From accounting to court reporting in Alabama

Student Savannah Ray started out as an accounting student, but she changed paths to court reporting thanks to encouragement from her mother.

UTS | Can you talk a little about your background? Did you start the program straight out of high school, or did you have another career first?

SR | I’m an Alabama native, and I have lived in Gadsden for more than five years now.  I decided in my senior year of high school I would be going to Gadsden State to earn an accounting degree. I realized very quickly during my first semester that it wasn’t something that would make a fulfilling career for me because I didn’t really have as much interest in it as I thought.

UTS | How did you first get the idea of being a court reporter?

SR | Well, after I decided accounting wasn’t the path I wanted to take, I mentioned to my mom how I felt lost and was unsure of what to do anymore. She had taken the court reporting program for a brief period before and told me it couldn’t hurt to look into it. I did some research and fell in love with the profession. It kind of lit a fire in me and reignited my excitement for college. I started the program in August 2018 and haven’t looked back since!

UTS | What skill sets do you think would be helpful for a court reporter to possess?

SR | Time management and good concentration have been crucial for me through school. Our instructors hold us to the same standard we’ll have in the working world, so you have to learn to manage your workload in a timely manner and to focus on writing and editing for hours at a time if that’s what is needed.

UTS | What kinds of challenges have you faced during your court reporting program?

SR | The biggest challenge for me was accepting that sometimes you’ll fail. In the path to becoming a court reporter, you’re faced with the hard truth that you won’t always be able to pass every speed the first time you take it. Sometimes you’ll get stuck. There were times I’d really beat myself up over that, but that only held me back even more. Now I try to see not passing in a more positive light, it’s an experience I learned from that’ll help me improve in my future work.

UTS | Have you had a mentor help you out while in school? If yes, how has that helped? If no…how could a mentor help you?

SR | Yes, I recently got a mentor! She’s been lovely and very supportive. Any time I post about my progress she always sends me encouragement, and she’s even helped me to be able to go to my first conference this month which I’m really excited about.

 UTS | Where do you see yourself in five years?

SR | My dream job is to become an official so hopefully in five years I’ll have been able to achieve that.

UTS | What is the best advice you’ve been given so far?

SR | My instructor Michelle once told us to remember that this is our own race to run and it’s not about when you cross the finish line, it’s just about getting across it. That’s really motivated me in the moments when I’m feeling stuck because even if it takes time, I’ll get through those rough spots and make it to my finish line.

UTS | If you were to go to a high school career fair to recruit students, what would you say to them about a career in court reporting and captioning?

SR | I’d tell them about how, with a lot of hard work, you’ll be able to have a skill that not a lot of other people can say they have, writing at 225 words per minute with 95 percent accuracy is an amazing thing to be able to do. There’s also a large amount of job opportunities in the field right now with a potential to earn a nice income.

UTS | Where do you see the profession of court reporting and captioning 10 years from now? Do you think technology will help or hurt the profession?

SR | I feel like advances in technology can be a big help to reporters if we put in the time to learn and master it. Students now can do things that years ago weren’t possible. If we can continue to adapt technology to be an aide to us and work to raise awareness about the profession to younger people, our profession can thrive for years to come.

Savannah Ray is a student at Gadsden State Community College in Gadsden, Ala.

Stenograph partners with NCRF to sponsor new student scholarship

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

“Stenograph is proud to sponsor the newly created Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship,” said Stenograph President Anir Dutta. “We believe that by investing in our students and future students, through the NCRA’s A to Z Program, that we will positively impact the direction of this industry. It is an honor to be able to give back in this way.” 

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

Applications being accepted through Feb. 14, 2020. 


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

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

Document requirements

The following documents are required to be submitted for application:

  • Speed verification form
  • A copy of the student’s most recent transcript
  • A two-page, double-spaced essay responding to the following question: “Describe the role of technology in the future of reporting.”

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

“Stenograph’s commitment to the future of the court reporting and captioning professions is reflected in the company’s generous support of the Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship, and NCRF and NCRA are honored to share this common goal with them,” said NCRA Senior Director of Education and Certification Cynthia Bruce Andrews.  

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

Review: A Student Rates the NCRA Convention

by April Frederick

April Frederick

From seminars about live captioning Coachella to an inspiring keynote speech from Erin Brockovich; from high tea with professional speakers to speed dating with working reporters; from a Diamonds and Denim Gala to casual drinks at the hotel bar– every single minute of the conference was informative, enriching, fun, and inspiring.

My journey to becoming a court reporter began about two years ago. After getting the all-clear from my oncologist to return to work, and my daughter entering school full-time, it was time for me to decide what I wanted to do with my free time and second lease on life. I usually generate a chuckle when I tell the story of how I decided on the career of court reporting. Having pursued a degree in art after graduating from high school, I knew I would have to go back to school for something practical if I wanted to have a good-paying job. My second passion was always the criminal justice system and, to make a long story short, my husband brought up the idea of becoming a sketch artist in the courtroom. I quickly dismissed that idea but felt he may have been on to something. It was his next suggestion that changed my life. “What about becoming one of those “typie” people?” The lightbulb immediately came on and I knew he had hit the nail on the head.

I am fortunate enough to have been able to attend my theory classes in a brick-and-mortar school, and it was my being on campus that opened the door to forming personal relationships with the faculty and my classmates. It drew me into becoming involved with my school’s Captioning and Court Reporting (CCR) Club. The main purpose of our club is to facilitate students in attending professional enrichment events. It was through the CCR Club that I first learned about Ohio Court Reporters Association (OCRA) and NCRA conferences. I attended the OCRA conference, which was conveniently located near where I live in Parma, Ohio, in March of this year. The experience was invaluable to me and many of the working reporters I was networking with there suggested I attend the NCRA conference this year. I knew I would do whatever it took to attend. Miraculously, the conference was scheduled during my break from school and before my kids had to be back in their school. The timing was perfect, and the flight was booked.

The day I left for Denver, I was excited and nervous. I was not sure how different it would be as a student attending a national conference as opposed to a local one. Also, when I attended my state conference, I was one of many students from my school attending. This time, I was all by myself. I knew I had two faculty members attending, but I also knew they had educator seminars to attend, and I would have to rely on myself to navigate the convention center and socialize with strangers. In other words, I had to put my big girl pants on.

As soon as I stepped into the welcome area of the convention, I was greeted by a working reporter who exclaimed, “Yay! Another student!” I was whisked over to the registration table, all my nerves had vanished, and I felt completely at home. I cannot tell you how many professionals I engaged with during my three days at the convention, but I can tell you that I felt complete support and acceptance from everyone I had the pleasure of meeting. I have so many business cards that I need to invest in a Rolodex to fit them all.

In addition to having been accepted by the working professionals and attending seminars geared more toward them, I also attended ones geared strictly for students. The student events were some of my favorites because of the gracious and open nature of the speakers at those events. It also allowed me to meet other students from all over the United States and abroad and feel comfort in being able to talk to someone who can relate, right now, to what I am going through with school.

From seminars about live captioning Coachella to an inspiring keynote speech from Erin Brockovich; from high tea with professional speakers to speed dating with working reporters; from a Diamonds and Denim Gala to casual drinks at the hotel bar — every single minute of the conference was informative, enriching, fun, and inspiring. I would encourage every student to attend their state conference, but I would especially recommend doing whatever you can to attend at least one NCRA convention in your school career. I can promise you it will be completely worth the travel and expense because you cannot put a price on the information I learned, the contacts I  acquired, or the confidence and inspiration I felt upon my return to Parma, Ohio, to finish up what will hopefully be my last year as a student at Cuyahoga Community College.

April Frederick is president of the Captioning and Court Reporting Club at Cuyahoga Community College in Parma, Ohio.

Hitting the Jury Duty Lottery

by Kindra Barton

Kindra Barton

Military spouse Kindra Barton taught fourth grade, traveled around the world, and raised four children before her path finally led her to court reporting school. At 42, she has just graduated from Des Moines Area Community College in Newton, Iowa. “I hope that by going back to school I have taught my kids not to be afraid to do something difficult,” Kindra says, “and that it is never too late to change directions.”

Three years ago, I was chosen for jury duty.  I had been a stay-at-home mom for 15 years at that point.  I was so excited to dress up and listen to adults that I jokingly said I hit the jury duty lottery.  I was chosen for a weeklong trial, and every minute was fascinating to me.  The court reporter, Teresa Kordick, RDR, CRR, CRC, CRI, CPE, was amazing.  She was very polite and professional.  The day I left the courthouse for the last time, I called my husband and told him I wanted to be a court reporter.

After high school, I was interested in court reporting but chose a career as a teacher instead.  I taught fourth grade in Texas before marrying a military pilot and setting off for ten moves around the world.  In those ten years, I set aside teaching for unpacking and packing boxes, having four children, and waving flags for every deployment.

At the age of 39, I enrolled in the Des Moines Area Community College court reporting program in Newton, Iowa. Attending this program required a 45-minute drive four times a week from my home in Des Moines. I just turned 42 and passed my last speed test the same month. It took three years for me to graduate.  The advice that helped me the most during school was from my professors, and I repeated it over and over for three years:

  • Don’t compare yourself with others.  We will all reach the speeds in our own time.
  • Trust the process.  Start with your theory and really nail it down and then move to the next speed.
  • You must believe you can do this.  No one else can believe it hard enough for you.
  • Practice your theory.  (Repeat 20x)
  • Practice, practice, practice.
  • When you are an amazing court reporter, no one will care how long it took you to get out of school.

One of the things that has been amazing about interacting with professional court reporters throughout my schooling has been the amount of support and encouragement they have for students. Every single one of them has said, “We need you.” They invite us to conferences and buy our lunch. They let us sit in with them for court and depositions. Without that experience, I am confident my speed would not be where it is today. We even had a firm owned by a female court reporter pay for one of our certification exams!

I have not heard anyone say that school has been easy for them. I have watched students graduate in 15 months and others take longer than three years. From the first theory test I ever took, I would turn to the person next to me and say, “You’ve got this.” As it turns out we need each other. When one student graduates, the water level rises, and we all swim a little higher.

My family has changed in the three years I have been in school.  My four children learned that failure isn’t an ending. (Don’t worry, Mom, you will pass the next one!) For Mother’s Day this year, my youngest daughter gave me a coupon for “5 free pep talks.” I hope that by going back to school I have taught my kids not to be afraid to do something difficult, and that it is never too late to change directions.

In the future I hope to become a freelance court reporter in Des Moines, Iowa.  I hope to figure out downtown parking, and I hope to perfect my steno face. For today, I need to go practice.

Kindra Barton is a recent graduate from Des Moines Area Community College in Newton, Iowa. She is currently studying for her RPR skills exams.

Promoting the profession in an Uber

From left to right: Michelle Feliccitti, Shellene Iverson, Beth Gaige, Robin Nodland, Linda Hallworth, and Janine D’Allesandro Ferren  

Michelle R. Feliccitti, RPR, from Portland, Maine, had a moment to promote the court reporting profession during the 2019 NCRA Convention & Expo in Denver. She was with a group of NCRA members who had originally met at NCRA’s Boot Camp in 2012. She recently shared her story with the JCR:

JCR | Where were you?

MRF | I was attending the NCRA convention in Denver, Co.  My business partner and I and four other amazing court reporters were going to the Botanical Gardens for Max Curry’s President Party.  We called an Uber to pick us up at the hotel … the rest is history.

JCR | How did the conversation start?

MRF | Being court reporters, it’s a treat to talk to anyone, as we’re always sitting, listening all day long to what others have to say.  With a car full of six court reporters, we were all quite a lively bunch.  I happened to be sitting in the front seat and chit-chatted with the driver about Denver and what she does and who we were and why we were in Denver.  As the driver talked, she mentioned she didn’t know what direction she was going in life, and the Uber (driving) was just temporary and part-time.  There was my opening.  I just talked about what a great career court reporting has been for me and talked about the job and what we do as freelancers and how it’s not just in court like you see on TV.  I mentioned the great A to Z TM program NCRA offers to even see if court reporting is something she would really want to do.  No risk or harm in trying, right?  It’s worth a shot. 

Of course, I had the backing of my amazing ladies in the car with me, piping in when they heard me chatting her up about the A to Z program and what kind of career this was.

By the end of the ride I told her, listen, look up the A to Z program and here is my business card — of course I did try to tell her Maine would be a great state to work in — but then Oregon piped up and so did Canada; we were all vying for a newbie. I told her to contact me with any questions, and I’d be willing to talk more or help guide her to find the right program and people to mentor her. 

A few weeks later she e-mailed me and told me she had signed up for A to Z this October and had questions about schooling, licensing and how to get started.  I e-mailed her back, excited for her, and told her I’d find someone local that she could meet with if she wanted to, but I could help her with the regulations in her state.

That’s where I emailed my NCRA firm owners family and asked for someone in Colorado to mentor her. Jason Meadors was willing to help, so I sent an e-mail to her and Jason to get them connected.

JCR | Have you had this experience before of talking to someone who becomes interested in court reporting?

MRF | Yes, I’ve talked to others about becoming a court reporter.  Actually, right now my niece, a senior in high school, is looking at the A to Z program and wants to shadow me.  Yay!

JCR | Anything else you would like to share?

MRF | I plan on checking in with her after the first class and intermittently, but I know she’s in good hands with Jason, one of the best in our industry!

Follow #NCRA19 and get updates from the 2019 NCRA Convention & Expo online

Whether you are on-site or holding down the home front during the 2019 NCRA Convention & Expo, on Aug. 15-18 in Denver, Colo., be sure to follow along with all that’s happening at special sessions, networking events, the Expo floor, and more by checking in with, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Throughout the Convention, NCRA will be posting updates on as well as on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using #NCRA19.

Kelli Ann Willis will post for @ncraofficial on Thu. & Sat.

Be sure to follow us on Instagram for three exciting takeover days. Kelli Ann Willis, RPR, CRR, a freelance court reporter from Hutchinson, Kan., and member of NCRA’s Technology Committee, will be in charge of our Instagram on Thursday and Saturday.

Shaunise Day will take over @ncraofficial on Fri.

Shaunise Day, a member of NCRA’s PAC trustees and court reporting student from Oakland, Calif., will be taking over our Instagram on Friday when she will give a first-hand student’s view of Convention.

Follow along for important information for attendees as well as breaking news for members who are keeping up with the action from home. Everyone is encouraged to join the conversation and share their stories from Denver.

NCRA announces first A to Z Scholarship recipients

Winners of the first NCRA A to Z™  Scholarships have been announced. The recipients are students who have completed an NCRA A to Z ™ Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program and are enrolled in a court reporting program. Scholarships in the amount of $500 have been awarded to the following students:

  • Stacie Cain, a student at the College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind.;
  • Tonya L. Cross-Casado of San Antonio College in San Antonio, Texas;
  • Jennie Dunlap, a student at Hardeman School of Court Reporting and Captioning in Tampa, Fla.;
  • Camryn Dunne, a student at Des Moines Area Community College in Newton, Iowa.;
  • Alicia Floerchinger, a student at Alfred State College in Alfred, N.Y. “I took the NCRA A-Z program in hopes to get a feel for the machine before starting school. Not only was I able to experience that, but the A-Z program taught me key combinations, along with how to write the alphabet on the steno machine. Having this knowledge made me feel confident in my first semester of court reporting. The A-Z program was the greatest opportunity I had before pursuing my career in court reporting.”
  • Marie Forman, a student at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. “After years of working retail, I wanted a change, but wasn’t sure what career would be right for me. At the NAIT open house, I was intrigued by captioning and court reporting, but still knew very little about them. It was the NCRA A to Z program that really got me interested in pursuing stenography further, and it also helped me keep up with the first few weeks of a very fast-paced college course.”
  • Jennifer Gale, a student at Community College of Allegheny County, Pittsburgh, Pa.;
  • Jana Oelbaum, a student at Long Island Business Institute, Commack, N.Y. “I can’t speak highly enough about the NCRA A to Z program, and I recommend it to anyone who is curious about the court reporting profession.   Not only was the material presented in clear and organized lessons, but we also got to hear from working professionals and ask questions of them during live web seminars.  I am certain that my participation and completion of this course put me at a great advantage once I enrolled in my first theory class at school.   I was already familiar with the steno machine, the steno alphabet, and how to write basic words which those letters and keystrokes make.”;
  • Diego Ramirez, a student at San Antonio College, San Antonio, Texas. “The A-Z Program was a wonderful introduction into the professional world of court reporting for me.”; and
  • Karlye Walton, a student at Des Moines Community College, Newton, Iowa. “Nothing could have prepared me or helped solidify my decision more than participating in the A to Z program. I strongly encourage anybody interested in this career path to participate in this class beforehand!”

To be eligible to apply for the NCRA A to Z™ Scholarship, students must meet the criteria below: 

  • Have completed an NCRA A to Z™ Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program;
  • Have received an NCRA A to Z™ Certificate of Completion;
  • Have attained an exemplary academic record;
  • Have passed one skills test writing 60-100 words per minute at the time of submission.

For more information on the NCRA A to Z™ Scholarship, please contact the Education Department at

NCRA announces 2019 CASE Student Scholarships

NCRA has announced the winners of the 2019 CASE (Council on Approved Student Education) Student Scholarships. The winners were chosen based on their winning entries in an essay writing contest. The essay question was “Describe the importance of earning your Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) certification as a new professional.”

Each year, CASE awards five scholarships to students who attend an NCRA-approved court reporting program. To be eligible to apply, students must also hold a student membership in NCRA, have attained an exemplary academic record, and passed one skills test writing at between 140 and 180 words per minute. Students are also required to submit a speed verification form, three recommendation forms, a copy of their most recent transcript, and an essay in response to a topic chosen by members of CASE.

Philip A. Dawson

Philip A. Dawson, a student at the Community College of Allegheny County, Pittsburgh, Pa., secured the top spot by winning the $1,500 scholarship. “I am honored to be a recipient of the CASE Student Scholarship. My training as a court reporter has been a life changing experience. The teachers and reporters I have met along the way have been truly great people that earnestly want me to succeed and I am grateful for their support,” he said. “This scholarship is a testament to their support and a tremendous help to me and my family, as it will aide in the transition from school to my new career as a court reporter and will allow us to care for our needs while also enable us to spend value time in our volunteer work.”

Lora Zabiran

Recipient of the $1,000 scholarship was Lora Zabiran, a student at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. “Winning this scholarship has made me feel included and not forgotten being only the second Canadian recipient so far,” said Zabiran. “I am honored by being chosen, and I’m thankful for the prize.”

Julie Layton

Julie Layton, a student at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, said she was both thrilled and honored to be the recipient of a $750 scholarship. “This award is helping to pay for my start-up equipment which a great start to my career,” she said. “Thank you for this opportunity you have given me.”

Patricia Lopez

The essay written by Patricia Lopez, a student at the College of Court Reporting, Valparaiso, Ind., earned her a $500 CASE scholarship. “Receiving the scholarship will help me accomplish my dream of becoming a court reporter and will provide me the opportunity to create a better life for my family,” she said. “I love the court reporting profession, and it is truly an honor to be part of this community,” Lopez added.

Lydia Palcuk, a student at MacCormac College, Chicago, Ill., was awarded a $250 scholarship. In her essay, Palcuk wrote that earning her RPR is a goal she cannot wait to accomplish. She recently passed her 180 words per minute speed and noted that she loves getting to see the progress she is making every day through her hard work.

Lydia Palcuk

“As important as it is to get through school, looking toward the goal of becoming a RPR is also vital,” Palcuk wrote. “I want to be as certified as I possibly can be in my career, and that is why getting the RPR means the world to me. When you earn that certification, you have the confidence to know you are accredited I your career.”

The winners will be recognized at an awards luncheon being held at NCRA’s 2019 Convention & Expo being held Aug. 15-18 in Denver, Colo.

For more information about the CASE Scholarships, contact Ellen Goff, NCRA Assistant Director, Professional Development at, or visit

Top 10 reasons to attend the 2019 NCRA Convention & Expo

Maybe you have already registered for the 2019 NCRA Convention & Expo in Denver, Colo. August 15-18. Or maybe you are still trying to decide whether to go. Up-to-Speed offers the top 10 reasons why students should take advantage of the great opportunity.

  1. Special student discount pricing. Student members pay only $150 for a full registration; student nonmembers: $235. Registration includes complete student track seminars, 3-day Expo Hall pass, Meet & Greet Reception with NCRA Board, Opening Reception, Premier Session, and Awards Luncheon.
  2. Networking. The NCRA Convention & Expo is the largest gathering of court reporters and captioners in the country, so students have a good chance of meeting a wide range of working professionals. “Really be open-minded about working reporters sincerely wanting to help you because they are so passionate about this profession,” said Sarah Hamilton, a student at the College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind.
  3. Knowledge. With sessions aimed specifically for students – such as “Good Reporter/Bad Reporter,” “Steno Speed Dating,” and “You Want Me to Do What” – attendees will learn tips and strategies to help them succeed during school and after they graduate.
  4. Motivation. “Going to convention as a student was something I looked forward to every year,” said Callie Sajdera, a graduate of Anoka Technical College in Anoka, Minn. who is a presenter this year. “The convention always gave me a rejuvenating feeling and motivated me to push myself through school. Whenever I am running low on motivation, it seems to be just around convention time!”
  5. Community. Convention is a great way to build relationships with other students, especially for those who attend online programs. “Hearing stories from others who have had the same struggles is encouraging, said Michael Roberts, a student at Brown College of Court Reporting in Atlanta, Ga., “because you find out you’re not the only one dealing with these conflicts.”
  6. Meet the NCRA Board. Students are invited to a special meet and greet with the NCRA Board of Directors
  7. Premier Session with Keynote Speaker. Attend the Premier Session with Erin Brokovich, national recognized consumer advocate and environmental advocate.
  8. Expo Hall. Student registration includes access to the Expo Hall, where they can view products and demonstrations by vendors.
  9. NCRA. Learn more about what your association can do for you.
  10. Denver, Colo. Visit the Mile High City while you are in town for the convention!

Register here

Find full event schedule here

View Student Track Sessions

A student asks, “Why am I here?”

Stephanie Famber

By Stephanie Famber

Last Spring, Stephanie Famber attended Georgia United, a seminar sponsored by the Georgia Court Reporters Association in Atlanta, Ga. “In Georgia,” Famber says, “as in several other states, we can now face the woes of court reporting together as a stronger, larger family. I hope we can set a good example and encourage others to follow.”

Why am I here? Those are the first words written in my notes from the Georgia United, 2019 Spring Seminar in Atlanta, Ga., hosted by the Georgia Court Reporters Association (GCRA) Mind you, those words were written roughly 30 minutes into a 12-hour seminar. No, it’s not what you think. I didn’t get bored of the speaker, start doodling and regret my decision to give up what could turn out to be a very long Saturday. “Why am I here?” is a far more profound question. We’ll get there in a minute.

My name is Stephanie. I am excited to say I am a court reporting student. I currently attend Brown College of Court Reporting in Atlanta, Ga., as a full-time student with a full-time job. This is only my third month as a court reporting student. I know I am as green as they come. I’m still shopping for my student writer and haven’t even started theory yet. I have a lot to learn, but I am all in and full speed ahead. Why else would I have given up a precious weekend for some seminar? Well, I have heard several seasoned reporters speak. One of the recurring themes I have heard is, “Join your association; be active.” Man, am I glad I did!

After a fantastic icebreaker about assumptions, the first GCRA speaker cut right to the chase and dove into their main topic, communication. The group dialogue began with how we can alter our behavior and speech to potentially change negative assumptions about ourselves or others. When the speaker opened the floor for topics relevant to a court reporter’s life, that’s when things got juicy. We went through the range of FAQs and how to best communicate an answer to them. “Aren’t you just typing really fast?” “When will you graduate?” “Aren’t you worried AI will take over your job?” “What do you do anyway?” And there it was, the first tough question as a new student that I didn’t know how to answer. I know what we do, but how do I explain that to someone outside of our world? Why ARE we here?

Now let’s back up to one of the other questions, “Aren’t you worried AI will take over your job?” The topic of electronic recordings in the courtroom was brought up several times by concerned court reporters and addressed by multiple speakers from a different perspective. As a brand-new student at the beginning of my journey to become a court reporter, I know very little in general, and even less about the adversity that is faced daily in the working profession. It was unsettling, albeit brief, to hear so many concerns in such a short amount of time.

Christine Phipps, the Vice President of NCRA, was a very comforting speaker. As both a seasoned court reporter and court reporting firm owner, Christine was able to speak with contagious confidence backed by years of experience. Christine is based in Florida, where she is all too familiar with the struggles brought by electronic recording encroaching on court reporters. She has seen big electronic recording companies swoop in and convince the right people to switch to electronic recording. She spoke of the period and struggles after the switch to or testing of electronic recording. As Christine chronicled some of her experiences, I found myself relaxing back into my chair, reassured by the logic and reason displayed by the lawyers and attorneys she mentioned as they came to realize the inferiority of an uncertified transcript produced from an electronic recording. A few moments later, I was sitting at attention again, as she preached passionately about our value as court reporters. Christine went as far as to say some Florida lawyers began to cancel depositions on the spot once they realized an electronic recorder had been sent in lieu of a court reporter. You, as a court reporter, are valuable. You may be underappreciated or taken for granted at times, but people definitely notice when you are gone.

Before attending the seminar, I had already heard or read stories of bias regarding which type of court reporter is better. It saddens me to realize this bias is so readily impressed upon those entering the world of court reporting. In my dealings at the seminar, it was apparent from the speech of some and the side comments of others that this bias is a real and present danger to the court reporting community. And yet, there is hope for a more united future. I spoke with several individuals who were considering changing their method of reporting. Some voice writers were ready to take on a new challenge, while other steno writers were tired of using their hands constantly. I was grateful to find a plentiful number of reporters to whom the style of takedown did not matter. If a voice writer and a steno writer can produce the exact same quality of transcript, does the method of takedown even matter? Can one method even logically be superior if the end result is exactly the same? I do not believe so.

Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” The birth of GCRA has dissolved our division and united our previously separated court reporting associations. In Georgia, as in several other states, we can now face the woes of court reporting together as a stronger, larger family. I hope we can set a good example and encourage others to follow. I would like to thank GCRA for putting together such a wonderful inaugural seminar. This was an invaluable learning experience, and the seminar as a whole felt reassuring. I am optimistic about the future of court reporting. I can’t wait to join such a wonderful profession.

Stephanie Famber is a student at Brown College of Court Reporting in Atlanta, Ga.