporter with Alpha Reporting in Nashville, Tenn. She can be reached atpatricianilsen@alphareporting.com. For more on Girls Girls Girls, check out the band at www.girlsgirlsgirlsnyc.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/girlsgirlsgirlsnyc. Girls Girls Girls drummer Kiki Kim helped with this story.

New Professional Spotlight: Amy Yarbrough

Amy Yarbrough

Amy Yarbrough is a CART captioner and freelance reporter in Neptune Beach, Fla.  She serves on several committees and the board of directors of the Florida Court Reporters Association.  In her spare time, she enjoys biking and running on her local beaches.

JCR | What was the hardest part of transitioning from school to the real world?

AY | Entering a very competitive job market.  Northeast Florida is full of talented reporters.

JCR | What do you know now that you wish you’d known when first starting out?

AY | Practicing to dictation is not just for students!  Short, clean writing will be a lifelong pursuit and should always be the cornerstone of your focus as you grow professionally.

JCR | What’s the most exciting experience you have had working in the profession?

AY | During the 2016 presidential race, I was asked to provide CART during a campaign rally President Obama was headlining.  The energy in the room was electric.

JCR | What was the best piece of advice you’ve received from another court reporter?

AY | Always be prepared.  Perform regular maintenance of your steno bag to make sure you have plenty of pens, paper clips, and exhibit stickers. And never, ever arrive late!

JCR | How has involvement with state and national reporting associations benefited you so far?

AY | My state association has given me friendships to last a lifetime.  The support and camaraderie of our colleagues is very special and something to be cherished. Having seasoned reporters to lean on for advice and encouragement has inspired me to always do my best, and I believe we bring out the best in one another.

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.

Mixing business with pleasure: Working in an RV

NCRA member Lisa Johnston, RMR, CRR, CRC, casts off ties in Melbourne, Fla., every year to travel across the United States with her husband. Rather than forgo her usual work
as a broadcast and CART captioner, she set herself up to caption from wherever she and her husband parked the RV. Mixing business with pleasure was just right for the two of them.

Johnston spoke to JCR Contributing Editor Deanna Baker, FAPR, RMR, about the journey and all the stops in between.

BAKER | How long was the planning process to make sure you had all the work equipment you needed, as well as possible back-ups?

JOHNSTON | I packed all my equipment as if I were going to an event to work onsite. I have two laptops, two writers, two realtime cables, headphones, etc. Over the years, I have developed a checklist to make sure I have everything before I leave. I also bring the huge notebook of prep I have accumulated over the years. I travel a lot with work, and so, by now, I know what I need.

BAKER | Did you forget anything or wish you had brought something?

JOHNSTON | No, I haven’t forgotten anything yet — hopefully, I won’t ever forget something! I’m not too proud to admit that I now and will always use a checklist to make sure I have everything I need.

BAKER | Was all of your work strictly through the internet, sending data as well as audio?

JOHNSTON | I do remote CART captioning while traveling in our RV using the internet. I have two wireless routers that act as mobile WiFi hotspots, one with Verizon and one with AT&T; and both work really well. In certain parts of the country, one wireless provider may give me a stronger signal than the other, so I use what I feel gives me the most internet strength at that location.

I get my audio by dialing in using my cell phone. I have also used Skype for audio in the past as well. That can be iffy at times, so I always do some testing before an event starts.

BAKER | Any glitches along the way?

JOHNSTON | When I first started this journey of traveling on the road and CART captioning, before there were cell towers everywhere, I had to take my wireless hotspot and check the strength where the RV was “docked,” and if I had bad reception, I would get in my car and drive and see where the strongest service was. Many times, I’ve had to write on my machine, with the laptop on the seat next to me in the back seat of my car (we have a car we bring on our trips, which we tow behind our RV). I’ve been in Nowhere, U.S.A., in some unique locations sitting in my car taking down an assignment! Fun times!

Cell towers are the norm nowadays, so I don’t have to necessarily always be in a “big city” like I used to be to find a strong internet signal strength. I now can get good internet service most anywhere, thank goodness!

BAKER | Are your clients aware of your traveling, or has it been that they haven’t noticed a difference at all?

JOHNSTON | I strive to provide my clients with seamless captioning services and have been able to do so successfully for many years. As long as they are receiving the product they need, they are happy. I provide only CART captioning while on the road; no broadcast captioning which may use a landline and encoders.

I hope my reputation speaks for itself. If I am requested to support someone who needs communication access, I will go out of my way to accommodate. I have been in this profession for 34 years now, I love what I do every single day, and I hope that shows. If I can leave a person or situation and they have a smile on their face, then I’m happy and I’ve done my job successfully!

BAKER | I’m “assuming” your husband was not driving at the time you were working?

JOHNSTON | No way do I work while my husband is driving down the road. First off, it’s not very comfortable doing it that way for me, as not all roads in the U.S. are nice terrain and can get very bouncy and unstable. So, if we’re driving to a destination and I need to stop to take a job, we will pull into a rest area or at a truck stop/gas station and that works well for me. My husband is my fabulous support staff!

BAKER | Was there a particular goal for your travels?

JOHNSTON | We have no goals in our yearly travels. One year we head northeast to Maine, with many stops along the way, and the next year we head somewhere west (last year was Washington state; most years to California) with many stops along the way. We’ve been from one end of Canada to the other. We’ve been to all 50 states, and 49 traveling in our RV. Maine is one of our favorite states, so every other year we enjoy traveling up Maine’s coast and enjoying some lobster!

BAKER | Anything unexpected pop up that you didn’t plan on?

JOHNSTON | Nothing unexpected comes to mind right now. Pre-planning pays off!

BAKER | How many other colleagues were you able to visit on your travels?

JOHNSTON | In our travels across the beautiful United States, I try to reach out to some dear friends and colleagues when I know I will be nearby. In Flagstaff, Ariz., I had dinner with you and Lori Yeager Stavropoulos, RPR, CRR, CRC, and their spouses; in Mobile, Ala., spending time with Alan Peacock, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, and Elliot Carter was such a treat and highlight; in Seattle, I just missed seeing Darlene Pickard, RDR, CRR, CRC, as she was out of state the week I was there. And I keep promising Toni Christy, RPR, CRR, CRC, that we will make a trip to the San Diego area soon! Such good friends that I love seeing!

BAKER | Would you recommend this as a way to travel and work at the same time?

JOHNSTON | For me, this is the best of both worlds. I work a lot with clients who have meetings throughout the week. That is all I want to cover while I’m traveling, so while traveling on the road, I choose to work 2-3 days a week, which is perfect, because I can cover their meetings and yet still “play” and explore the areas my husband and I visit.

I choose to keep my workload light and not be constantly working, because I enjoy my time off sightseeing where we are traveling. We usually stay in a location a few days, so in that timeframe, we like to play tourists and see what the area has to show us, so I don’t want to always be inside working. But I love the flexibility to do what I want and work when I want!

BAKER | What have you seen on your travels that really stuck out for you?

JOHNSTON | We’d both always wanted to see Mount Rushmore, and the first time was such a treat. We love going to the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. Living an hour from Walt Disney World, I’d always wanted to see Disneyland in California, and that was fun to go to. Growing up in Florida with no seasons really, it’s been a treat for us to see the beauty of the United States. Fall is our favorite time to travel; seeing the leaves change their colors is breathtaking!

BAKER | Anything else you’d like to pass along to the readers?

JOHNSTON | My husband and I have been RV travelers for 15 years now and love every single minute of our adventures. Come join me! The United States is a great place to call your office!

New Professional Spotlight: Haley Hermus

Haley Hermus

By Whitney Berndt

Haley Hermus lives in Little Chute, Wisc., and is a per diem reporter for the 8th District in Wisconsin. She graduated in May of 2018 from Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, Wisc.

JCR | What theory do you use?

HH | Realtime Realwrite.

JCR | How long have you been an NCRA member?

HH | Since 2016.

JCR | How did you learn about the career?

HH | I was watching American Sniper and very closely followed the trial of the murder of Chris Kyle. It was after following his story that I realized that something in the court system was for me.

JCR | What was your biggest hurdle after finishing school?

HH | My biggest hurdle after finishing school was finding a job. I love my hometown, and I didn’t want to move, so unfortunately options are very limited with official positions. I guess that just goes to show how great of an area I live in!

JCR | What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishment?

HH | My greatest accomplishment was being asked to read back for the first time and absolutely nailing it. It was not only the scariest but also the most rewarding part of the job so far.

JCR | What was the best piece of advice you received from another reporter?

HH |The best advice I received was to stick with it. School can be so challenging with so many close test scores, but the end result will be so worth the journey.

JCR | How did you feel going into your first assignment/day on the job, and how did you feel coming out of it?

HH | Going into my first day on the job was so scary and full of butterflies, as any other job would be, but when I walked out of my first day, I had never smiled so big; and I realized I couldn’t have chosen a more perfect profession for me.

Whitney Berndt is a student at Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, WI. She is a member of the NCRA New Professionals Committee and can be reached at wberndt828@yahoo.com

New Professional Spotlight: Tracey L. Tracy

Tracey Tracy

By Rachel Barkume, RPR

Tracey Tracy, RPR, is a freelance court reporter in Tacoma, Wash. She graduated from the online court reporting technologies program at Green River College in June 2017, attained her RPR in July 2017, and her Washington CCR in August 2017. She’s a true go-getter who radiates positivity and enthusiasm with a smile that is downright infectious. At the close of her first full year of reporting, she’s navigating through being a new professional with grace and tenacity.

JCR | Why did you choose to become a court reporter?

TT | During high school I was exposed to the field of court reporting by my aunt who worked as an official court reporter in my home town. I had considered following her path early on, but life had other plans for me. I spent the next several years raising children, working as an administrative assistant, and even had a stint as a barista at Starbucks.

With our youngest son approaching high school, I decided it was the right time for me to finally go back to school and accomplish my dream of becoming a court reporter. I set a personal goal to finish and be certified by the time he graduated. Well, it’s June 2018, our senior just graduated, and I’ve been working as a freelance court reporter now for 10 months.

I graduated in June 2017 at the age of 46, so I’m proof that you’re never too old!

JCR |   What is the ultimate goal in your career?

TT | I would say it’s too soon for me to predict my ultimate goal, but this first year’s goal has been spent learning the business side of being a freelance court reporter. We are essentially running a small business, which includes implementing a bookkeeping program to track all expenses and incoming revenue, preparing taxes, employing scopists and/or proofreaders, and time management.

Although the workload of a freelance court reporter can ebb and flow, I quickly discovered that work life can get so busy with transcripts that you have time for little else.  However, with a solid business foundation in place, a freelance court reporter can be successful in having a healthy work-life balance.

JCR | What’s the coolest experience you have had working in the profession?

TT | Every day as a freelance court reporter has been a “cool experience.” Prior to court reporting, I never had a job where I could honestly say, I love going to work every single day.  As a freelance reporter, no two days are ever the same. We play a critical role in producing an accurate and verbatim record of proceedings, and we have a front-row seat into the most important legal matters of people’s lives.  Thus far, I would say the best experience has been the realization that no machine will ever be able to replicate the accuracy of the human brain for synthesizing speech and converting it to text.

JCR | How has involvement with state and national reporting associations benefited your career thus far?

TT | As an online student and now a professional reporter, I am very passionate about the importance of being involved with your state reporting association and the NCRA. One of the benefits of being involved with state and national reporting associations is attending the yearly conventions and seminars, which allow for many connections and reconnections with students and professional reporters.

My first experience with an NCRA convention was New York City in 2015, where I was honored as the recipient of the CASE scholarship award. I was welcomed, supported, and encouraged by all of the professional reporters I met while I was there, and I even had a couple of them who would continue to mentor and e-mail me along my journey in school, which reminds me: Debbie Dibble and Irv Starkman, if you’re reading this, I did it!

Through my state and national reporting associations, I enjoy promoting the field of court reporting through career fairs and other venues that actively encourage new students, such as the Discover Steno video with NCRA and the Career Outreach video with WCRA, which has benefited not only my career, but hopefully some new recruits!

JCR | What do you like to do when you’re not reporting?

TT | When I’m not reporting, I love spending time with my husband, family, and my grandson, who calls me Noni. We enjoy anything that has to do with the outdoors, entertaining friends, music, and traveling.

JCR | What did you do to remain positive and motivated while in court reporting school?

TT | As an online student, you are somewhat isolated, so it was important for me to be involved with my state and national reporting associations. I had some amazing teachers, reporters, and fellow students along the way who mentored me in a way that both inspired and motivated me to keep pushing and never give up.  These same people continue to mentor and encourage me today as a professional reporter.

JCR | What do you love about your career?

TT | There are many benefits about this rewarding profession.  We truly have a one-of-a-kind career where we get to utilize our skill that is rare and in great demand worldwide.

As a freelance court reporter, I enjoy the benefits of schedule flexibility, a great income, job security, opportunity for professional growth, and the adventure of being presented with a new assignment and location every day.

Court reporting is rarely dull for people who enjoy learning!

Rachel Barkume, RPR, is a freelancer and CART captioner in Alta, CA. She is a member of the NCRA New Professionals Committee and can be reached at rachel.barkume@gmail.com.

Angel Donor Profile: Marjorie Peters

Marjorie Peters

The National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF) supports the advancement of the court reporting and captioning professions through education, scholarship, recognition, and programs critical to preserving the past, enriching the present, and securing the future of the profession. NCRF is able to do the great work it does with donations from individuals and organizations through various donor programs, including the popular Angels program.

Each month, NCRA will highlight one of the more than 100 Angels who support the National Court Reporters Foundation year after year. This month, the column kicks off with a profile of Marjorie Peters, RMR, CRR, who also holds NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator certificate.

JCR | Let’s begin with learning where you are based and what you do.

MP | Based in Pittsburgh, Pa., covering Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland. I am a freelance reporter and small firm owner covering complex realtime and all types of litigation, large and small.

JCR | How long have you been an Angel?

MP | Since the Angel program started, nearly 15 years ago!

JCR | Clearly being an Angel is important to you. Why?

MP | I did not attend college, but having a skilled trade that has become a career has offered me the opportunity to achieve goals and work in places with people I never would have imagined. It has given me freedom of choice and flexibility in my life. I want everyone to realize their own goals as well, and the Foundation programs offer those opportunities to others as well.  How can I not support that!?

JCR | Are you involved with the Foundation in other ways?

MP | I am on the Angels Gatherers Committee! Ask me about being an Angel! It’s not as hard as you think. After I was an Angel for the first couple of years, I realized it was a commitment that I would always make to myself and others because NCRF’s programs really do help others. Foundation programs empower!

JCR | What is your favorite NCRF program?   

MP | Well, the easy answer is the Oral Histories Project. It is a labor of love and the best day you will ever have. The Foundation programs support education through scholarships, support reporting firms by offering legal education resources, and of course the Corrine Clark Professionalism Institute supports fledgling reporters and firms. The Foundation lifts students, reporters, and firms to success personally and professionally.  

Learn more about the NCRF Angel Donors program, or become an Angel.