Lawyers: Civility May Be Discarded Whenever Convenient…

John Barber and Jeff Ranen left Lewis Brisbois to start their own firm, taking over 100 colleagues with them. Lewis Brisbois management subsequently released their emails to get back at them, where they referred to females using the c word, called a judge sugar tits, and generally wrote a lot of stuff you shouldn’t write in email using their work emails. The fallout is so severe that Alex Su tweeted about it and several of the defectors from Lewis Brisbois have asked for their job back.

First, I’ll just put it out there, interesting that corporate fraud is not newsworthy but emails that some assholes wrote is. Maybe we should just trick the media into reporting on this stuff by fabricating nasty emails. They don’t like the truth, so let’s give them a lie they can run with. Somebody pass this to your favorite news agency and tell them I’m a bad, bad man.

Fabricated email to bring attention to corporate fraud in court reporting.

As an outsider looking in, it reminds me of a lot of the things we tell ourselves as court reporters. Need to be fair. Need to be civil. Need to be upstanding, and ethical, and always polite, and so on and so forth. We take a lot of our cues from the legal fiction of lawyers, civility, justice, and all that kind of stuff that everybody pays lip service to but only some actually follow. A lot of us really believe in that stuff, and in my case, I really did.

But just look at the reality. A firm ranked as one of the largest on Law360’s list had partners that put that stuff in writing. The firm just outed that it likely knew about this stuff and didn’t care. And then let’s not get into the idea of leaving your employer while poaching a large number of employees on exit. From beginning to end, nastiness, and in the eyes of the sanitized corporate world, “unprofessional.”

But it doesn’t matter. Lewis Brisbois just smacked one of its competitors hard.

This is why I chose to use the dirtbag left performative media style for Stenonymous in outing corporate fraud. I figured out sometime in 2021 that the corporate world only has a veneer of politeness, all this nonsense nice guy stuff goes right out the window as soon as money’s involved. When you drop the pretenses and the corporate dancing around the issues, you can get a lot more done. Not only is it a great choice for loudly broadcasting a message, which is what you need to do when the mass media is not on your side, but another outfit that uses that style, Chapo Trap House, was making $60,000 a month according to some reports. So not only can this help us by broadcasting a message, it also might end up drawing in a huge influx of cash to the field if it takes off. Imagine being able to pump our associations, unions, and nonprofits, and entrepreneurs full of cash from stenographic media. This is a future I envision, if I ever get the startup capital. Anyone know an angel investor with a twisted sense of humor?

I have great empathy for our leaders. They’re not allowed to drop the dance. They have to dance the dance. They have to speak a certain way. Meanwhile, I’m able to explore the depth and limits of free speech. I’m able to be the same person that all these big business types are, calculating, goal-oriented.

The thing that horrifies them is that my goal is not money, it’s truth and the advancement of working reporters. As I’ve said, money is a means to an end. And even when Stenonymous funding fell off, I persevered, because there is something special about our little culture and society, and I couldn’t watch it go out on a lie.

So next time you’re wondering whether you’re being too aggressive or impolite, just remember Lewis Brisbois. They don’t care what people think. They don’t care about morals. They don’t care about anything that isn’t protecting their piece of the pie. And when someone tried to take some of that pie, they used what leverage they had to take it back.

Reporters, it’s time to protect your piece of the pie. Information distribution and funding media that is aggressively advocating for the pie on your plate is what I’ve calculated will do it. Of course, I have other hopes related to equality, access to justice, and science, but these all align with the interests of the working reporter or sole proprietor and most of the small business owners.

Gotta play to win.

U.S. Legal Support Continues Its Attack On Minority Speakers

With the extremely public release of information confirming that automatic speech recognition and digital court reporting services are inadequate for court reporting at best and actively harmful to consumers at worst, U.S. Legal Support has decided to continue its recruitment of digital reporters and transcribers instead of stenographers.

For years in my industry it has been claimed that digital reporting expansion was only for emergency use due to stenographer shortage. It was only for jobs stenographers allegedly would not accept. That was largely a lie. In reality, these companies with millions in revenue are utilizing their market share to push stenographers out of the market, despite consumers’ preference for stenographers, which is reflected in the Court Reporting Industry Outlook 2013-2014.

As a reminder, U.S. Legal’s Chief Strategy Officer, Peter Giammanco, was kind enough to put in a Summer 2021 email, “does it really matter if done legally or ethically…” [if the products are the same, which they are not.]

Why is this a question? Corporations have a duty to follow the law.

Who does this hurt? African American Vernacular English speakers. How do we know? The Testifying While Black (2019) pilot studies told us stenographic court reporters understand the dialect at a rate twice as good as the average person and 1.5x as good as the average lawyer. The Racial Disparities in Automatic Speech Recognition study (2020) showed us that automatic speech recognition has 80% accuracy for white speakers, 65% accuracy for black speakers, and as low as 25 to 50% accuracy for AAVE speakers. This is something stenographic court reporters have been painstakingly fighting to bring to courts and lawyers since at least earlier this year. Nonprofits like Protect Your Record have been educating on the inappropriate substitution of digital in place of machine shorthand stenography for over two years. There is no good reason to believe USL is unaware of the data or my claims. If they are unaware, then we would all like to know exactly why the legal record should be entrusted to a company that can’t be bothered to keep current in the industry that was 70% of its business as of 2013.

After all, if you look at their public-facing materials, they consider the stenographer shortage to be a big deal. They must care about our industry (sarcasm font).

Yes, let’s see what they think.
Using numbers from an 8-year-old report and disregarding all the recruitment, nonprofits, and projects stenography has created since, USL is attempting to artificially boost demand for digital.

And yet in the face of an ongoing national consumer awareness campaign, they still cannot be bothered to attempt to recruit stenographers. But they know how to recruit digitals. They’ve got that down to a science. I get alerts on my phone to become a digital court reporter!

High priority, unlike the shortage we have been fighting for eight years.

But they must promote stenography in some way to avoid being accused of not making good faith efforts to find a stenographer in accordance with consumer preference. Right?

Remember, your Legal Records Assembly Specialist will understand AAVE at roughly half the rate of stenographic court reporters if the audio is perfect. Imagine all the dialects and accents we have no data on.

So I can get recruitment notifications for digital court reporting, but by the admission of US Legal rep Rick Levy, the company was not using Sourcebook to recruit people. NCRA Sourcebook / PRO Link is a national directory of stenographers. It’s been in this field for over a decade. About one third of our field holds membership in NCRA and a large percentage of them are in that directory. It’s a great way to find stenographers. Rick Levy, a reporter of over 25 years and said to have been on the board of the National Court Reporters Association, asked me what it was!

For some reason, I genuinely believed he did not know at the time.

But this politeness from Levy was a ruse and excuse to spend more time obfuscating the fact that USL was doing effectively nothing to build interest in stenography, as I later realized and called him out on.

This was after several comments, messages, and emails between me and Rick. At this point, I knew his MO was to kill with kindness and talk about having a dialogue, but never actually have a dialogue. He’s the poster child of passive aggressive when it comes to my industry.

It gets worse. Thanks to one brave person’s response to our national ad campaign, we know that digital reporters and transcribers are not being paid enough to care and they are being trained to obfuscate.

Digital court reporters and transcribers, triple your money and go steno.
“We were trained to obfuscate…” I am so sorry that was done to you, Stephanie. This is what digital court reporting companies are doing to people.

Meanwhile, stenographers are paid enough to care not just about our own jobs, but digital reporters’ jobs. I’m no longer willing to participate in any delusion that digital court reporting is an adequate solution to shortage. Remember, we got a glimpse of the digital court reporting future when Verbit posted a transcription template to the internet where they spelled “point” with a zero, spelled “court reporter” as “core reporter,” and spelled “state your appearances” as “state your up here.” That’s just three errors. How many can you count?

The redactions are mine by the way. I’m trying to communicate this problem without destroying the privacy of the litigants. Verbit didn’t bother.

We also know that USL is not the only company committed to lowering the standards of court reporting. Naegeli, Veritext, and Planet Depos are all in on expanding digital reporting and transcribing at the expense of the consumer. The only question is whether they are actively working together, illegally colluding to screw the consumer, or whether they just happen to all be doing the same exact thing and using similar language (sarcasm font). If nothing else, investors are being misled to believe digital court reporting is the future when it is a clear regression and a rollback of the industry standards we’ve been shaping for over a century.

I am not denying the shortage. I have spent unsung hours writing and posting about ways people can get into steno or help stenographers, including Open Steno, Project Steno, NCRA A to Z, StarTran Online, Simply Steno, CRAH, StenoKey, PAF Steno, Paying It Forward, and association mentoring. I have made a compelling case for how our shortage is being exaggerated and exacerbated by companies that may not even be profitable. I have simply advocated for students to make more money and have a better career than I did. I have simply advocated for a future where the working court reporter is not abused and where the public gets the best legal records possible. Anybody against that can get out of my way.

Tired of bad news? I’ve got some great news coming Friday. Stay tuned.