Capturing the spoken word and each other’s hearts

When we think of couples, more than a few come to mind. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Sonny and Cher. John Lennon and Yoko Ono. In the court reporting world, we have several couples who have captured the spoken word — and each other’s hearts. Some have met while on the job, others through mutual friends, and some even while visiting an online forum. Whether they’ve been together for decades or just met within the past few years, these court reporting couples have made a mark in the industry and have been there for each other along the way.

Louise Becker and Tim Regis

Tim Regis and Louise Becker

Tim Regis and Louise Becker, Tacoma, Wash.

Louise Becker, RMR, CRR, CBC, CCP, and Tim Regis, RPR, met when they were in court reporting school in 1988. Becker started freelance reporting in 1990 and is a broadcast captioner for her local ABC affiliate. Regis, who currently works as an official court reporter at his local courthouse, followed Becker’s footsteps by joining the profession in 1993. Looking back, they realized they had a lot in common, such as a similar sense of humor, religion, work ethic, and financial compatibility.

In Becker and Regis’s case, the advantages of being in the same field are numerous. They mention that even though the economy has been unstable for the past few years, their jobs have been fairly stable. With Regis working as an official reporter, he’s able to get benefits and regular income. Since Becker is self-employed, she can take advantage of certain tax benefits, such as contributing to a 401k or an IRA.

But there are also a few disadvantages. Regis says, “When both of us worked as freelance reporters, it was pretty tough financially because we were either both busy or both slow because of the feast-or famine nature of freelance reporting. That was one of the reasons why Louise switched to broadcast captioning in 1995.” And they mention one other issue — their work schedules. Since TV is 24/7, Becker often works evenings, weekends, and holidays, whereas Regis has more of a 9-to-5 work schedule except for transcripts.

Neither one has ever considered leaving the field, but they do mention there are good days and bad days. Becker says, “Except for other reporters, no one really understands how this job works, so it’s nice for Tim to be able to complain about fast-talking attorneys who refuse to slow down, and I can complain about technical problems. And the conversation stays at home.”

When asked what words of wisdom they’d give other couples in court reporting or ones who were entering the field, they say, “Celebrate the milestones with a pat on your back. Don’t let others put you down or discourage you. Take criticism in a constructive way and use it to improve your skills.” They talk about the future of court reporting: “We’re hopeful that our jobs will take us into retirement. Folks have been saying our industry was a dying profession for years, going back to the invention of the tape recorder, but we’re still here and able to make a comfortable living.”

Gene and Jo Ann Betler

Gene and Jo Ann Betler

Gene and Jo Ann Betler, Huntington, W.Va.

Gene Betler, CLVS, and Jo Ann Betler, RDR, CRR, CBC CCP, CPE, CLVS, from Huntington, W.Va., met in September 1990. It seems they agree on one aspect of their introduction — the actual date they met. The rest tends to change depending on whom you ask. Gene insists that Jo Ann sent three of her friends to kidnap him and bring him down to Huntington to meet her. Jo Ann offers a slightly different recollection: “A co-worker of mine was dating a friend of his. On a Saturday night of dancing, he and I were introduced.” Jokingly, Jo Ann adds she was having a weak moment. “He’s like that puppy you let in the door. After a while, you realize that he’s here to stay.”

Jo Ann, who has been in the field since 1982, has always loved court reporting. And having Gene in the field to lean on has been great. She adds, “Knowing that I have his support when I look at improving myself professionally is a great comfort. The advantage of him being in the same profession is that, when I set my goals, he often can help me map my way to achieving those goals.”

Gene adds, “I believe the greatest advantage is in simply understanding what the other is going through. There are times in every relationship that stress will enter. When you work with your spouse, you really have two relationships with that person: personal and professional. This doubles your chances of stress.”

And the stress could be plenty, considering how busy they are. This couple wears many court reporting hats. In addition to owning Betler’s Reporting & Legal Video Services, LLC, Gene is a videographer, and Jo Ann is an official court reporter for West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals as well as a freelance reporter for their firm. Gene started his second career in the legal video profession in 2007. Initially, the business was just the two of them, but it grew quickly, and their business now has a staff of 15.

Working with your spouse can be a very rewarding experience, but there has to be more. They both advise: “What you do for a living is not why you fell in love with that person. Do not make your profession all that you have in common. Keep your dreams outside of court reporting. Keep exploring the world around you and working for the day when all of this is a very pleasant memory that you still share together.”

On a final note, when asked if they’re competitive with each other, Gene responds with generous praise of his wife. “Let me think. Jo Ann Betler, RDR, CRR, CBC CCP, CPE, CLVS, Realtime Systems Adminstrator, Trial Presentation Professional. How about if I just say ‘uncle’ now and let’s move on.” Jo Ann quickly retorts, “I win!”

Dee and Jack Boenau

Jack and Dee Boenau

Jack and Dee Boenau, Sarasota, Fla.

Dee Boenau hasn’t been in the field quite as long as her husband, Jack, but she still has 20 fantastic years in the business. As a realtime captioner, CART provider, and convention reporter, Dee, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, is also vice president of AmeriCaption, the firm Jack, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, founded in 1990. Jack, who has been working in the field since 1969, adds, “It was long after the rock-andchisel days but somewhat before erasable paper and electric typewriters, so during the era of reel-to-reel practice dictation tapes and carbon paper days.”

When it comes to discussing how they met, Jack recalls the exact details. “I remember this cute, professionally dressed, determined young lady coming up to me after I had presented at our state convention, asking if I was hiring.” Dee chimes in with a few more details: “I think he said no at first because I was wearing orange, which is one of the team colors of the University of Florida Gators, and he is a huge Florida State Seminole fan. It’s a good thing I didn’t tell him right away that I hold a degree from the University of Florida.”

Being together for this long in the same field has been really helpful to both of them. Jack teases Dee that she’s at least onethird computer because she understands the technology so well, but much of that is just her determination to learn.

Dee says, “We can back each other up. Jack will make me a snack and feed me if I’m captioning a meeting that’s gone through lunch and/or dinnertime. He also brings names that are ‘hot off the press’ over to my desk as I’m captioning the news. We understand the hard work and dedication the field requires and why our lives must revolve around our broadcast news, which results in some very, very long workdays.” Jack agrees, saying that having a partner who totally understands the work schedule, offers support during the occasional pitfalls, and helps to celebrate the many successes are great advantages. “While she wears the proverbial cape, I strive to hear, ‘you’re my hero!’ at least once a week,” he says.

As they talk about their competiveness, Jack brags about, of all things, his culinary skills. “She knows when to stand back and marvel … when I’m in the kitchen! But in the office, everything I accomplish, she one-ups me.” As Dee says, Jack waved the white flag a long time ago as far as competing against her on the steno machine. And Dee sees their differences as a positive thing. “Jack is a procrastinator, and I sometimes get tired of reminding him to do some things. But I always remind myself that his procrastinations combined with my get-it-done enthusiasm creates a balance.”

When asked if they have any words of wisdom to share for other couples in court reporting, Jack keeps it real and simple: “Be supportive and encouraging. It’s often little acts of kindness that help relieve the burdens of a trying day. Laughter helps. And adopt a cat! I believe one cannot be tense while watching a cat sleep by your desk.”

Ann and Breck Record

Breck and Ann Record

Breck and Ann Record, El Paso, Texas

Ann Record, RPR, CRR, CMRS, and Breck Record, RMR, CRR, who met in June 2008, have actually known each other since 1996. They are both official court reporters in El Paso County, Texas. When Ann tells the story of how she met Breck, it’s as if she’d met a rock star. “I ‘met’ Breck around 1996. I’d get on the Eclipse forum to ask questions. He was always helpful. I thought, ‘What a great last name for a reporter, Record.’ We officially met in person in June 2008 at the Texas Court Reporters Association annual convention. As I was checking my email, he came up to me, sat down, and said hi. I looked at his name badge and thought, ‘Oh my God, it’s Breck Record!’ I didn’t say this out loud, though, because I didn’t want to embarrass him.”

Striking up a conversation seemed to work, because they’ve been together since. Court reporting brought them together, but as Breck says, having his wife in the same field is priceless. “I wouldn’t be what I am today without her there by my side.” Ann feels the same way: “It’s great being married to another court reporter. We always support one another. He lifts me up daily.”

They help each other out with work, such as transcript loads, which is a great advantage. Plus, they know what the other is going through when they have a good or bad day. But they say there are also disadvantages, such as when Breck is in trial, and it goes late. Since they carpool together, Ann has to wait until he’s done. Breck says, “My poor bride has to stay up here when my trials are running late. She’s a trouper in that regard.”

But it’s not — or can’t be — all about work. Breck proposes fun along the way. “Life can pass you by in an instant, and before you know it, it’s over. Always take time for your spouse, and do fun things together when you can. You can’t work all the time. When it’s slow, that’s the time to travel and get out of town and have fun.”

Adam and Pat Miller

Pat and Adam Miller

Pat and Adam Miller, Middletown, Del.

Even though a mutual friend set them up two years after meeting, Adam Miller, RPR, CRI, CLVS, and Pat Miller, CRI, CPE, caught each other’s eye in the classroom. That’s if you ask Adam. Pat says she was totally oblivious, and it wouldn’t have happened if her friend hadn’t played matchmaker. After all, it was Pat’s theory class in Philadelphia, and Adam was one of her students.

By the time they started dating, Pat was already encouraging and helping Adam get through school. Adam says, “Absolutely no one else can support a student going through steno like someone who’s been there, who knows the hardships and successes and what they mean, who knows the need for excuses and the ways to cope with regular and devastating failures and what it means to recover from them.” Pat says the same goes for getting transcripts out. “Adam knew, having been my student, that I’d work as late as necessary to get the work done.”

Currently, Adam is the managing member of Miller Verbano Reporting, and Pam is the proofreader for both partners of the business. They both love the profession and, in their words, it’s a vocation, a hobby, and a shared passion for the play of words of a living language. Even though they consider their careers a hobby, they’ve added some non-reporting interests. Pat works one morning a week as a Community Supported Agriculture worker/harvester, and they both foster greyhounds through Greyhound Pets of America Delaware. In fact, they solve and share many problems, issues, and ideas on walks with their dogs.

When asked about the future of a profession they’ve spent decades to build, they’re optimistic and realistic at the same time. “We still believe that this is the best profession there is. We see a stultifying resistance to change in many professions, certainly not just in court reporting. From making changes in the way education happens to being current with what the client needs to perform his or her profession so that a court reporter is always part of the professional team, it is up to us to design, create, and even earn a future in translating the spoken word.”

Gail and Bill Verbano

Bill and Gail Verbano

Bill and Gail Verbano, Boothwyn, Pa.

Gail Verbano, RDR, CRR, who has her name on the door at Miller Verbano Reporting, has been in the profession for close to 23 years. When she met her husband, Bill, in 1995, there was music playing. Literally. They both played clarinet in a community orchestra in San Diego. That was their common thread since Bill was in a totally different field at that time. Gail says, “When we were first married, Bill was a carpenter, and I was a reporter in San Diego. When we had children, Bill stayed home with the kids for several years.”

When they made the move to Delaware and she went into business with Adam Miller, it was a natural fit for Bill to get involved with the business. Gail says, “We got busier and needed a videographer on staff. He was looking for a new line of work and was always a photographer and audiophile. It was a natural fit. He was also interested in becoming involved with the business that had his name on it.”

But with any type of business or career, there are a couple of disadvantages. They mention that 2012 has been a very slow year. Gail says, “When I’m slow, he’s slow. When I don’t have work, he doesn’t have work.” Another problem she mentions is getting the kids taken care of. “I don’t always know when we’re going to get home from work, so the kids have learned to be pretty flexible about it. But we do need to impose on our grandma or neighbor once in a while to take our son to band practice. Or I have paid significant amounts of money to the college student up the street to make dinner for them and take my kids to piano lessons in the evening when we can’t make it in time.”

When asked if they’re competitive with one another, they say, “Never! Whether it’s court reporting or playing the clarinet, it’s something we enjoy being able to do together. We are lucky enough to be best friends and enjoy each other’s company.” You’d think spending so much time together, that when they’re not working, they wouldn’t want to talk shop. But that’s not the case. “We do a lot of asbestos work here, and some of the plaintiffs are so sick, some with young children. It’s impossible to go to their homes and see the pictures of their beautiful families on the walls and not be moved by that, and it’s impossible not to talk about it later.”

But it wasn’t always like that. When Bill was a carpenter, he didn’t know that much about being a court reporter. He didn’t quite understand why Gail had to stay late or miss the dinner party they were planning to attend or why it was so important to get that transcript done on time. Gail says, “Now that he’s in the legal field, working with attorneys and witnesses who often travel long distances or overnight, he understands the ‘let’s just finish tonight’ mentality. And it’s so nice to be able to talk about work now! I never did before because he didn’t really understand what I was talking about, what realtime meant, or why it was a special skill that required me to be there instead of someone else.”

G. Allen and Diane Sonntag

Diane and G. Allen Sonntag

Diane and G. Allen Sonntag, Oro Valley, Ariz.

This couple’s story is about as close as you get to a romantic comedy movie script. Meet G. Allen Sonntag, RDR, CRR, and Diane Sonntag, RDR, CRR, CCP, CPE, from Arizona. Allen, a freelance reporter through Colville & Associates, and Diane, a Pima County Superior Court official reporter, met in 1994 online in the Court Reporters Forum. Diane recalls, “We met on the Sunday night chat. We spent a lot of time getting to know each other over the phone and email. I got to know the person before I met the court reporter.” The truth is they met because of court reporting, and it has been a huge part of their lives. Allen has been in the profession since 1959 and Diane since 1978, and not once have they considered leaving the profession. Diane adds, “Court reporting has been a wonderful career. It has given us a front row seat to life. We get to see the good and the bad. I prefer court because I get to see the whole case, not the bits and pieces. Allen prefers freelance because it is always different.”

But the two admit there’s a little competition in their house. Allen says, “In the past, I’ve competed in the speed contests at the state and national levels. I’ve won bronze medals in the past. She beat me in Las Vegas in 2011. Now I’ve got to get cracking and try to get back ahead of her in Nashville in 2013.”

Diane mentions how taking her married name brought about certain expectations. “I found out when I became a Sonntag that one of the requirements was to compete in speed contests. I can say it’s the most frustrating and exhilarating experience.”

Setting aside the healthy competition, the Sonntags offers some words of advice. Allen says, “You need to be flexible in your plans. Sure as you’ve made dinner or planned an out-of-town trip, one or the other will get a rush job that can’t be turned down. When the judge, lawyer, or client needs the transcript, we are duty bound to produce it, even if it’s inconvenient. In today’s economy, you need to be willing to work, provide the services, and do what is required in spite of any wishes on your part.”

Diane mentions something more personal and unrelated to the actual work: “Remember to stop and smell the flowers. This profession has been good to both of us, and I don’t think either one of us would trade it for anything. The key, though, is to make sure you have hobbies and things you enjoy that are not related to court reporting.”

Registration for TECHCON now open

Registration is now open for NCRA’s TechCon 2013 to be held April 19-21 at the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Paradise Valley in Scottsdale, Ariz. TechCon 2013 will bring cutting-edge seminars on technology together with its three legal programs, the Certified Legal Video Specialist program, the Realtime Systems Administrator program, and the Trial Presentation program. In addition to bringing back the well-received Ignite program, NCRA will be offering new formats for learning at TechCon 2013.

Registration is now open for NCRA’s TechCon 2013 to be held April 19-21 at the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Paradise Valley in Scottsdale, Ariz. TechCon 2013 will bring cutting-edge seminars on technology together with its three legal programs, the Certified Legal Video Specialist program, the Realtime Systems Administrator program, and the Trial Presentation program. In addition to bringing back the well-received Ignite program, NCRA will be offering new formats for learning at TechCon 2013.

More information about the event, including registration, is online at www.ncra.org/TechCon.

Why should you be certified?

Certification is how many professions maintain their standing. But it is also a matter of taking pride in yourself and in your profession.

Why should you be certified?

Why should you be certified?

I was a court reporting student in the late 1970s. I remember when Certified Shorthand Reporters came to school to talk to us about work in the field and the great profession we had all chosen to become involved with. They were mentors like John Prout, RPR, Woody Waga, RMR, CRR, Ted Formaroli, RMR, and the late Stan Rizman and Kathy Paglione. I remember going to state conventions and feeling honored to walk the halls with “the professionals.” I remember how grateful I felt when a “real” reporter would spend time with me and let me know what a great career this was going to be for me. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, if I can just get through school and pass the test, my whole life will change when I become certified.”

Way back then, it never occurred to me not to be certified. It never occurred to me not to seek, find, and attain every certification I possibly could, nationally and locally. I worked hard, very hard, and once I attained RPR and CSR status, I went on to become an RMR, RDR, and a CRR.

I can’t tell you that it was easy. It took a great deal of time and effort. I attended a lot of conventions and seminars. I tried to take something away from each of those seminars that would help make me a better reporter. Continuing education wasn’t an obligation; it was my duty. After all, these were all Certified Court Reporters trying to teach me and others the how and why of our profession. It never occurred to me not to make myself available to this fund of knowledge. After all, I was a professional.

WHY WAS GETTING CERTIFIED IMPORTANT TO ME?

Why? Why did I do that? Simple answer: Pride in myself, pride in my profession, and pride in my association.

But then, I live in a state that requires certification. New Jersey has had a statute requiring certification for well over 60 years. Lawyers and other professionals in my state expect — no, demand the value that a Certified Court Reporter brings to the table — the skill, knowledge, and expertise. There are even those attorneys, legal assistants, and paralegals who call court reporting firms, asking for court reporters by certification. “Can you please send an RPR to my deposition?” “Do you have a Certified Realtime Reporter available for my court hearing?”

There is a growing awareness in the legal community of the meaning of court reporter certifications. Attorneys are becoming increasingly aware of their rights under their State Court Rules regarding the officer at a deposition. In fact, the New Jersey Rules Governing Civil Practice state in part:

R.4:14-5: If the officer at the taking of the deposition is a certified shorthand reporter, the witness shall not sign the deposition.

Imagine that. The New Jersey Supreme Court, in adopting those rules, is saying that they have such faith in our certificate holders, that our certification is so strong and carries so much weight, that a witness shall not sign the deposition. Now, that’s what I call respect.

I am thankful that I live in a state that requires certification. I never had to impress on a judge, attorney, or legislator why I belonged to a time-honored profession. I never had to justify my standing in the professional community. I’ve never had to stand up and say, “Look at me. I’ve worked hard. I am very skilled and legal professionals in my state know what a Certified Court Reporter is.

When I was asked to write an article on the importance of certification, I thought, well, what exactly is certification? How do I explain certification and its implications? I believe the best answer is that it is the protection of professional standing, and it is the respect that is conferred on those holding that certification.

SO DOES OUR PROFESSIONAL STANDING NEED PROTECTION?

There are many non-certified reporters working. There are states that don’t require certification. There are court reporting firms that don’t care whether their reporters are certified. Certification is how professionals across the board — doctors, dentists, accountants, engineers — maintain their professional standing. The employment of non-certified reporters, particularly in states that do not require certification, may not be against the law, but it can be damaging to the profession, and it is leading to the deterioration of the court reporting field.

If you are working in a state that does not require certification, you should be working and helping your association push for that legislation. Why? Because the state’s failure to mandate or recognize certification is, in essence, a refusal to recognize court reporting as a profession deserving of that stature, and you deserve to be looked upon in your community as one of its professionals. If you are in a state that requires certification, you should not hire non-certified reporters. Instead, you should perhaps hire them to be scopists for your certified reporters. You should hire them as office assistants. You should encourage them to continue in school or online and to become certified so that they can legally work in your community. Encourage them the way our mentors encouraged us.

All court reporters should be working toward their certification. If you are an uncertified reporter working in a state that just passed certification, there is typically a grace period during which reporters have to show they are working toward certification. Even if you work in a state that does not require certification, consider earning your RPR through NCRA. Earning your certification gives you the chance to differentiate yourself in the eyes of your clients.

The bottom line is that you can work as a reporter; you can call yourself a reporter; but in the eyes of the professional community, until you are certified, you are not a court reporter. It is certification that demands that kind of respect. It is certification that tells your fellow reporters and the rest of the world that you are a professional. Respect is granted to those of us who are certified, and it’s justified. You just don’t automatically get that respect. By gum, you’ve earned it. You’ve worked hard — for years. Your fellow certificate holders know that and respect that. They’ve lived through the hard work, just like you. We’ve all seen those people walking the halls and in the seminar rooms at conventions, smiling, dressed up with the long line of ribbons stating which certifications they have and what they have done during the course of their career. When you have only one or two, aren’t you just a little bit jealous? You bet. However, you also have an added respect for those individuals, don’t you?

At the opening session at any NCRA convention, our association recognizes our achievements and allows us a moment to show respect to our fellow reporters. The president asks those of us in attendance: “Will all past presidents please stand. If you are an RDR, please stand. If you are an RMR, please stand. If you are a CRR, CBC, CCP, please stand. If you are an RPR, please stand.” I just can’t explain the sense of pride I feel when I look around and see hundreds of reporters all standing and applauding one another for the great accomplishments they all share, the self-esteem they feel in what they have achieved, and the respect they share for each other’s success.

Certification is a sign of respect for our profession, for our association, and for us, each and every one. I know that I belong to a small group of very dedicated, highly skilled, motivated, and exceptional individuals known as Certified Court Reporters and Registered Professional Reporters. I owe a debt of gratitude to my mentors for instilling in me this sense of reverence for our profession and for my fellow professionals. It is an honor in which I take pride.

So if you haven’t gotten your certification yet, take it from me. Spend the time, make the effort. It’s worth it because when all is said and done, it’s a matter of respect.

Jargon Alert

The CSR usually stands for Certified Shorthand Reporter, a certification based on a test offered in some states. Some states use Certified Court Reporter, or CCR, as their designation. CSR or CCR is usually considered a baseline measure of a reporter’s skills in producing a verbatim record. States that offer a CSR or CCR usually require court reporters who work in the state to be certified. While some states are able to offer one or more tests to qualify court reporters, not all states do, and the states that require testing of court reporters vary in what they test, whether a court reporter may work without a certification, or whether a court reporter who has certifications from other states or a nationally recognized certification may practice in the state. More information on the certification practices of individual states can be found on the NCRA website at www.ncra.org/SONAR.

NCRA certifications have set the standard for excellence since 1935, when NCRA first established a certification program to individually recognize the competence of court reporters. In the first year, 27 reporters passed the exam and established themselves as “Certified Professionals,” or CPs. Since then, NCRA’s certification programs have become one of its most valuable membership benefits. The certification program now has three tiers of achievement and claims nearly 11,000 Registered Professional Reporters, more than 2,100 reporters Registered Merit Reporters, and 450 Registered Diplomate Reporters.

RPR (Registered Professional Reporter): NCRA considers the RPR its entry-level designation, suitable for reporters who possess the knowledge and skill to produce a verbatim record of proceedings, in addition to having a grasp of reporterrelated terms and technology. The RPR comprises both a written and skills test.

RMR (Registered Merit Reporter): NCRA considers the RMR to be the next step to advancing a court reporter’s skills. Consisting of a skills test only, the RMR is designed to test speeds of 200 wpm of literary dictation, 240 wpm of jury charge, and 260 wpm of testimony, also known as Q&A. Candidates must attain 95 percent accuracy on each leg to pass.

RDR (Registered Diplomate Reporter): NCRA considers the RDR to be the epitome of achievement for court reporting test candidates. The RDR tests the court reporter’s organizational and practical skills through a written test.

ADDITIONAL PROGRAMS:

CCR (Certified Realtime Reporter): The CRR test can be taken by a Registered Professional Reporter. Candidates must be able to produce a realtime translation, that is, an accurate, simultaneous translation and display of live proceedings using computer-aided translation. Test candidates must realtime a recorded fiveminute, two-voice Q&A segment at 96 percent accuracy to earn this certification.

CBC (Certified Broadcast Captioner): The CBC is an entry-level exam that measures the test-taker’s ability to produce the translation and display of realtime captions in a broadcast environment. The test requires that candidates be able to use the appropriate software to create captions.

CCP (Certified CART Provider): The CCP is an entry-level exam that measures the test-taker’s ability to produce realtime translation and display of live proceedings utilizing computer-aided translation.

CLVS (Certified Legal Video Specialist): The CLVS certification recognizes the role of the legal videographer in the deposition by providing them with best practices in producing videos as supplemental evidence for court. Through the CLVS program, legal videographers learn to work with court reporters during depositions.

 

Realtime Systems Administrator Certificate: What does it buy you?

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Realtime Systems Administrator Certificate:
What does it buy you?

What does the Realtime Systems Administrator certificate buy me? Will my clients understand and appreciate the meaning of this additional certificate? How can I make it work for me?

The Realtime Systems Administrator Certificate program is one of NCRA’s newer additions to its Training and Certification Division. This program provides indepth training on the provision of realtime to an overview of the currently available realtime viewer software programs, as well as invaluable troubleshooting solutions. In addition, there is information exchange among the trainers and the participants on various hardware and software options to improve your realtime service performance and offering.

The questions for most NCRA members are: What does this buy me? Will my clients understand and appreciate the meaning of this additional certificate? How can I make it work for me? The answers to each of these questions are individualized, depending on your particular focus, but there are some universal advantages to this program.

1. Knowledge is power, and the knowledge you gain from the very experienced Realtime Systems Administrator trainers is tremendous. The Realtime Systems Administrator Guide that you receive as part of the training is a resource for the many technical pitfalls that await each of us on a realtime assignment.

2. Solving a client’s connection issue is the perfect opportunity to point out the Realtime Systems Administrator training you received that enabled you to do so. It is also a further opportunity to educate them on hiring certified reporters at every level — from traditional reporting through Internet realtime. Never pass up an opportunity to tout your personal accomplishments, as well as your standards for your reporters. The more you mention and promote such education and training, the more your clients will begin to expect and appreciate your qualified staff.

The Realtime Systems Administrator program is constantly evolving as technology advances. In addition to the NCRA trainers, the major vendors of realtime software viewers also attend to provide updates, support, and technical troubleshooting on their particular products. The Realtime Systems Administrator committee is currently adding the provision of realtime to iPads and tablets to its syllabus. It continues to update its training as new technologies become available.

The training is structured over a day and a half, followed by an opportunity to take the test right away — no time to forget what you’ve learned! During the training portion, in addition to the formal speakers, various support personnel will be available to assist you on specific issues/system setup, and the dialogue is somewhat free-flowing — you actually learn a lot from the participants sharing questions and personal experiences. There’s also a good bit of humor injected — at least when I trained! The testing follows the half-day session at assigned times and requires you to connect, within 15 minutes, to two different realtime viewers (there may or may not be a few pitfalls to address). And you immediately have your results, pass or fail. If you do not want to test immediately or are not successful, you can sign up for the test at a future testing event.

So, to answer the question, what does the Realtime Systems Administrator certificate buy you? Confidence! The confidence to take the step to provide realtime services; the confidence to set up, troubleshoot, and successfully connect your clients; and, finally, the confidence to do what you do best: write flawlessly!

Promoting the profession

Tami SmithAs court reporters and captioners, we can do one important thing to ensure the future growth and success of our profession, and it is relatively simple: Talk about it. You’ve probably heard me say before that NCRA members’ grassroots efforts to talk about what they do for a living is, in my opinion, one of the most effective ways for us to attract fresh talent to the profession.

In this vein of promoting stenographic court reporting to both the public at large and the communities that use our services, I’d like to share with you two of the many initiatives happening at NCRA to spread the word about the profession. Both of these strategies, combined with members’ own grassroots promotional efforts, are already having a significant impact and are showing promise to be even more effective long into the future.

First, I’d like to talk to you about NCRA’s Strategic Alliances Task Force. As I’m sure you can imagine, there are countless associations and organizations that represent the consumers of our services — everything from legal associations representing lawyers, paralegals, court administrators, and others to organizations representing the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities. These captive audiences offer us a targeted way to promote stenographic court reporting, which is why the Strategic Alliances Task Force was formed. This group of NCRA volunteers evaluates these types of organizations and looks for ways to partner with them. Sometimes we attend relevant conventions, and sometimes we offer to contribute articles or presentations if they’re in need of content. The goal of all of this interaction is to let these associations and organizations know that court reporters and captioners bring value to the table.

I’d also like to share with you a relatively new initiative at NCRA regarding our public outreach strategy. Public relations can be effective beyond measure for supplementing paid marketing efforts. Since NCRA doesn’t have a limitless budget for paid advertising, it’s essential for us to spread the word about our association and our profession through more cost-effective channels. Successful public relations efforts result in articles, radio spots, blogs, and television mentions in the editorial — and thus, free of charge — realm.

Thanks to a new public relations initiative at NCRA, we will be more active than ever before when it comes to communicating to the media our activities and contributions to society. Not only will we engage with media across the country for big campaigns such as the upcoming National Court Reporting and Captioning Week (for more information, see NCRA.org/awareness), but we’re also making noise about individual members’ accomplishments as well. Thanks to a new partnership with a Washington, D.C.-area public relations firm to help us distribute releases across the country, we are now able to issue a press release every time a member participates in the Veterans History Project and every time a member receives a RPR certification. That’s right — if you earn your RPR, NCRA will issue a press release on your behalf to the media in your geographical area. There’s no better way to spread the word about court reporters and captioners than to celebrate their successes.

As the strategy evolves, NCRA’s dedicated communications team will expand the press release program to include all of NCRA’s certifications and significant milestones and anniversaries of NCRA members. One small TV announcement or newspaper blurb at a time, members of the public will stop and think, “Hmmm… court reporters. I wonder if that would be a good option for my daughter/sister/cousin/me?” And that, my friends, can be more powerful than any amount of paid advertising.

If you receive an email from the public relations and communications team at NCRA, I encourage you to respond with the simple information they will need to issue a press release on your behalf. In celebrating your accomplishments, we celebrate the profession as a whole. That’s truly believing, dreaming, and inspiring.

Senate fails to ratify United Nations CRPD treaty

The United States Senate failed to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Treaty from the United Nations by a vote of 61 in favor to 38 opposed. Like all treaties, the CRPD would have required 67 votes (two-thirds of the Senate) in favor of ratification. The treaty was supported by all 54 Democrats and seven Republicans while 38 Republicans voted against the treaty, believing that the CRPD treaty conflicted with current U.S. law.

NCRA, through the Deaf and Hard-of- Hearing Alliance, submitted letters to all Senators, asking for their support in ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The DHHA is a multi-organizational alliance that consists of organizations with a strong interest in promoting public policy and education on issues affecting the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities, and NCRA is a current member of the DHHA. The DHHA worked throughout the year to inform the Senate of the importance of ratifying this treaty. The United Nations adopted the CRPD in 2006. Taking one of the most significant steps to date to help promote and ensure disability rights globally, the CRPD was the first international treaty that protects disability rights on a global scale and establishes a standard to help people with disabilities participate in society.

NCRA remains committed to working with the DHHA to promote disability rights. Please contact NCRA’s Government Relations Department at govrelations@ncra.org with any questions.

Five ways to love court reporting

Five ways to love court reporting

Five ways to love court reporting

NCRA announced that “National Court Reporting and Captioning Week” will be held February 17-23, 2013, as a way to get attention about what great careers court reporting, captioning, and CART can be. Want to help? Here’s how.

When NCRA announced National Court Reporting and Captioning Week, the JCR got in touch with NCRA’s new Senior Director of Marketing and Communications, Christina Lewellen, to find out more about this new initiative. She described a multi-pronged campaign that will include schools, reporters, state associations, and NCRA working together to promote the profession to prospective students and also to the general public. “Based on member feedback on the NCRA Member Needs Survey,” Lewellen says, “we know that many court reporters feel that the public at large doesn’t understand the importance of the court reporter or captioner. We wanted to do something to draw attention to the profession, and we know that our best advocates are court reporters themselves.”

NCRA will launch the week with a number of press releases to news organizations about the week and the profession to draw attention to how court reporters are integral to the effective functioning of our legal systems, as well as how important captioning and CART are to people who are Deaf or hard of hearing. NCRA’s Government Relations department has also asked that Congress officially recognize the week. Finally, NCRA will be launching a social media campaign that will highlight a new video about the professions in the hopes that it will make more students consider taking classes for court reporting.

But she emphasized, “Getting all of NCRA’s members to do something, even if it is something small, like changing their Facebook picture for the week, can do a lot to raise people’s awareness of the profession.”

1. SHOW YOUR STUFF TO HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS

One of the best ways to promote the court reporting and captioning professions is to take it to the source: high school and middle school students. Contact your local high school counselor to see if you can come in for a class period to talk about the profession and the many options it offers. As you know, stenographic skills can open many different career options, including court reporting, live-event captioning for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, captioning for broadcast and specialized videography. In addition, the strong marketplace demand means court reporting offers an abundance of long-term career opportunities. “Court reporting is consistently ranked as one of the top career options as it offers both flexibility and significant income potential,” notes Jim Cudahy, CEO and executive director of NCRA.

If you’re nervous about making a presentation, consider enlisting a colleague who can talk while you realtime the presentation. There’s nothing like showing realtime in action to get people excited. If you need additional help in getting started, check out the NCRA website. NCRA plans to post a PowerPoint presentation and basic talking points to get you started.

2. INTERVIEW A VETERAN

Court reporters’ participation in the Veterans History Project has been a win-win-win all the way around. Since the inception of the Veterans History Project in 2003, the National Court Reporters Foundation has worked with the United States Library of Congress. The collaboration has been a win for veterans and the Library, as well as the historians who now have access to transcripts of the many oral histories sent to the Library. It has been a win for the many court reporters, captioners, legal videographers, students, teachers, and firm owners who have participated, who talked about how meaningful this volunteer opportunity has been to them. Finally, it has been a win for the profession as a whole, because when court reporting firms and court reporting programs have organized Veterans History Project days, they have reached out into the community and shown people how important eyewitnesses to history really are — and how stenographers are among the few who can turn those oral reports into an accessible written document.

Get involved in the Veterans History Project through the NCRA website, or contact Beth Kilker, NCRF’s Oral Histories Program Coordinator, at bkilker@ncra.org.

3. TELL LAWYERS AND JUDGES HOW TO MAKE A RECORD

Another of NCRF’s programs for court reporters is the “Making the Record” Legal Education program, a presentation kit for court reporters to help them explain the importance of the record to attorneys and judges. The presentation offers tips on how to present the information and a script and PowerPoint presentation to give you a good start on your own presentation. In addition, you can download the “Making the Record” brochure and copy it for the people attending your session. All of these materials can be found on the NCRA website.

4. GET SOCIAL WITH IT

If you are a fan of social media and have a Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn account, you can promote the profession with a few simple clicks. You can make NCRA’s logo for “National Court Reporting and Captioning Week” your Facebook photo, tweet a link to NCRA’s new one-minute video about the profession, or link to one of the articles about court reporting posted on the NCRA website. You can also share your story about court reporting — how you learned about the profession, why it was a great choice as a profession, or what the benefits of being a court reporter or captioners are — and tag NCRA’s website as part of your message.

5. FILL OUT A PRESS RELEASE

NCRA has created a number of press releases that members can fill out to show how they are participating in “National Court Reporting and Captioning Week.” If you know local journalists, you are certainly welcome to send the information through yourself. If you are unsure, NCRA can do it for you. Just make sure to fill it out and send it back to pr@ncra.org with the subject line of “Court Reporting Week.”

GET MORE!

For more information or to download or share files, please visit www.ncra.org/awareness. On this page, NCRA has consolidated information for members, state associa tions, schools, and the general media to use during “National Court Reporting and Captioning Week.” The http://www.ncra.org/ awarenesswebsite, however, will remain available for members to use for other events as called upon.

A global business

Jim CudahyWith the Intersteno Congress coming up, you might want to visit www.intersteno2013.org. In the fall, I had the opportunity to attend a council meeting for Intersteno for the first time. Much of the discussion, which took place in Prague, was about preparations for the 49th Intersteno Congress, which will be held this coming July 13-19 in Ghent, Belgium. Intersteno is held every other year, meaning that its history goes back more than 100 years, taking into account those years when they couldn’t hold the event because of extenuating circumstances, such as world wars.

Let me go on record as saying that I wasn’t completely prepared for the experience I had at the Intersteno Council meeting. I’d read about Intersteno, and while I could completely understand why NCRA needed to have a presence within the Council and at Intersteno, it was less clear to me where the niche for stenographic court reporters from the United States was supposed to be. It took three whirlwind days in Prague for it to become completely clear.

Court reporting is a global business, and there lies major opportunity outside North America for those NCRA members who might be interested in conducting business on a global scale.

When you look at finance and manufacturing and virtually all aspects of our life, it’s almost a cliché to say that we exist and work as part of a global economy. Think of the biggest American companies out there — names like Apple, Exxon, Walmart, and Coca Cola should come to mind. Each of these companies has a global footprint, but it’s not just them. It’s business of all shapes and sizes.

That’s why every time you hop on an airplane to Europe or to South America or to Asia, the plane is filled with U.S. business folks headed overseas to take advantage of business opportunities. It’s why the planes also are filled with European, Asian, and South American businesspeople entering and leaving the United States; they are participating in all manner of business dealings here in the United States.

Where there is international business taking place — whether taking place on American shores or overseas — there will be opportunity for court reporters. All of us know of court reporters and captioners and CART providers who are traveling all over the world for work. That could be you.

So, whether you’re already engaged with clients on an international scale or you want to be, Intersteno might be well worth your time and money. Now, one thing that might take some getting used to is that Intersteno is agnostic when it comes to method. Whereas there are certain countries in the world where steno remains the dominant method, there are other countries where steno doesn’t exist at all. Within speed contests and through education and networking, above the opportunities that are available for you to showcase your business, you likewise have the opportunity to showcase steno.

Over the long term, there is major opportunity for court reporters generally and NCRA members specifically who have a global vision. English is the international language of business, and when you think about the potential for stenographic court reporters, captioners, and CART providers to provide services to the large and growing international business community, the opportunities are extensive.

Where to begin? How about a trip to the Intersteno website http://www.intersteno2013.org—to see whether a trip to Belgium might be in the cards for you this summer?

Tennessee Court Reporters Association hosts one-day boot camp

The Tennessee Court Reporters Association, in conjunction with NCRA’s Government Relations Department, hosted approximately 30 members for a one-day, mini Legislative Boot Camp. Throughout the day, sessions were led by NCRA’s outside Legislative Counsel Dave Wenhold and NCRA Senior Government Relations Specialist Adam Finkel on the basics of politics, grassroots lobbying, and communications tips and techniques, with an intense focus on the issue of third-party contracting. At the conclusion of the day, the attendees were put through mock meetings where they were required to put their newly learned lobbying techniques to the test by meeting with individuals playing the roles of various key players.

TCRA President Sheila Wilson explained, “As affiliates struggle to address legislative issues in our individual states, we are extremely fortunate to have NCRA’s Government Relations at the helm, standing ready and willing to provide assistance. Their thorough understanding of the intricacies of the inner workings of government helps us grasp how the pieces of the puzzle fit together and arms us with the tools necessary to bring about positive change.”

“I would really, really recommend that every state association have NCRA put a ‘Boot Camp’ on for their association,” said TCRA President-Elect Jim Beres. “You’ll be amazed at what you will learn and then be able to accomplish.”

NCRA’s Government Relations Department stands ready and willing to assist affiliate associations in the challenges faced by court reporters today. If you have any questions, please contact govrelations@ncra.org.

TechCon 2013 set to exceed debut

NCRA's TechCon 2013

Learn more about NCRA’s unique tech event, which will take a fun approach to learning this April.

The court reporting and legal video community is already buzzing about the 2013 TechCon event this April 19-21 at the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton — Paradise Valley in Scottsdale, Ariz. Building on TechCon’s reputation for being unlike any other event offered by the association, event planners and NCRA committees are putting together an exciting lineup of customized and cutting-edge tech content. “The results of the 2012 Member Needs Assessment clearly indicated that learning about how to stay on top of technology ranked highly when it came to members’ educational interests,” said Jim Cudahy, CAE, NCRA’s CEO and Executive Director. “TechCon provides NCRA with a unique opportunity to offer members a comprehensive event that directly responds to these needs.”

With sessions designed for stenographic court reporters, legal videographers, trial presenters, attorneys, and legal tech professionals, TechCon joins together various members of the legal industry to network and learn. Attendees will have the opportunity to choose from several tracks designed for multiple educational needs, organizers note.

Legal Tech Labs

Legal Tech Labs

Legal Tech Labs

Conceptualized by NCRA’s CLVS Council and Technology Evaluation Committee, non-workshop attendees will have an opportunity to earn continuing education units (CEUs) from a dual track of “legal tech labs,” concurrent seminars with instruction from experts in the industry. “We’re very excited about this year’s legal tech labs because they will bring together the cream of the crop from numerous legal technology fields to discuss new and emerging trends,” says Matt Riley, NCRA’s Director of Education and School Development. “TechCon also provides a unique chance for attendees to learn how these various technologies interact and complement each other.”

With continuing education options for court reporters, videographers, and trial presenters, organizers report that all NCRA members in need of CEUs will make significant strides toward accomplishing CEU requirements in this new environment. To view the most up-to-date seminar listings, visit the TechCon website.

Realtime Systems Administrator Workshop & Exam

RSA Logo

NCRA’s most popular technical workshop, the Realtime Systems Administrator program, will also be an option for attendees in Scottsdale. With a focus on realtime technical knowledge and troubleshooting skills, this day-and-a-half seminar dives into all aspects of realtime hookups and litigation support that relies on realtime connections. “The workshop is a great opportunity for court reporters, firm owners, and legal IT professionals to expand their knowledge of how different components of a realtime system work together,” says lead faculty member Jim Woitalla, RDR, CRI, “and their becoming proficient with this information will not only make attendees more valuable to the legal system, but it will also make them more marketable to potential clients.” Both the workshop and the exam often sell out, so organizers encourage attendees to register early to ensure a spot. Visit the TechCon website for details.

Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS) Seminar

CLVS

The first step to earning NCRA’s CLVS Certification, the CLVS Seminar is the unofficial national standard for legal video education. Content will be led by expert faculty who teach attendees everything from practical camera operation to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Most importantly, the CLVS program sets a minimum standard of competency for legal videographers, including training on how to work with the court reporter in a deposition setting, organizers note. “NCRA certification for legal videographers is so important for our industry,” says Gene Betler, CLVS and co-chair of the CLVS Council. “Clients look for the CLVS certification because they know that they will be working with a consummate professional who is well-versed in all areas of legal video.” All levels of experience are welcome at this workshop; however, prior exposure to basic video concepts and/or deposition procedure is recommended for this session.

The CLVS certification is a three-step process requiring successful completion of both a written knowledge test and a practical exam to become certified. To learn more about this process, visit NCRA.org/clvs.

Trial Presentation Workshop & Exam

Trial Presentation Logo

Created for legal videographers, attorneys, and legal IT professionals, the Trial Presentation Workshop will focus primarily on how to best showcase evidence in the courtroom by using various electronic delivery systems. “The use of trial presentation software in court is often key to drawing jurors’ attention to the facts,” says lead faculty Brian Clune, CLVS. “Attendees will not only learn how to put forward a compelling case using presentation software, but they will also learn how to prepare for the IT environment of a courtroom. Experienced professionals teach trial presentation beyond the software commands, helping attendees to avoid critical mistakes.”

A certificate exam will be available at the end of the program to those who would like to hold the Trial Presentation Professional Credential. Like the Realtime Systems Administrator program, space for this program is limited, so attendees are encouraged to register early and secure their spots, Clune adds.

Ignite

Ignite Logo

The Saturday reception will not be your average networking event, according to NCRA organizers. The most talked-about session from the TechCon 2012 will be back for an encore. Featuring an Ignite format, which combines informal networking with entertainment, speakers will each have 5 minutes to present their topics with 20 slides automatically advancing every 15 seconds. “Last year I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to the Ignite sessions, but boy, was I impressed and in awe,” says NCRA Vice President Sarah Nageotte, RDR, CRR, CBC, and 2013 Ignite performer. “It was exciting to watch all of the speakers take their turns on stage. I’m looking forward to the challenge this year and stepping outside of my comfort zone.”

Learn more

Limited space is available for the specialized workshops, so attendees are encouraged to register as soon as possible to secure a spot. For current seminar and workshop offerings as well as detailed pricing and travel information, visit NCRA at www.NCRA.org/TechCon