January 2020, Just Apply!

Courtesy of the links I’ve got up at Get A Real Job, here’s what we’ve got posted around the Internet at the start of the new year. Freelancers can check the bottom for some ideas. Just before we roll into that, remember that NYSCRA has a free mentoring program, and people can use NCRA’s Sourcebook for unconventional moves like finding a mentor. If you’re a student or a new reporter feeling kind of lost, you don’t have to go it alone, reach out. Even people five years on the job have said “wow, sometimes I feel like I need a mentor!”

But you’re not here for that. You’re here for the jobs, dammit. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this month we have the Bronx grand jury job still posted. That’s a Reporter / Stenographer title as a City of New York employee. Side note, the Queens DA site is down so I have no idea if they’re hiring. I guess I’ll have to snail mail them. More side notes, the DCAS Reporter Stenographer application scheduled in November has been postponed, and there does not seem to be a date for it on this DCAS schedule, up to April 2020.

There’s no civil service exam out for NYSUCS Court Reporters because they just had the last test in Summer 2019. They generally hold the test every 1 to 4 years though, so keep an eye out. Even though the civil service exam is probably a little way off, Court Reporter provisional applications are being accepted continuously statewide according to the website.

In the least predictable move ever made, we move on to federal jobs. There are three Southern District postings in New York, including part time and full time work. Whether that means they need three people or one really good one, go for it! There are also a number of federal positions all around the country. Maryland, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, Massachusetts, Arkansas, Utah, Tennessee, North Carolina, Washington, Washington, D.C., and Florida. Remember what happens when they can’t get good stenographers in those positions. They settle for less. Spread these jobs around, don’t be shy.

From the freelance angle it is troubling to me that for years I rarely saw agencies advertise looking for steno reporters and yet I see many postings continue to pop up for digital reporters now. It is not inappropriate for stenographers to take this for what it is, a sign that securing private clients may be a way forward to secure future work, especially if our trade and methodology is not going to be front and center of these old businesses. Take the leap, file with NYS, get yourself on the vendor list of NYC VENDEX or NYS procurement, get on the insurance companies’ procurement lists. Navigating the business world is not an easy thing, but it is entirely possible for anyone that sits down and starts familiarizing themselves with how people buy and sell services and where to find people that buy what we do. Pricing is another monster to tackle. Depending on the contract, people might bid super low original prices just to get copies locked in. Some contracts don’t really have many copies so a high original is necessary. There’s no manual I know of, it’s all straight experience and getting yourself situated as a player in this game, not a pawn.

Let’s win it together in 2020!

Stenographers, Planet Depos Is Not Your Friend

Previously on Not Your Friend, we had our very good friends Veritext and US Legal. Today we make an entry for Planet Depos. There’s really not much to say about them specifically. They’ve been using digitals a while, and it seemed superfluous to write about. There are entire Facebook groups dedicated on social media to watching out for this kind of stuff. Where it might take one person a year and a day to find the information and get it out to a large audience, in these groups news travels fast. So if you’re not connected to something like a Protect Your Record group or a DR Watchdogs group, get connected today, or friend someone who is connected. There have been discussions of agencies that are doing this sort of thing, and discussions of how to advocate for our field and stenography.

What can we say? Veritext is still busy seeking digitals in New York City, which is about as close to stenographic fortress as you’ll ever get. PD is doing it in their markets. There are a whole bunch of companies that we were relying on to stay steno, or that were relying on us to do the good work we do every day. That’s changing. What happened? We can blame ourselves, as we often do, and say it’s something to do with our skills or habits. We can blame them, throw our hands up and say this is the end. Or we can take control of the situation. We can embrace that victory is cumulative. We can understand that there won’t be one single defining moment where someone wins or loses. What happens in a year or ten is settled on what we do every day up to that point.

I know my plan. The first step is to really get the news out that this is what’s happening. Next up, information dispersal. As we start revealing how the market works and what’s being charged, the information will be out there for everyone, and consequently, more people will compete directly. Keep in mind recruitment ideas so that the shortage doesn’t beat us via attrition.

I’ll be publishing rate sheets, client lists, whatever I find and wherever it’s leaked. Many others have taken up advocating for us on a larger stage at attorney, paralegal, and “big law” events. These are not new ideas, but the strategies at play are clear winners. Look how Veritext crumpled at the first sign of stenographers rejecting their new direction and subsequently tried dumping some money on steno to make things better. Imagine a world where there’s any sustained effort to expose shoddy business practices and compete. They just might start their own school program!

We can’t guarantee victory. The catch there is they can’t guarantee it either. And if these companies have stiff competition, there’s a good chance they’ll fall in line and use stenography in every market where it’s viable to use stenography. There’s also a good chance that if those companies don’t fall in line, they’ll go under. With websites like Owler saying Veritext has an annual revenue of 300 million, or Planet Depos an annual revenue of 4 million, and with the cold hard truth that large companies with annual revenue in the billions, like Sears, can cascade into ruin, the truth is out there. Competitors are a market force. Labor is a market force. No matter which you view us as, we have real power. Use that power, and a big box can find itself in the recycling bin.

1/13/2020 Edit.

I am made aware of Planet Institute, a mentorship program ostensibly owned and operated by Planet Depos LLC and registered by Planet Depos under the WHOIS lookup. Notably, its registration predates this article by nearly a thousand days. As always, I encourage agencies taking the jump into advocating for court reporting, specifically stenography. Every dollar spent on steno is valuable and important. In my view, every company can easily turn the ship around, get off the digital craze, and grow some value for shareholders by making stenography training and mentorship their focus. That said, I mention this out of commitment to intellectual honesty more than actual belief that PD will come out as a pro-steno player. As always, happy to be proven wrong and watch them come out as a consistent pro-steno advocate.

Pricing Yourself Out of the Market

In response to my previous articles on historic rate data in California and New York and my use of inflation to extrapolate forward what those rates should be today, a frequent-enough comment was that reporters would price themselves out of the market or somehow hurt the field if their rates were higher. I’m not blind to the realities of the market. I understand there are challenges to running a business, and a point where what we could ask for would be “too high.” I’m working on a bigger post for that too. But for now, let’s just dive into understanding how the game is played, at least in New York, and juxtapose it to the rest of the country.

Often the original is a deflated price to lock in work. If it’s Joe’s deposition, and Joe is your client, you might charge him 6, 7, or 8 dollars if he’s not a regular client. Who cares about Joe’s firm? He only has a deposition once a year. Might as well squeeze as much out of Joe as possible. But if Joe owns a huge firm and they’re involved into hundreds of suits and generating thousands of depositions, you might offer Joe $3.50, $2.00, whatever it is to lock in that work, even if you lose money on the original or don’t charge anything at all for the original. Why? Copies.

Copies are incredibly valuable. As I’ve written before, there’s no regulation in New York on them. Companies have, at least for the last decade, been offering reporters somewhere between $0.00 and $0.50 on copies. This gives the reporter the impression that they’re worthless. This gives companies an awful lot of wiggle room.

If your reporter is only taking 25 cents a copy, you can send a copy purchaser a bill for $4.00 a page. If they don’t complain and just pay it, you’ve just made a whole lot of money. If they complain, they just turned into a sales pitch target. “Oh, our agency has the highest quality standards and we do charge for that. But our reporter said you were such a joy to work with, so we’ve been authorized to cut your bill in half!” Doesn’t matter if it’s true. All that matters is they’ve just sold the person on the other end a positive feeling. “Wow! My bill is half! They like me, they really like me!” The reporter doesn’t know or care, they made their 25 cents. The agency doesn’t really care because printing copies is practically costless. Even on an inefficient home printer, the cost is somewhere in the realm of 25 cents a page, and pennies per page when you get into industrial printers.

So quite frankly, when an agency tells you that they can’t pay more on an original because that’s what they charge the attorney, they may or may not be lying. But it’s on you to understand that that does not mean that they’re doing poorly. That doesn’t mean they can’t afford to pay you better. It’s a tactic. They’re selling you a feeling too. “Wow. They’re paying me the whole O + 2. I feel greedy.” Anything that’ll get you to do the work for less without question and without competing with them directly is more money in their pocket. That’s the bottom line.

Reporters constantly berate each other too. “Why should you expect more? Have you improved your skills any?” But now it’s coming out that a brand-new startup company outside NY is ready to pay its brand new digital reporters $140 for the first two hours — which sounds a lot to me like a $140 minimum. They mention all these cities that they’re paying this in, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle. They say this is the average. Yet I keep hearing about how inexpensive digital reporting is. All the stenographers everywhere else make so much more that a $40 an hour cost to the agency is cheap? You know what all those cities have in common with New York City? They’re some of the most expensive to live in. They’re some of the most expensive to rent office space in.

We are not some anomaly where we just work for less here. You really think any of the so-called big boxes are looking at their profit and loss statements and saying “well, it’s New York, so we just work for less out there.” No. The money is coming in. It might not be coming from your original, but you can be damn sure that with a main office and 1 to 4 satellites, they’d have no problem raising your rates somewhere. But the issue is in our education. From a typical stenographic education, there’s very little business training. There’s very little market training. If you’re a kid, and this is your first real career, you’re not born with business sense. You can get suckered into a $60 bust fee (NY) because you just don’t know any better. People who had real-world experience made more starting out. If I was pulling $40k a year starting out, my best friend, a decade older, was pulling $100k. And, mind you, by all my calculations, even he was underpaid.

That’s the issue in New York, from my perspective. We lack education. We lack an appropriate model where kids out of school are shown the ropes and mentored. If you have a gaggle of agencies all saying that you expect too much or you’re only worth X, then you come to believe you’re only worth X. Yet here you are, seeing with your own eyes, that people with far less education, training, and experience in deposition reporting are being offered comparatively high rates. Remember, these folks, talented as they are, aren’t necessarily preparing the transcript. So let me ask you, reporters, is your hourly appearance fee $40? Forget real-time, rough, daily, expedite. Just for showing up, are you collecting $40 an hour?

What’s left? Talk to each other. Maybe consider pooling some money and starting a business. Make it very clear that they pay us or they compete with us. But don’t ever let me hear again that they can’t afford to raise rates. It’s a game. And the sooner you quit playing by their rules, the sooner you’ll win it. Rule one of any corporate culture I’ve ever been a part of? Don’t rock the boat. I’ve shown you that we’re better value than this digital craze. By all means, rock the boat and show them we can build better businesses too.

December Dirigibles 2019

First let me say, any student or reporter out there seeking a mentor, make sure you check out NYSCRA or any of the other associations offering mentoring. You owe it to yourself to find at least one person, but hopefully more than one, to show you the ropes and help you into and through your career.

With that out of the way, fly high in your career by checking out some of the jobs links below. Remember, you can get all of these links off of Get A Real Job.

Bronx Grand Jury Reporter/Stenographer has been up since 11/8. I hope everybody has applied, but if not, here’s your sign!

The Special Narcotics Prosecutor still has their posting for grand jury reporter up. I’d say that means it’s a great time to reapply or give them a call and make sure you know if and when they’re giving another test. Just note the DCAS test for Reporter/Stenographer is postponed.

Onondaga County Grand Jury is hiring. Thanks be to Adam Alweis for making sure every single one of us had a shot at this wonderful opportunity.

The court reporter provisional title is still up on the statewide NYSUCS postings. The list just came out last month, and if history is anything to go by the state is going to likely take people who passed the civil service test first. That said, it’s never a bad time to apply to be a court reporter today!

Southern District of New York, that’s federal court, is seeking a court reporter. If SDNY is too rich and famous for your tastes, there are over 10 postings for federal court reporters in Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, West Virginia, Washington State, and Washington D.C. It may be a misnomer, but the D.C. posting says district courts and bankruptcy courts. Bankruptcy courts had previously went the way of the recording, so every time a steno covers one of those, you’re trailblazing.

As always, the court reporter job board and CSR Nation are filled with activity. If you’re in the freelance world and having trouble finding work, these are good starting grounds. Make some connections. I’m hearing a blend of things from reporters in the freelance community. Some are thriving. Some are struggling. Don’t be afraid to admit to yourself that you are struggling and make changes that make your life better. Whether it’s taking on more complex work or dropping an agency relationship that isn’t working for you, you can find a strategy that works for you.

Consider taking on some private clients. With some of the biggest names in the business claiming they can’t find reporters, you might very well find yourself in a position to do what they can’t do and meet the needs of the deposition market with stenographic reporters. Look at all the job postings this year that have come up and been filled. Look at supply and demand. As so many siphon off to court, freelancers are in a position to make more money and take on more business now than in the last ten years here in New York. But that’s only if they quit dancing and make money moves.

I’ll just take this time to encourage people to take up the cause. Post jobs in your state. Join groups where reporters are. Share information. Even if you’re good, you might come across a valuable lead just when someone in your life or professional network needs it most. Even if you don’t believe that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, believe that we are stronger together. Know that every single one of you who have shared something about this field have made a difference.

The Original and What?

I’ve felt compelled to write about this for a few days. Here in NYC, we have a very interesting way of doing things. We were trained or told that the O+2 is automatic. The original and two copies in freelance gets covered, generally, under our original fee. That’s how it was when I was freelance, and for the majority, that’s how it is today. If I had to guess, I would assume it’s because attorneys generally waive our filing of the transcript under the CPLR, but to do that, everyone must get a copy. That lack of responsibility costs us!

Over the years, I’ve gotten to talk to people from outside our little bubble once or twice. You know what’s surprising? Most other places, the witness’s attorney pays for a copy. So not only are the copy rates generally higher than 25 cents, they’re much closer to Nex Dep’s $2, and charged along with the original.

What does this mean? Well, again, let’s take Nex Dep’s $4.00 original. In NYC, a regular deposition with a witness and two attorneys would get you $4.00 per page. Outside NYC? That witness’s attorney would be paying for the copy, meaning the reporter would be walking away with $6 a page on an original regular.

In all honesty, there are a lot of reporters out there who left the freelance business that would still be there today if they were walking away with $6 a page on their standard deposition. That’s just not the reality for most people today, and we have to face that. I raise it as an academic look at how we in NYC might just have to re-examine how we charge for these things. If our original is higher because our copies are so bad and one copy is free, then it makes good sense to demand the original is actually high.

That said, even today’s standards don’t make it impossible to bump up the rate so that reporters are making a better deal. One thing I was encouraged to do by mentors, and one thing that I would honestly encourage reporters to do? Upsell. Don’t be afraid to mention that you can do something expedited or daily. Don’t be afraid to ask them if they want a rough draft, if you can handle that work.

If your agency absolutely won’t come up on the regular rates, as I’ve suggested publicly they ought to, then get them to go up on the expedite charges and make sure you mention to the attorneys it’s a service you can provide. Work out the math. Let’s say you can promise a daily for, whatever, $2.50 more, and you can get a scopist to take it for $1.25, or even $2.00, that’s a profit. Treat your freelance career like a business, the Corporation of You. Do yourself a favor, take a look at what other people charge for, and ask yourself: Am I selling myself short?

Don’t know something? That’s okay. Ask around. I’ve spent over nine years asking questions. I am still asking questions. Why did my lawyer want $15 a page for depositions? How come agencies are crying shortage but refusing to raise my mentees’ rates? Why were CED’s reviews so bad? The only time anyone ever shamed me for asking questions, they were insecure because they didn’t know the answer. I’ll set out these questions for anyone brave enough to ask themselves:

  1. Are you happy with your career?
  2. If you are not, are you willing to learn the skills or techniques to get there? Are you willing to build on what you know to get where you want to be?
  3. If you are, will you help one more person obtain that happiness?

And now, what are you going to do?

October Occupations 2019

Before we get into this post I just want to say I updated the old Get A Job post to include the exams page of NYSUCS. I still say that every jobseeker in New York should be checking the pages linked there every 15 to 30 days to be safe. Share findings. Be committed to keeping everyone up to date. If everyone is talking about where the work is, nobody’s left in the dark.

Even though this page launches October 1, postings are only current as of September 30.

DANY is still hiring for their grand jury reporter position. It’s a great job. Definitely give it a shot.

Special Narcotics Prosecutor, as I recall, had a posting for one grand jury reporter. Now there’s a posting for two. I say that if you haven’t applied yet, it’s your lucky day, go for it.

The state court system is still accepting applications for the provisional court reporter job. If you didn’t take the test, it still might make sense to apply. If they didn’t get enough passes on the civil service exam, they’re going to need you.

Southern District, that’s federal court, is still looking for a reporter. Don’t let this great opportunity go to waste if you’ve got the certifications or skill necessary to work with SDNY.

There are over ten vacancies federally all around the country. If New York’s not where your heart is, no big deal, but you’re not allowed to leave (joke).

Plaza continues to keep a posting for court reporting and English instructors.

New Jersey has apparently started hiring for the first time in a long time. I had posted this on Facebook but not on Stenonymous. Hopefully the government has realized the inherent value of having someone personally responsible for making the record.

Freelancers, I know that there’s often not a lot of postings on here with regard to work for you. I will work on something that might help there. Until then, you’re free to check out my recent post on historic data and inflation, as it impacts every dollar we make every day we breathe. I have been getting emails from Magna claiming over $100 in bonus fees. Now that I think about it, this probably gives you a clue what’s actually being charged for appearance fees, and a peak into the law of supply and demand. You’re in demand. Your skills are in demand. Act accordingly, do great work, and make a great record.

Fun fact. In the editor this post has no bullet points. In the preview it does. Which version will everyone see? That is the question. If you’ve ever wondered why some posts seem to have bizarre formatting, I blame computers.

Table of Contents

Here we have a table of contents of various concepts and the writing Stenonymous has done on them.

Anticontracting…

Explanation, what is AC?

Antitrust…

Why Not Discuss Rates, association liability.

Associations…

Value of Assoc, NYSCRA

NYSCRA Certs, waiving provisional test.

For Stenographers, NYSCRA and NCRA.

Why You Matter, math behind members.

How Organizations Work, including associations.

Billing…

Simplified, NY billing.

Branding…

Meet Stenographer, reporter got hijacked.

Copies…

Conundrum, copy value.

Digital Reporting…

To Digitals, urging them not to undercut.

US Legal, ads for digital.

Veritext, pushing digital.

Veritext March 2019, pushed digital.

Planet Depos, pushed digital.

Verbit, recording and transcription.

Educators…

Transcript Marker, free.

Todd Olivas’s Slasher, free.

Creating A School, new NY process.

Medical Terms Refresher, for tests.

Legal Terms Refresher, for tests.

WKT Randomizer, geared for NY.

Finger Drill Generator, free.

Guest Writers…

Stay Strong, Joshua Edwards, 2018.

Open Steno, Claire Williams, 2018.

LiveSteno4U Review, J. Edwards, 2018.

How To…

Judiciary FOIL, NY

CaseCAT, characters per line.

Make F Keys Work, when they’re not.

Make Writer Work, on new computer.

Kill Superfetch, with alacrity.

Run A Business, basics.

Understand Holding Companies, basics.

Write Persuasively, basics.

CaseCAT E-Signature, one method.

Think About AI, basics.

Timed Dictation, create timed dictation.

Independent Contracting…

Independent v Employee, differences.

Form SS8, IRS determines status.

Direction & Control, more distinctions.

Jobs…

Real Job – finding work NYC

Law…

Remote Swearing, New York.

Law For Stenographers, New York.

FRCP, USA.

Grand Jury Recording, New York.

Sexual Harassment, USA and NY.

Copyright, a brief overview as applied to us.

Leadership…

Rebel Alliance, how everyone contributes.

Savior Chimera, the numbers make steno a market leader.

Marketing…

Magic, selling a feeling.

Negotiation…

Art of Deal, who you know

Turnaround, considerations.

My Sister, know when to make demands.

Verbit, who’s helping who?

HRD: First Look, historic rate data from California.

Open Steno Project…

Open Steno, steno for all.

Aloft, project by Stanley Sakai.

Typey Type, for self-learners.

Outreach…

To Our Agency Owners, use steno.

To Our Litigators, use steno.

Political Action…

Writing Elected Officials, brief.

Price Fixing…(See Antitrust)

Rates…

Audio Transcription, costly.

Rate Sheet, what’s in them?

Case For Higher Rates, better accounting.

Inflation, higher rates.

What Rate, math tables for rates.

Cost of DB, cover your expenses.

Rate Data FL CA, first look at rate data.

Rate Data 2 NY, 1990s rates.

Org & What, about charging habits.

Pricing Yourself, thoughts on how the game is played.

Shortage Solutions…

Monster, doing nothing not viable.

SS1, remote proceedings.

SS2, coverage area.

SS3, private labeling.

SS4, direct market apps.

SS5, public perceptions.

SS6, pay the piper.

SS7, recruitment.

SS8, retirement.

SS9, listings.

SS10, contracts.

SS11, logistics.

SS12, Stenography

Shortage Stats, March 2020

Strategy…

Diplomacy, keeping our cool.

Public Records, seeking information.

We, why we need each other.

Freelance Loyalty, loyalty to yourself.

Tips on Tricks, be aware of users.

KISS, keeping things simple.

Enforcing Rights, instead of complacency.

Power of Contract, have one.

Allies, have many.

Constantinople, identifying decline.

When Agencies Won’t Collect, ideas.

Stop Gatekeeping, hurts us.

Limits of Institution, how you fit.

Good Reporter, urges resourcefulness.

Commitment, win by any means.

Competing, can’t win if you don’t try.

History, how it informs our future.

Power of No, can make you money.

Getting Involved, you make a difference.

Empty City, don’t buy competitors’ hype.

Big Box, don’t ostracize allies.

Them, emphasizes working together.

Pitchfork, the need for diverse ideas.

Cert Shaming, building each other up.

Sell, why grabbing clients is good.

Lie, the importance of identifying spin.

Guard, about not believing everything AAERT says.

Buying Hype, about promoting facts over a sales pitch.

Why & When, to stonewall.

Pricing In Fear, dealing with a bear market.

Beware Busywork, not letting planning defeat doing.

Students…

Real Job, finding work NYC.

Learn Steno, resources.

Beginner’s Trap, true freelance.

Strike That, do you take it out?

Forgot Caption, NY E-filing.

Off Record, disagreements on going.

Interrupting, when and how.

Take It Out, caution editing.

How Are We Paid, it varies.

Parentheticals, the basics.

Cultural Literacy, its importance.

Hardware 2017, computer basics.

Audio & You, tool or crutch?

Emails, clear communication.

Passive Learning, mastery takes time.

State v Federal, understanding captions.

Briefs, a caution.

Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect, thoughts.

Tax Basics, forms I’ve filed.

Specifically Pacific, verbatim?

Speech & Years, verbatim?

Interpreted Jobs, parentheticals.

Mistakes, you will make them.

Rejection, it happens.

Third Person, messy interpreted testimony.

Stipulations, important.

Inadequacy, why didn’t school teach me?

Employability, truths to consider.

Perfection, sometimes good is good enough.

Tips, general student help.

Value Gradients, different upcharges.

Audio Revisited, more cautions.

Be Social Media Smart, cautions.

Let Go, learning not to backspace.

Errors, how many do you get?

C Bank, technique to short writing.

Log, spreadsheet for logging practice.

Retro, achieving goals by working backwards.

Mentoring, list of all mentoring programs.

Disappointment, importance of boundaries.

Pattern, using pattern writing.

Impostor, forgiving Impostor Syndrome.

Enemies, importance of not saying too much.

Loans, a short discussion of loans.

Workers Rights…

Unionization, freelance.

Workers Rights, cautions.

Gov v Gig Economy, about IC regulation.

– – – –

Writers wanted…

Write Stenonymously, on this blog.

Seriously, write on this blog.

Fundraising…

Fundraising page, support this blog.

Jobs Archive…

March, 2019.

May, 2019.

June, 2019.

July, 2019.

August, 2019.

September, 2019.

October, 2019.

November, 2019.

December, 2019.

January, 2020.

February, 2020.

March, 2020.

April, 2020.

May, 2020.

History…

NYSCRA Prep 2017, for court test.

NY Constitutional Convention, 2017.

Exam Prep, 2017.

Reporter Sharing, 2017.

Disclaimer, 2017.

Exam Prep 2, 2017

Sad Iron Stenographer, first appearance.

Dave Wenhold & Lobbying, 2018.

Typos, Stenonymous PSA.

NCRA Amendments, 2018.

Open Letter to NCRA, 2018.

NCRA Retention Fairness, 2018.

Learn to Caption by Anissa, 2018.

Veritext Buys Diamond, 2018.

License Plates History, 1993.

Positive Reporting, 2018.

New Year, New Rates, 2018.

Wenhold Reaffirms Steno Support, 2018.

Release of Diamond’s Old Renewal, 2010.

Language Study, 2019.

NYSCRA Social, Feb 2019.

Learn About Steno, Plaza, 2019.

Steno v Digital, 2019.

Stenofest, 2019.

Mistaken For The Reporter, 2019.

Stenotrain, 2019.

Wake Up, WUNCRA, 2019.

MA Payonk: Steno First, 2019.

Stenonymous Goes Ad Free, 2019.

NYSCRA Bagels and Lox, 2019.

NCRA: Stenographers, 2019.

NY Courts Want You, 2019.

Language Study Revisited, 2019.

NYSCRA Opens Prep, 2019.

Veritext Scholarships, 2019.

NCRA Survey, May 2019.

NCRA Amendments, 2019.

Burngirl CaseCAT Tips, 2019.

Stenonymous Suite Concept, 2019.

RJR, June 2019.

Leadership Book Review, 2019.

Stenovate, 2019.

Steno Speed, 2019.

Global Alliance, 2019.

Library of Congress, 2019.

Resurgence, 2019.

NCRA Virtual Town Hall 9/21/19, 2019.

Outfluence, 2019.

Raise Your Rates, 2019.

MAPEC 2019, 2019.

Stenonymous Suite EV, 2019.

Impossible Institute, 2019.

Economics of Caring, 2019.

NYSCRA Survey January 2020, 2020.

A Night In Brooklyn, January PYRP, 2020.

Stenonymous on Facebook, 2020.

Eastern District Hiring, 2020.

Trust Issues & Veritext, 2020.

Stenopalooza, 2020.

NYSCRA Student Webinar, 2020.

To Our Litigators

RE: Stenographic Reporters

If you’re reading, I’m going to hope you’re the kind of lawyer that we all look up to. You’re responsive to clients, you’re honest with potential clients about what you can do for them, and you’re ready when it comes to filings, motions, discovery, or trial. Maybe you’re the one at your firm tailoring your service to your client’s budget, or maybe you oversee someone doing that for you. But the end is the same, giving the consumer the best value for the budget.

That’s what urges me to write today. There has been a lot said about “AI” transcription and digital recording versus stenographic reporting. There has been a lot said in my field about the Ducker Report and a forecasted shortage of court reporters. Some brave companies are turning to remote reporting, where legal, to allow a stenographer to appear remotely. Other courageous reporters are doubling their workload to meet your demand.

There is one solution that’s come out known as digital reporting. The main idea is that someone will record the proceedings, run it through a computer program, and then someone will fix up what the computer does. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is what we stenographers actually do. The major difference is we are stenographically recording (typing!) every word, and the computer is accepting that stenographic word and turning it into your English transcript.

The bottom line is: It simply ends up being more efficient to do it our way. One person, perhaps two, can stenographically record and transcribe an entire proceeding and have it to you that night or the next morning. For your dollar, there’s just not better value. Stenographers type four to five times faster than your average typist, so to finish the same proceeding, we are talking about four or five times the usual turnaround time for transcribers, or four or five times the staffing. Take the number of stenographers you have today, and multiply that number by 3, 4, or 5. If you think there’s a shortage and/or workflow issues now, imagine a world where you need five court reporters to put together your one proceeding. Imagine a world where the transcript is questioned and you need to bring those people in to testify instead of one stenographer.

Trust me when I say the firms switching to digital reporting or demanding you change your deposition notices to allow digital reporters are not saving you or your clients any money. Ever notice how there are almost never prices posted online for services? That’s because most of these companies act as middlemen. They make an agreement with you or the insurer, and then they make an agreement with us, the stenographers or transcribers, and they keep what’s in the middle. It’s really that simple. I would not be surprised, as a stenographer, to learn that I only made $3.25 a page on some of my old depositions with 25 cents per copy while the agency I worked with charged whatever they charged. 5? 6? 7? I don’t know. I only know that when I consulted a lawyer, the lawyer wanted almost 15 dollars a page if my case went to depositions.

I’ve been a stenographer for a long time, and I see two roads that you, the litigators, may take. You can let the sellers decide the market, and eventually stenographers won’t be an option, or you can make a sustained demand for a stenographic reporter at every dep. When lawyers start turning to direct market apps like Appear Me, Expedite Legal, and NexDep to get stenographers, those agencies pushing the digital and AI will jump on board and do whatever it takes to increase your supply of stenographers and get your business back.

Stenographers have been serving the legal community for decades. There’s been a push in recent years to do away with us because of a public perception that our methods are antiquated. Ironically, the people leading this charge are the companies we trusted with selling our services. So to our litigators: You now know all I know, and the customer is always right. Which will you choose?

Value Gradients for the Stenographer in Training (180+ WPM)

In this article we’ll get down to the different kinds of services offered by freelancers and some officials. This’ll be for the benefit of the relatively new and uninitiated. If you’ve already obtained some mastery over the basics of steno industry or if you’re brand new, this really won’t be for you because you already know about it or are just too new to be worrying about it. I say if you’ve completed 80 percent of a 225 words-per-minute program, 180 WPM, this is probably a worthwhile read.

So there are different things in this field that add value to your work as a stenographer. While we can’t necessarily get behind the subjectivity theory, value is, to a great degree, subjective. This means that simple things like writing a professional cover letter, resume, or contract pitch can make you, at 180 WPM, more valuable than a person who can get 225 WPM but can’t really nail the grammar on anything. Consider the first gradient in your whole career to be learning to write professionally, and always look to improve that writing.

Then we get to the simple things offered by stenographers that pull in more money, typically called upcharges. Often markets are different, and “employers” may even tell you that “they don’t pay for that.” This is a tactic to get you more comfortable with doing the work for less. If there are more stenographers willing to do the work for less, the “employer” has leverage over the stenographers that know about these upcharges, and can bypass them and have you do it for less money. Work smarter, not harder, and consider asking several reporters in your market about the types of upcharges they get. Here are some common ones: Medical testimony, expert testimony, video testimony. Some charge up to 5 percent more for late night work. Some even add an interpreted testimony fee to make up for the time lost to interpreted depositions, which are often fewer pages per hour.

Related to what we just went into is confidence. There is a level of unease that comes with being new. You will probably be pressured to take jobs for less than they are worth. Immediately out of training, it’s agreeable to take all you can get. That said, after a couple of months, after you’re used to getting the transcripts out and doing the work, have the confidence to talk to some other reporters in your market and learn more about what’s expected locally. Don’t talk to one or two — talk to as many as you can. One reporter may say don’t get out of bed for less than a thousand. Another reporter may say hey, if you can rack up 6 busts in a day, it’s okay money for zero work. Have the confidence to take all the different types of jobs just mentioned. In my “class” of reporters there was a very strong fear about taking medical testimony. It had been hyped up as this impossible thing. To be clear, medical words can be unique or difficult, but having the confidence to go out there and do it makes you a better writer with the marketable trait of being able to take any kind of job. There is value in a person that can be sent to any type of job.

Let’s touch on some more common upcharges. Expedite. What is an expedite? That depends. When I started, a “regular” was 2 weeks. Anything quicker was some kind of expedite. Of course the rule follows: The faster they want it, the more they should pay. Nowadays, agencies are pushing people to make 7 or 5 days the regular. In my mind, this is much too short, and it devalues the worth of an expedite. It’s what people who play strategy games would call “a stupid move.” That said, if you can get your work out faster than “regular”, that adds value.

Daily. What’s a daily? You take the job, go home, transcribe, and the job is done by the next day. If you can do a daily, again, there’s value there. Not every single stenographer or transcriber can fulfill a daily. Indeed, to fulfill a daily, multiple transcriptionists have to be put on the same job sometimes. If you can do a daily, you can probably make a thousand or more dollars in a day without being realtime because daily jobs can be worth double a regular in freelance.

Immediate. Immediate is basically you finish the deposition and within 30 minutes to an hour it is ready to go out. The bottom line is the client is getting the transcript pretty quick after the deposition ends. Only the best reporters with 99.9 percent accuracy or a phenomenal scopist behind them can achieve these kinds of levels.

Rough. Rough is basically you go through the untranslates and fix up the transcript before sending it out with the understanding the finished transcript comes later. A rough can be a dollar or more per page in upcharges because it’s basically like an easier immediate. Proceed with caution: Many reporters go out there and produce roughs that are basically unusable. Some of my own roughs have been pretty bad. Always seek to improve and get out the best roughs so that lawyers are encouraged to use this service.

Realtime. Maybe you’ve heard of realtime reporting. It’s among the largest upcharges because these reporters have their words coming out on a laptop or tablet screen for the client. I haven’t personally done realtime, but I know that these reporters can command a dollar or more per realtime hookup on top of their daily, medical, or other upcharges. Why are these upcharges important? More money per page equals fewer pages to make the annual income you want to make. We’ve got over 900 mathematical calculations to show this off.

Now that we’ve been through these different levels of skill, let’s look at how it’ll apply in the real world. Certifications exist, and they are important. That said, in many states and municipalities you can offer these services without the certification. What does this mean? It means that the limiting factor is you. It’s your skill and comfort level. It’s your willingness to go out there and say yes, I will take a medical. It’s the desire to get your skill level to a place where you can realistically offer these things. Your value, to a great degree, is dictated by you.

You will go out there and have bad jobs. There will be hard days. There will be times you feel shaky about the service you’re providing. There will be “employers” who make you feel replaceable. Just keep improving. Know where you are at. Be open to feedback, but don’t live by it. Learn from every mistake. If you are in training and know you are able to produce a daily transcript already — great! Don’t let anybody take that away from you. Don’t accept, as fact, that anybody can do it or that nobody charges for that. The freelance world — the business world — is a tough one. There are buyers and sellers, and the buyers will always be looking for a way to knock you down on the price. Remember these gradients in value, and remember that the more of them you achieve, the more you have something to sell.

Tips for the Stenographer in Training

We started as a blog discussing issues for newbie reporters. In more recent times we’ve pushed this thing to encompass all kinds of issues, questions, and even political ideas. Perhaps it’s fitting to return, briefly, to the things that students can do to make their time in school more productive, less stressful, or even shorter. After all, the field needs new people, so logic tells us that efficiency in preparing and producing stenographers for the workforce is paramount.

Right out of the gate, let’s get one thing clear, respect perspectives. You will read things online and see things in the world that directly contradict what your teachers tell you. You will meet people that tell you that your teacher is wrong, or Stenonymous is wrong, or the world is wrong. Your newness to stenography may lead you to the conclusion that the most authoritative voice is correct. That way of thinking is an offshoot of the Might Makes Right logical fallacy, and may lead you down a hard road. Succinctly, take in opinions and asserted facts, but don’t draw too many conclusions. Everyone’s perspective is colored by their experience, and though our experiences may be similar, they are often quite different and can lead to wildly different advice.

With respect for what we just said, don’t be afraid to act. If you are so busy respecting other people’s perspectives that you never make any decisions, your progress will suffer. As an easy example, some reporters believe we must always use the number bar. Some reporters believe we must never use the number bar. You can respect both opinions. But in the end it is better for you to “pick a side” or develop your own method instead of trying to please everyone. Hesitation can make your job much harder than it needs to be.

Now for the good stuff. You want writing tips. That’s why you came. Here’s a look inside some common perspectives. Brief things you hear often. You may very well reach a point in your career where you are making 40,000 strokes a day with briefs. If everything takes two strokes, that’s more like 80,000 strokes. The amount of stress and strain on your hands is not a joke. Shorter writing can make you a faster writer.

Funny briefs work. You’ll remember them. It’s memorable. Just make them funny for you. It doesn’t matter if anyone else gets it. At one point in my own career every proceeding would start with the sections of law 240.30, 250.20. How long before they became TWAOEFT? Just to drive this point home, an old friend made up a brief for casino when we were in school a decade ago, SKWAOEPB. To this day, I remember it, and it doesn’t come up all that often at all in New York.

It’s better to write than lose. We’re expected to get pretty much everything in the working world. So if you have to make a choice between making a silly outline and dropping, write the silly outline. This can come in the form of condensed words (pseudo briefs) or even half words. For example, perhaps someone briefs “persuasive.” Finally, persuasive comes up — and someone doesn’t remember their brief. It’s okay to write “PER SWAEUF.” In some cases, it’s okay to write “PER.” For example, if the sentence is “The salesman was very persuasive when he sold me the car”, the only time you wouldn’t transcribe your PER as persuasive is if you don’t care or you’re not paying attention.

Testing with tactical drops. Most programs I’ve heard of count a missed word as an error, specifically one error. It doesn’t matter if the word is “Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia” or “hi.” So what happens, often, is students lock up or trip up on small words, and then a big word pops up, and all of it gets dropped or jumbled. So let’s analyze the fake test statement, “hi, my name is Joe, and I have had Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia since I was age 24 in 2018.” All things being equal, on test day, drop the big word and get all the little stuff. Those small words before the big one are potentially 9 errors. 9 errors versus 1. No contest. Please note, in the working world, you need the big words, but you also have the power to ask people to repeat themselves. Also, as a rider to the tactical drop, if you have to drop a word or punctuation while writing, drop the punctuation.

Practice fast. The whole point of speed building is being able to hear, process, and take down what you heard. Some practice slow and work on accuracy, and I hope that that works for them, but ultimately we are training our brains to hear the words and write with what educators call an “automatic response.” You want to be practicing at 10 to 20 words above your target speed. On that note, at least some of this has to do with muscle memory. Repetition is the name of the game. Don’t be afraid to take the same fast take over and over until you get it. Do that with enough takes, and your muscle memory becomes varied and fast over a wider variety of words. My take on slow practice? It’s working against you and training you to be slower. The only thing it might be good for is a confidence booster.

Know your numbers. It doesn’t matter if you use the number bar or not, you need to be very ready to hit numbers. Some of the most common numbers are years, and you should have easy ways to get those out. You can do funky things with the asterisk and lower letter keys to create creative number bar outlines, or you can create short forms. Everyone’s brain is different. Many people brief 2019 in one stroke. I do TWOEUPB TPHAOEPB. Yet with the 90s I do TPHAOEPB TPHAOEPB TPHAOEUPB, which translates literally to 19199, but because I defined it, comes up 1999. Three-stroke outlines are generally a no-no, but if you’re hitting it seamlessly, it hardly matters.

Try to practice interrupting. Worry about this one close to graduation. A lot of the tips so far have been about trying to get it or the tactical drop. Let’s touch on a working skill a lot of reporters don’t have practice with. The interrupt. In the working world there are folks out there that say just let the audio catch it. If you didn’t hear it, it may not be as clear as you think on that audio. So being able to interrupt is a valuable skill. If you have a family member or friend, see if they have time once a week or once a month to read to you. Ask them to read way fast every few pages so you can get a little practice with varying speeds and interrupting. Take note that how you ask can change outcomes. “I’m sorry, please repeat what you said” usually gets people to repeat exactly what they said. “What?” usually makes people expound on what they said or define what they said. Also note that interrupting is situational. Sometimes it makes sense to interrupt on the spot, and other times it makes sense to wait for a break to clarify names or spellings. No matter which way you shake it, how you do it matters. Be polite and professional.

Build your dictionary. There are two major schools of thought here. The first school is methodically go through and add outlines for stuff proactively from the dictionary or news. Another school of thought is to build your dictionary to the work that you do. Some people even maintain different dictionaries for different types of work. Succinctly, it doesn’t really matter what school you’re from, but you should always be adding stuff, with the understanding that anybody who’s taking the time to add stuff from Merriam Webster will have a larger and more complete dictionary.

Analyze misstrokes. If you have the same misstroke commonly enough, it’s either you or the machine. If you can’t get splits or stacks out of your writing, but they don’t conflict with anything else, just put it in. That misstroke that you fix manually every time just became a dictionary feature. In this same vein, if you have a close friend at school, maybe once every couple of months try transcribing each other’s notes. For one, it’ll teach you to read through “rough notes.” On the other hand, your friend may give you ideas that you wouldn’t have had by yourself.

Read back. Practice reading back out loud whether or not you have to do it alone. Practice reading back off notes and transcription. Read back is one of our important skills that we don’t get a lot of practice with. Speaking clearly is surprisingly helpful in matters of business, employment, and stenography. Your ability to speak well may not only affect on-the-job performance, but also whether or not you get a job at all.

Practice writing. At the very least, make sure you know how to compose polite, professional emails, a cover letter, a resume, and a rate sheet. We often like to assume we don’t need any help in this area, but as you have probably seen on this blog and from your fellow students, everyone makes mistakes, and practicing these functions before graduation will make you more employable.

Practice accents. A great deal of our training revolves around perfectly clear speakers at very high speeds. In the real world you may meet people that don’t speak particularly fast, but are not very clear speakers. The more time you get in school or training practicing this, the less difficult it will be during your work and the less likely you will make a critical mistake, such as misunderstanding testimony.

Create your own dictation. Are you having problems with a specific type of word? You can actually create a dictation tailored to the fingering problems you’re having. Get your creative writing on and take a few minutes to compose something, anything. Then you can even mark the thing for the speed you want. The manual way to mark for speed is to take your target speed and divide it by 4. That tells you how many words you need every 15 seconds. So 100 wpm goal divided by 4, you need 25 words every 15 seconds. Count 25 words, make a line. Then you time yourself reading with a stopwatch and hit your lines every 15 seconds. The automatic way to mark for speed is to use Todd Olivas’s Slasher. Alternatively, if you know anything about Python code, you can use my computer program. There are low barriers to creating your own dictation. Google has a stopwatch app and digital recorders can be as low as $50. Explained in more detail here.

Three chances to get it right. Our need to get it right is inviolable. A wise teacher said you’ve got three chances to get it correct, the writing, the transcription, and the proofreading. Countless working reporters skip that proofreading phase, and you may one day find yourself doing just that. That acknowledged, in your formative years and as you are learning, it will make you a better reporter to take that time to proofread your tests and early jobs. We make mistakes. It happens. We are new. The best way to identify mistakes is to take advantage of all the chances to get it right.

You are in charge of your destiny. We have been told by the arrogant that certain people are not fit to be a reporter, or that people over 30 cannot achieve high speeds. For some, this became truth. For others, this became a challenge. Determined reporters across the country have trained to do this. Whatever your issue, whether it be something you feel about yourself, or whether it be an inadequacy in your training, you can compensate and beat it. This is not meant to call anyone’s struggle illegitimate, but to point out that in the end the most likely descriptors of any endeavor are success or failure. Be a success. Everyone wants you to be a success and go on to help other people succeed, but it’s your action or inaction that’ll decide the outcome.

July 10, 2019 Update:

I came across this Doris Wong Blog and the Student Corner. Skimming it, it seems to talk about all kinds of things, and I agree with the writer on a lot of what they say.