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.

 

MEMBER PROFILE: Rivka Teich, RMR

Currently resides in: Brooklyn, New York

Position: Official reporter, Kings County

Member since: 1999

Graduated from: South Coast College of Court Reporting, Anaheim, Calif.

Favorite briefs: SPAG (Special Agent)

N-FT (informant)

K-FT (confidential informant)

K-FS (confidential source)

POD (purposes of disposition)

F-LT (field test)

F-B (Facebook)

EP (especially)

UFT (unfortunate)

UFL (unfortunately)

VA add the G, S, D (vacate)

How did you learn about the career?

I grew up with my parents telling us over and over that you must have a skill — whether you’re a doctor, plumber, or court reporter. I wasn’t interested in a traditional four-year college and so opened the yellow pages under trade school. There was court reporting. Years earlier my father attempted adult night school for court reporting, and I had an ancient (even then!) LaSalle machine in the garage. So I went the next day to the school and signed up.

What has been your best work experience so far in your career?

I currently work as an official in criminal court. But for the 15 years prior, I worked in federal grand jury in the Southern District of New York (i.e., Manhattan). We covered every major case that hit the papers. I worked on real-life, Jason Bourne-esque assassination cases; every Mafia family in the tri-state area; the largest securities fraud schemes in the United States; takedowns of huge drug cartels flying commercial aircraft of cocaine; and 30-defendant indictments of gang members.

I met people from all federal agencies and interesting witnesses. This by far was the highlight of my career … so far.

What was your biggest hurdle to overcome?

When I first started working doing freelance, I was new to New York City. I was getting lost going to my jobs every day; it was so stressful. And the work was intense medicals, which was not my strong point. A few months into that, my office mentioned working for federal grand jury. I went through the paperwork to be cleared and started my new journey. That’s when I found my niche. I loved criminal and being in the same place (and not carrying my equipment). And so I tell reporters who are not happy in their current position to find another area/branch of reporting that works for them.

What surprised you about your career and why?

How proud I am to be a reporter.

What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishment?

Although I’m very proud of my RMR, when I got that passed notice for the RPR years before, that was a huge day for me.

Do you have a favorite gadget or tool?

I’m not very technical, but I love doing realtime and using realtime. I think it’s important to have your software current. I always write realtime and test myself daily to get the untranslate rate as low as possible

Is there something personal you would like to share?

I am very proud that my husband and I raised and are raising our five kids (from 9 to 20 years of age) all while having a great career. Also, I have a hobby of designing and painting interiors of houses and furniture, starting with my own — and making my house a place that reflects me.

Labor of love

By the NCRA Student Committee

“You should treat court reporting school as a full-time job.”

This mantra is repeated to students as a reminder that total concentration and dedication is the key to getting through school quickly. While this a worthy endeavor, more often than not, students will have to consider working at some point while in school to make ends meet. The cost of enrollment, equipment, and the sheer amount of time that it can take to get through school can be a steady and ruthless drain on one’s savings.

Labor of loveThe decision to take on a job, however, isn’t an easy one to make; a litany of pros and cons have to be weighed before taking the plunge. Will a job take precious time away from studying, only further prolonging your graduation date? Can a job give you a chance to put your current stenography skills to use and build a valuable network even before stepping into the working world? Or can even some seemingly unrelated jobs provide not only a blissful break away from studying but also unique opportunities to hone other skills that will help you on the job?

We asked students and working reporters about their experiences as working court reporting students and came back with a variety of stories that may surprise you.

Jobs to jumpstart careers

When most students think about picking up side jobs while in school, they hope to find something that ties in closely with their future career goals. Luckily, court reporting and the legal field provide a wide variety of venues for students to jumpstart their careers before graduation.

***

I am currently an employee at a local court reporting firm. I am in the production department, and I produce and bind transcripts our reporters turn in. I absolutely love working there because it immerses me into the world of court reporting. I am getting to meet and make friends with reporters who are more than happy to let me sit in their depos and can’t wait for me to finish school. I am learning so much from having access to those kinds of resources and being able to ask all of my questions. The connections I have made and continue to make are helping me as a student and will continue to help me when I become a working reporter.

They are extremely flexible and love that I am a student. In fact, when they were hiring, they specifically asked for court reporting students. They are very understanding of my schedule and work with me when needed. Just recently I had to do a summer semester of school synchronously from work, and they allowed me to use one of their conference rooms. I went to school for two hours and then came right back to work. They are very accommodating and extremely understanding. They can’t wait for me to transition from an employee to a resource as a court reporter.

— Lauren Bettencourt, San Jose, Calif.

***

In 2014, I graduated from Gateway Community College in Phoenix, Ariz. In addition to scoping, I work as a legal assistant. I started working as a legal assistant in a law firm the year I started court reporting school. I am currently working towards passing the last two legs of the RPR, and I still enjoy both my jobs. Working at a law firm has been a great experience for me, and I think it is a job that a court reporting student can really use to his or her benefit. I have learned so much about the legal field, and I have a better understanding of legal terms and processes. This job is a great way to use those punctuation and proofreading skills that are extremely important in this line of work. I also get the chance to meet attorneys and court reporters, and they are always supportive when finding out that I am working towards certification.

I started off doing basic case filing at the firm. My duties now range from drafting correspondence and preparing discovery to case organization and even some light transcription. A task that is especially interesting for me is summarizing depositions. Besides noting the similarities and differences between each deposition, I am learning from examples on how reporters deal with tricky punctuation issues. I look forward to the day when I will be the certified reporter responsible for a transcript. Until then, I will continue to use this experience as an extension of court reporting school while cultivating my legal vocabulary and understanding of the legal industry.

— Gretchen House, Phoenix, Ariz.

***

I have two experiences as a student. One, myself being a student, as well as being a child of a student. When I was in school, my job was to get through school. I waitressed at a high-end restaurant on Friday and Saturday nights to take care of my responsibilities. All other time was spent on the machine. By the time of 150 and beyond, practice was a minimum 20 hours out of school a week and at least 12 hours at school.

My mom graduated court reporting school in 19 months. I was 14. She went to school, raised three kids, and helped my dad run his business. I’m truly amazed by her perseverance. She would practice everywhere in crazy noise levels, etc., with her headphones on. Her example to her children would fill too many pages and would still not be able to describe all that she taught us about being independent, the ability of caring for others emotionally, physically, and financially, and never, ever giving up on goals no matter the sacrifice to achieve them.

I know some students have to work. There is no other choice. For those that have some flexibility, I do encourage you to look at how many hours you are not spending at your machine as a low-income job, where if you practiced an additional 16 hours a week, you could get out of school six months earlier, and your bottom line will be much better off!

Kelly Linkowski, Rittman, Ohio

NCRA Student Committee member

***

Since starting court reporting school in 2011, I have been a full-time employee by day and a full-time student by night. From 2011-2012, I worked at a law firm in downtown Los Angeles. Since 2012, I work at a court reporting agency full time, answering phones and managing the calendar, transcript production, and video production. In addition to my work for Bayside, I also answer phones and manage the calendar for four other CSR-owned court reporting agencies. Needless to say, I am usually pretty busy at work every day, and taking a vacation is not easy to do as I am the only one who works in the office.

I love what I do, though, as it is teaching me how to become a good court reporter before I graduate, and what to do and what not to do once I pass the CSR. I have five amazing bosses I can look up to and ask any questions I may have, and they educate me on how they would personally handle situations that come up at the office. The absolute hardest thing about working full time and going to school full time is coming home after work and not getting to plop down and just relax after a long day of work. Somehow within myself I have to find the desire and motivation to practice. I’m not going to lie, there have been days where I just can’t convince myself to get on my machine. It’s a daily battle my brain and body have. I entice myself by setting up rewards after a practice session. “Practice for one hour, have a bowl of ice cream. Practice for one more hour, watch a TV show.” For a while I debated about staying at my current job as an office manager instead of becoming a court reporter, but I realized that as much as I love my job more than any other job I’ve had before, I know I’m going to love being a CSR more.

— Celeste Poppe, Los Angeles, Calif.

Working for the paycheck

But what about those who may have a job that’s completely unrelated to court reporting? It just takes a creative mindset to see the benefit in any job and to trust that everything you do your in life is working towards that singular goal.

***

Learning stenography is a tough task, but learning stenography while working a full-time job is even harder. To pay for my one-bedroom apartment, tuition, bills, and life in general, I work as a server/waitress. I do like my job, but like most jobs, some days are much harder than others. The flexibility of my schedule, the earning potential and, well, the earning potential is what keeps me going. I love it when people are nice to me, respectful of my job and what I’m doing, and compensate (tip) me appropriately. Some people are rude and even disrespectful, but I always remember that not all people are like that and that my job still needs to be done. Because of this job, I’ve bettered my communication skills and am able to pay to live and survive. I’ve met some very interesting people while serving, many of whom are understanding of how difficult it is to learn steno and respect me for that along with working full time. Overall, I’m very thankful for this job and all the skills it has provided me. But I can’t wait to change chapters and begin my new career as a certified court reporter.

— Jeannin Alexis, Atlanta, Ga.

***

While a full-time, high-speed student, I also currently work full time as an e-commerce specialist for a biotech company. It’s not easy. My day starts at 3:30 a.m., and I usually work between eight and ten hours per day, plus some weekends. For a long time I was unhappy about this, wishing that I could attend school full time and not have to work. However, I decided to change my thoughts and think of the good it does for my future as a stenographer.

Working at my job has taught me strong work ethics, and I know what it takes to meet crucial deadlines, be professional and punctual, and work well under pressure. I currently deal with end-users who have heavy accents; so I’m getting acclimated to the accents I will hear on the job. I’ve worked closely with government agencies dealing with contracts, government grants, stem cell research, and laboratory instruments. You just never know what will come up in court, captioning, or in a deposition; so the exposure to such a wide variety of fields is invaluable. I decided to look at the bigger picture and remind myself that just because I have to work and bring in a steady income, everything is about timing. There are advantages and disadvantages to working while attending school, but the good news is that as long as you work hard, regardless of what the circumstance may be, it will pay off in the end, and the labor will be well worth it.

— Shaunise Day, Oakland, Calif.

NCRA Student Committee member

***

While I was in school, I took up a promotions job to help cover expenses. Most of the time, I was the “Bud Light Girl,” doing promotions during sports games at local bars and restaurants. It was a flexible, good-paying job that didn’t interfere with daylight school hours or practice time. While it didn’t give me much experience for court reporting, it absolutely taught me how to converse with a wide variety of people. Writing well and producing good transcripts is only half of the job — you have to be friendly and able to sell yourself, too!

— Anonymous

***

Of all the advice I’ve received about being successful in school, the piece about occasionally stepping away from the machine is one that I take to heart, so I enjoy doing a job that’s completely separate from court reporting: art modeling. What could be further from finger drills and legalese than art? As a part-time gig, art modeling pays well for relatively little effort, the schedule is entirely customizable, the audience is always interesting, and the work is very satisfying — you’re creating art right along with the artist without even picking up a brush.

As separate and apart as it seems, however, I’ve still managed to find some tie-ins to court reporting. Art models find work either through guilds (think firms) or through word of mouth (think freelance reporters.) The job still demands professionalism, timeliness, and a willingness to adapt to your clients’ needs; and your product (poses) is what speaks for you. Once you’ve developed a good rapport with the artist or group, they will ask you back by name. And once you’ve worked for a variety of clients, you’ll learn to be more discerning of where you spend your time and energy based on a group’s rates, method and speed of payment, and tendency to leave good tips. When my daily schedule consists almost exclusively of court reporting, I appreciate the reminder that there is a world out there that is just as beautiful and deserving of celebration as court reporting.

— Katherine Schilling, San Jose, Calif.

NCRA Student Committee member

***

For as long as there has been court reporting school, there have been students working their way through school. So if you’re finding yourself in a position where you need to bring in additional income as a student, know that many others have come before you and many more will come after. It always helps to hear what other students have done in your same situation, but know that whatever decision you make will ultimately be the right one for you. Just remember that we’ll all be at the finish line together, welcoming you into your new career.

This article was put together by members of NCRA’s Student Committee.

STUDENT REPORTING: Realtime software through the lens of a student

By Ahlam Alhadi

Using steno paper was a great tool in the initial stages of my court reporting education, primarily because it was very easy to use and allowed me to focus more on speedbuilding and reading back my notes. However, as time continued and my ability to read my steno notes and write more quickly increased, my instructor and I both felt it was necessary that I begin to use realtime software since I won’t be using paper once I begin working and am at an assignment. I began to implement the use of realtime software once I reached a speed of 180 wpm. Since then I have been using realtime for all of my coursework, and I have found it to be very helpful. I can complete practice exams faster, and I can be more organized since I do not have to save stacks of steno paper.

I felt compelled to learn the ins and outs of realtime software as a student because it has such an immense impact on this profession. It enables transcripts to be produced quickly, it helps judges and attorneys get the information they need faster, and it can speed up the overall trial process. It is also the more advanced option during these times in which many legal professionals are trying to find alternative means to record testimony. In addition, many court reporters with their Certified Realtime Reporter credential earn more, and since the profession has become intertwined with this software, it only makes sense that it be emphasized among students.

I believe that it is crucial to improve myself professionally prior to entering the workforce, especially because there are perks to learning realtime while a student. Primarily, there isn’t any added pressure to know every facet and use of the software in a short period of time, and I can learn realtime as I go. Learning realtime as a student will also make life as a certified court reporter significantly easier because my dictionary will be comprised of a larger amount of legal and medical terms. This is extremely beneficial because I will be better prepared for any type of legal or medical malpractice deposition. Also, a new court reporter who is already familiar with their realtime software will be able to edit transcripts faster and more efficiently and submit court records at a more rapid rate. Likewise, the ability to turn in work sooner will ultimately allow for more assignments to be taken, which can lead to greater earnings.

The process of transitioning from steno paper to realtime proved to be quite simple given the fact that I had done my research and knew what software I wanted to purchase. Fortunately, there are many companies that provide reduced rates for students. That includes Gigatron’s StenoCat 32, Stenovations, and many more. Most court reporting programs are affiliated with a certain software company that may even offer a free student version of their software. I made sure to consider which companies would offer me the best software at a good rate and with tech support. I decided to purchase StenoCat 32, which has been easy to learn and has proven to be a viable and cost-efficient option. They offer wonderful technical support, which helped me immensely throughout the set-up process. Gigatron also offers free webinars and video tutorials that answer any questions about installation and set-up, adding terms to your dictionary, editing, and formatting.

As with any profession, its future depends on the students who will eventually be the backbone and leaders of this field. As a future court reporter, I feel it is necessary to stay on top of any and all advancements so I can offer clients as many services as possible that will allow for prompt and accurate court records.

Ahlam Alhadi is a court reporting student. She can be reached at ahlam513@gmail.com.

 

 

TEACHING: Learner-centered teaching

By Natalie Nazar

I reconnected with my long-lost brother in Calgary, Alberta last month. We reminisced about our school days in small town Québec, and he said to me, “Natalie, all I remember from high school is sitting down at the beginning of first period and zoning out for the rest of the day, every day, for five years.”

“That’s a lot of time wasted!” I gasped. “Where were your teachers? Didn’t you receive any guidance?”

We had both gone to the same school and had the same teachers, but it was clear that our experiences were the exact opposite. What made his experience so different from mine?

We realized that we had completely different learning styles. Unfortunately for my brother, our teachers only taught one way. It is important for teachers to recognize those different learning styles to help their students succeed. When it comes to steno, the teaching style, whether visual, auditory, or kinesthetic, needs to match the students’ preferred learning styles in order to be effective. With a repetitive subject like steno, it can be difficult to accommodate all those learning styles creatively. Much like learning a musical instrument, steno requires a great deal of discipline, determination, and practice every day. But when so much depends on the student, how can court reporting instructors help students succeed?

The answer lies in psychology. Humans are capable of astounding things if they are mentally well prepared. Therefore, steno instructors must provide students with strategies to support their mental resilience. Failed speed tests, dropping, finger acrobatics, fear, and anxiety are made manageable with strategies such as deep breathing, meditation, and visualization.

Teachers should approach students holistically, taking into account their different backgrounds, lifestyles, and personalities. They must keep in mind that each student will progress at a different rate and some issues may require individualized attention. A student’s emotional state has a great deal of impact on their success, and a great teacher can support their student through validation. Take some time to listen to the student’s concerns, and give them the benefit of the doubt. A simple “Thank you for sharing that with me” can make a world of difference to a student who thinks he or she is the only one having difficulties. It is crucial that the solutions you provide instill personal responsibility in the student. In other words, a simple pep talk is not enough. They need to be provided with strategies based on their individual needs to help solve the problem independently and take the next steps in their learning. All of this points towards exceptional teaching being learner-centered.

Dictation can quickly become the main method of instruction in court reporting school. Some teachers become veritable Dictaphones. This is boring work. Bored teachers lead to bored students. Time to try something new. Exceptional teachers assess students’ weaknesses, such as a problem strokes or hesitation concepts, and design drills that focus on those difficulties. Much like athletes work on individual skills to improve their overall game, steno writers must also focus on smaller, achievable goals to improve their overall writing. Encourage your students to keep track of all the small goals they need to overcome to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. Record what has worked and what has failed for each individual student. Make sure to follow up with them on their progress, and give them constructive and fair feedback on their work. Never let a student leave a feedback session without providing a specific strategy for improvement, such as flashcards, drills, or useful briefs.

Students expect teachers to know what they are talking about. This means teachers must stay on top of their own steno game. Keep a professional portfolio of strategies, notes, and lesson plans that have worked for you. Referring to these notes will help bring your future classes alive with valuable insight.

Reflecting on your own challenges as a stenographer will help build empathy for your students’ struggles. Empathizing with your students will allow you to effectively identify problems and provide an array of solutions. Remember the five stages of learning: (1) Pay attention and be receptive to each student’s personal scenario. (2) That information is useful in order for you to (3) process, understand, and draw accurate (4) conclusions. (5) The test is the final step.

Steno looks easy, but as we know, it involves an intense mental struggle. It’s messy, and it will make you sweat and cry. Put yourself in your students’ shoes. As Stan Sakai suggests in the court reporting documentary For the Record, steno is like going to battle against words that are continuously being thrown at you. It is excruciatingly intense, and exceptional teachers will empathize with that. One student once told me, “Speedbuilding is like constantly hitting your head against a brick wall. Each level is like starting over again from scratch.” As the NCRA speed contests show us, there is no end to speedbuilding. And that is both the beauty and curse of stenography. Record speeds are not the students’ goal. Their goal is only to get to the next level through achievable steps. Nurturing resilience and a desire for challenge will help them get there.

Natalie Nazar is a freelance reporter in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She can be reached at nazarreporting@outlook.comThis article was written as part of the requirements for NCRA’s Court Reporting Instructor course.

Episode I: REALTIME READINESS

Episode 1: Realtime Readiness -- tar Was-themed cover image with reporters, steno machines, and cablesBy Lynette Mueller

It is a period of ever-changing technology! Court reporters, in the courtroom and deposition setting, are winning with tools and gadgets to help them work smarter and provide their important clients with the technology to assist them in their cases.

I admit that I’m a technology and gadgets geek. I was so excited that the new Star Wars film opened this past December.

Here are some quotes from the Star Wars series that relate to court reporters using gadgets and technology to help them provide great realtime output for their clients.

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” — Yoda

Do embrace the realtime technology. Use it to be more productive and provide clients with a service that they crave for. If you do not, they may look to other reporters or other technology.

Some reasons that have been cited for do not include:

  • writing is not good enough
  • do not want anyone to see my mistakes
  • hookups are intimidating
  • overlapping voices can be distracting
  • no control over the environment

Here are some ways to be more confident to do:

  • improve by practice — write at least 15 minutes a day
  • analyze your writing and keep a journal
  • build your dictionary
  • keep current with technology
  • offer realtime to a client you are comfortable with
  • let your software work for you
  • relax and breathe
  • stay positive

“In my experience there is no such thing as luck.” — Obi-Wan Kenobi

In order to be realtime-proficient and keep their feed top-notch, all reporters should practice for speed and accuracy on a regular basis. Practicing and speedbuilding takes time and hard work, but the benefits are enormous In addition, being prepared for each and every job, whether it’s realtime or not, means less editing time at the computer later.

Some things to do prior to each job include:

  • create a job dictionary with brief forms, if possible, for all attorneys, participants, proper names, witnesses, case-specific terminology, and technical words
  • practice new briefs prior to the job
  • create a cheat sheet for the briefs during the job as a reminder

“In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way.” — Yoda

We need to educate ourselves as much as possible about the case-specific terminology for a realtime session and add brief forms to our dictionary in order to have our feed be top-notch. Our CAT software can help us, too. I love my BriefIt on my Case Catalyst software. During a recent fast-paced deposition, this brief form saved the day: AO*EUK (independent contractor). Embrace and learn more about your specific CAT software, and let it do some of the heavy lifting.

“It’s a trap!” — Admiral Ackbar

Don’t get caught off guard. Be prepared for every realtime job by bringing cables, power cords, router, iPads, netbooks, etc. This past month, I was scheduled for a daily copy trial in a rural town several miles from my home base that required me to stay overnight. In addition to my Luminex, laptop, and realtime software, I also packed up a mobile office that included:

  • extra writer
  • extra laptop with CAT software loaded
  • iPads
  • netbooks
  • router for realtime feed
  • portable scanner
  • Dymo labeler for exhibit stickers
  • office supplies (stapler, paperclips, binder clips, etc.)

“May the Force be with you!”

Remember that Luke was not a youngling when he learned the Jedi ways. Reporters do not need to be younglings, either, to provide realtime. I am always striving to pick up better ways to write and tips and tricks from my colleagues (even after 30 years in this amazing profession). My colleagues are a valuable resource for me. All it takes to leap into realtime is the belief in yourself and your abilities, a strong desire, hard work, and the focus to get there.

May the Force (aka realtime) be with you!

Lynette L. Mueller, RDR, CRR, is a freelancer reporter in Johns Creek, Ga. She can be reached at lynette@omegareporting.comShe reports that a short video will be on her blog at the beginning of the article.

Going global: Global stenography – Berlin 2017!

By Jen Schuck

Some would say it’s the opportunity of a lifetime. However, it’s a biennial opportunity. Every other year, Intersteno holds a Congress. Typically the event location is somewhere in Europe.

In 2011, I decided to attend the Paris Congress. It is one of my favorite cities and a couple of my friends were going, thus I had every reason to go. I didn’t have a clear understanding of what Intersteno was, but the announcement piqued my interest. My intention was strictly to compete in the realtime competition. The itinerary was only four days in length – a long way to go for eight minutes of dictation. But it was Paris!

It was an exciting four days: Good food, fun with friends, the chance to make new friends, and witnessing some mind-blowing writing skills. Intersteno competitions are the Olympics for reporters, who come from all over the world to compete in a variety of methods, and they start as young as eight years old. Some compete in more than one language. Who knew that there were different types of keyboards around the world? Have you ever seen Chinese in realtime? Korean? Dutch? It’s all possible!

Unfortunately, work got in the way of my attending Ghent in 2013. So when Budapest was announced as the location of the 50th annual Intersteno Congress in 2015, I was not going to miss it.

This time the group of friends expanded, and I was going for a week. Team USA continued to grow. It was so much fun to have six American stenographers meet at the airport in Frankfurt to arrive in Budapest all at the same time. Budapest was hands down the best business trip I have ever had. The weather was ridiculously hot that summer in Europe, but it did not stop us.

Team USA swept the top three spots of the speed competition and took seven of the top ten spots. We also took first and third in the realtime competition.

There is so much more to Intersteno than just the competitions, although the competition was my excuse to go. I learned so much more about this great profession of ours. There are different ways to make a record, and every culture is different. We can learn from each other and teach each other all with the result of prospering the profession.

When I was in Paris, I had the opportunity to try writing on a Velotype. You know that face that people make when you show them our stenographic keyboard and they say, “You type on that?” Well, that was the face I was making when attempting to write on the Velotype. The keyboard has a different layout but outputs in English. No dictionary necessary! It’s based on how words are spelled and not phonetics. Had I never gone to Intersteno, I never would have learned this keyboard even existed.

While in Budapest, I networked with German, British, and Chinese stenographers. I learned it’s no easy feat to send an English theory book to China, but it’s possible. Be on the lookout for the first Chinese stenographer to also write in English very soon.

Lastly, by attending Intersteno I got to know that people like Boris Neubauer exist. He earns his living as a lecturer in Aachen University of Applied Science teaching production and transmission of electricity. His background is in physics. Shorthand is his hobby.

Neubauer chairs the German Research Institute of Shorthand, which maintains the German Shorthand Library, and trains teachers for shorthand and text processing. The systems he reads and writes include the German Unified System, Gabelsberger, Stolze-Schrey, Byrom, and Duployé. Another hobby of his is learning foreign languages. Neubauer has successfully transcribed in the Intersteno competitions in 17 different languages.

I often hear the world is now a global economy. Why should shorthand be any different? Put the 51st Intersteno Congress on your calendar for summer 2017. See you in Berlin!

Jen Schuck, RDR, CRR, CRC, is a CART captioner based in Scottsdale, Ariz. She can be reached at jen@jsreporting.com.

 

THE LAST PAGE: College days

Major degree
Q. Has your son expressed whether he intends to pursue any specific degree?
A. Well, he has always wanted to be an engineer. But when he entered college, he talked about getting into accounting and I guess two classes pretty much cured him of getting involved in that.
Elsa Jorgensen
Birmingham, Mich.

Vocabulary fun
MR. SMITH: I’ll object as nonresponsive.
A. Pardon me?
Q. (BY MR. SMITH) Lawyer gobbledygook.
MR. SMITH: Do you need me to spell that for you?
THE REPORTER: I’ve heard it before. You need to be more original.

Denyce Sanders, RDR, CRR
Houston, Texas

Don’t bet on it

Q. Okay. The next rule is please allow me to finish my question, even if you think you know what I’m going to ask you, before you start your answer. Because the court reporter will strangle you if you try to talk – you know, and we don’t want that.
A. Very well.
Q. Because we want to make her job easier. And she can’t take down an accurate recording if both of us are talking.
MR. SMITH: For the record, I don’t think the court reporter would strangle anybody.
COURT REPORTER: It depends on how late in the day it is.

Debra M. Arter, RDR, CRR
Rockledge, Fla.

Mixology
Q. What did you study at Fullerton?
A. Accounting and sociology.
Q. That unholy mix?
A. Yes. Unbelievable. I found safety in numbers.

Carrie Arnold, RPR, CRR
Arvada, Colo.

Study breaks
Q. And what is your anticipated graduation date?
A. December of 2016.
Q. What is your current GPA?
A. 3.47.
Q. You’re a slacker. I’m joking.
MR. WHITE: You did better than both he and I in law school.
MR. GREEN: If you put them together.

Elsa Jorgensen
Birmingham, Mich.

Who’s the Boss?
Q. How big is the house that you live in?
A. Couple thousand square feet.
Q. Are you in charge of any of the inside work in the house?
A. I’m not in charge of it at all. She is very liberal with me.
Q. Your wife?
A. I do what I can do because I have a conscience and she works full time.
Q. I need to have your wife talk to mine, if you don’t mind.
A. Well, we’ve been married 37 years and – “Yes, Dear.”

Elizabeth A. Tubbert, RPR
Highland, Mich.

Upgrades
Q. Aside from target shooting, is there anything else that you typically use your glasses to do?
A. Driving at night sometimes.
Q. And why is that?
A. Just it helps to be able to see better. I mean, my vision’s not horrible enough where I can’t see if I’m driving at night, but if I put the glasses on, obviously I see a lot clearer. It’s like HD compared to regular TV.

Virginia Dodge, RDR, CRR
Boston, Mass.
Silent partner
THE WITNESS: Can I just go on the record that the question is too stupid to answer?
MR. SMITH: Would you talk to your witness about keeping his mouth shut and just answering questions?
THE WITNESS: How can I – I’ll answer my questions with my mouth shut.

Carrie Arnold, RPR, CRR
Arvada, Colo.

Making an impression
(Via interpreter)
Q. What is your date of birth?
A. Who’s the opposing attorney?
Q. That is me, the good-looking guy sitting across the table from you.
A. So, he’s the opposing counsel? So, what did you say about him again?
Q. That he’s good-looking. And smart.
MS. JONES: Now is your opportunity. Keep it going.

Dominique Isabeau,
Daly City, Calif.

A different era
Q. What’s the name of the school that you go to?
A. I don’t know the name of it.
Q. What grade are you in?
A. 3rd.
Q. Do you have recess at school?
A. I don’t understand recess.
Q. A different era.

Kelly G. Palazzi, RPR
South Hackensack, N.J.

Safety first
Q. And I mention that there are elevators available, but are there also stairways, do you know?
A. I’d imagine there’s stairways because in a fire, the elevators, you can’t use.
Q. So in a fire she would be required to use stairways and that would require going up and down steps, obviously?
A. Yes.
ATTORNEY: Just note my objection. If it’s a fire, you probably wouldn’t want to go up the steps, you would probably just want to go down.
Liebe Stevenson, RMR
Liberty, Mo.

 

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: The effectiveness of grassroots advocacy

Collage of citizens sending messages to CongressBy Adam Finkel

In late March, over 65 court reporters and captioners traveled to our nation’s capital for Legislative Boot Camp. On Tuesday, March 22, we all “stormed the Hill” to meet with U.S. senators, representatives, and congressional staffers to lobby for the reauthorization of the Training for Realtime Writers grants, a program that I discussed at length several months ago. As the Director of NCRA’s Government Relations Program — and perhaps I’m a bit biased — Legislative Boot Camp is my favorite program that NCRA offers. As someone who is not a court reporter himself, I love to provide a glimpse to the membership into “my world” of lobbying and meeting with legislators and their staffers. It’s a fascinating glimpse where you get to see how the United States Congress really works and to truly be “citizen advocates.”

While many people look at the inner workings of Capitol Hill and believe that they cannot make a difference in issues that you care about, interviews and statistics from key staffers and members of Congress show a different story. The Congressional Management Foundation, a D.C.-based non-profit organization, routinely surveys congressional staffers and members of Congress to discuss how to best communicate with your elected officials. Almost universally, constituent visits are an incredibly effective manner of influencing an undecided member of Congress. A whopping 97 percent of respondent said that a visit to the Washington office had “some” or “a lot” of influence on an undecided member. A nearly identical 94 percent said a visit to the district office influenced their boss. Visits from lobbyists to the Washington office register at 82 percent having “some” or “a lot” of influence on an undecided member.

However, once those numbers are broken down further, you will see that citizen advocacy from constituency carries far more weight than any visit from a lobbyist does. Just 8 percent of staffers said in-person visits from lobbyists carried “a lot” of influence on their boss, while 46 percent said the same thing via in-person visits from constituents. Essentially, I am stressing the important role that every American citizen can play in ensuring that effective legislation does get through Congress on issues that you care about. And, as NCRA members, I hope you are willing to take the next step and be helpful with NCRA’s grassroots campaign to ensure that the Training for Realtime Writers grants are reauthorized.

Now, even if you cannot travel to Washington, D.C., or the district office to meet with your members of Congress, that does not mean that you cannot be helpful to any grassroots campaign. The same study by the Congressional Management Foundation found that direct, personalized postal letters (90 percent) and personalized emails (88 percent) have “some” or “a lot” of influence on an undecided member of Congress. When you share your story with a member of Congress, you become part of the dialogue on issues that matter. Oftentimes, when I am watching congressional debates, I will see a member of Congress referencing a letter or in-person visit from one of his or her constituents to help prove their point.

To assist, simply go to www.ncra.org/government. You should see a button asking you to take action now. You will eventually be led to a page that will allow you to directly contact your two senators and one representative. This will allow you to tell your unique story about what court reporting and captioning have been great career choices and why more people need to know about that. Your help with directly contacting your members of Congress will help ensure NCRA’s success in the upcoming legislative battle that we expect to take place over 2016 and 2017.

Now, I know it is easy to complain about the overly politicized and partisan Congress that we have right now. But as citizens, we all have a role to ensure that our elected officials are accountable to the policies that we are interested in. In 2012, only 55 percent of the country voted in the presidential election. A significantly smaller number than that directly contacted their member of Congress on an issue that is important to them. By exercising your first amendment right to petition the government, you significantly enhance the likelihood of Congress enacting policies that you favor. In this case, I’m urging you to help NCRA’s grassroots campaign and help ensure that the Training for Realtime Writers grants are reauthorized and the funding remains available to court reporting and captioning programs.

Adam Finkel is NCRA’s Director of Government Relations. He can be reached at afinkel@ncra.org.

 

NCRF: Helping lawyers and judges create the record

By April Weiner

Since its creation in 2010, NCRF’s Legal Education Program has helped hundreds of court reporters give presentations to lawyers, law schools, and judges on the importance of and the court reporter’s role in “Making the Record.” The Legal Ed materials teach law students and attorneys how to help the court reporter deliver the best record.

Reporters can deliver the best record when they can hear and understand the speakers, and when they are prepared ahead of time, whenever possible (i.e. providing industry-specific terms and names that may be used).

“If our brain has to suddenly ask itself a question and kind of sound out to our inner self what someone said because they mumbled or [we’re] kind of reading lips for the low speaker, well, that just slowed my fingers down,” says Christine Phipps, RPR, a firm owner in North Palm Beach, Fla., and one of the co-chairs of NCRA’s Technology Committee, who helped orchestrate the committee’s recent revision of the materials.

Another step in delivering the best record is recognizing for whom the transcript is being prepared.

“At the time of trial, a senior partner in the firm will actually be the person using the transcript and, therefore, will be unable to use their memory of what transpired,” says Kevin R. Hunt of Jack W. Hunt & Associates in Buffalo, N.Y., who has given many of these presentations and even authored the sample script. “If a witness nods [his or her] head or points to a place on an exhibit, that will be either open to interpretation as to the witness’s response or completely unknown. Making sure everything is verbal and uttered one person at a time ensures that regardless of who reviews the transcript, they will have an unambiguous understanding of what the witness was testifying to.”

Furthermore, the transcript is critical in the appeals process.

“In most instances, an appellate court can only review the proceedings below from a court reporter’s transcript,” says Teresa Kordick, RDR, CRR, CRC, CRI, CPE, an official from Des Moines, Iowa, and a trustee on the National Court Reporters Foundation’s board. “What is contained in that transcript is the record made by counsel, the witnesses, and the judge. It is essential that attorneys and judges know how to make good record so that the reviewing court can properly decide the case.”

Kordick used the Legal Ed materials as a starting point to modify a presentation to judges at the Judicial Branch Building, which houses the Iowa Supreme Court and Iowa Court of Appeals. Both she and Merilyn Sanchez, RMR, CRR (Ret.), of Chandler, Ariz., one of the founders of the program, stress the importance of tailoring the presentation to the audience.

“The materials are meant to be modular and easily personalized for whatever audience the reporter has,” Sanchez says. “Many lawyers would not be interested in how to schedule a deposition or what to do in preparation to assist the court reporter. You can skip over the basics and get right into the technology demonstration. Some lawyers prefer to leave the technology to their paralegals or second chair attorneys, who might be a better audience for a realtime focus.”

Keeping the law firm’s individual needs in mind helps tailor the presentation.

“If a law firm needs assistance in using realtime, a script is included to use in a realtime demonstration. You can do a quick explanation of what you can do during a realtime demonstration or actually incorporate whatever litigation support software the attorney uses into the basic presentation,” says Sanchez.

The Legal Ed materials have recently been revised to include up-to-date technological advancements in the industry.

“Many lawyers have not kept abreast of the latest technology in making a record,” says Sanchez. “It is important to educate lawyers about realtime reporting, video synchronization, and how to make the best choice for their reporting needs. Legal Ed was designed to assist reporters to educate lawyers at any level of technology sophistication.”

Technological advancements will vastly change how attorneys practice law, says Phipps.

“Streaming realtime, a live feed to everything said as it’s being said, all around the globe is now very simplistic and interactive, bringing the proceedings to wherever you may need to be. Delivering final transcripts to be used in imminent examinations in minutes is an absolute game changer,” says Phipps.

NCRF’s Legal Education Program materials include a sample presentation outline, a PowerPoint presentation, handouts, and a script. There are a number of ways court reporters can take advantage of these materials.

“Take any opportunity available to you to speak with judges, lawyers, and law students,” says Kordick. “It is always appreciated by those groups, and it benefits the reporters if we can make their (and our) jobs a little easier.”

 Law Day is celebrated each year on May 1, and many chapters of the American Bar Association, courts, and lawyers plan special events on this day. This can be a good opportunity for court reporters to be included and present on behalf of the profession. Court reporters can reach out to local ABA chapters or law firms to inquire about being included at these events.

Since the Legal Ed materials are particularly applicable to law students and young attorneys, reporters can also reach out to local law schools and firms to see if they’d be interested in a presentation.

“Use this education program to get your foot in the door with either the lawyers or their support staff and lay the foundation for a great relationship,” Sanchez said.

In addition to benefitting from lawyers understanding the profession better, court reporters can apply to receive Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for giving the presentation. A subset of Continuing Education Units, PDCs can account for up to 1.0 units per education cycle for NCRA court reporting members who are fulfilling their education requirements.

The presentation benefits the firm as well, since it results in improved transcripts that help lawyers do their jobs better, at no cost to the firm.

“Speaking at law schools or law firms is a wonderful opportunity to encourage attorneys to help you help them,” said Hunt. “The goal is a clear and usable transcript, and if they follow the suggestions in the Legal Ed presentation, it will go a long way to ensuring a transcript that meets or exceeds their expectations.”

If presenting to a law firm, the attorneys that attend such a presentation may be eligible to earn continuing legal education credits. Since each state has different CLE requirements, the law firm will have to contact their state bar to determine eligibility.

For more information on the Legal Education Program and to get the materials, visit NCRA.org/ncrf/LegalEd.

April Weiner is the Foundation Assistant for the National Court Reporters Foundation. She can be reached at aweiner@ncra.org.