Photo by Cheryl Pellerin | Dept. of Defense

By Christine Phipps

Equifax announced in September that they discovered a data breach on July 29, that occurred mid-May through July, which affects 143 million Americans.

The hackers were able to access the Equifax data through a security flaw in the Equifax website. In a Sept. 7 post on krebsonsecurity.com, security expert Brian Krebs said, “Equifax may have fallen behind in applying security updates to its internet-facing Web applications. Although the attackers could have exploited an unknown flaw in those applications, I would fully expect Equifax to highlight this fact if it were true – if for no other reason than doing so might make them less culpable and appear as though this was a crime which could have been perpetrated against any company running said Web applications.” The Fort Knox of our identity information was asleep at the wheel.

While this isn’t the largest breach, it’s one of the most serious because the hackers accessed names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers. These are the essential elements to take out loans, open credit-card accounts, and more.

Visit equifaxsecurity2017.com to find out if you were affected by clicking on the “Potential Impact” button. Make sure you are on a secure computer (not a hotel or public computer) and are using a secure internet connection (not a public network like a local coffee shop, etc.). Equifax is offering free credit monitoring, identity theft insurance, and other items for those affected. I have always had credit monitoring so that I receive alerts in balance increases and decreases, new accounts, and credit inquiries. If you do not have a system of monitoring in place, I would strongly suggest you do so.

Christine Phipps, RPR, is a freelancer and agency owner in North Palm Beach, Fla., and a member of the NCRA Board of Directors. She can be reached at christine@phippsreporting.com.

The JCR Awards recognize innovative business strategies and more

The JCR Awards offer the perfect way to showcase innovative and successful business strategies from the past year. For the third year, the JCR staff is seeking stories that bring to life new and inventive ways that NCRA members change the way they do business, serve their communities, and help promote the professions of court reporting and captioning.

Nominations are currently being sought for several subcategories, such as best-in-class stories for: Marketing and customer service; Leadership, teambuilding, and mentoring; Use of technology; Community outreach; Service in a nonlegal setting; and Court Reporting & Captioning Week (2017) initiative. In addition, NCRA is looking for a group and an individual who show excellence in more than one category for an overall “Best of the Year” award.

Any current NCRA member in good standing, with the exception of students, may be nominated for these awards. Court reporters, captioners, videographers, scopists, teachers and school administrators, and court reporting managers are all eligible for nomination as well as groups, such as firms, courthouses, or court reporting programs. Self-nominations are accepted. More information about specific criteria for each of the categories is available on the JCR Awards Entry Form.

To enter, submit a written entry to the JCR between 300 and 1,000 words explaining the strategies implemented and why they were successful. Ancillary materials, such as photos, may also be submitted with the nomination. Nominations will be considered based on the best fact-based story. Please be prepared to offer documentation, verifiable sources, or other assistance as needed to be considered for these awards. The stories of the finalists will be published as featured articles in the March 2018 issue of the JCR.

Nominations are due by Oct. 31.

Read about the winners from 2017 and 2016.

U.S. Legal Support acquires Bienenstock Nationwide Court Reporting & Video

U.S. Legal Support, Inc., announced in a press release issued Sept. 12 that it has completed the acquisition of Bienenstock Nationwide Court Reporting & Video, headquartered in Bingham Farms, Mich.

Read more.

JCR Awards nominations open through Oct. 31

Nominate yourself or a noteworthy court reporter, captioner, videographer, scopist, teacher, school administrator, or court reporting manager for recognition through the JCR Awards. Conceived as a way to recognize and highlight the exemplary professionalism, community service, and business practices of NCRA members, the JCR Awards is a way to tell compelling stories that bring to life innovative and successful business strategies from the past year. In addition to nominations for several subcategories, NCRA is looking for a firm and an individual who show excellence in more than one category for an overall “Best of the Year” award.

Any current NCRA member in good standing, with the exception of students, may be nominated for these awards. Court reporters, captioners, videographers, scopists, teachers and school administrators, and court reporting managers are all eligible for nomination. Self-nominations are accepted. Firms, courthouses, or court reporting programs may be nominated as a group as long as they meet the criteria for membership for one of the definitions in the JCR Awards Entry Form.

To nominate yourself or someone else, submit a written entry to the JCR between 300 and 1,000 words explaining the strategies you implemented and why they were successful. Ancillary materials, such as photos, may also be submitted with the nomination. Nominations will be considered by the JCR editorial team based on the best fact-based story. Please be prepared to offer documentation, verifiable sources, or other assistance as needed to be considered for these awards. The stories of the finalists will be published as featured articles in the March JCR.

Nominations are due by Oct. 31. Read more about the JCR Awards.

NCRA’s 2016 Convention & Expo: Something for everyone

Convention-JCRcom-BoxAdOnline registration for NCRA 2016 Convention & Expo happening at the Hilton Chicago, Chicago, Ill., Aug. 4-7, closes July 29, so hurry and register now to participate in the vast array of networking opportunities, certification preparation workshops for the Certified Realtime Reporter and the Realtime Systems Administrator, and, of course, all that’s new on the Expo floor.

Whether you are an official, freelancer, broadcast or CART captioner, legal videographer, educator, student, or legal services provider, this year’s schedule has something to help you be the architect of your future. Plus attendees who need CEUs can earn up to 2.45 of them with a full registration and optional workshops.

Among the educational session highlights are:

Freelancer business 101. Presenters: Lisa DiMonte, RMR, CMRS; Jan Ballman, RPR, CMRS; Marjorie Peters, RMR, CRR; and Dave Tackla, CLVS

Compassion fatigue and job stress. Presenter: April Kopp, LCSW, MFA

Your cloud-based office. Presenters: Nancy Bistany, RPR and Kim Neeson, RPR, CRR, CRC

The secret business of court reporting. Presenter: Debbie Bridges Duffy, RPR

Beyond the captions:  Captioner roundtable. Presenters: Merilee Johnson, RMR, CRR, CRC; Bill Graham; and Deanna Baker, FAPR, RMR

90 apps in 90 minutes. Presenter: Sara Wood, CAE

Tax tips for court reporters. Presenter: Charlotte Ogorek

Best practices for realtime reporting. Presenters: Jason Meadors, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC; Christine Phipps, RPR; and Sandy VanderPol, FAPR, RMR, CRR

Anywhere, anytime:  Online testing. Presenter: Marybeth Everhart, RPR, CRI, CPE

Are you an independent contractor or an employee? Presenter: Chris Wojcicki

Video equipment configuration:  Real world equipment setups. Presenters: Richard Hayden, CLVS, and Jason Levin, CLVS

In addition, students, educators, and school administrators will enjoy a selection of sessions tailored specifically to their interests and needs.

Other highlights for the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo include professional speaker and humorist address the topic of “Pride in the Profession” when he takes the stage as the keynote presenter during the Premier Session; the national Speed and Realtime Contests; the installation of NCRA’s 2016-2017 Officers and Board of Directors; and the presentation of the Distinguished Service Award, the highest award bestowed by NCRA. Networking opportunities will include receptions, the annual awards and NCRF Angels luncheons, and the President’s Party.

Remember, the deadline for online registration is July 29. For more information and to register for the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo, visit NCRA.org/Convention.

TechLinks: Keeping your information secure

NCRA’s Technology Committee rounded up a group of tech-related articles about keeping your computer files and other information secure, an ever-increasing concern in a world where privacy and security are becoming more and more important. Two articles explain what to look for in scams and the remainder offer suggestions for keeping your devices and information secure.

A tech sector employee explains her vishing – voice phishing — experience and how such scams can threaten the information security of a business. The YouTube video also gives information on how to recognize and how to avoid such scams. See video.

How to recognize a risky email was the topic of a June 16 post on lawyerist.com. Whether avoiding viruses or phishing scams, this article offers the basics for keeping your computer safe. Read more.

A July 4 post on Gizmo’s Freeware, a community website for reviewing free software, suggested Safepad as a simple Windows notepad replacement that uses encryption. Read more.

Bringing the above together, also check out an ABA article on building strong passwords to protect your information from its June issue. The suggestions include using longer words, using both letters – a mix of upper and lowercase – and numbers, and other tricks to make your devices more secure. Read more.

An article in PC Magazine about encrypting data on external drives is a reminder to protect clients’ confidential information as well.  Read more.

Come see what’s new on the exhibit hall floor at the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo

Dozens of vendors will be on site at NCRA’s 2016 Convention & Expo, Aug. 4-7 in Chicago, Ill., at the Hilton Chicago, to showcase the latest in new products and services specifically for the court reporting profession. Vendors will be offering products ranging from software to equipment to support services and more. Vendors sponsoring events at this year’s Convention & Expo include AristoCAT, Esquire Deposition Solutions, Mercer, Realtime Coach, StenEd, and Streamtext.net.

Below is a glimpse of some of the new and exciting products and services Convention & Expo attendees can expect to experience:

ProCAT, a proud industry supporter and partner for 34 years, will be showcasing the new ProCAT Xpression writer and ProCAT Winner 2016.  The new ProCAT Xpression promises to offer unsurpassed comfort and technology, which includes Internet access. The company invites attendees to visit their booth and try out the touch and feel of the new ProCAT Xpression. Also on display will be the popular Impression writer, as well as the Blaze writer for students and CART writers. Representatives will also be on hand to demonstrate its captioning software, CaptiVision, and attorney viewer, CasePad.

YesLaw, which provides software to official and freelance court reporters, court reporting firms, and legal videographers to produce transcripts and video for delivery, will showcase software it has developed for text-to-video synchronization, and transcript production software for hyperlinked PDF transcripts. Also on display will be YesLaw Online, which provides secure, HIPAA-compliant access to cloud delivery of deposition content.

Stenovations will showcase products that include the new LightSpeed Zenith keyboard, with a new feel and keys that flex. According to the company, the Zenith has 121 sensors, which will greatly enhance accuracy. The all-new powerful Zenith software allows the incorporation of a question or answer bank into any steno stroke without adding any new dictionary entries. Also on display will be the company’s StenAudio, an Android smartphone app that receives steno from any writer via Bluetooth. The app captures and time stamps the steno and also records and time stamps audio. The files can then be moved to a computer for translation and editing.

MacCormac College, which offers Chicago’s only NCRA-certified and Higher Learning Commission-accredited court reporting program, will have representatives available to answer questions about its flexible evening and dual degree tracks, as well as its engaging mentorship program that offers trainee reporters an opportunity-filled academic experience. As the nation’s oldest court reporting school in the country, MacCormac not only trains future court reporters but also caters to working reporters with its CART and captioning program, which is designed for those interested in boosting earning potential and bolstering their credentials. Founded in 1904, MacCormac College is the premier two-year, private, non-profit, accredited court reporting institution in the state of Illinois. The college will also be holding a trivia contest at its booth.

DirectDep will showcase an innovative cloud-based technology platform for law firm professionals to instantly book court reporters for depositions in real time, 24 hours a day. Visitors to the company’s booth will learn more about the platform, which delivers seamless online and mobile scheduling to help agencies grow their business without sign-up or subscription fees. DirectDep features customized profiles highlighting individual reporter’s certifications and experience, areas of specialty, and verified ratings/reviews given by attorneys. According to the company, its products and services can help strengthen and expand agencies’ national networks, enabling them to attract new bookings and maximize their business both locally and nationally with the top tier law firms engaged in complex litigation.

Pengad, a supplier to legal professionals worldwide that offers an extensive line of court reporter supplies, will have on hand a wide range of transcript covers, stationery, index tabs, laser printer paper, exhibit labels, laptop trays, laptop skins, microphones, and mailing and notary products available for fast delivery. NCRA Convention & Expo attendees will have the opportunity to learn more about these products and services as well as the company’s full line of promotional products and its in-house graphics department that can provide personalized products. Visitors are encouraged to stop by the Pengad booth to learn more about the special convention sale prices being offered.

EV360 will be presenting EV360 Ultimate: Ultimate Realtime Speed Adjustment Technology.  EV360 Ultimate is the ultimate results-driven speed and accuracy advancement personalized training tool in the market, according to a company representative. Users can build realtime speed and skills through a patent-pending innovation that adjusts dictation speed based on the user’s accuracy while maintaining the natural sound of the speaker.

Visitors should be sure to stop by the Dictionary Jumpstart booth to learn more about the company’s array of more than 55 vocabulary updates designed to further enhance realtime services. Dictionary Jumpstart, which offers a new update each month, will showcase its Terminate Transcript Turmoil and Terminate Transcript Turmoil 2, both designed to aid in reducing transcript production time.

NCRA Convention & Expo attendees who stop by the Dictionary Jumpstart booth can also learn more about the one-on-one realtime and CART training offered by EduCAPTION through its Caption Masters Broadcast Captioning course, which will be offered in September, January 2017, and May 2017.

Advantage Software will be demonstrating its all-new Eclipse V8, with more than 100 new features and improvements that make it faster, smarter, and more versatile than ever before, according to the company. Visitors will also learn more about the company’s Portable Proofreading, which allows users the ability to proofread anytime, anywhere on any phone, tablet, or computer. Other products and services that will be showcased include Eclipse’s customizable artificial intelligence features that let users reflect their personal preferences, as well allowing multiple users to work on the same job from different locations. Also on display will be the patented StenoMagic keys on the Passport Touch.

Caption First will be on the expo floor with opportunities for certified and uncertified realtime writers for CART, captioning, transcription, and more. According to the company, both new professionals and seasoned veterans can benefit from its realtime modules designed to help users improve their speed, accuracy, testing strategies, and income. The Caption First modules include a skills evaluation, conflict resolution, numbers, punctuation, word boundary issues, and more.

Realtime Coach will be available to demonstrate new features on that myRealtimeCoach.com can help boost a steno writer’s speed, accuracy, including games, favorites, and learning paths. In addition, Realtime Coach has a new feature for teachers that allows them to assess transfer students.

Stenograph will be introducing a new dimension in CATalyst, which includes a new approach to an everyday problem will make reporters’ work easier and more efficient. In addition to demonstrating this at the booth, Stenograph will show off the new features during the Stenograph Showcase Seminar.

Below is the complete list of vendors exhibiting at this year’s NCRA Convention & Expo:

  • Advantage Software
  • Caption First, Inc.
  • Classique Creations
  • College of Court Reporting/ev360
  • Deposition Destinations & Resources
  • Dictionary Jumpstart, Inc.
  • Direct Dep
  • EduCaption LLC
  • Esquire Deposition Solutions
  • Excelsior College
  • FirstLease, Inc.
  • Huseby, Inc
  • Illinois Court Reporters Association
  • KusarGlobal
  • Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority
  • LiveDeposition.com
  • MacCormac College
  • Mercer
  • Pengad, Inc.
  • PohlmanUSA Court Reporting
  • ProCAT
  • Realtime Learning Systems/Realtime Coach
  • Remote Counsel
  • Revolutionary Text
  • StenEd
  • Stenograph, LLC
  • Stenovations
  • StenoWorks
  • StreamText.net
  • Thomson Reuters
  • TransPerfect Legal Solutions
  • ViVi Jewelry
  • YesLaw

Other highlights for the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo include professional speaker and humorist John Wagner, who will address the topic of “Pride in the Profession” when he takes the stage as the keynote presenter during the Premier Session; the national Speed and Realtime Contests; an array of educational sessions and workshops designed specifically for court reporters, captioners, CART providers, legal videographers, students; and educators; the installation of NCRA’s 2016-2017 Officers and Board of Directors; and the presentation of the Distinguished Service Award, the highest award bestowed by NCRA.

The event will include an array of networking opportunities, receptions, the annual awards and NCRF Angels luncheon, the President’s Party, and a celebration of National Purple Heart Day, which will be marked with a special Veterans History Project event.

For more information and to register for the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo, visit NCRA.org/Convention.

Windows 10: To switch or not to switch — that is the question

TechLinks_logoBy Christine Phipps

Is Microsoft continually peppering you with requests to upgrade to Windows 10? Luring you with free offers? Strong-arming you with automatic downloads? With this article, I hope to help you better decide when switching to Windows 10 is right for you.

Every Windows product has a life cycle that begins when a product is released and ends when it’s no longer supported. According to the Microsoft website, end of support is the date when the company stops providing automatic fixes, updates, or online technical assistance for a product. Windows 7, which was deemed more popular than Windows 8, ended its mainstream (free) support in January 2015. Support for Windows 8.1, if you use that system, is currently set to end Jan. 9, 2018.

Although each operating system has its own life cycle, the computer-buying public seems to have specific opinions about which are really great operating systems and which are not so great, and many computer users will hop over one to get to the other. So it looks like many will hop from Windows 7 to 10, and Windows 10 will be the next major operating system that everyone will be on eventually.

The determining factor of why some operating systems seem to go by the wayside and some stay is due in part to enterprise systems switching to a particular operating system. Enterprise systems are servers, storage, and associated software used by large companies as their IT infrastructure. A company’s operations will run off this system, so switching to an enterprise system is a major undertaking. All or most of the security issues had to have been dealt with, so as not to risk the breakdown of an entire company. Currently, Windows 10 has issues with drive mappings, which will randomly fall off. Mapping is a very important function as it’s the individual mapping of where and how the data will travel from the workhorse computers. This is why there has not been a complete move to Windows 10, as it is not yet good enough for enterprise level.

Microsoft is pulling out all the stops this month before its free upgrade to Windows 10 ends July 29. How do you know whether to accept the update that Microsoft wants to force you into? If your computer was built within two years, you are safe to proceed with the upgrade. The easiest way to find the hardware assembly date is to look up the computer serial number on the manufacturer’s support website.

A computer that is older than two years and upgrades to Windows 10 may miss out on some things, like the biometric reader. To acquire these tools, you may need to download some drivers and even that doesn’t guarantee they will work. Some cameras also may not work correctly. However, for CAT software, email, and some data processing — what reporters typically use their computers for — Windows 10 should be fine.

I believe in always having computers on auto updates, and I set my computer to make updates in the middle of the night, like 3 a.m. If you have a computer older than two years and believe it will be detrimental to upgrade, you can change the auto update settings. Go into Control Panel, then Windows Update, then Change settings, and change the setting from “auto” to “check for updates but let me choose when to install them.”

I would further suggest that if your computer is older than two years that you start looking into buying a new computer. Windows 10 is optimized for use on Intel microprocessors based on the Skylake architecture. These are Intel Core processors that have been manufactured since August 2015. Look for a computer with the Windows 10 operating system if it contains a processor based on the Skylake architecture.

I cannot stress the importance of staying current on software and firmware. I hope that understanding upgrades to operating systems and what to look for will help you make the right decisions for you and prevent any unnecessary hassle or loss of data.


Christine Phipps, RPR, of North Palm Beach, Fla., is co-chair of NCRA’s Technology Committee. She can be reached at christine@phippsreporting.com.

Advancements in court reporting technology: Synchronized video depositions

Film strip of court scenes with excerpts from the transcript at the bottom as captions.

By Todd Mobley

As experienced litigators know, there is no substitute for thorough trial preparation. Knowing which details to present, and when to present them, are key to successfully making a case or impeaching the testimony of opposition witnesses.

At the same time, recalling those details, especially from hours of accumulated depositions compiled over the course of months, or years, can be difficult at best. But with the help of ongoing advances in court reporting technology, attorneys now have options that can help them prepare cases more efficiently, create a more polished presentation, and thoroughly control the cross examination.

synched video depos1 Among the best of these advanced court reporting technologies are synchronized video depositions. Potentially game-changing, synchronized video depositions feature built-in software that synchronizes video with the written transcription provided by the court reporter and legal videographer team. The benefit of this system is that attorneys can not only read the transcript on screen while watching the deposition or trial video footage, but they can also search the video record for key words and phrases at any point. This gives them the ability to quickly find important testimony or review hours of testimony for key excerpts. At trial, a litigation team can use the system to immediately locate and play back passages of important testimony to the entire court at a moment’s notice.

Linda Weber, a partner at the trial presentation service company Visual Evidence, says that synchronized depositions can help with the retention of information, especially when a jury is asked to watch a video.

“If you just put the talking head up there, it can be difficult for juries to retain the information,” said Weber. “But when you scroll the text across the bottom, they can see it and they can hear it. It really helps the jury.”

Weber has found this to be a huge advantage in business and medical malpractice litigation where the jury may be unfamiliar with terminology. In many cases, her clients will ask her to highlight specific terms or quotes so that the jury understands the importance of what was said.

Along with helping jurors retain information, synchronized video depositions are also powerful tools to impeach opposing witnesses.

synched video depos2“I use (synchronized video) in every trial,” said Marc Pera, a partner in the Cincinnati law firm Crandall, Pera & Wilt. “Nothing is more useful in trial than having an opposing witness impeach themselves.”

A plaintiff’s attorney specializing in medical malpractice, Pera has found synchronized video testimony to have a much greater impact on jurors than a traditional read back. The reason, he says, is that even the most compelling testimony loses its effectiveness when shared as a stenographic transcript.

As any juror would confirm, a passage read aloud from a prior deposition or testimony is often abstract and more difficult to remember. On the other hand, a video is much easier to recall, in both the short-term and the long-term when it comes time for a jury to begin deliberations.

Another drawback to the traditional read back is that it leaves room for interpretation, Pera said.

“If you’re using paper, it’s easier for a witness to say that they didn’t understand what was asked with the question,” Pera said. A video, he added, leaves little doubt.

For Pera, synchronized video depositions have become an indispensable tool, and he can point to specific cases where synchronized video depositions helped him to win cases for clients. One example in particular, he said, was a medical malpractice case in which a client underwent a surgical procedure and the doctor perforated his client’s bowel without realizing it. Afterwards, Pera’s client became septic. Over the course of depositions and at trial, Pera said the doctor changed his story multiple times. But by impeaching the doctor with his own video testimony, Pera said the jury was convinced.

synched video depos3“In another case, I was able to impeach a surgeon several times during his first day of testimony,” Pera said. “His team settled the next day.”

The benefits of synchronized video depositions extend beyond the courtroom, too. A powerful tool for case preparation, it offers the ability to quickly reference testimony when preparing for examination of witnesses.

Whether for trial preparation or in trial, Pera says the results synchronized video depositions offer should not be discounted.

Said Pera, “I think it’s an invaluable tool. I have no doubt that it helps.”

Todd Mobley is president of Mike Mobley Reporting in Dayton, Ohio. He can be reached at Todd@MobleyReporting.com.


Alert: Adobe Flash users should download emergency patch

TechLinks_logoBy Christine Phipps

Adobe issued an alert that Flash users need to update to the latest version as hackers took advantage of a security flaw to install ransomware on computers.

Adobe Flash is a software platform that runs video, animation, and games inside of Web pages. Flash was born when the Web began in 1996 and quickly became the standard for Web video, especially after a little startup called YouTube began using it in 2005. Now it’s largely obsolete, as most websites and apps use different technologies for the same purpose. In fact, in July 2015, Google and Mozilla (Firefox) each announced that their Web browsers will be dropping default support for Adobe Flash, citing the plug-in software’s newly discovered vulnerabilities to cyberattacks. Those moves came only a few days after Facebook’s chief of security called for Adobe to set an “end of life” date for the often exploited 20-year-old platform.

That being said, pretty much everyone that uses the Internet still uses Flash. If the sites you go to do not use Flash, uninstall it. Flash is a program, so uninstall it like you would any other program.

Ransomware has been becoming increasingly popular, hitting law firms and organizations as well as individuals. After visiting an infected website, your computer will install ransomware, which locks you out of your computer until you pay hackers a specified amount of money.

I know we say it over and over again and present it in some form at every convention, but I’m going to say it again because it obviously bears repeating: Back up all of your data. If you do get a ransomware attack, you will have your information saved and you won’t be scrambling to come up with the ransom money to get your important files back — and that’s if they even do uphold their end of the deal.  I recommend a cloud backup and local firmware back up.

You can find the current version number of flash: adobe.com/software/flash/about/.  After you locate which browser you use, write down the number. Then go to your browser and look in your gear icon or something similar, or you can go to install/uninstall programs and look for Adobe Flash and match each one as there are different programs for different browsers. You should also update your software as soon as a new version is released or have set to auto update because there are often security and bug fixes included within them. You should absolutely be running antivirus software as well.

Protect yourself by staying up-to-date with backups and current versions of your particular OS service pack releases and programs.

Christine Phipps, RPR, of North Palm Beach, Fla., is co-chair of NCRA’s Technology Committee. She can be reached at christine@phippsreporting.com.