Last week word spread that a ruling had been made that the Judicial Branch Certification Commission (JBCC) in Texas should investigate StoryCloud. From my outsider point of view StoryCloud was or is one of those companies obsessed with cutting corners and/or cutting the stenographer/court reporter out of the deal. That business model is flawed not only because stenography is the most technologically advanced method of taking and transcribing the spoken word, but also from a legal standpoint. In some states, pretending to be a court reporter is simply illegal.
A great big thank you to Jo Ann Byles Holmgren, who initiated the lawsuit that led to this moment. She tells it better than I ever could. In short, the JBCC refused to investigate alleged violations of law. A writ of mandamus was filed to make the government do its job. A judge ruled the JBCC should investigate. StoryCloud more or less deleted its website. Perhaps this will be a roadmap for California, where the California licensing board refuses to protect court reporting consumers and regulate digital court reporting.
I’ll be adding a transcript of the hearing as soon as it’s available.
Following the ruling, most of the StoryCloud site was trashed in favor of a little blurb.
StoryCloud’s demise is not the only good news out of Texas. Mark Kislingbury claimed the new world record at Shaunise Day’s Fearless Stenographers Conference with 370 words per minute (WPM) for one minute at 95.4% accuracy.
I am always saying that if stenographers fight, they will win. Look no further than Jo Ann Byles Holmgren telling the government they’re wrong and winning. Look no further than Shaunise Day’s masterfully done and widely-acclaimed conference — a feat rarely pulled off by an individual unless it’s an industry veteran like Marc Greenberg (StenoFest) or MaryAnn Payonk (Empowerment). Look no further than Mark Kislingbury’s own personal triumph, defeating his former world record of 360 WPM. True failure is making no attempt to meet your goals. Until one is a true failure, one has a real shot at success.
Spreading through social media is a clip from John Belcher. He talks about how he got his dream job as a prosecutor, which allowed him to be in court almost every day and work with court reporters and other court staff. He talks about all the things that court reporters hope attorneys talk about. Some key takeaways?
Don’t do something you wouldn’t do in front of the judge. They read the transcripts.
Don’t step on the witness. Count to four before starting the next question or answer.
Speak a little slower. He suggests 70% speed.
Don’t disrespect opposing counsel, the witness, the court reporter, or other attendees.
Be careful about side discussions that take away or distract from the proceeding.
Adding fillers at the beginning of questions like “okay” or “perfect” may create bad habits for trial questioning.
Preparation is key. Expecting the court reporter to put up your exhibits for you may burn valuable time.
Don’t take it from me, check out his video on LinkedIn today! You can also see his YouTube here.
This month I had a chance to sit down with Marc Russo of MGR Reporting. Marc’s a working reporter and business owner. We got to hit a lot of topics in this video, including Marc’s history in the field, how reporter skill relates to reporter treatment, and how scheduling ahead can help reporting firms fill their clients’ needs.
Using Marc’s words, it’s about treating reporters like people instead of numbers.
I was invited by Ana Fatima Costa to participate in Golden Gate University’s Court Reporter Tips Every Lawyer Needs To Make The BEST Record. Ana has dedicated a great deal of time to presentations, coaching students, running internship programs. As reporters, we sometimes struggle to make connections with the bench and/or bar. Ana’s great at making those connections and definitely one of the people you want to talk to if you’re interested in bridging the gap between reporters and the bar.
We spent an hour introducing young attorneys and some reporters to core concepts such as speaking one at a time, requiring a stenographic reporter, and how providing case-specific information can assist a reporter in producing their record. Luckily for me, nearly all the heavy lifting was done by the three other panelists and experts in our field, Ana Fatima Costa, Phyllis Craver Lykken, and Leesa Durrant. Ana whipped up great presentation slides and held the whole presentation down. Phyllis talked to them a little bit about realtime conceptually. Leesa drove it all home with a realtime demonstration. It was a fantastic thing for me to be a part of, and I’m grateful I was invited to be a part of it. I’m also grateful to Professor Rachel Brockl and her team, who worked with Ana to make the event a reality. For anyone who’s curious, at some point it should be up on GGU’s Youtube.
My real takeaway is that there is so much potential for our little field to make a big impact on how we are viewed not only by the public, but also by courts, judges, and lawyers. There are thousands of reporters, which means any reporter taking just a few hours of their time per year to make a speech or presentation has incredible cumulative value. The people that we work with every day are the people who wrote to us after this presentation and said “this information really helped me understand how to help court reporters do their job.” Imagine four professionals getting to sit on camera and talk about what we know and love. You can probably imagine yourself doing it, and I hope that writing about this inspires folks to stand up and say “I can do that!” We need you. I need you so that I can stop doing presentations and go back to blogging about your presentations. And if you’re not ready, that’s okay too. But I say seek us out. Seek out any of the court reporters that put out content regularly. We want to help. We want others to meet their potential and develop skills beyond our wonderful skill of reporting.
The presentation may now be viewed here. The first five minutes went unrecorded due to a technical glitch.
Read a post from a reporter that listed off all the things she’d read reporters wouldn’t take this week: Med mal, doctor depo, realtime, rough, late job, early job, remote deposition, big-box dep, interpreted dep, video dep. it dawned on me that one obvious albeit unlikely-to-work solution to the shortage is an attitudinal shift in reporting.
Think about it this way: We complain about digital recording making its way into our work, but if the companies can’t cover that work because we won’t take any job below our special standard, then we’re leaving a gap, and markets fill gaps one way or another.
So although this might seem obvious, let’s roll through some things that make people marketable, and understand that doing any of these makes you — and steno — more palatable. No shame in being selective sometimes. Just understand that the more selective we are collectively, the more of an in non stenographers have into what we are all hopefully wanting to be our industry. Again, things that make you and steno marketable.
Taking a wide variety of work. See above.
Being on time to jobs.
Being able to get to jobs without schedulers holding your hand.
Knowing when and how to call an agency. Client forgot an interpreter? How you get on that phone and address the situation is huge.
Organization, ability to manage files, find orders quickly, and do your work. Goes with time management.
Daily, expedite services. Realtime is good, but there are intermediate levels of skill and turnaround that can be just as important and necessary.
Having a wide coverage area and/or a lot of open coverage times.
Sales leaning. Don’t be afraid to ask your agency what other services they offer and mention them on a dep. Not your primary purpose, but communicates to the agency and client that you’re someone with a wider skill set. Don’t be afraid to ask for some compensation for selling the upcharge or service. Don’t be afraid to ask the agency if they give any training or classes in selling upcharges on the job.
Service leaning. Again, controversial, but if the setting is warm, comfortable, and appropriate, it can be okay to bring water to the dep or some little extra snack. Mixed feelings here because we often have to set boundaries and let people know we are not the secretary. We also suffer often from not being considered for lunch breaks and the like in freelance. But consider this: Court officers and interpreters have offered to go get court reporters coffee. They’re not secretaries, it wasn’t their job, but it’s a nice gesture, and sometimes it can be that moment where a lawyer realizes wow, this person is not only a super stenographer, but a really pleasant person to work with. Caution: If a setting is hostile, inappropriate, or uncomfortable for you, you do not have to play the yes woman/man.
Positive attitude. Life isn’t all roses and sunshine, and sometimes there is a time to put your foot down and say no, stop. But anecdotally, we are so used to suppressing our emotions that once we finally speak up on a job, it can actually become a habit. Controlling the room for the sake of the record is good. Controlling the room for the sake of control is damaging to how people view you and what you do. I guarantee that if you are polite to a client, they might just be a little kinder to the next reporter they work with. On the other hand, if you’re rude…
We’ll be talking about some more shortage solutions in the coming days, but take this as the one you have the most innate control over!
For years, female attorneys and women in the legal field have written articles about or related to how they are mistaken for the court reporter or how they are not assumed to be a judge or lawyer. It happened in 2011. Happened again in 2017, though that article was apparently deleted. The topic hit Forbes in 2018, notably dropping the bit about being mistaken as a court reporter, and rather as court personnel. Then, again, in February 2019, being mistaken for the court reporter became an issue used to describe the blatant and ongoing sexism and illegal discrimination faced by women in law.
This raises plenty of good points on equality and illegal discrimination that women are likely facing in law and employment generally. I’ve previously opined that as independent contractors we all, including women, face fewer protections and greater barriers than employees. Indeed, there are hurdles we have to face in educating people about rates, and business, and getting everyone into a position where they can negotiate for the most amount of money every time. Where do we start?
That brings me to a really nice article and statement by Sharon Velazco. She very diplomatically writes out the importance of a reporter. She explains the talent and dedication needed to build the skills necessary to be a reporter. She sums it all up with something I could not have said better: Who wouldn’t want to be a court reporter? All too often we find ourselves falling into vitriolic attacks against people we disagree with. I find it hurts our cause more than helps. If we could all follow such perfect examples and take the time out to politely educate or inform people when they are wrong, it will make us stronger. It will correct the record. We will make it clear that this is a field that deserves the respect of the people it serves by example.
And by the looks of it, the women in the legal field will want us to be at the top of our game now more than ever. They will be at the forefront of calling out illegal discrimination and setting employment trends that protect employees, and the accuracy of the records we make may very well be a part of that. So thank you to every one of you that works on informing news reporters and legal professionals. You continue to bring ideas to the table and remind us of our own importance to those we serve and the legal process itself.
Copied directly from a recent Facebook post I made because I am lazy. Also, the night is dark and full of computer problems.
“PSA: If your computer is acting slow recently (Windows): CTRL+ALT+DELETE, Task Manager. Is the “DISK” column running unbelievably high numbers? (94%+) Yes? Does Super Fetch seem to be the biggest “Disk” thing? Yes? Top left of the task manager, Run, Msconfig.exe, find Super Fetch (a Microsoft Service. You cannot see it if you click hide all Microsoft services.) Disable the damn thing. Restart the computer.
Super Fetch is apparently a Microsoft Service meant to increase your computer speed by preloading programs (based on my Google-Fu.) Well, unfortunately, on both my work and home systems, my home system being a gaming desktop with pretty damn good parts, Super Fetch was running out of control and using up all the computer’s resources, creating a full system freeze and making my CaseCAT type at the speed of snail.
All the usual disclaimers, I’m not responsible if you destroy your computer following my instructions, but if you’re having this Super Fetch problem, your computer is probably already making you feel like replacing it.”