Drone update: Regulations still in the works to address use

Photo by: Don McCullough

Photo by: Don McCullough

Depending on the final rules soon to be issued by the Federal Aviation Administration regarding the use of drones for commercial purposes, the potential for new business opportunities by legal videographers could be great, according to NCRA member Gene Betler, CLVS, co-chair of the Association’s CLVS Council.

Betler, a retired air traffic controller and owner of Betler’s Reporting & Legal Video Services, in Huntington, W.Va., led a presentation about the potential use of drones for commercial use at NCRA’s recent TechCon event held April 10-12 in Denver, Colo.

“The FAA is still working to get the rules in place for the commercial use of drones but is also currently working to revise regulations related to how drones are used for personal reasons. As of now, can you fly them for recreational use? Yes. Can you use them for commercial purposes to make a profit? No,” Betler said during his presentation.

Betler provided attendees with an overview of the history of drone use, as well as a timeline leading up to the current regulations and the reasoning behind FAA’s proposed change in rules regarding their noncommercial use. Currently, he said, the FAA is proposing to amend its regulations to adopt specific rules to allow the operation of these small unmanned aircraft systems in the National Airspace System. The changes would address the operation of unmanned aircraft systems, certification of their operators, registration, and display of registration markings. The proposed rule would also find that airworthiness certification is not required for small unmanned aircraft system operations that would be subject to this proposed rule. Lastly, the proposed rule would prohibit model aircraft from endangering the safety of the National Airspace System.

Betler also shared information about the types of drones available on the market, the range in cost from $100 on up, the capabilities they have, and scenarios for potential commercial use. He also shared footage taken with his own drone flying over his home and surrounding property and noted that the video was sent back immediately to him on the ground. The footage included video taken from 300 feet to 500 feet in the air and demonstrated how the operator could also control the angles of shots.

According to Betler, the investment in a drone is no more than the investment in purchasing a new camera, and the opportunities for their commercial use are potentially vast.

“Aerial photography and videography are expensive,” Betler said. “Until now they have required big cameras and aircraft like helicopters. But now with drones, the cost is low in comparison. In any legal case, no matter how small, providing a real view of the subject would enhance the understanding of the jury. And that’s an opportunity for you to generate new revenue streams.”

Other uses Betler noted that drones could be used for included surveying damaged roofs for insurance claims, accident footage, and videoing real estate.

Belter also noted that while the FAA is working to amend its current regulations related to the personal use of drones, the growing number of people purchasing them to use as a hobby has led to many states currently making their own rules regarding their use, especially when it comes to air space, privacy, and specific locations where flying the unmanned aircraft could prove too dangerous.

For more information about the use of drones and regulations, Betler shared the following resources:



Know before you fly.org

The Academy of Model Aeronautics

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International

The Small UAV Coalition.org

State leaders learn the ropes in Denver, Colo.

State leaders from around the country joined NCRA Board of Director members and staff during the 2015 NCRA State Leadership Conference held April 12-13 in Denver, Colo. During the conference, attendees learned more about how the national association can aid and benefit their own organizations in supporting the court reporting, captioning, and legal videography professions.

The conference, which is hosted every other year by NCRA, provides attendees with sessions that cover an array of issues and topics such as effective lobbying, public relations and media outreach, recruiting and retaining members, and more. This year’s event drew leadership from 29 states.

“This year’s conference was an incredibly successful event. NCRA’s state associations left with the tools they need to help improve their associations’ membership, government relations, public relations, meetings, and much more,” said Adam Finkel, NCRA’s Director of Government Relations. “Just as important, the networking opportunities let the leadership from state associations work on similar issues together, allowing for a higher likelihood of success.”

Among the presentations at this year’s conference were a session presented by Finkel and Dave Wenhold, CAE, PLC, from Miller/Wenhold Capitol Strategies, who serves as a consultant for NCRA. The interactive session included an overview of the current status of the court reporting profession and the sharing of strategies and tactics that have proven successful in recruiting more court reporters to join their state associations. Recruiting and cultivating new leaders and committee members was addressed in a session led by Kristin Anderson, RPR, and Linda McSwain, RPR, co-chairs of the National Committee of State Associations. The two former state leaders shared with attendees ideas and tips that worked for them to increase involvement in their state associations.

State leaders in attendance also were provided a review of the Association 101 Handbook, developed as a resource to provide them with a strong understanding of what tools, tips, and resources are available to assist them. Wendel Stewart, CAE, NCRA Senior Director of Finance And Administration, and Jeffrey Altman, NCRA’s general counsel and a partner with Whiteford, Taylor & Preston, LLC, also led a session that shared best practices for governing and managing state associations while ensuring legal compliance.

Other sessions covered NCRA’s 2015 public policy agenda and information about how state associations can become involved, tips for developing content and planning effective meetings, and strategies for successful networking.

Christina Lewellen, MBA, NCRA’s Senior Director for Marketing and Communications, led a session that covered the tools and resources available to state associations to promote the profession via the Take Note campaign, the value of good public relations, and how to deal with the media.

NCRA President Sarah Nageotte, RDR, CRR, CBC, was joined by Steve Zinone, RPR, President-Elect, and Board of Director members Debbie Dibble, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, and Karen Teig, RPR, CRR, CMRS, in a session that covered strategies needed to build an effective coalition to benefit the court reporting profession.

The event wrapped up with a networking reception that allowed attendees the opportunity to meet a number of NCRA’s leadership.

Tools and tips to market technology

While there are many ways to market your business and services, one of the most surefire ways to ensure a captive audience will listen to what types of services and technology you can provide them is to host a lunch-and-learn event, according to a group of panelists who shared tips for marketing technology at NCRA’s 2015 TechCon event held April 10-12 in Denver, Colo. Panelists included firm owners Shelly Hunter, RPR, CRR; Christine Phipps, RPR; Lora Appino Barnett, RMR; and Kelly Hanna, RPR, CRR, CMRS.

“Lunch and learns are one of the most effective ways to teach clients about what you can do. It is a captive audience. They are there because they want to be there,” said Hunter.

But how do you get your foot in the door to host this type of event?

According to Hanna, a good way is to approach the attorneys you work with after completing an assignment. Invite them to a lunch and learn and ask them who you should contact in their office to set it up. Then, follow up with that person and let them know that the attorney gave you their name to set up an event. Avoid going through the receptionist, she noted.

“Do your homework on the firms you want to work with. Find out who the contact person is in their office. Do they have an office manger, an IT manager, a chief of litigation person? Always make calls first before sending emails to keep it more personal,” she said.

According to Phipps, the soft sell is also a good approach to help get a foot in the door with a potential new client. She said she often will go into a law firm she is working with and show the secretary how to use her firm’s online office. “Once I show her, then I ask if we can come in and show the entire staff what we have to offer for them. People want to hear what you can do for them, not how great you are. That will come as they learn what you can do for them,” Phipps said.

Hunter shared that her firm creates a different card to attach to final transcripts every quarter. The cards feature a different service her firm offers and are also posted on the company website. If a visitor clicks on one of the cards to learn more about the service, they are prompted to contact Hunter’s office and set up a demonstration of the featured service.

“We also found that larger law firms have monthly meetings with the entire litigation team. We contact the paralegal for the firm since they typically set up the meeting. Since everyone wants to look good, when we come in and present and do a good job, it makes the paralegal look good,” she added.

Barnett noted that every bar association has a young lawyers group and advised attendees to search these groups out. “They love new technology and are often much more receptive to it than older attorneys,” she said.

Barnett also said that her firm has one person dedicated to seeing who is requesting transcripts once a job is finished. That person then checks to see if the requester is already set up on the firm’s depository. If not, the requester is contacted and offered a demonstration on how to use the firm’s system, including an introduction to the other services the firm offers.

Other tips shared by the panel to help find opportunities to demonstrate the services a court reporting firm can offer included:

  • Attend bar association, paralegal events, and conventions to participate in networking opportunities.
  • Check with the state bar association to find out how you can offer CLE credits for demonstrating the services and technology you can provide.
  • Sponsor events such as a hole in the bar association’s annual golf tournament, or other events hosted by professional groups within the legal arena.
  • Exhibit at meetings.
  • Contact local colleges that offer legal degrees and offer to sponsor an event or provide a demonstration to show young legal professionals the technology that is available.

Finally, be sure to hold staff meetings to make sure your entire staff is on board with the message your firm wants to send to prospective clients. Be sure everyone has a clear understanding of what services and technology you can offer. Arm your staff to go into the field and sell your services.

TechCon 2015 roundup

RSA TechCon15

Members of the Realtime Systems Administrator Committee celebrate after the exam

TechCon 2015 was held April 10-12 at The Curtis: A DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Denver, Colo. The event included training and testing for the Realtime Systems Administrator certificate and the Certified Legal Video Specialist certification, along with Legal Tech Labs on topics ranging from hooking up to realtime to drone use in legal video. The stories below detail some of the highlights of the event.

Finding the right scopist is key to live editing of realtime

Finding the right scopist can mean the difference between providing quality draft realtime transcripts within minutes rather than hours, according to a panel presentation held at NCRA’s 2015 TechCon event held April 10-12 in Denver, Colo. Participants included Lisa Knight, RMR, CRR; Christine Phipps, RPR; and Sue Terry, RPR, CRR.

To help ensure a high-quality product and a quick turnaround of draft transcripts, freelancers should consider having at least two scopists they work with on a regular basis, as well as a good proofreader, however finding the right people to fill those roles many times is not easy. As part of their presentation, guest panelists shared with attendees the following tips to help find the right scopist and proofreader for them.

Find people who understand that having mistakes pointed out to them is not pointing fingers but rather an effort to help increase the quality of the final product. A good scopist and proofreader will also, over time, begin to recognize what words the court reporter has a tendency to miss a lot and be able to make those corrections quickly.

Most court reporters are reluctant to share information about their own scopists and proofreaders if they are good, so getting a recommendation can sometimes be difficult. However, forums for various software provide a good resource for finding high-quality professionals, and often times participants on these forums are actual software trainers as well.

Questions that should be asked when interviewing a potential scopist or proofreader should include:

  • What software and version of it do they use, and are they current on its functions and do they have tech support?
  • What kind of computer do they use and what operating system?
  • Is there a viable Internet connection in the area where they live?
  • Ask them about their error rates, as well as their dictionary entries and how many they make a day.
  • Find out if they have used dropbox before, if they have it on their computer, and if they have used it in scoping or court reporting jobs before.
  • How long have they been working as a scopist or proofreader and have they worked producing daily transcripts?
  • Finally, ask for at least three to five references and check them all.

Once you find a good scopist, the panelists suggested setting guidelines up front in regards to what you expect from them. For example, tell them if you expect a 24-48 hour turnaround on assignments all the time, and make sure they understand that you expect to be in constant contact with them to keep them current about upcoming jobs.

TechCon attendees learn tips to overcome writing realtime fears

Overcoming the fear of writing realtime can become easier if you follow the tips and suggestions shared with attendees of a session led by Marybeth Everhart, RPR, CRI, CPE, during NCRA’s 2015 TechCon event held in Denver, Colo., April 10-12.

Everhart told attendees that to help overcome their fears of writing realtime, they need to understand the three parts of the process: writing, connectivity as it relates to hooking up other people to be able to see the realtime being produced, and self confidence.

“If any one of these parts is troubling for you then you will have problems with producing quality realtime,” she said

Everhart said a good way to improve the quality of realtime writing is to make a commitment to practice writing for 15 minutes each day, followed by an analysis to see what mistakes were made.

“Don’t just do it; check it to see what mistakes you are making. Fixing something will improve your skills,” she said and added that keeping a diary of mistakes or focusing on writing the mistakes correctly will help increase quality by helping to create positive muscle memory and teach the brain to stroke the right keys and avoid the same mistakes.

Other tips Everhart shared included:

  • Consider what your translation rate is. Stop and take a look at it right way. If you don’t remember hearing a word that you have written, proofread your practice with the audio.
  • Keep current with technology and learn everything about the software you are using and the all of the features it offers.
  • Ask other reporters who are already writing realtime to help you with learning how to connect your realtime system.
  • View webinars and attend seminars that offer realtime information and training.
  • TRAIN groups are free. Join one or start one.

Everhart also said that it is important to teach clients about realtime and its benefits: “Show it to them and create a market for yourself. Go to someone you really like. Tell them the benefits. Provide them with realtime on a regular basis for free and follow up with a bill that you credit out to establish the value of the service for them.”

By doing so, realtime writers can better educate their clients on how realtime works as well as show them that while it is also not always perfect and that some terms might not come up correctly, the end product will be accurate, Everhart explained.  Set your clients’ expectations, she noted.

TechCon 2015 kicks off in Denver, Colo.

NCRA’s 2015 TechCon event happening in Denver, Colo., April 10-12 welcomed nearly 200 attendees to the Mile High City to learn the latest in technology and trends, earn continuing education credits, and participate in the Realtime Systems Administrators Workshop and a one-day Certified Legal Video Specialist Seminar.

Opening Legal Tech Lab sessions included a look beyond the deposition video into other areas where legal videographers can ply their skills and a session led by NCRA member Lisa Knight, RMR, CRR, that focused on creating a networking environment.

Among the information Knight shared with attendees was the difference between a local area networks (LAN) and a wide area network (WAN) and the different situations that each one should be used in. Other discussions included an overview of the various types of routers available, including the benefits of using a hotspot from a cellphone.

Attendees at the session also learned tips on becoming proficient in creating networks, using connectivity software to allow a computer to become a router, and the pros and cons of using the cloud to streamline realtime.

A lively discussion about best practices of remote reporting was generated during a panel discussion that included NCRA members Debbie Dibble, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP; Dana Hayden, RMR, CRR; Sadie Herbert, RPR; Christine Phipps, RPR; and Sue Terry, RPR, CRR.

The panel fielded questions from attendees about how to handle certain situations when using remote realtime to cover depositions, court proceedings, arbitrations, and other legal events. Among the topics discussed included how to address state laws governing notarization, ensuring that the location you are reporting from is quiet and free from distraction, and informing others about how they can help ensure transcripts are recorded clearly.

MeetingRooms.com launches customized meeting space booking tool for court reporters

MeetingRooms.com announced the premium membership for court reporters, the world’s first meeting room reservation tool customized specifically for court reporters, April 10 during the National Court Reporters Association Technology Conference, held in Denver, April 10-12. MeetingRooms.com is also announcing free 90-day trials of the premium service to coincide with the launch.

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