June Jettisons 2020 (Jobs Post)

Time to jettison whatever’s not working for us and have a look at the jobs posted around the internet for June 2020. Having a hard time this year? Consider finding a mentor! There are many mentoring programs available, and even Facebook groups conducting mentoring sessions. There are lots of general job listings to wade through at both NCRA and USCRA. NCRA’s also looking for a content specialist!

In the New York area, we still have the New York grand jury reporter posting up. The DCAS test schedule for reporter/stenographers has not yet been updated. The State’s Verbatim Reporter 1 position remains posted, though it’s a little unclear to me on whether they’re actually hiring. The statewide court reporter provisional posting remains posted by our state court system. Michael DeVito’s contact information is at the bottom of the application. If you are looking to become a court reporter for our courts in New York State, you should contact him. I had one very brief e-mail exchange with him months ago, and it left me with a great impression. Every prospective reporter hire with questions should make an effort to contact him. Court reporter is one of maybe six titles that have been posted throughout the pandemic, and in my view, it outlines the need for stenographic court reporters, even if there are not immediate hirings. There has been no civil service test posting, but it’s worth checking the exams page every month if court is the dream job! In our federal courts, the Southern District has a posting up. The federal judiciary jobs page shows New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, and South Carolina all have spots for stenographic reporters.

Many have asked about CART. I have a lack of familiarity with CART, but I do know there’s a CART provider directory. Many are current or past practitioners. Many are out there and willing to answer questions when asked. Let’s put it this way, if you knock on 100 doors, at least a few are going to open. The world is at your fingertips in exploring this wonderful side to reporting and stenography.

Every month I bring jobs posts. I can’t give people the jobs. I can’t post all the jobs. But if one person walks away with an idea, or a place to search, or a plan to move forward in their career, it’s worth it! I encourage people to continue sharing and promoting all the different ways to find work.

 

Big Box Reporters: We Are On The Same Side

Got an email that I was given permission to share. It talks about something we touched on in the blog post No Rebel Alliance, and that SoCalReporters talked about in No Evil Empire.

We are watching Veritext and other colloquial big box firms buy up many steno and court reporting outfits across the country, and most recently to my knowledge, Epiq. We are seeing some bigger firms try to push digital reporting over steno. We’ve written about all this before. With these occurrences, we are seeing a lot of vitriol and hatred towards the corporations pushing digital reporting and the stenographers that work with them.

But what we have here is a clear message from people working for the more corporate cultures: They are not blind. They know what’s happening. Those that do not know are educating themselves a little more every day. They don’t need castigation or derision over where they work or who they work for. They need our support like we need theirs.

This is a strategic look at the situation: Who has the capability to build client lists or come across bills to law firms, the independent contractor who never deals with the big box or the independent contractor who deals with them every day? Power to both, but the one with the everyday relationship has much more power and leverage. The company has an incentive not to piss those people off because those people could start poaching clients.

So here’s a thought: Every day associations and individuals are coming out with pro stenographer material. Let’s make sure we continue to make at least some of that material corporate friendly and corporate neutral. Let’s make sure we let every reporter out there know we’re on the same side and try hard not to insult each other. I’m certain we’ll see a huge uptick in education and public knowledge about our field, but only if we keep this a message of unity whenever it can be.

And again, to the agencies and agency staff that I’m quite sure are among the 700 readers we have this month: You’re not the enemy. We’re on the same side. We want you to be in business and make lots of money. It may be a little foreign considering that for years and years the industry was largely quiet no matter which way the wind blew and now there is a lot of anti-corporate sentiment out there. It’s not personal, it’s just business, and when you try to replace a person’s livelihood by switching to digital, that’s a literal end to our business. Don’t take it for granted that you’ll win just because you’re bigger and stronger than an individual stenographer. Take the easy way out and team up with steno, or steno’s going to look for a middleman that keeps us front and center, like Expedite Legal.

Shortage Solutions 4: Direct Market Apps

So by now everybody knows the Uber story. Basically replaced or pushed on the conventional taxi company and made it so that you no longer had to call a company or hail a cab, but could just click in on your phone and get door-to-door service.

Expedite is kind of like that for legal service professionals, AKA stenographers. Court Buddy is kind of like that for lawyers. With more industries trying the direct market app approach, from food delivery to barbers, we are seeing people really give the direct market apps a try and it might be worth looking into as a potential shortage solution. Like other direct market apps, there’s bound to be competition and a growing number of apps to fill that void.

A word of caution: These direct market apps are only good for us if the players know their own market. Be a part of that. If you don’t know your market, join a mentoring program. If you know your market, be a mentor, guide the others in your market so that they can take advantage of these new ideas. Look at Uber. There have literally been articles about how Uber tries to use “psychological carrots” to get drivers to drive cheap. We don’t need to drive cheap to get work. If you start to notice these apps playing the carrot game with you, don’t be afraid to beat them with a stick!

Second word of caution: Agencies are reportedly telling their reporters not to use Expedite and even allegedly withholding work from those that do. Know why? Their entire business model relies on being the middleman, and apps like Expedite can subsume the middleman position and can threaten their livelihood.

Apps like Expedite also can dispel the illusion of a shortage in areas where the ongoing reporter shortage may be less severe than companies would like clients and reporters to believe. As reporters, we need to identify that the shortage may be exaggerated in part so that companies can say “there’s nothing we can do but go digital” and recreate the glut of reporters that they used as an excuse to depress our rates nine years ago in New York.

The 2013 Ducker Report forecasted a shortage, and we’re all coming up with ideas and solutions every day. Coincidentally none of them do away with the stenographic reporter. Remember: The future is malleable. You do not need to throw away a vibrant and wonderful career on the say-so of somebody who’d profit from you getting out of the business.

Shortage Solutions 2: Coverage Area & Marketability

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.

  1. Taking a wide variety of work. See above.
  2. Being on time to jobs.
  3. Being able to get to jobs without schedulers holding your hand.
  4. Knowing when and how to call an agency. Client forgot an interpreter? How you get on that phone and address the situation is huge.
  5. Organization, ability to manage files, find orders quickly, and do your work. Goes with time management.
  6. Daily, expedite services. Realtime is good, but there are intermediate levels of skill and turnaround that can be just as important and necessary.
  7. Having a wide coverage area and/or a lot of open coverage times.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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!

Language Study and Service

Some may have read one of several articles from various outlets such as the New York Times, Philly, or Trib that, in summary, basically stated there’s a study that will be published in the Language journal. This study took a couple dozen volunteers and had them transcribe recorded statements that the news articles described as black dialect, but which I have also heard referred to described as urban English or street talk. The volunteers did not do well, and there was a high percentage of inaccuracy.

NCRA and PCRA responded to these articles openly. They basically called the title of the article(s) provocative, and pointed out that this involved volunteers taking down recorded statements as opposed to a live courtroom setting. They seem to believe as I do, that this study shows the desperate need for highly trained stenographers in courts.

Succinctly, there are two things the news often gets wrong: Law and science. We are talking about both at the same time, so I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that there are probably some inaccuracies or misconceptions about the actual study. Anecdotally, I look back to correspondence I’ve had with a researcher of a concept coined benevolent sexism. I actually wrote Jin Goh, a researcher in that study, and Jin Goh basically said we need more studies for the study to be conclusive, and the media misrepresented the study. The results were interesting and honest, but they did not mean that being nice to people was sexist as some news reported.

So of course the first step in understanding a study would be to read it and decide if reaching out to its authors is necessary. So I reached out to the group that publishes the Language journal only to learn that the study itself isn’t going to be published until June 2019.

So what can we say at this juncture? The study had a fairly small sample size, as best I can tell, of 27 volunteers. I am not entirely sure if those volunteers were stenographic reporters as of writing. This isn’t uncommon. We are in a world with finite resources and funding, so studies often don’t have the kind of money you’d need to reach conclusive results on any one topic over the course of one study. We can also note that this is, as best as I can tell, one of the first studies of its kind, so while it has interesting results, we need to remind ourselves these results are not, to our knowledge, representative of multiple studies over years. We need to remind ourselves that some researchers showed us months ago that studies and the news stories about them can be worded in a way that gets clicks, but not in a way that informs the reader. For example, a study was recently conducted that showed jumping out of a plane without a parachute does not increase your chance of injury. The catch? They jumped out of a parked plane. They did this intentionally to remind us all that news on studies can be slanted or cause misconceptions.

So what should we do? In my opinion, there’s only one thing to do. Open our eyes to the fact that a scientific study was conducted, and it’s apparent that humans mishear things a lot! Continue to adapt to different accents in our training and work. Continue to push to provide the best service possible to all lawyers, litigants, and caption consumers. I do think there’s a lot to be said for our performance in real courtroom settings. We ask for repeats all the time to make sure that what people say is honestly and accurately reflected, and that’s something they probably couldn’t get into a lab or study as easily. Perhaps with time we could even conduct our own study, and maybe it would find that the stenographer mishears less than the average person. Perhaps we’d find our hearing is average. We don’t know. That’s the point of studies.

Bottom line: Don’t let this thing ruffle your feathers. I saw a lot of reporters spew a lot of vitriol over the articles, and in the end, the theme of the articles were not “stenographers are bad,” but more “humans mishear things and we should be mindful of this in the administration of our courts because if the transcribers aren’t hearing it then it is likely the lawyers and judges aren’t either.” We’re good at what we do, and we’re better off proving that than attacking linguists on Twitter. We are better off making sure our service is the best service lawyers and litigants can find, period. Truthfully, researchers give us valuable insight into what we do, but it is we who perform every day who know what’s at stake for the lawyers, litigants, and judges we serve.

As an aside, I understand the verbiage of the headlines upset some readers and I agree that this all could’ve been written more artfully. I myself have used descriptors to try to explain the issue as it is and make it more clear for anyone that cares to read.

UPDATE MARCH 5, 2019:

I am very excited to say another article was released which published the linguist’s name, Taylor Jones. Taylor Jones’s site has a lot of very specific examples that I think are eye opening and important for everyone to read and understand, including examples like, “when you tryna go to the store?” I am delighted to have come across Jones’s website and work, and will be reaching out for comment and clarification on this study to understand exactly what it is about and how reporters might improve training. Previously, I believed I’d have to wait until June to see the study. At a glance, according to a January 2019 blog post by Jones, it does appear that they utilized and/or surveyed Philadelphia court reporters that were actually working in the courts. It is stated that evaluated sentence-by-sentence, accuracy was just under 60%, and when evaluated word-by-word, accuracy was about 82%. Without having yet received comment from Jones, I can say I am incredibly impressed by the blog, and anyone with interest in this study and developing better verbatim records should definitely swing by it and read some of the stuff there. At first glance, this really may be more of an issue than I had believed, and I’d encourage every reader to keep an open mind. Notably, Jones states he has worked with Culture Point to come up with a training suite to address this issue.

April 2, 2019:

In order to be subscriber-friendly I have attached all future updates on this to a new a blog post.