May Machinations 2020 (Jobs Post)

Plot your course into the future with some of these May 2020 job openings. Of course, this is all with the caveat that things are still closed and that hiring probably won’t happen immediately. That said, this is a good look at the demand for the stenographic reporter in New York and nationwide.

NCRA’s got 93 listings up as of writing. Some of these same listings can be found via the federal judiciary job page and the USCRA job page.  Here in New York, our Southern District and Eastern District Courts both have jobs posted.

DANY’s got a grand jury stenographer job going on in New York County.  Remember, if you’re looking for grand jury work in New York City, check in with the HR people at each of the five district attorneys and the Special Narcotics Prosecutor. It might seem like a lot of work, but you might get tipped off to a job before somebody who waits for it to get posted. The DCAS Reporter/Stenographer Exam has not yet been rescheduled. The New York State Unified Court System maintains its statewide posting for court reporters, but it’s my understanding that there is no hiring going on right now.

Assuming all goes well in terms of the state’s reopening, now is the time to be planning, filling applications, or looking up information about certifications available if the job of your dreams requires a test or certification. If you’ve already got your dream job, be a mentor, do what you can to point others in the right direction. For example, one thing a lot of people come to me and ask about is what the heck to study for the Written Knowledge Test of the RPR. They can’t afford the study guide or they want to self-study.  We can’t give them the answers on the test, but we can point at the RPR Job Analysis, and how that breaks down what you should learn about before you walk into the exam room. If it gets somebody one percent higher, and that one percent passes them, it’s worth it. Finally, as a habitual procrastinator, I can tell everyone interested, don’t wait. I waited to apply for a job opportunity ten years ago. Thanks to my “smart decisions,”  I waited four years for another opportunity at that same job.  It’s not always who you know. Sometimes it’s who you are. If you’re the type of person that waits, that’s okay, but you also have got to acknowledge that that can hold you back. You’ve got to make a personal decision whether you want that to hold you back. Everybody reading this has agency. Everyone has some control over their destiny. Embrace that and make yourself shine.

Stenopalooza was POWerful

It’s going to be old news to all who were able to attend, but yesterday’s Stenopalooza was great. I can only speak to the courses I was able to attend, but I noticed something very special about all of the presentations. All of them blended together with nice and overarching or connected themes of releasing fear, making smart and data-driven decisions, adapting, and learning new skills. The videos of these are going to be available to people that registered, as far as I understand, and it’s impossible to touch on every topic we hit during the 8 hours of coursework, but maybe putting this out there will encourage people who didn’t register this time around to give the next webinar or CEU session a try. At the very least, take a glance at the topics and see if they’re relevant to you.

The day started off with Max Curry, NCRA’s president. He talked about letting go of fear and making smart choices. He discussed introversion, his push to overcome introversion for his professional life and career, and how that positively impacted his life. This hits home for a lot of us. There are a lot of introverts in this field. We don’t like public speaking. We don’t like marketing. We just want to do our jobs and go home. Through Max’s story, we can understand that letting go of fear and pushing past those limitations can broaden our skill base and make us better workers and leaders.  Next, I attended President-Elect Christine Phipps’s “Turning Coronavirus From Pandemic to Opportunity and Marketing Through Adversity.” Almost seamlessly, this presentation built on a theme of making smart choices. The central theme was seeing this as a time to pivot and become the person and resource your clients go to for information and service.

Then we got to the NCRA Strong POW session. I’ve been a volunteer with NCRA’s Strong committee for months now. The work that they put in prior to my joining was extraordinary. Sue Terry, immediate past president of the NCRA, introduced the Strong committee and talked a little about the work we’ve been doing. She encouraged members to research and ask questions about some of the terms and things they’d be hearing during the session. I got to have a conversation with audio forensic expert Edward Primeau. We got to briefly touch on some very important topics, like how having an objective person in the room  helps add integrity to the process of making a record, and how valuable his services are in authenticating audio. At the end of my presentation, I asked whether members would have the courage to ask questions they needed the answers to, and the stage was set for stellar presentations from Cathy Penniston & Alan Peacock, who dove into how people could educate themselves on advocacy materials and products that are found all throughout NCRA’s site, including the Strong resource library. Kristin Anderson & Rich Germosen talked about advocacy efforts they’ve made in official and freelance positions, and gave examples of grassroots advocacy. They made clear and reinforced Cathy & Alan’s theme that everyone can step up and be an advocate. Rich said something that resonated with me on a personal level, “I’m not much of a talker,” when it comes to clients. That reinforces one thing. It doesn’t matter where your strengths are, anyone can make a huge difference. There was a STRONG finish by Strong Chair Phyllis Craver-Lykken, Elizabeth Harvey, and Dineen Squillante. They discussed finding an audience, making connections, and again, gave real-world examples for attendees. We put together a social discussion group on Facebook, Steno Strong, for people to hop online and talk to us. Just do us a big favor and answer the admission questions. It’s just a way of determining who really wants to be in the group and who got caught in a mass invite.

We moved into State of the Industry by NCRA Executive Director Dave Wenhold, Max Curry, and Christine Phipps. Common themes were diversification of work and being able to pivot business and plan for times of stress. The Paycheck Protection Program was discussed alongside the fact that some associations, including our NCRA, have contracts for conventions that require them to attempt to go forward in good faith despite the current COVID-19 outbreak. Dave made it very clear that members should stay tuned for more news about the 2020 convention.  Next up, Alan Peacock & Heidi Thomas jumped in with a fantastic CART / Captioning Intro for the Court Reporter presentation. They discussed mainly broadcast captioning, the need to get the correct words and meaning out to the end user, the people who need the access captioners are providing, and even provided attendees with a list of offensive words that captioners do not want coming out on the screen by accident! I do a good amount of mentoring, and from time to time, my mentees seek information on captioning. All I can say to “old” and “new” reporters is you want to get on webinars like the ones that Heidi & Alan put together, because it’s going to help you, or it’s going to help you help somebody else.

The rest of the afternoon and evening kept up the energy. There was a presentation by NCRA Board Member and past NYSCRA president Meredith Bonn on the Power of the Positive Attitude. Meredith talked a little about how our frame of mind can change outcomes, increase productivity, and proceeded to give attendees a whole host of ways to get themselves thinking positively. Everyone in attendance got suggestions on music, videos, and activities to keep themselves positive and motivated. Motivated by Meredith’s presentation, coursetakers then got to join Lights, Camera, Zoom with Debbie Dibble, Lynette Mueller, and Sue Terry. People got to learn about optimizing their internet connection, fine-tuning their settings for streaming and remote work, and captioning without an encoder. Denise Hinxman and Kelly Linkowski finished our day with Captioning Facebook Live. They talked about bringing our services online to people who may not traditionally use it, like churches or Facebook users. They dove into using OBS Open Broadcast Software to help stream and connect people to captioning and access.

At that point, my computer decided to take itself offline, so I completely missed the Stenopalooza remote social. Maybe it’s best we don’t write about what happens at stenographer socials.

I could never do justice to the hours of work and dedication of every presenter. I’ve given a short summary here just to get people thinking about the next time they have a chance to sign up for continuing education workshops or see a class they’re on the fence about taking. I would say go for it. This was a huge confidence booster for me as member, seeing how NCRA staff put together this session, connecting volunteer and presenters with members and nonmembers that signed up for the betterment of our whole profession. The one recurring theme is that our future is largely in our hands, and by remaining positive, educating ourselves, and educating the public, we all have powers to be agents of change and pillars of community. This event truly brought out the grassroots nature of advocacy as a whole and association volunteers. The more I learn about association structure and nonprofit entity organization, the more I realize just how tricky the whole thing is, and just how talented the people who get involved in nonprofits or advocacy efforts are. I have to say I’m grateful to reporters who are able to open their schedules for advocacy and their wallets for contributions. It’s no easy task, especially at a time when many are hurting financially. Thanks to all of you for encouraging so many reporters to jump in and contribute however they can. Coming off the Stenopalooza high, I know we all can make a difference.

Eastern District NY Hiring! 2/13/20

I usually do my job posts in the beginning of the month, but sometimes jobs come along and it’d be a tragedy not to share. I’m told that Eastern District will be hiring. That’s federal court in New York. I know a few past, current, and probably future district court reporters, and let’s just say they’re good people and it’s a good place to work. Especially in the future, when you’re there!

For this one, you’ll need an RPR and you’ll need to reach out to Anthony Frisolone. I do not know if this posting is going up on the federal judiciary jobs page, so don’t wait, write Anthony today!

Why & When Leaders Stay Silent

There’s a 1998 Merlin movie where Merlin (Sam Neill) is created by the Fairy Queen Mab (Miranda Richardson) to bring the people back to the old ways of magic and religion. Merlin ends up turning against her because she’s ruthless. She goes on to make his life hell, getting him arrested, “permanently” scarring his lover, and sabotaging his plans to put a good king on the throne. This ends in a coalition of “good guys” storming Mab’s castle and Merlin and Mab clashing in a magic duel. Realizing that magic is her strength, Merlin turns his back on Mab and walks away, convincing the crowd to do the same. Forgotten by all, Mab and her magic fade away, she’s defeated.

Consider this my way of convincing the crowd to look away. Recently a letter was released by AAERT regarding the documents released by NCRA Strong. On the one hand, they accused NCRA of distributing misinformation. On the other hand, they invited NCRA to collaborate and help lead the market. My life experience tells me any time someone is playing good cop, bad cop, they want something out of you. Putting aside the fact that it’s hilarious to accuse anyone of distributing misinformation when you list yourself as a government organization on your Facebook page, let’s dive into what they want from NCRA and its members.

They want attention. Surprised? When you do the math, you see that NCRA is a far larger organization with far more reach than AAERT. Just look at social media presence alone. NCRA’s Facebook page has 11,000 likes, and NCRA has archers. AAERT has about 700 as of writing, no archers. The AAERT group has maybe 600 members. The NCRA group, just one of them out of several, has over 3,000. Maybe stenographers just like Facebook. But I’m betting the hard reality is that they’re trying to get NCRA members to react, force NCRA itself to react, and in doing so, give themselves credibility and a larger platform.

This is where all of you come in. Organizationally, we are stronger. I just showed you that. Even we as individuals have more reach and a wider platform. Look at Protect Your Record Project, which started as a California-based discussion; it was a video by Kimberly D’Urso and Kelly Bryce Shainline, and has evolved into a nationwide movement of over 2,000. This weekend, hundreds of stenographers are coming together in pop-up meetings in almost every state. Look at Encouraging Court Reporting Students and Breck Record, 10,000 members regularly helping each other. Even brand new endeavors, like Tricia Bidon’s Encouraging Steno Students group, have almost 500 members.

“But Chris, even if we have the numbers, XYZ Corporation has way more money than we do!” There are, at a bare minimum, 10,000 of us, but 20 or 30 in some estimates. If each person donates one hour of their time, guesstimating that hour to be worth a paltry $15, that’s 416 days or $150,000 an hour. Remember when I reported that Trint raised $168 million? They could afford to hire us for 160 workdays on that money. That’s it. There’s no equal to our numbers and our opponents know it. That’s why they’re trying desperately to convince us that we are alone and there’s nothing we can do.

We’re in this together. We have nothing to prove to any of our detractors. We have no reason to engage them on their terms. There’s a human desire to be fair, intelligent, and debate honestly. I empathize with anyone feeling the urge to “win.” I myself have time and time again let myself be baited into meaningless debates that take my attention off more valuable projects. Ultimately, the goal for them is to throw us off our game and get us responding to them. As many of you know, the way to win is to use our national presence. Get out there and educate the attorneys we work with every day. Educate people who don’t know that this is a viable, vibrant career. Educate your fellow reporter who maybe hasn’t heard that they can make a difference. You’ve got the story. You’ve got the numbers. Move forward confidently. Be the Merlin of your own personal story and know when to leave your opponent in the dust.

The Economics of Caring

A question often received is “you became an official, why do you write about and focus on freelance so heavily?” It’s usually an honest question, and there’s an easy and honest answer. Hopefully this’ll put things into perspective and everybody can embrace this kind of thought.

It all starts from my freelance experience. I was working very hard at first and making not very much money. I started as many start out, young, zero life experience. I had my mentors, but mentors can only help with their wise advice and their own experiences. They can’t change the market. And at that point the market was just unpleasant to be in if you weren’t in the very upper echelons of real-time reporting. To keep this short, all the things I talked about in my last article came from things I was told, overheard, or saw myself. I had friends leave this field because it was not treating them well. I have a mentee now whose friends are leaving in droves because the field is not treating them well. This shortage likely exists, at least in New York, because stenographers are underpaid or not treated well, and complaints by newbies are not received well. We’re regarded as complainers. Meanwhile, we were given an impossible task of putting in 150 to 200 percent of what people put in in the 90s. I have seen a lot change in 10 years though. We are much more open to discussion. And now I am not dependent on agencies for work. I can’t be fired for blogging. How could I not contribute, like many of you, to being a voice for the voiceless? How could I kick away the ladder I just climbed?

This is the isolation of freelance. It’s not like the old days where everyone sat around and transcribed at an agency. There’s little opportunity for people to say “oh, what’re you making on that job?” Between the isolation and the antitrust laws quashing any discussion of rates in our trade associations, companies were pretty much free to dictate our worth to us. On empathy alone, the right thing to do is to break this cycle by any means necessary.

But the economics of caring are even more compelling. The almighty Ducker Report tells us that the field at large was over 70 percent freelance in 2013. Maybe most places, but especially New York, the entry level job is freelance, and reporters siphon into other positions from that. So the smaller that freelance chunk is, it follows that the smaller everything else will be. Imagine the industry as one giant paycheck. Every single reporter is a dollar in that paycheck. Maybe realtimers want to count themselves as 10 dollars for purposes of this exercise. What happens to a person if they lose 70 percent of their paycheck? What happens to your reputation if you delete 70 percent of a transcript? If we lose the non-real-time work or cede more of the freelance field to other methodologies, we can shrink to a point of novelty and insignificance. If I want my job to be here, I need all of you to have one too.

This is a future that does not have to happen. This is not some inevitable end. I have already shown, using vTestify’s numbers, that we are a robust field and could beat the shortage with some tweaks to efficiency. But we cannot win if we do not try. This blog stands as one avenue for discussion and sharing. So many others are standing up and speaking out today. It’s kind of like the Doctor Who episode Heaven Sent. In brief, the main character lives the same dark and terrifying day over and over, over a billion years. At the end of each day, he’s punching away at a solid wall. One day, the wall cracks, and the monster terrorizing him is vaporized. We are in a story with thousands of protagonists. On that fact alone, I know that change can be exponential. If it would take one a hundred years to effect change, it could take one hundred a year to effect change.

Next time your anxiety is telling you the situation is un-winnable, that you shouldn’t bother to mentor someone because it won’t make a difference, you shouldn’t share something, you shouldn’t write a JCR article, you shouldn’t go after a private client, or you shouldn’t negotiate better contract terms because whatever you’re up against seems bigger, stronger, or richer than you, just remember we live in a country where people who didn’t have the right to vote secured the right to vote. People who had no workers rights fought and died for workers rights. Victims of serious crime and oppression went systemically unheard for decades — but even they got the world to acknowledge them. What are we fighting for? A permanent place in an industry we own? An industry that takes care of its newbies so they’re not dreading every depo? Not to minimize its importance, but when you look at all the fights people have won in this country, this one will be easy. History has shown us that stepping out of our comfort zones and engaging means the next generation might not have to suffer the same way. So if you’re somebody on the sidelines, or you know somebody on the sidelines, it’s time to reach out, be involved, offer suggestions. When people say Superman isn’t coming, it’s a rallying cry. We are all Superman, and this is a profession we protect together.

NCRA Virtual Town Hall, September 21, 2019

As many know, there was a Virtual Town Hall presented by NCRA on Saturday morning. Uncharacteristically, I did not take detailed notes of the meeting. But I feel it is important for people to be informed, and so for those that could not attend, I wanted to pass along a few important points I got and remember from listening to Max Curry.

One major point was the dues increase. Why did it go up from 270 to 300? Max explained that it had not gone up in five years. He explained the hard work that NCRA is doing in terms of lobbying education and educating state leaders via programs like the Legislative Boot Camp. It follows that all of this work needs funding. More or less, NCRA is not a business, but there are business aspects to it. It has employees. It has expenses. In this way, a dues increase makes sense. I, myself, as he was speaking, quietly plugged our 270 membership into an inflation calculator for 2014, and the value of that membership today is about $296. Succinctly, the value of our membership is about the same even though the dollar cost went up. He didn’t word it this way or even mention inflation, but from my recent post, I realize a lot of people struggle with the concept of inflation like I did once, and I’d like to do my part to make it a more regular part of our business decisions. Every year, every dollar in America has a little less value. Prices must rise in order to have the same buying power. That’s true for me, you, your neighbor, your barber, and NCRA.

One very important thing he did address was the desire many members had to be allowed to vote on the membership increase. Only members at the business meeting got to vote, and they voted for the increase. He explained that there is a process by which such things could be changed, and encouraged members who feel strongly that all of the membership should’ve had a vote, or about any issue, to propose a bylaws change.

Secondly, and a simple clarification, people wanted to know what the difference was between A to Z and Project Steno. He explained that NCRA’s A to Z and Project Steno’s programs can be similar in that they both introduce the concept of steno, but A to Z is NCRA’s program and benefits from NCRA’s infrastructure. So if you are looking to support NCRA’s A to Z efforts, the only way to ensure the money goes there is to donate to NCRA. Donating to other sources, the NCRA doesn’t control what happens to it.

Third, there are many committees dedicated to many different topics and issues. Max encouraged people to get involved. I would also encourage people to get involved. Even if you don’t want to serve on a committee, definitely take the time to write out your thoughts and ask they be submitted to the appropriate committee. It just might make a difference. NCRA’s the largest organization dedicated to machine shorthand stenography, and we all have something to contribute.

I had to leave early. But I was impressed with the meeting. I was grateful that a Saturday morning was spent to update and educate members. I feel it important to dedicate some of my space to preserving these ideas, because for every stenographer educated, a future victory.

The Resurgence

It was looking pretty bad for steno for a while. Schools were closing. Courts were pushing stenographers out. Easy example, a few decades ago, stenographers started getting pushed out of New Jersey courts. The wheels of progress and the winds of change are slow, but I was fortunate enough to see this spot for a stenographic reporter pop up in Elizabeth, New Jersey. This is evidence to me that we can recover lost ground.

And there is certainly ground to recover. The Workers Compensation Board of New York moved to recording and having their stenographers transcribe. Our NYSCRA and others pushed to have the legislature mandate use of stenographic reporting, and the bill to do so was passed by the assembly and senate, but vetoed by Governor Cuomo. Needless to say, whenever New York decides to elect a new governor, it will be time for us to try again.

But seeing such a push by stenographers everywhere to educate the public and continue training each other to provide the best quality records possible, there’s no doubt in my mind that we can continue to take back any areas of the market that were lost.

I’ve gone over the math many times. There are more of us and so many ways to spread the message that stenography is still relevant and superior in this modern world. Old keyboard, new tricks. The best part of it is that as the push continues, people and companies are rising up to start new education programs. Just this year, by my own count, we’ve had something like a half a dozen programs open up and enrolling future stenographers.

The sweeter irony is that digital reporting very well may face the same shortage it tried to use against us. As word about stenography spreads, many transcribers are realizing that stenography can save them time and money in their transcription work, or that they can use stenography as a springboard into a career that is, on average, about double the pay. I’ve seen at least two social media posts in the last seven days about transcribers and digitals switching to steno. Let’s face it, anyone saying stenography is equal is running on intel that’s six years old. At that rate, they’ll catch on and get back on the wagon sometime in the next sixty. We can’t wait for them.

The truth is that from independent people like myself or Mirabai Knight, to major stenographic organizations like ASSCR or NCRA, to all the many consumers, judges, lawyers, stenographic court reporting has a lot of allies. It’s not going away. The New York State Court System said as much. We know the truth. All that’s left is to get out there, tell it, train our students to be the best they can be, and see the resurgence of stenography spread across the country.

Guarding the Record Against Misinformation

Came across some commentary that I’ll call a smooth sales pitch by Steve Townsend, co-founder of AAERT. He correctly points out that the steno shortage has been widely reported, but goes on to draw a number of inferences and conclusions that I find remarkably questionable. There is the claim that steno schools are closing, graduation numbers are dropping, and interest in the career is very low. You can trust him, because he backs that up by saying this is all true.

Well, maybe a few years ago, we could’ve agreed. But this was written August 6, 2019, when stenography is headed back into a steep incline. Programs are picking up stenography. Established programs like Plaza College are creating more awareness through newsworthy events like the court reporting symposium. Several stenographic initiatives have drummed up support and interest for this wonderful field. Just to name a few, NCRA’s A to Z program, Open Steno, Stenotrain, and Project Steno. There are stenographers all around the country asking their local college programs to consider beginning a stenographic course, and interest in the field is ramping up.

Court reporting firms across the country are sticking with steno wherever and whenever it’s available. It’s no surprise that stenography is the desired method because we are four to five times more efficient than the average typist, and have some heavyweight software companies on our team. From advanced note analytics, like CaseCAT’s steno x-ray, to Eclipse’s translation magic, a single modern stenographer has the tools and capability to match the production of multiple transcribers. It was true back in 1972 when stenographers performed with a higher degree of accuracy when tested against audio, and that hasn’t changed. The FJC had all this data back then, and has had the data through the present, and yet somehow the district courts still use many stenographers. Reality tells us we are the superior choice when it comes to quality and cost. Townsend’s great argument, that years ago they said that they could record the court with appropriate management, is a far cry from providing the very best service available to the legal community. If there was a modicum of honesty, Townsend would tell lawyers looking for stenographers to go look in the NCRA Sourcebook. If the shortage is so severe that “soon” there won’t be stenographers, that’s no threat to his business.

There’s just nothing to match the institutional knowledge and commitment we have with regard to preserving the record. AAERT’s fabled Best Practices Guide hides behind a paywall. In stark contrast, our NCRA, the National Court Reporters Association, has publicly maintained its advisory opinions and continues to foster transparency and consumer awareness. It’s entirely open to public scrutiny. Who benefits? The consumer. The lawyers, litigants, and judges we serve every day.

Some easy math will tell you we are a ways off from not seeing stenographers at depositions. The Ducker Report told us about 70 percent of the court reporting field was freelance. That means that you’ll stop seeing stenographers in court long before you’ll see an end to them at depositions — and that’s assuming all the steno projects and programs I mentioned in the beginning fail. That’s assuming that every recruitment effort we’ll make as an industry in the next decade does nothing.

Now add on top of that the fact that if we’re inputting words at 225 wpm and the average typist is getting 40 or 50, you need 5 of them to replace every one of us. Even an exceptional typist at 100 words per minute — and having thousands of such exceptional typists — would mean requiring two transcribers for every single stenographer today. If anybody thinks there’s a problem getting transcripts today, just wait for the future promulgated by AAERT, millions of cases with no one to transcribe. As long as they can sell their equipment, they’re good. The transcript and the legal process is, at best, an afterthought.

I’ve reached out to Legal Tech News about possibly writing a commentary on why stenography is the best tech to protect the record. We’ll see if that pans out. But let this serve as a reminder not to let these folks demoralize you. They have a lot of money riding on most of us staying quiet and letting their voice dictate what is accurate. In reality, the gentlest glance at their arguments reveals a fragile facade. This is all true.

August 12, 2019 Update:

Eric Allen, ASSCR President, got his own commentary published on Law.com. This is precisely what I meant in terms of us actively participating in the conversation.

Cert Shaming

In line with the Pitchfork Culture, since beginning this career and embarking on this journey, I have run into a social phenomenon I’ll call cert shaming. I’ll even go so far as to say it goes both ways. And we’re going to examine this, and then I’ll chime in with why it may not be good to engage in the practice.

First thing we’ll talk about is less common in my view. Shaming or viewing certified reporters as inferior. There’s been a valid and true push for years for people to get certified. It’s come from NCRA in the form of things like the TRAIN initiative to other ideas like realtime for all. Overall, this is good. We all want each other to be at the top of our game. Any interview or correspondence I’ve had with any professional in the field has led to one conclusion, the field needs great reporters. As Doris Wong put it, the field need lions. But a counterculture grew from this. There are a great many reporters in states that do not require any licensure or certification, and from that culture grew people who asked: What does it do for me? More than that, that group can fall into cert shaming, seeing the certified as snobby or entitled without ever getting to know them. If you’re reading along and feel that way, I get it. But if you have no idea what I’m talking about, this counterculture holds one motto: You write better than I do, that doesn’t mean you are better than me.

Then, of course, we have the other end of the spectrum. We have folks out there in our community that get these certifications and then decide that the uncertified are the unfit. There’s no gray area or middle ground, there’s certified or not. It doesn’t matter if you take continuing education courses, write realtime, or are out there making the field shine in your own little way. No certs, no credit, full shame.

Here is the great thing about what I am about to say: You don’t have to believe me. You can go about your business and live with a long and shining career. But here’s where I’m coming from strategically. The next time you feel like someone is inferior as a professional or reporter, examine why. If all it comes down to is whether they passed a test, then I challenge you to re-examine that view. Why? Unity. Teamwork. Commitment to one another. Commitment to this field.

We have all been stuck in a substandard position at one time or another because of somebody. We all have our own idea of what constitutes a good reporter and a bad reporter. If we take that pain and disappointment and use it to tear down the next person, we lose our ability to work together on the issues that matter. On the flip side, if you take that pain and encourage the next person to do better, to reach up and be the best reporter they can be, you’re breaking the cycle and making things a little bit better. In time, I hope we can tackle big questions together. What makes us good beyond the certs? What makes us attractive to lawyers, judges, and clients? Would the NCRA benefit from allowing uncertified people in its membership? How do we balance things so that neither the certified nor uncertified feel disenfranchised? Can we? Have we already?

Whatever your answers, know that there are other professionals out there looking to you for guidance and example, and perhaps the greatest thing you can do for them is lend your perspective firmly but politely. For a quick example, I am among the uncertified, but with every single student I have ever mentored, I have set out the truth I felt most beneficial: You can succeed regardless, and if you go for those certs you give it your all and get them. Shame your fellow reporter, and to our collective shame they may leave our field one weaker. Encourage them to do well, and they will do well.

RE: Remote Judicial Reporting, WUNCRA

WUNCRA recently put out an article labeled NCRA/NCRF For Sale. I don’t reblog many of Frank’s articles for a few reasons, but I do feel that there are some things that need to be said. First of all, WUNCRA has apparently enabled comments. In months past, the option to comment was available but blocked. I, for one, will applaud WUNCRA for enabling comments, and urge that forum to continue to embrace transparency and honest discussions on the issues presented. May this be a sign of a paradigm shift towards discourse and solutions.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, Frank touches on two very important issues, but I feel doesn’t explain it as well as it can be explained, so I will take a shot at it. The issue centers around the JCR’s May 2019 edition which, in addition to Dave Wenhold’s fantastic article about change, features an article from NCRF and its chair, Tami Keenan. The article touches briefly on NCRF’s work to educate lawyers on how to make a better record, and then dives into the meat of the article and this post, RJR.

What is RJR? It’s remote judicial reporting. It’s the idea of having a stenographer attend proceedings remotely. I happened to have had the privilege of talking with Esquire’s General Counsel about their efforts to bring remote reporting to the freelance field in March, and I was overall impressed with its potential applications and the amount of work they’ve done in figuring out where it’s legal.

So on its face this sounds like a great opportunity. Decrease the amount of time reporters have to commute and increase the amount of work they can take. It’s simple math. Here is the flip side of the coin and why Frank is cautioning people about this: If you open up these remote proceedings and make them more commonplace, we will become more distant and faceless, and therefore easier to replace in the market. Today, a lot of markets demand a stenographer. That may not be so if we get a good ten years of reporting over the phone and no face time with what are essentially our customers. Remote reporting is a great idea, but it needs to promote stenography.

The second issue that Frank puts out is this idea of the national notary. The national notary idea would effectively create a national notary that could swear in people over state lines or swear people remotely, something forbidden in some states and allowed in others. This too is an idea that could be both beneficial and harmful to stenographic reporters. On the one hand, allowing people to travel seamlessly and without restriction to cover work would be a boon to many. On the other hand, there is a very real concern that stenographers in locations with a lower cost of living could undercut stenographers in markets with high cost of entry and cost of living.

All that said, Frank’s ostensible paranoia with the idea may be unnecessary. National notary does not seem to be a big topic from all I’ve been able to gather. In an exchange with a boot camp attendee that spoke on the condition of anonymity, when asked if the national notary was on the agenda, the attendee stated, “I do not remember that at all. It may have come up, but if it did, I was completely entrenched in our legislative task, so it went in one ear and out the other. I certainly do not remember that being the focus of any discussion. Or my focus, I should say.” A second attendee, writing to me under the same conditions, stated, “I don’t even remember the term ‘national notary’ coming up at all…” In my view, if two people who were there and care deeply about this field can hardly remember that coming up, it’s probably not going to be a major initiative unless and until we’ve worked out the problems I have described. As I have been told, the focus of boot camp, NCRA’s 2019 legislative boot camp, was the inclusion of court reporting schools in the Higher Education Act.

NCRA is in a tough position when it comes to these WUNCRA posts. On the one hand, if it comes out with a counter to each and every one, it ends up giving airtime to someone who just hasn’t been all that friendly towards the organization. I too worry about that. But I worry more about the cost of ignorance. If we do not take the time to introduce these ideas with some pros and cons laid out for brain food, we risk students and reporters stumbling across these ideas with no other reference or perspective. I’m happy to let my blog serve as one of many in the long run. And my personal conclusion? NCRA for sale? Not likely!

Indeed, if we are not somewhat careful in how we approach the issues, we may find ourselves in a hard position. Taking the time out to educate each other on the issues is always worthwhile, and it is important for all of us to weigh the pros and cons, and come up with ways we might influence the market, keep our skills sharp, and our customers happy. If I can pull a little bit off of Wenhold’s article, I’d say change is coming, not all of it bad. But I’d say this: We can all, in our markets and profession, be agents of change, and work to ensure change is for the better.