Jetsetting reporters

Jetsetting reporters1By David Ward

Very few people in court reporting would describe it to outsiders as a glamorous, exciting profession.

Important? Yes. Personally satisfying? For most reporters, that answer would be yes as well.

But exciting? On most days, probably not.

However, there are a subset of U.S.-based court reporters who, from the outside, live what looks like a glamorous, jet-setter’s lifestyle, flying up to 100,000 miles or more a year to handle depositions in various locations — London, Tokyo, Istanbul, Paris, Bangkok, Israel, and even Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — that seem better suited for the latest James Bond or Jason Bourne movies.

For some, there’s even been the occasional hint of danger, such as doing a deposition in a room protected by armed guards.

Many of the reporters who travel a great deal — either domestically or internationally — are often amazed at the lives their steno machine skills have provided, even as they downplay all the travel or the thrill of racing to catch the last overnight flight of the day to Europe.

Frequent fliers

“The traveling part can be one of the most challenging parts of the entire experience,” explains Lisa Knight, RMR, CRR, who is the head of Denver-based Knight International Court Reporting. Knight has traveled extensively throughout Europe and the Pacific Rim — as well as to South America and parts of the Middle East — and explains, “Sitting on an airplane, typically in coach, for up to 14 hours for a flight to Asia is not as glamorous as it sounds. And dealing with the jet lag and the 16-hour time difference can make doing your job difficult on a good day.”

Most of the traveling reporters interviewed for this piece stress that life on the road was something they had not really anticipated.

“For me, it just evolved,” explains Sue Terry, RPR, CRR, Springfield, Ohio. “I had decided to do more hi-tech depositions, and because of that, I got involved in this one particular case, and it grew from there.”

Terry explains that she travels exclusively domestically for her work, with much of her travel these days focused on regular trips from Ohio to the Washington, D.C., area.

But in the past, Terry says she traveled a lot more, including one case involving an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site where she was on the road for 100,000 miles annually for five or six years straight.

“There were three other reporters doing the same thing on any given day,” Terry says. For that work, the court reporting firm and its client picked up everything, including airfare, hotels, and meals. “Those cases are a bit harder to come by these days because of the expense tied to travel, but there are a few of them still out there.”

Jetsetting reporters2Realtime and hi-tech work

Terry has been able to get regular work far from her home base in large part because she takes assignments from multiple court reporting firms.

“I’m in a position now where I can pretty well cherry pick, saying I can take that case, or I don’t want that case,” Terry says. “One of the reasons I have been able to continue to travel and report is that I adhere to the unwritten rule of freelancers, which is don’t approach the law firm about work. It’s wonderful when the law firm does request you, and I’m thankful for that, but I never call them my client, and they really belong to the court reporting agency I work for.”

Houston-based Mike Miller, RDR, CRR, president of Miller Reporting Group, is another reporter who got into travel for depositions primarily for the income opportunities rather than the chance to see exotic locales.

“It was never a goal early on, but around 2005, the Texas Legislature passed massive tort reform, and the ability to make a living at home kind of evaporated with that,” Miller explains. “I then started looking where my skills would be most valuable and where the biggest supply of cases with the most copies and most realtime was taking place.”

For Miller, that turned out to be international work, even though he freely admits his knowledge for foreign languages is limited to only a few words that could help him find a restroom or restaurant in another country. But he insists, “Language is no more a barrier than it might be if you’re taking the deposition of a foreign-language-speaking doctor in your hometown.”

Learning the ins and outs of local customs

Some local knowledge does help, Miller adds, especially when it comes to electricity and plugs for your machine in different countries. “Even with the proper gear, sometimes finding the right type of power supply for different electricity requirements can be a challenge,” he notes.

There can also be the occasional challenge of dealing with custom officials at foreign airports, and Miller says he often has to explain as best he can with the language challenge what a steno machine is used for and that he has no plans to sell it while he’s there.

“Some countries don’t care, but there are places like Greece where you have to declare every item you bring in,” Miller notes. “And when you’re leaving, you better have every one of those items.”

The reporters who do travel extensively — especially overseas — tend to know each other and regularly trade tips about locations as well as recommendations on jobs.

That being said, the life of an international court reporter can be a lonely one, so Miller says he appreciates cases where there’s either a videographer or additional reporter working in a city with him. “For one case in Seoul, South Korea, we had six reporters and six videographers going full time, so we had this great group to go out to dinner,” he says.

Miller and another Texas-based traveling reporter, Micheal Johnson, RPR, CRR, have also worked together, gathering depositions in relation to the enemy combatants still being held by the U.S. government at Guantanamo Bay on the island of Cuba.

Though limited in what they can actually talk about publicly, Johnson notes that he and Miller have done presentations on that experience at several state court reporting conferences.

Though it may seem like harsh conditions, court reporters are well taken care of at GITMO, Johnson says: “GITMO used to be a one-week stretch — now it’s two- or occasionally three-week stretches. As the trials near, they’re suggesting it could be months at a time.”

Keep your equipment close

Like all traveling reporters, Johnson says the real key is making sure your equipment makes it to wherever you need to go.

“I carry all the equipment that’s vital — such as my machine and other stuff that I absolutely have to have and can’t get replaced anywhere if something happens — as carry on when traveling internationally,” Johnson says. “I’ll check the little stuff that I can replace. Most countries at least have an idea what the machine is for — or determine it’s nothing that’s going to alarm them—and send it right through.”

Jodi Harmon, RMR, CRR, director of court reporting in Asia for Planet Depos, is one of the few reporters working internationally who came into court reporting looking for assignments in far-flung cities. “My two greatest passions were always reporting and traveling — the idea of combining the two of them was a no-brainer,” she says.

Most of Harmon’s work is in the Asia-Pacific region, but even with years of experience, she says she still likes to research every new location before she goes there. “I look up blogs and forums of expats living in the city I’m going to so I have the best of both worlds,” Harmon explains. “That is, learn about the native/local culture from people who live there — and in English — and most importantly, learn of potential pitfalls and faux pas.”

Harmon explains the reason American court reporters, rather than simply English language reporters, are in demand overseas is that many legal cases are eventually headed for the U.S. courts. “That why it’s important to write American English as opposed to the British English used by British and Australian reporters,” she says. “This can greatly affect word index and word search functions, e.g., criticize vs. criticise, analyze vs. analyse, legalize vs. legalise.”

Working overseas can be an ongoing education, and most traveling reporters can point to at least one incident or misunderstanding about local customs. For Harmon, it came when she first began working in Japan and kept her habit of writing a small note, such as the date and name of the case, to herself on every business card she collected during a deposition process.

“I continued doing this my first full month of depositions in Japan until a local interpreter told me it’s considered extremely rude and disrespectful to write on business cards there,” Harmon explains. “These are things I now teach my clients.”

Johnson says he also learned the hard way about local customs, including that giving someone the “thumbs up” signup is considered an insult in parts of Europe.

Jetsetting reporters3On your radar

But learning about different parts of the world can do a lot more than save you some embarrassment. Knight has been traveling overseas for reporting assignments since the late 1980s, specializing in very technical realtime assignments, and she stresses the importance of doing due diligence on every location before accepting an assignment.

“I have turned down work in countries that are experiencing political unrest — like Egypt or Lebanon,” Knight says. “Just because they’ll pay for your airfare and hotel costs does not mean you should accept every realtime assignment you are offered. You have to use common sense and be aware of what is happening in the world.”

Knight also suggests that traveling reporters need to be tech savvy, explaining, “You need to become your own expert at troubleshooting, whether it’s your own computer — hardware or software— or your realtime connections to an iPad or a computer. When you are experiencing technical difficulties halfway around the world with a 16-hour time difference, there is typically no help available.”

Whether it’s for domestic or international travel, one essential tool for any reporter who plans to be on the road a lot is the Transportation Security Administration’s TSA Pre Check.

For a relatively modest $85 fee, applicants provide their biography and other background material and then receive a special clearance card, enabling them to go through a special line at U.S. security where they don’t have to pull all their equipment out of their bags.

Knight says TSA Pre Check has solved some long waits at U.S. airports: “The bigger challenge is the security in other countries where they don’t know what a court reporting machine is. You just need to leave yourself some extra time to go through security when returning home from other countries. The biggest tip would be to always be polite and be cooperative — that helps tremendously!”

Arguably the dean of traveling court reporters is Tom Crites, head of Tom Crites & Associates in Savannah, Ga., who has been traveling for depositions for at least four decades and can recount working in Iran before the U.S. Embassy was overrun and embassy staffers taken hostage in 1979 — the incident at the core of the recent Oscar-winning film Argo.

Crites says his transition to a globe-trotting court reporter came about initially from networking at court reporting conventions, which led to assignments providing transcripts of government hearings and eventually to a connection with attorneys in the maritime industry.

“Now, decades later, we go all over the world,” says Crites, whose can tell you not only the best ways to get recording and videography to and from a foreign country, but also the best hotels to stay at while there. “I’ve been doing this for 50 years, and so I’m familiar with all the terminology for these cases,” he says, adding, “The interpreters are always there, and in maritime legal cases, they all speak English.”

But this is not run-of-the-mill work, Crites stresses, adding that he recently had one of his court reporters along with a videographer working in Turkey, who were then supposed to go on to the Ukraine.

“But we were told the videographer might get mistaken for a correspondent and there could be some danger, so we ended up turning down that work,” Crites says. “I do a lot of work for governments around the world, and we have had situations where there are guards outside the deposition room. There are also countries where, if you bring some equipment in, it will be impounded, so you want to make sure you have several thousand dollars in your pocket to post bond for your equipment.”

Though it lacks some of the excitement of international work, domestic travel for depositions can be equally as rewarding, both financially and personally. Michele Eddy, RPR, CRR, CRI, based in McLean, Va., started looking to travel for work simply because there was more demand for realtime in other markets.

Her advice is to think outside the box when traveling. “I once had a five-week trial in my own state, six hours from home by car, and the only hotel in town was booked,” Eddy explains. “So I rented a house and furniture for those weeks, and it really worked out much better than a hotel because I had a kitchen and a washer/dryer.”

But as exciting as the travel can be, this is still a business, so Terry stresses that along with making sure you are going to be legally permitted to work in another state or country, you also want to make sure your time is well spent.

“I always try to make sure there is substantial work while I’m there,” Terry explains. “You don’t really want to travel to do, for example, a morning doctor deposition with little opportunity for a transcript. So you have to set a minimum amount that you’re going to make per day because these days, court reporting firms and attorneys are not going to cover the time you spend traveling.”

For international work, reporters have to factor in that working with an interpreter may end up cutting into the amount of pages they’ll normally get through in a day.

As for other tips for becoming a traveling reporter, Miller, for one, recommends making sure your home base is a major city with an airport that has plenty of direct flight options. He adds that he knows the flight schedule to Europe from Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport by heart, which means he can agree to an assignment in the late afternoon and still make the last overnight flight to Germany.

Knight stresses that those reporters interested in global travel work should get every certification they can, especially their CRR for realtime. She also recommends doing as much networking as you can by attending court reporting conventions and being active in state and national reporting associations like the NCRA.

As far as the type of cases that lend themselves to travel, Harmon says that intellectual property is a legal field that spans the globe, while Crites points out that maritime law cases can require depositions in nearly every corner of the world.

But Terry suggests that traveling reporters have to not only be very good at their jobs, but also must be resourceful and flexible, noting that she once had to do back-to-back cases in different parts of the country, the first involving the intricacies of pig farming, while the second dealt with nuclear energy. She also got to work at Camp David, the Maryland retreat for U.S. presidents going back to Dwight Eisenhower.

While Terry couldn’t talk about the circumstances of that work, she points out, “It just goes to show that our profession has no bounds when it comes to where you can end up.”

David Ward is a freelance journalist. Comments about this article can be directed to

PROFILE: Mary Beth Johnson, CRI

Name: Mary Beth Johnson, CRI

Currently resides in: Pittsburgh, Pa.

Position: Professor of court reporting

Member since: 1990

Graduated from: Duquesne University, M.Ed.; Dickinson College, BA in American Studies; Court reporting training at Duff’s Business Institute

Theory: Berry H. Horne

Favorite brief: SOP city of Pittsburgh

Why did you decide to become a teacher?

My dad was a teacher.  I spent many days with a Lindy red pen, helping him correct papers.  Who thought I would have gone through hundreds of red pens in my 38-year teaching career?  My dad is now almost 92 and still fondly remembers his teaching days and asks me every September if I am ready to go back.

What surprised you about your career and why?

I am constantly surprised that, when people ask me what I teach and I say court reporting, their reply is:  “Are they still around?  Do they still use that little box machine?   How fast do they type?”

I reply that we embrace technology, we do not let it replace us! And yes, the machine is alive and well, recording verbatim the spoken word.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am most proud of establishing a court reporting scholarship at the Community College of Allegheny County endowed for court reporting students.  We received a $10,000 donation from a local court reporter, and I matched it.  Together, we try to touch the future of a new generation of court reporters.

I am also proud of the 100 percent membership of our students in NCRA and PCRA.

I am grateful to NCRA for selecting me as the recipient of the 2014 CASE Award of Excellence.

Have you accomplished something not related to your career that you would like to relate?

I have tried to learn Spanish in an effort to teach those whose native language is not English a tool that they can use to become part of the American Dream.  This process is taking longer than I imagined, but when I can speak to a man working in the yard and ask him if he would “lquieres una botella de agua” in Spanish and he answers “Si,” I feel I have made progress in conquering a language similar to steno.  When I retire from court reporting, I would like to open a little school and teach English to those who cannot afford to pay for classes.

What project is exciting you right now?

The Veteran’s History Project.  Through the efforts of Marjorie Peters, RPR, CRR, and Janis Ferguson, RPR, CRR, an arrangement was made for Retired General Dunlavey to speak with my Dad for two hours.  Janis flawlessly recorded my Dad’s bravest memories.  Our entire family of five children, three grandchildren, and great grandchildren solemnly watched the DVD as we celebrated my Mom’s 90th birthday.  The DVD and transcript not only will grace the Library of Congress but also the personal libraries of the Habas family.

Tip of the month: Invest in yourself

By Keith Lemons
Invest in yourself. Pay your professional dues, pay your maintenance agreements on your machines and your software, become certified, and stay abreast of hardware and software trends.

If you want to compete in the workplace, what “they” see is the image you project. So what will it be? The modern reporter ready to give realtime at a moment’s notice or an outdated reporter with a 1995 steno machine with a diskette drive, spilling paper over the tray? Every time someone goes out into the public arena looking like a dinosaur escaped from the past, it reflects badly on our profession as a whole.

In a forum on Facebook, someone was complaining mightily that their machine was out of warranty, and when it broke — wonder of wonders — the manufacturer was going to charge them actual money to fix it! Electronics break. Count on it. Prepare for it. Reach for the upper echelon of court reporting and don’t stop until you get there.

Keith Lemons, RPR, CRR, is a freelance court reporter in Brentwood, Texas, and a JCR Contributing Editor. He can be reached at

The last page: What you don’t know


Q. Who was conducting hypnosis?

A. I was.

Q. Are you licensed to do hypnosis?

A. There’s no such license.

Q. How do you go into the hypnosis business?

A. I could tell you, but you would have to look directly into my eyes.

Therese Casterline, RMR, CRR

The Colony, Texas


Fast learner

Q. Have you ever had any other — let me start over. If I say the words “strike that,” it’s a dumb pair of words that lawyers get used to because when we’re in trial, we make a mistake, we want the record to be removed of that portion. And I apologize for using it because it’s not — it’s not really a common phrase. If I say it, what I mean is “don’t answer that.” Let me start all over again. Does that make sense?

A. Yes.

Q. Other than the October 2008 injury, have you ever sustained any injury at home, at school, doing anything, that required more than first-aid treatment?

A. No.

Q. For example —

A. Oh, strike that.

MS. BOSQUEZ-FLORES: You learn fast.

MR. MILLER: That was good.

THE WITNESS: When I was a child, around eight or nine, I broke my arm.

Ron Laing, RPR

Fresno, Calif.


Choices, choices

Q. What other weapons do you have?

A. .22 Marlin rifle.

Q. When was that purchased?

A. It wasn’t.

Q. Gifted to you?

A. No.

Q. Stolen?

A. No.

MR. ATTORNEY: He just slipped that right in there on you.

Nancy Toner, RPR

Exton, Pa.


The fall of the American empire

This was from the testimony of a 77-year-old Greek woman.

Q. For any reason, do you take Valium or a generic of that pill?

A. No generic or nothing. I don’t take Valium.

Q. All right.

A. I don’t believe in that.

Q. Okay.

A. That’s why the American is going to hell.

Q. So no Valium?

A. No shit.

Maureen Doty

Anaheim, Calif.


Compliments will get you everywhere

MR. JONES: Form, foundation. I don’t know what you’re asking.

MR. GREEN: You don’t need to. He does.

MR. JONES: Well, wait. I’m not a potted plant here. You have to pose an appropriate —

MR. GREEN: I wasn’t suggesting you were. If you were, you’re a potted plant with a very nice-looking tie.

MR. JONES: Well, thank you.

Elsa Jorgensen

Birmingham, Mich.
A growing vocabulary

Q. Okay. And the investigation of drugs — just want to get this right — was based upon somebody else having had a tooter? Is that correct?

THE COURT: What did you say? A tooter?


THE COURT: Somebody was helping them with their (inaudible)…

DEFENSE ATTY: A pen tooter, your — well, the officer can testify.

THE COURT: Yeah, I don’t know what a tooter —

DEFENSE ATTY: What is a pen tooter?

A. It —

THE COURT: The only tooter I know is my wife. Okay.

THE WITNESS: It’s, uh, drug slang for a tube that they use to smoke pills or —


THE WITNESS: — snort pills or anything else.

THE COURT: Learn somethin’ new every day.

Keri Veare, RPR, CPE

Hayden, Idaho


Calling long distance

Q. Do you have anybody who will testify to that on behalf of ABC?

A. Yes.

Q. Who would that be?

A. Tom Smith —

Q. You had discussions with him about that?

A. — and David Jones.

MR. BLACK: Is Tom Smith alive?

THE WITNESS: No. Tom died. Thank you. Yeah, it’d be hard to get Tom to testify.

MR. BROWN: We could try to call him, I guess.
Chelsey Horak
Omaha, Neb.


Time capsule

I had a 90-year-old witness who was remembering details from events that occurred before I was born! Below is the last Q/A on the record with her.

Q. And I learned this lesson a long time ago, that you never ask a woman about her age, but I am going to ask you for the record. How old are you, ma’am?

A. How old am I?

Q. Yes.

A. Ninety.

Q. Ninety years old, okay. So you were born in 1924?

A. Right.

Q. Okay. And are you presently under a doctor’s care for dementia, Alzheimer’s, or any other mental disease?

A. No. My marbles are not rolling yet.

Q. That’s a fair answer, ma’am.

Lisa M. Schwarze, RPR

Lexington, Ky.


Ask the obvious

Q. And why did you start taking the blood pressure medication?

A. For high blood pressure.

Denyce Sanders, RPR, CRR

Houston, Texas

NCRA’s Take Note campaign offers additional resources for National Court Reporting & Captioning Week, Feb. 15-21 2015

2015 CRCWThe 2015 National Court Reporting & Captioning Week sponsored by NCRA will kick off Feb. 15 and run through Feb. 21, and members, firms, schools, and vendors are being urged to start planning how they will market the event’s third year.

As in the past, a Court Reporting & Captioning Week resource center providing updated template press releases, social media messages, official proclamations, and more will be available by Jan. 1, 2015, and will be supplemented with additional resources on NCRA launched the Take Note campaign in September based on an industry wide outlook report by the independent research firm Ducker Worldwide. The study determined that over the next five years, some 5,000 jobs in the court reporting profession are expected to become available. The campaign is designed to raise awareness of the profession and future employment opportunities. The Take Note website includes presentations, advertisements, and talking points based on the findings of an industry outlook report released earlier this year. An executive summary of the Ducker report is also available at the site.

Promoting the profession

“We are all poised to celebrate our profession like never before during the 2015 Court Reporting & Captioning event, especially with the additional resources NCRA has put at our fingertips with the Take Note campaign,” said Sarah Nageotte, RDR, CRR, CBC, who serves as the 2014-2015 NCRA President.

“With additional resources available, it will be extremely easy for state associations, court reporting schools, students, and individual court reporters and captioners from around the country to spread the word about how awesome the stenographic court reporting and captioning profession is,” added Nageotte, an official court reporter for the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio.

Throughout the designated week, NCRA will engage in a public relations campaign that will highlight the career options available to those who graduate from a court reporting program and will seek an official legislative recognition of National Court Reporting & Captioning Week. As part of the campaign, NCRA will also rely on its social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and blogs to reach thousands of people.

Members amplify the message

In addition to NCRA’s increased marketing efforts about the profession and the benefits of joining NCRA, the association will make a toolkit available to members on the NCRA website. The website includes materials for presenting court reporting and captioning as exciting job opportunities for students, press release templates, social media-appropriate logos and banners, tips for hosting special activities such as a Veterans History Project Day to mark the event, and more.

“Our profession has been held secret for too long. Do your part to spread the word about the opportunities court reporters and captioners have in the marketplace, and the 2015 National Court Reporting & Captioning Week is the right time to make the public ‘Take Note,’” Nageotte said.

Celebrate National Court Reporting & Captioning Week

One of the easiest ways to celebrate National Court Reporting & Captioning Week is to simply change your Facebook profile picture to the event’s official logo. The logo can be downloaded from the page. Facebook is also a great place to promote the profession by sharing what makes court reporting such a unique and exciting career. Tips for messages to share on social media are also available at the event’s Web page.

Hosting a Veterans History Project Day is also a great way to introduce the public to the court reporting profession. It also helps with the efforts of the Library of Congress VHP program, which is dedicated to preserving the stories of American war veterans for future generations to read. Reach out to veterans organizations in your area to help generate interest. Another great venue to host a live VHP event is during a history class at a local high school. The students will not only hear the story of a war veteran, but also get to watch a demonstration of it being captured and transcribed.

Finally, be sure to issue a press release about how you plan to celebrate National Court Reporting & Captioning Week and offer to make yourself available to local media for interviews and demonstrations. Template press releases are available at NCRA’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week Web page.

And don’t forget to share with NCRA what you plan to do to celebrate. Send information about activities to


  • Connect with local high schools in your area and offer to exhibit at one of their career days. Offer to make a presentation about the court reporting profession to high school students following business tracks.
  • Welcome back alumni to visit with students and to provide real-life insight into the profession.
  • Host an open house and family day for the public and members of the media to learn more about the exciting
    career of court reporting. Include demonstrations, raffles, food, and texting versus steno writing contests.
  • Host a potluck luncheon and invite students, working court reporters, family, friends, attorneys, judges, to swap stories and ideas in a casual setting.
  • Create “spirit ribbons” for students and faculty to wear throughout the week to increase awareness about
    court reporting as a career.
  • Host an event that includes members of the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities as well as the general public
    and high school students, teachers, and school counselors, and provide demonstrations of broadcast and CART captioning.


  • Offer court reporting students in your area an opportunity to shadow your working court reporters and CART and
    broadcast captioners for a day. Hands-on learning opportunities are always welcomed by students.
  • Host an open house at your firm and invite high school students, judges, and attorneys you regularly work with to help increase awareness of the important role court reporters have in preserving the record.
  • Reach out to court reporting schools and offer to host a live Web chat with students. This is a great opportunity for students to ask questions about their future careers.
  • Offer to caption an event or meeting in your community free of charge. Churches, local theaters, and even schools
    make great venues for this activity.
  • Encourage your court reporters to volunteer for NCRA’s Virtual Mentor program. More information can be found at

State Associations

  • Reach out to your state and federal lawmakers and urge them to help celebrate by officially proclaiming National Court Reporting & Captioning Week.
  • Offer to host an event at a court reporting school in your area where students and the public can help raise awareness of the important role keepers of the record play in preserving vital information.
  • Reach out to law schools or your state bar association and ask them to help celebrate the week.

Official Court Reporters

  • Encourage your judges to officially proclaim the week, or submit an editorial to the local media about the important role court reporters play in the judicial process.
  • Offer to provide an oral history interview and final transcript to an older judge or attorney within your legal
  • Offer to provide attorneys you work with a demonstration of realtime if they are not already requesting it.


  • Reach out to local libraries and offer to decorate a display case or other area with information about the court reporting profession.
  • Consider becoming a mentor to a court reporting student through NCRA’s Virtual Mentor program. More information can be found at
  • Write a weeklong blog that highlights your daily work and lets readers know how much you love your profession.

For more information about how you can celebrate 2015 National Court Reporting & Captioning Week, or to find the latest in resources including press release templates, media pitches, presentations, and more, please visit NCRA’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week resources page or contact the NCRA communications team at


NCRA Legal Video Conference wins big in Las Vegas

IMG_3478The 2014 NCRA Legal Video Conference was held this past Oct. 17-19 in Las Vegas, Nev., showcasing both the CLVS Seminar as well as continuing education designed specifically for legal videographers.

The event kicked off on Friday, Oct. 17, with the Certified Legal Video Specialist Seminar, the first step to earning the CLVS certification. Faculty members Brian Clune, CLVS, San Anselmo, Calif.; Joe Cerda, CLVS, Dallas, Texas; Bruce Balmer, CLVS, Columbia, S.C.; and Gene Betler, CLVS, Huntington, W.Va., familiarized the attendees with the basics of legal video depositions and how the videographer fits into the puzzle of the proceedings. “It’s so important that videographers learn the proper way to take a deposition and work with the court reporter,” said Betler, CLVS Council Co-chair. “When reporters work with a CLVS, they know they are working with a trained individual, so we take our job as educators very seriously.”

Day two welcomed already certified CLVSs seeking continuing education for their credentials to the venue along with those attending the ongoing CLVS seminar. An entirely new track of advanced topics was created for these seasoned videographers and included a discussion on the future of HD in video depositions, how to deal with multiple inputs during a depositions, and video services beyond a deposition setting.

One of the major challenges of the Legal Video Conference is to ensure that both experienced and new videographers are receiving the right level of education. While the continuing education track covered advanced topics, faculty member Maureen Walsh, CLVS, Tallahassee, Fla. created a new introductory version of the video chain, by introducing the concept with props, a beach ball, and commonsense stories. “I try to make things entertaining so people will stay engaged. Using visuals to explain thingsIMG_3492 is also part of my training. Everybody on the Council has his or her strength,” said Walsh. She continued: “The beach ball and my other props seemed like obvious ways of illustrating complex technical concepts. And they worked! One attendee told me the video chain session scared her most of all because it was so technical, but she left understanding everything.”

While Walsh was covering the introductory version of the topic in one room, Balmer, another faculty member and the CLVS Council Co-chair, was next door giving a high-level advanced session. Walsh explained, “It is important for us to acknowledge and address those different levels, so that there is something there for everybody. I teach the fundamentals, and Bruce gets into more complicated aspects of what we do. I tell people that I teach basic math, while Bruce goes into trigonometry.” Other introductory topics of the day were a primer in civil procedure taught by Steve Crandall, CLVS, Seattle, Wash., how to do the paperwork of a videographer, taught by Jason Levin, CLVS, Washington, D.C., and how to deal with post-production issues, taught by Clune.

The final day wrapped-up with the CLVS program’s signature hands-on workshop. With instructors Levin and LaJuana Pruitt, CLVS, Bradenton, Fla., at the helm, attendees had an opportunity to gain practical knowledge of a deposition set-up. “The Sunday hands-on session is a chance to explore the video deposition process at the ground level,” says Levin, “We tailor our instruction to beginners new to the industry, seasoned reporters who want to learn more about video, and professional videographers who may have years of experience in broadcast or event videography but lack the knowledge of how to put their IMG_3464_Bskills to use in the legal environment.”

While the CLVS prospects were receiving their hands-on instruction, the continuing education track focused heavily on advanced topics, centering on how to stream realtime text and video with Crandall and how to use TMPGEnc/Video Master Works 5 with Balmer. The afternoon sessions ended with a two-part marketing series led by Council members Clune, Don Cely, CLVS, Greenville, N.C., and Sara Wood, NCRA Membership & Marketing Director. The sessions focused on everything from building relationships at a deposition to creating strategic marketing plans for services, leaving attendees with a way to promote their newly-learned skills.

While educational sessions were running in the seminar rooms, the CLVS Production Exam was taking place down the hall. Comprised of a 30-minute mock-deposition, test candidates had to demonstrate not only their technical proficiency, but also their ability follow CLVS standards during the proceedings. Continuing this year was the “experienced track” for testing, which allowed legal videographers who could show experience in the legal video field to take their practical exam immediately following the seminar.

As the event came to a close, attendees from both the continuing education track and the hands-on training came together for a final Q&A panel, allowing the participants to get their final questions in before heading home. When new Council member Cely was asked about his first time as a faculty member, he said, “I was so thrilled at experiencing everything, from meeting prospective CLVS candidates to spending time with experienced NCRA/CLVS Council members. I can’t say enough of how positive an experience this has been. I returned with aggressive ideas for marketing, which our best client reflected to my boss the very day I got back! I couldn’t be moIMG_3475_Bre excited about future prospects than I am right now.”

Learn more about the CLVS program
The next CLVS Seminar will be offered in conjunction with NCRA’s TechCon to be held April 10-12 in Denver, Colo. To learn more about the program, visit To find a CLVS in your area, visit

Special thank you to the CLVS Council:

Gene Betler (co-chair), Bruce Balmer (co-chair), Mike Bailey, Steve Crandall, Joe Cerda, Don Cely, Brian Clune, Jason Levin, Marueen Walsh, and LaJuana Pruitt.