How student recruitment and my wife’s family are related

Jim CudahyThere’s a little game my wife’s family has been playing with me in recent years. Each time we get together, they ask, “So, Jim, have you been traveling much?” My typical response has been, “Eh, not really that much.”

You see, they watch — but never comment on — the posts I make on Facebook when I travel to state associations or otherwise for NCRA business. So, they think I travel a lot and when I say that I don’t, their perception is that I am minimizing my travel to them because I think that they think that I should be at home more.

I’m not supposed to know about the little fun they have at my expense and that my wife has told me on the sly. So you have to keep this a secret.

They must be dying to get together this Thanksgiving to ask me the famous question because, this year, I have been traveling pretty extensively: Idaho, Nevada, Arkansas, Tennessee, Iowa, South Dakota, and Oklahoma, not to mention a visit to the state convention in my own state of Virginia. I’ve delivered some version of the same presentation in each state, talking about NCRA’s strategic plan and about the challenges and opportunities facing our profession.

It’s been interesting to gauge the reactions of our members during my state visits to what we have going on. First off, as I hope you’ve heard, we’re in the midst of a major campaign to bring publicity to our profession as a means of getting more students enrolled in schools. As part of the build-out of our Education strategy and of the plans laid out by NCRA’s Vision for Educational Excellence Task Force, this month and next, we are introducing the public to the results of a market demand study commissioned by NCRA and carried out by an independent research fi rm. What that firm found was that over the next five years, the demand for stenographic court reporters will exceed supply by about 5,500 individuals.

There are all kinds of implications for this “shortage,” and, yes, that is the appropriate word. But, in my view and that of the NCRA Board of Directors, this is a major opportunity to attract new people to our profession. It’s not hard to imagine this taking off, equipping court reporting programs, state associations, and NCRA with a compelling news story that we will supplement with targeted advertising.

But we’ll never have enough money to throw at a publicity campaign the likes of which our profession deserves and, thus, we ask our members on the ground around the country to take up arms in our effort. And as I have talked to our school owners and administrators during my travels, what I can tell you is that nothing helps their recruitment efforts more than having experienced court reporters accompanying their recruiters into high schools and participating in career days or presentations about court reporting to our future students.

At one school I visited this past summer, I learned that a single presentation at a high school brought in six new students to its next enrollment period. Six new students from one high school presentation! Can you imagine that? And if each of our members took part in our overall recruitment efforts in coordination with a local school or even just on your own, imagine the overall impact we could have. If each of the 32,000 court reporters in the United States did one presentation at a high school and each was responsible for six new students enrolling — and I know that number is not feasible, but play along with me, I’m on a roll — that’s 198,000 new students!

At the NCRA Convention in San Francisco, we introduced our “Take Note” publicity campaign. But we need you to act. For my part, I’ll keep visiting states and emphasizing the need to get engaged on this important effort and to stay engaged.


Jim Cudahy, CAE, is Executive Director and CEO of NCRA.

Take back your power from these tests

TakeBackYourPowerBy Meridith Knepper Carsella

As students, we’re taking tests all of the time, particularly in speedbuilding classes. My teacher will remind us frequently, “I can’t think of any other student who must get an A+ (95 or better — for some it’s even higher!) to even pass their tests.” So the standards are very high. This is great, though, because we must retain those same high standards when we are out and working.

I have a confession to make. I was a former “A” hound. I’m not proud of it, but I once dropped out of college over an unfair “B”. Yes, you actually read that correctly. I realized that failing every single speed test that I take until I’m at speed and can pass one might actually take a lot of out of me. I set about finding a way to make each test important.

1. If you take a test, transcribe it.

I’m a hypocrite here. There are days, particularly the days when my children get out of school early, where I test and run. Some teachers will let you transcribe your test on another day, though.

This is so important to do, however.

  • This will teach you how to read through your garbage. Every honest professional court reporter is going to tell you that they have good days and bad days. You need to be able to read it anyway.
  • This will show you patterns. I keep a list of common misstrokes and turn them into word lists to practice later. When you see common misstrokes and then work on them, they become perfect strokes. (Or dictionary entries.)
  • This is another opportunity to build your dictionary! Obviously, if you’re seeing groups of words coming up, or words you cannot stroke properly to save your life, define them.
  • Keep track of how many words you wrote. Over time, you’ll see the word count trending upwards and this will allow you to see progress, even when you aren’t feeling it. This can be powerful.

2. If allowed, go ahead and check the test. This will let you see what kinds of errors you are making: what grammar you may need to work on, or if you have trouble hearing (processing, really) inflected endings, or you need to work on your vocabulary skills. (Wont and want are not the same word. Patience and patients are also different words. Although a lack of patience can certainly lead to patients.)

3. Do a forensic exam on your test. For each and every test, if you have the time to figure out why you didn’t pass that particular test, you are adding to your likelihood of passing another one sooner. I’m going to have to oversimplify it here: There are many solutions to each of the scenarios I’m going to put forth, but hopefully it’ll point you in the right direction.

Here’s what I do: I ask myself (nicely), “Why did I fail that test?”

I didn’t have enough words to pass it.Okay. That’s understandable. Most of us are in that very same boat! If this is the issue, it’s time for some serious speedbuilding, practicing muscle memory, and warming up with finger drills. You may want to really work on finding ‘the zone,’ the place where your ears hear the word and your fingers type the word and your brain is out having lunch. You will hear people talking about “getting their brains out of the way” a lot in high speeds.

Poor punctuation sunk this ship!

This is good news because it’s such an easy fix. Brush up on punctuation! Perhaps your school offers a class, or you can pick up a used copy of a grammar book. There are wonderful resources online such as and Grammar Girl. There are also online courses. Most public schools or even community colleges offer free or very cheap classes in punctuation.

Keep track of every single punctuation mistake that you don’t understand, look them up as soon as possible, and commit them to memory and/or make a crib sheet for transcribing (if your school allows you to have references while transcribing). Find a source and learn how to punctuate. It’s important! So many people say, “I’ll just hire a scopist.” I’ve got news for you, Charlie. Proofers and scopists don’t work for people who make their job really difficult. If you are just dreadful at punctuation, they will do one or two jobs for you and then be “too busy” when you call them again. I’ve heard this over and over again from graduates and professional court reporters, and I’ve heard it from actual scopists and proofers.

I can’t read my notes at all!

Deep breath. This could just be an accuracy issue. Try to slow down practice to your tar- get speed and slightly below. Pay more attention to what your fingers are doing. Look for patterns such as dragging extra letters, omitting them, using the wrong side for a particular letter (R is my big offender), and so forth.

Learning your own quirks will give you an opportunity to read through your garbage, correct common mistakes through targeted practice, and define things to your dictionary that you know would never be anything else. Suddenly these quirks are no longer a problem. They translate!

OR: You aren’t a good steno reader. Practice makes perfect. Start reading your notes. Print them up and take have some in your car, by the bed, in the bathroom — places where you may find yourself with a few minutes to kill. Bliss!

I’m fast enough usually, but there are some common phrases that just trip me up!

Briefs and phrases, my friend. I couldn’t embrace learning a ton of these in theory or speedbuilding, to be honest. I’m not good at memorization. What I am good at, though, is getting really sick and tired of stroking out “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury” and deciding to learn a better way to write them, one or two at a time. I learn the briefs or phrases for the ones that make me roll my eyes when I hear them. You really will end up with a nice arsenal of them. I did embrace, and still do, brief families. Or are they phrase families? You know the old, all of, all of the, and all of it, or I know, I don’t know, you know, you don’t know, he knows, and she knows, etc.

When you try new briefs and phrases when you’re writing, but they don’t come to you when you’re transcribing, that means you really need to read them when you write them for practice. Just looking at a flash card and memorizing it, then writing it, doesn’t always make it clear when it’s in the middle of a bunch of other steno. If you practice a brief or phrase to learn it, go ahead and read your notes back so you’re seeing it, too, in situ. It helps.

I failed because my teacher hates me, she read it too fast, it was too slow and I had too much time to think, the girl in front of me was jiggling her shoe, a dog barked outside, someone coughed, I could hear someone’s stomach growling …

We call this blame shifting. It’s a sign that you need to take a step back and really evaluate what’s going on for you. It’s always a worrisome sign to me when people are looking outside of themselves for the reasons that they’re not passing tests. We can’t control what’s happening outside of ourselves. Some people will hate you. Some will talk really fast. There will be distractions in the court- room that you can’t even imagine yet. (A field trip for me clued me into the rattling of chains, no kidding! I don’t know how that court reporter could hear the witness!) Those things are outside of our control. If we focus on things that are outside of our control, we don’t have a solution. This can lead to just giving up in despair!

But the good news is that we can control ourselves. We can choose not to care if some- one hates us. We can go faster, if necessary, when someone is talking too fast. (That will just make you a better court reporter anyway!) We can learn to tune out distractions. We can learn to focus on what we are doing. We can know that this is something we will do and just do it. Nothing can get in our way once we make up our mind. (Barring any serious industrial accidents, of course.)

We really have a whole lot more power over our journey than it sometimes feels when we see failed test after failed test after failed test. Instead of seeing the failure, letting our confidence take a hit, becoming depressed or frustrated about it, we can re- member that we have power, real power to turn things around and to make each failure count. They say attitude is everything in court reporting school. I choose the powerful attitude. I choose the positive attitude. I choose to conquer those tests, complete my journey, and enjoy the payoff later when I’m a bona fide court reporter! How about you?


Meridith Knepper Carsella can be reached at

Court reporters participate in legal tradition

RedMassEight years ago, the Bexar County Court Reporters Association participated in the Red Mass at the San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio, Texas, for the first time. But the Red Mass itself is a tradition that is anything but recent.

According to Edward R. Tiedebohl, who was the president of the Catholic Lawyers Guild affiliated with the Archdiocese of Chicago, the Red Mass was first celebrated in Paris in 1245 and was established in England starting in 1310. The Mass marked the opening of the court term. Since the priest wore red robes, the bench and bar wore red to match, a tradition that has continued today.

Celebrated in October, the purpose of the Red Mass is to ask for divine “light and inspiration to the lawyer in pleading, and to the judge in adjudicating,” according to Tiedebohl. But the Red Mass Planning Committee in San Antonio, Texas, recognized that “our legal community includes all who have roles and are important in the adjudication of the law,” said Sr. Grace Walle, the campus minister at St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio.

After Mary Berry, RMR, CRR, an official in San Antonio, attended one of the Masses, she wrote to Walle to tell her that the experience gave her a new perspective. For 15 years, Berry had an office on the fourth floor with windows with her desk situated so she could see the cathedral. After attending the Red Mass for the first time, Berry said, “I thought of the multitude of cases we hear daily, the lives of those litigants who come before us, the friction between the families, the children who have been abused. I thought of the arguing and the fighting we hear in the courtroom day after day, the tears that are shed, the sadness all around me. How could two different buildings be so close together, yet so far apart?

Berry added, “I thought of the reflections I heard at the Red Mass that evening, the judges who were there who I’ve seen make some very tough decisions, the attorneys who have come before me advocating strongly for their clients, the law professors in their beautiful robes, the law students who will someday be successful lawyers. For just a brief period of time, we were all together, not in a courtroom where everyone is fighting with one another, but in the Cathedral worshiping together. For the first time ever looking at the Cathedral that morning, I felt this beautiful connection between the two, and it brought me a sense of true joy and inner peace, and it still does today.” After a few phone calls between Walle, members of the planning committee, and officials with the Bexar County Courthouse, San Antonio court reporters became more involved in and supportive of the Mass.

The Mass begins with a procession from the courthouse to the church with representatives from branches of government, the courts, students, faculty, and administrators at St. Mary’s, and the bar, paralegal, and court reporter associations, each holding a banner to represent their group, an idea that came from Linda Hardberger, the wife of former Chief Justice Phil Hardberger. Walle says that the banners have “generated more involvement.” Recent BCCRA representatives who carried the banner are Cindy Hyatt, Kim Tindall, RPR, and Angie Lozano. Berry has represented the Texas Court Reporters Association twice.

In San Antonio, the Red Mass was revived in collaboration between the School of Law at St. Mary’s University and the Archdiocese of San Antonio. St. Mary’s holds the distinction of being the only Catholic law school in south Texas, and the San Fernando Cathedral, the seat of the Archdiocese, is practically across the street from the Bexar County Courthouse. The Mass is open to people of all faiths and the 300-capacity cathedral is standing room only. This year in San Antonio, the Red Mass will be celebrated on Oct. 9.

The Red Mass has been celebrated in other locations around the world as well. Kay Gittinger, RPR, attended the service in Trinidad. Gittinger said that the service is called “The Ceremonial Opening of the New Law Term” in Trinidad, but it stems from the same history. Walle has also met several Supreme Court justices who have attended the Red Mass in Washington, D.C.

In San Antonio, the archbishop normally presides over the Mass, although one of the judges will have the opportunity “to reflect on the Red Mass and … to pause about the importance of praying for wisdom in dispensing justice,” said Walle. She added, “I think it is important to hear from people who are involved day to day.”

“It is inspirational to listen as they speak about their lives, their families, their careers, and how God has made an impact in daily professional life,” Berry says.

The Red Mass “is an opportunity for all to come together in prayer for the common good,” Berry continued. “I leave the Red Mass with a feeling of peace and gratitude in my heart. We are not in a courtroom or a deposition conference room, but we come together as a legal profession in a place of worship. It is there at the Red Mass where I experience a feeling of true joy and much happiness.”


Megan Rogers is NCRA’s Communications Assurance Specialist. She can be reached at

Getting past test anxiety

By Marybeth Everhart, RPR, CRI, CPE

gettingpasttestanxietyAccording to Wikipedia, test anxiety is “a combination of physiological over-arousal, tension, and somatic symptoms, along with worry, dread, fear of failure, and catastrophizing that occurs before or during test situations. It is a physiological condition in which people experience extreme stress, anxiety, and dis-comfort during and/or before taking a test.” Further, “test anxiety can also be labeled as anticipatory anxiety, situational anxiety, or evaluation anxiety.

Some anxiety is normal and often helpful to stay mentally and physically alert. When one experiences too much anxiety, however, it can result in emotional or physical distress, difficulty concentrating, and emotional worry” (Wikipedia, 2014).

Wow, that’s pretty scary stuff! Does this sound like you on test day, whether in school or taking a skills test? Your brain takes over, scares your body half to death, and suddenly you’re paralyzed. You can’t remember where to put your fingers, how to use that machine in front of you, or even when and how to breathe!

What’s interesting about test anxiety is that it is a learned behavior. We aren’t born afraid of testing or fearful of a sub-par performance on an exam. Rather, we acquire this response from those around us, much like we learned to speak and act in various situations — we follow the example set by others. Can you recall a time in your life when someone you admired demonstrated a fear or anxiety over a test or upcoming event? Even comments or well-intended encouragement from our parents or another authority figure at a young age can cause an undesirable response to certain events, such as a test. Do you remember how stressful the SATs or ACTs were when you were in high school? Do you think that stress was self-imposed, generated by outside sources, or perhaps a little of both?

The good news here is that we can unlearn this behavior — this frightening, incapacitating reaction we have toward skills tests. Overcoming test anxiety will take some time and effort, but you’re already putting in time and effort preparing for those skills tests, right? So, let’s look at what things you can incorporate into your practice sessions that will help you tame the test anxiety beast.

To understand how to modify your approach to testing, let’s first take a basic human physiology lesson. Your brain is made up of neural pathways on which information travels to other parts of your brain and body. Much like a hike in the woods, the first time or two that you use a path or blaze a new trail, the going may be slow while you remove obstacles from your way. But the more you walk that path, the more trampled down the trail becomes, the wider it is, the easier the walk, and the more people can use the same trail. In other words, you widen and strengthen that trail, just as you widen and strengthen a neural pathway.

Each and every time you react negatively to a test or think a negative thought about an exam, you widen and strengthen the negative neural pathway related to testing, and your brain uses that neural pathway to send negative messages to the rest of your body. You tighten up, take a breath, and hold it. Your hands begin to sweat and shake, and you tell yourself you’re not ready for this. In essence, you have created a self-fulfilling prophecy. To modify your outcome, you must first forge new pathways and create new testing habits. Let’s take a five-step approach:

1. Focus on the positive.

I’ve written and spoken on the importance of “Ready, begin” a number of times, but it’s worth repeating. As you no doubt are aware, every NCRA certification exam starts with that phrase, so let’s begin to think positively about that phrase. When you are practicing, repeat something positive after those words — something like “I rock!” or “I’m ready!” or “Let’s begin!” Whatever positive phrase or phrases you wish to use are entirely up to you, but keep it short and, of course, positive. Neural pathways in your brain can actually be altered by simply changing your verbal or mental response to a stimuli, such as the phrase “Ready, begin.” Modify your response from a negative to a positive one.

2. Change your focus.

Instead of asking yourself, “What happens if I don’t pass this certification?” ask yourself, “What happens when I do pass this certification?” Remind yourself of all the positives associated with a new certification — finally getting that job as a new reporter, receiving an increase in pay for a realtime certification, appreciating the recognition associated with additional letters behind your name. There are many positives to attaining a new certification, so focus on those positives and not the negatives that may result if you do not pass the test. Change the “if” to a “when” — not “if I don’t pass” but “when I do pass.”

3. Use your imagination! You can form new neural pathways not only by doing, but also by envisioning; so imagine yourself remaining cool, calm, and collected throughout your next certification exam or speed test. Begin every day by visualizing that event, and even see yourself receiving the good news from NCRA. Imagine hanging your framed certificate on the wall and posting all about it on Facebook and LinkedIn. After all, your friends and colleagues want to share in your good news, too! Use other’s positive outcomes to boost your own — after all, if your friends can do it, so can you.

4. Create a plan. Decide how you will handle those negative thoughts when they enter your mind, and practice that plan. When preparing for a test, practice those negative thoughts and also practice your plan to eliminate them. If you hear “Ready, begin” and your response is, “I’m not ready, please don’t begin!” then you need to stop, repeat your positive phrase, and start your practice session again. Remember, there are two parts to certification exams: your skills and your confidence! A lack of confidence can outweigh and overwhelm your skills every time. If you don’t believe you can pass the test, then you never will pass it, regardless of how good a writer you are.

What if you blow a test each time you say to yourself, “I’m getting this!”? Then practice that. In each and every practice session, say that phrase to yourself and then push your-self to continue “getting it.” Ultimately, the new neural pathway will be just that: You continue to get it as opposed to falling apart when you tell yourself you’re getting it. In other words, try to replicate your testing anxiety as much as possible in your practice sessions so you can create a new response to the negativity, form a new habit, and generate a new neural pathway.

5. Get your mind in a place of possibilities.

Review your practice and testing patterns. What obstacles are in the way of you reaching your goal? How can you modify or remove those obstacles? If you can’t practice effectively at home because your spouse and kids want your undivided attention, then leave the house 30 minutes early and practice at Starbucks on your way work, or stop at the library for 30 minutes on your way home. In other words, remove the obstacles rather than letting the obstacles dictate the outcome. And keep in mind that, as a working reporter, all you need to improve your skills is 15 minutes of quality practice a day.

Many of us have heard the popular motto: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Let’s modify that a bit and say, “You must be the change you wish to see in yourself.” Ready, begin. . .

Test-taking tips:

  • Get a good night’s sleep the night before.
  • Eat a light, healthy breakfast. Stress causes your cortisol levels to rise, and cortisol causes food cravings, often for those sugary carbs. While yummy, those sugary carbs can result in a sudden drop in blood sugar levels. Your chances of passing can plunge right along with your blood sugar.
  • Here are some foods that help fight stress: Oatmeal, oranges, nuts, berries, avocado, asparagus, green tea, and chamomile tea. Trying freezing berries — blueberries and raspberries freeze well — the night before and take them with you to munch on.
  • Limit your caffeine on test day. Save your venti latte as a treat for after the exam.
  • Arrive early, get a good seat, and focus on positive thoughts.
  • Put your headphones on and practice quietly. Remember, this is not a social event. Plan to meet your friends and colleagues after the test is over when you have time to chat. It’s hard to remain calm and positive when those around you are anything but! Again, don’t let others dictate your outcome.


Marybeth Everhart, RPR, CRI, CPE, is a freelance reporter. She is also the national marketing manager for Realtime Coach. She can be reached at

What an honor it is to be your 107th NCRA President

As professionals, we continually pursue the path of greatness. We strive to perfect our skills and pursue additional credentials. We are always improving ourselves. We embrace new technology and progress forward in serving new markets. We are a timeless and ageless profession walking boldly into the future.

NCRA is proceeding in its execution of a powerful five-year plan, Vision 2018, which focuses on key issues and opportunities in the stenographic court reporting profession. We are prepared to go into the marketplace and tell today’s generation why court reporting is a career worthy of their time and consideration. The livelihood of our profession is dependent on our ability to resonate with potential students, and I am confident that we are going to make an impact with our efforts.

If you think back to the late-1990s and early-2000s, you may recall that headlines screamed of an immediate nursing shortage. The timing was ideal. The economy suffered after 9/11, and young people were concerned about securing full-time employment after college. The nursing profession took advantage of these conditions to talk about its unfilled need and assured the public that plenty of nursing jobs awaited those who received the necessary training. As a result, many pursued nursing degrees, despite the fact that nursing is a challenging career! Because of the potential for financial success and practically guaranteed job placement, parents across the country were more than happy to support their children’s decision to pursue nursing.

Let’s turn those headlines in our direction. The stenographic court reporting profession is facing a shortage as well. The independently produced Industry Outlook Report offers a startling look at what could happen if we do not produce enough skilled court reporters in just a few short years. It’s as simple as this: The demand for court reporting services will soon exceed what the current pool of court reporters can provide. There is demand for more court reporters. Our profession is not on life support. Our profession is strong. We can guarantee job placement and financial wellbeing for those who consider court reporting as a profession. And this is good news.

In fact, this may be the best news we have received in a long time.

We can prove to today’s parents that court reporting is a profession that their children should pursue. We belong to a profession that demands a closer look. We have something amazing to offer, and at just the right time, too. Traditional college degrees are expensive and don’t necessarily guarantee job placement. Millennials are seeking careers with flexibility and the opportunity to grow and learn something new every day. Most notably, they are fully equipped to be the technological leaders of the future workplace. It seems to me that court reporting is the perfect answer.

What we are going to do is launch a national campaign to put stenographic court reporting in the spotlight. It’s going to be shining bright on us in the months and years ahead. We are going to get more students into schools. We are going to work with our court reporting programs like never before in order to get more students out of those schools. This path ahead does bring challenges. It’s not going to happen overnight, and we have a lot of catching up to do, but I know we are heading in the right direction. [Ed. Note: More info on this project can be found here and in future issues of the JCR. Or visit for more details.]

I look forward to our paths crossing because together, we can guarantee our future shines bright. This is our time!


Sarah E. Nageotte, RDR, CRR, CBC, is NCRA’s President. She can be reached at This column is adapted from her presidential speech given during NCRA’s 2014 Convention & Expo in San Francisco, Calif.

Acing the test

acing the testBy Gene Betler and Bruce Balmer

NCRA offers training in a number of specialty programs, including one for legal videographers who desire to capture a legal video record for use in the legal marketplace. The program consists of three parts — a seminar, a written knowledge test, and a practical skills test — and it instills in the candidates an understanding of both the necessary standards for the court reporter and the legal videographer who work in this realm. Here are a few tips for those who are ready to take the tests.

Getting ready for the written knowledge test

When you attended the CLVS seminar, you were given the latest version of The Guide to Video Depositions. This source book is what you will need to prepare for the entire CLVS exam.

After you attend the seminar, give yourself a few days or so to absorb everything that you just learned. Read the book, and then re-read the book. Just before taking the exam, read the book again.

Although some of the questions test a general knowledge of the subject and are easy to spot within the guide, many questions are designed to test your understanding of the subject matter. The answer to these will be harder to find when returning from the exam to check your response. For example, you may be given a definition and then may be asked to select the correct term. This would be a general knowledge question and easy to point to in the guide. On other questions, you may be given a scenario with a specific recording issue and are required to select the likely cause. You will not find the scenario by looking in the book, but you will be able to find what can cause that type of issue.

As you prepare for the written knowledge test by reading your guide, make sure that you don’t just recognize the words, but that you understand the concepts behind those words.

What to know for the practical skills test

When the CLVS exam was first started, the sequence was to take the written and then the practical. But in recent years, that requirement has been removed, and candidates may take the practical before they have completed the written exam. Please note that the CLVS Council — as the members of the committee who rotate in to oversee the exam — has found that if candidates are not ready for the written, they are not ready for the practical.

Each candidate is given 30 minutes to complete the practical skills test, which includes successfully recording a 10-minute deposition. The room will already be fitted with the equipment, and all the equipment will be set up correctly. There is no troubleshooting required. However, the test candidates are required to correctly calibrate and identify the equipment, and they will be graded to the CLVS standards, which, again, are in the book.

If that’s not enough to help you prepare, the book also has a checklist on what a CLVS should consider during each deposition. While that checklist is not the test, knowing it will guide you through the practical skills test.

Some CLVS candidates have asked if they can provide their own equipment. The CLVS Council has considered this question before, and the Council members understand that not being able to use personal equipment can be unnerving for candidates. However, the decision to use standard NCRA-owned equipment was weighed against the cost of having each candidate ship their deposition equipment to the testing sites, as well as the additional time it would take for each person to set up and tear down their equipment. Doing so would severely limit the number of tests NCRA could offer in a day. The CLVS practical skills test only examines the candidate’s ability with and knowledge of the equipment parts that are common to all systems that meet the CLVS standards. Common problems for candidates come from not knowing basic manual functions or how to do procedures correctly, not following the CLVS standards, or not understanding why there are standards.

Three steps to a new career

NCRA’s CLVS Council continually reviews the material in its seminars and book to make sure it is offering candidates the latest information on the legal video industry, and the Council members see a bright future ahead for candidates. If you think that adding legal video to your business is the right step for your business, consider participating in the seminars and taking the two tests. It’s pretty much all by the book.

Gene Betler, CLVS, and Bruce Balmer, MBA, CLVS, are co-chairs of NCRA’s CLVS Council. They both became interested in the legal video industry and the CLVS program as second careers and a way to work with their wives. Gene and Jo Ann Betler, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, CPE, CLVS, own Betler’s Reporting & Legal Video Services, LLC., in Huntington, W.Va. Bruce Balmer and his wife Deborah Dusseljee, RPR, own CompuScripts, Inc., in Columbia, S.C. Gene can be reached at Bruce can be reached at

10 things to know if you need CEUs

10thingsCEUsEvery three years, each individual with an NCRA certification is required to earn 3.0 Continuing Education Units, or CEUs, which is the equivalent of 30 hours of approved education. Those who have earned NCRA’s Certified Legal Videographer Specialist, or CLVS, credential must earn 1.0 CEU every three years. The deadline for earning CEUs is Sept. 30.

NCRA strongly recommends that Registered Members earn about 10 hours (or more) each year, thereby spreading out the requirement over the three-year cycle. However, if your plans go awry and you find yourself trying to squeeze in lots of credit at the last minute, here are a few tips to help you out.

1. Put first things first. Check your record to make sure every seminar, class, or other learning opportunity has been accounted for in your records. You can access your cycle transcript yourself – and the more time you give yourself the better – through If you see that something is missing, NCRA suggests that you resubmit your documentation of the seminar or other learning event in which you participated.

2. Understand the difference between CEUs and PDCs. In every three-year cycle, NCRA members can apply up to 1.0 Professional Development Credit, or PDC, toward the overall 3.0 total units. While CEUs cover things like seminars at conventions or classes, what most people normally think of as an “educational setting,” NCRA recognizes that many members learn through activities that occur outside traditional classrooms. For instance, many members have pointed out how much they learn while serving on an NCRA, NCRF, or state court reporting association board. To recognize this kind of learning, NCRA offers PDCs for board service and several other activities. If you are short a few units, think about whether you have provided something that could be considered for PDCs. A short list of activities is available online at Note: CLVS holders and those in the reinstatement process may not apply PDCs toward their requirements.

3. Go online for training. NCRA offers an extensive catalog of e-seminars online. The library of seminars comes from a variety of sources, including NCRA conferences, live webinars, and other classes that pertain specifically to court reporters, captioners, and legal videographers. If you missed a specific session at a conference, you can catch up on what you missed and earn CEUs while you learn. Visit to view the NCRA E-Seminar Library.

4. Attend a live event. Visit NCRA’s calendar for the list of upcoming live events and find out how many CEUs you can earn at state conventions or other educational opportunities. Many state court reporting associations put on events that offer reporters the opportunity to earn several hours of credit during a one- or two-day event, which may be a fast way to rack up a few units in a short period of time. Visit

5. Play a game. NCRA offers a unique learning opportunity through its Courting Disaster online learning game. Courting Disaster was designed to present the business and ethical challenges that court reporters face every day, and players should expect a one-of-a-kind interactive learning experience. To earn CEU credit, purchase a follow-up e-seminar that explores the issues encountered in the game in more detail. Visit

6. Go back to school. Some college classwork meets the criteria for CEUs, and local community colleges and universities put on a range of classes in many different subjects. Business or finance courses may not only gain you a fair number of CEUs but could aid you in taking the next step with your business.

7. Transcribe for the Veterans History Project. The National Court Reporters Foundation has arranged with NCRA to offer members PDCs at no cost for transcribing recordings for the Veterans History Project. You can earn 0.25 PDC for each transcript submitted; transcribe four in a three-year cycle, and you have taken care of a third of your overall total. For more information, visit

8. Learn to save a life. NCRA grants CEUs for CPR and First Aid courses conducted by the American Heart Association, the American Red Cross, and other organizations that meet the federal standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Journal of the American Medical Association. You can apply up to 12 hours of CPR and First Aid training per cycle toward your CEU requirement. Look online for a class near you.

9. Offer a suggestion for a class. If you would like NCRA to look into whether a program, seminar, or class meets NCRA’s criteria for CEUs, you can ask NCRA staff to look into what you’re interested in. Doing so before you take the class will prevent you from investing in classes that won’t make the cut. To find out whether a program you’re interested in will qualify, email the course description and agenda to

10. Request an extension. If all else fails and you are unable to earn enough CEUs by the deadline, you can request a four-month extension period, which would give you until Jan. 31 to earn the remaining CEUs to complete your cycle. There is a $99 processing fee for extending your deadline. The extension request form is available online at