August Asterisks 2020 (Jobs)

One thing I’ve learned in this business is never be too predictable, and that’s why I completely skipped July. Before we get to actual jobs posts that have popped up in the last two months, we’ll get down to something for our freelance friends. and people looking to make a difference in this field. NYSCRA is promoting no fewer than three online sessions that should have a little something for everybody. First, on August 16, there will be a session with Jason Wisdom on freelance success. On August 24, Jessie Gorry and Joshua Edwards are presenting Zoom for Freelance Reporters and will be talking, as I understand it, about best practices and hardware stuff you can do to make your life easier. Finally, for those of you seeking to build some skills and confidence in making a difference, Project Steno will be hosting courses on clean writing, developing a high school program, and conducting a training course. Even more for people looking to make a difference, you should see NYSCRA President Joshua Edwards’s message in the Summer 2020 Transcript. Without further delay, in steno, if we want to change something, we hit the asterisk, right? So change the job up with August Asterisks.

Onto the jobs. First, a very special posting. Eric Allen, President of ASSCR, was kind enough to post this excerpt from what I believe to be the Chief last month. In my very first post about finding a job in New York City, I talked a little bit about Workers Compensation and how they no longer seemed to be hiring even though the application was up. So to see these very recent, current postings for Verbatim Reporter 1 in New York State is very comforting. It should be a clear message to every jobseeker and our employers that what we do has a lot of value. We will rise to the challenge of filling these positions, but we need the shotcallers to keep the demand for court reporting steady so that people are not scrambling in and out of jobs. Every former Verbatim Reporter 1 that I have ever spoken to has told me that it was an amazing job that they really liked. If you’re a reporter looking for change, this just might be your sign. Also, if any legislation comes up regarding that position, as it had in the past, I urge every reporter to support it, because you are supporting the stability and sustainability of your field. Thank you, Eric Allen, for bringing this job post to everyone’s attention.

For the first time in a while, there do not seem to be any grand jury reporter jobs open in New York City. I’m actually happy to say that because it shows that we can absolutely fill vacancies. We can beat the reporter shortage. Please, take my advice seriously when I say if you want a grand jury job with New York City, check the district attorney sites of every borough every single month, including the SNP, and check DCAS. It is very easy to miss these postings. If you need the links, they’re under the grand jury section of Get A Real Job.

The statewide provisional posting for court reporter is still up. This should surprise no one. We need stenographic court reporters. If you’re waiting for the civil service exam to come out so that you can get a permanent position, make sure you’re checking the exams page every month. You don’t want to miss out on a test that, by law, can only be held every 1 to 4 years. If you’re interested but want more information, why not reach out to Michael DeVito? His contact information is at the bottom of the posting, and it just might help you make your decision.

For the reporters out there looking for a spot in the federal judiciary, there’s plenty for you. We are looking at open spots in New York, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Illinois, Arkansas, and California. The federal judiciary jobs page remains a great resource for finding these job postings, and every reporter out there should take the time share it and familiarize themselves with it.

For those looking for a little more, NCRA’s got a jobs page too. As of today there are 87 results to flip through. Alternatively, if you’re looking to put down the machine for a little while but stay employed “in the field,” you could apply to become an NCRA Content Specialist. I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with NCRA staff before, and it’s always been really positive. I can only hope whoever fills that spot is just as positive, dedicated, and wonderful as the rest of the team. I have a lot of faith in Dave Wenhold and the current Board of Directors. There’s good leadership. There’s good staff. There are good committee volunteers. There are great general members. There’s a real chance for stenographic reporting to prove its adaptability, superiority, and technological advancement despite all the world has gone through in the last six months. Humans have known for a long, long time that when there’s a chance of something happening, it can happen. There’s even a latin phrase for it, a posse ad esse, which translates roughly to “from possibility to actuality.” So let’s take that chance, hold onto it, and make sure that our markets know stenographic reporting is here and ready to do the job.

Shortage Solutions 7: Recruitment

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So today we’re going to put into words one of the philosophies we go by. We have been over lots of ways for professionals and companies to beat the shortage or perceived shortage. Today we’re going to dive into the numbers.

Hopefully, we can all agree that stenography is somewhat easy to learn but incredibly difficult to do fast. Even if we can’t agree on that, we can agree there’s a high dropout rate because of the amount of focus and practice that goes into doing what we do. There is a certain percentage of people that hear about stenography, a certain percentage of people that try it, a certain percentage that like it, and a certain percentage that love it and want it to be their career. Empirically, it is difficult, and perhaps impossible, to make the education easier without sacrificing performance. So the amount of people that make it to the end will pretty much always be lower.

So let’s fake some numbers. Let’s say for every 1000 people that hear about steno, 100 try it. Let’s say 10 of those 100 are good. Let’s say 1 of those 10 loves this field and wants it to be their career. Can we, as professionals, impact those bottom numbers, and get it to be, you know, 5 people who love it and want to make it a career? A 500 percent increase? Debatable. I say let’s try.

But what do we have very direct control over? That first number. The number of people who hear about stenography. The number of people who know it’s a thing. How many people have you met that don’t believe we exist anymore? How many people have you met that don’t believe we are typing or taking down every word?

Indeed, these are likely the same principles on which A to Z, Project Steno, or Open Steno Project were founded. It’s about lowering barriers like tuition or general steno knowledge. It’s about understanding that every impression has a chance at getting someone to start the path, and that every person that starts the path has a shot at finishing it, however low or high you think that shot is.

There are different ways to perform this outreach, via social media, physical appearance at job fairs, or use of other avenues. There are already many people who have taken up recruitment efforts, and if it’s something you’re into, you can either join an existing movement or jumpstart your own thing. 10 years ago, a lot of the programs we’ve just mentioned were in their infancy or didn’t exist at all. Who is to say that your own idea won’t take off the same way?

Shortage Solutions 6: Pay the Piper

Everybody knows the story about the Pied Piper. A town has a terrible vermin problem and the Pied Piper comes, promising to do away with the problem. The Piper uses his or her flute, pipe, or whatever musical instrument the story calls for, and plays a magical tune that lets him or her lead all the rats to the river to be drowned. Upon the Piper making good on their promise, the town refuses to pay the Piper, and the Piper uses that magical tune to lead all the children away. The moral of the story is pay your debts — or else!

When I was a newbie, people had no trouble telling me I needed to pay my dues, accept whatever an agency was willing to toss me, and move forward. Those people were right. In the beginning, one needs to be hungry and establish themselves. So it’s with some amusement that I get to say now to all of you: Make sure after that initial starter period that the Piper is paid. Court reporters, you are the Piper. The agency is not the Piper. The agency went through the trouble of marketing and receiving work to dish out to you, but if any one particular agency didn’t exist, the depositions would still be occurring, the demand is more or less fixed.

In the face of fixed demand and a fairly specialized skill set of deposition or stenographic reporting, it makes sense that as the supply of court reporters goes down, the price must rise. Here in New York we were pretty depressed on rates. Agencies were offering $3.25 a page and 25 cents on a copy, if that. Things were bad. Now the shoe is literally on the other foot, and it’s time for reporters to demand to be paid, and for agencies to pay them before the reporters take your children away.

I have to say, one starter company that seems to get this shifting paradigm is NexDep. It looks like they want to pay Reporters 4 a page and 2 a copy. 2 dollars, just so you know, not two cents. I reached out to Daniel Perelman, ostensibly NexDep’s founder, just to get a little more insight on what they’re doing or things they’d like reporters to know about their company.

My very first question was whether they had a referral program like many of the success stories out there, and he confirmed that NexDep does have a referral program where a percentage of every job from the referred client would go to the referrer.

Next I asked about wait time, and Mr. Perelman explained they don’t currently bill for wait time, but also stated he was open to it and understood the need to bill for wait time in the event a reporter was sitting and waiting for hours on their time. He did also mention to me that the reporter’s full-day appearance fee is always given, even if the deposition is a half hour long.

Asked about RFPs and whether NexDep was taking a step into any of that territory, Mr. Perelman stated that they were open to any business opportunity, but also noted that his experience with RFP contracts tended to result in low pay for reporters. My takeaway was that if it wasn’t getting his reporters paid, he wasn’t going to take it.

Finally, asked if he had anything he wanted to tell reporters or the field about his company, he wrote, “Nexdep is the first to market on-demand court reporting platform. We’re popular not because of our low rates, but because we make scheduling incredibly fast and simple on the client end, while also making the accepting of jobs fair and easy on the reporter end. We’ve made freelance court reporting a truly freelance career again.” Honestly, I first met Mr. Perelman at the Plaza College Court Reporting Symposium, and he was honest and upfront about not being a reporter, but his company policies tell me he knows who we are and the value we bring to the table.

Now all this said, I have definitely had some anecdotes from reporters who said “I signed up for NexDep and haven’t gotten anything yet.” So that indicates to me that there’s definitely a larger market share for NexDep to go out there and grab — but maybe this is an opportunity for all the other agencies and all reporters to figure out that one sure route to retain reporting professionals is to make sure they’re getting paid for doing the lion’s share of the work.

Shortage Solutions 5: Public Perception

  • I know a stenographic educator or three, and one of them said to me recently that they believed the field would die. Being more quizzical than abrasive for once in my life, I asked why. The educator told me somberly that it was public perception. Succinctly, if everyone believes it is an antiquated job with no future, it’ll become an antiquated job with no future.
  • Of course, such a grim conclusion comes with some serious upsides. If everyone believes that the field of stenography is thriving — and if you follow my work, you know that I think it is — then we will see the thing become many times more vibrant than it is today. Every piece of positive press goes to showing the country that our field is strong. Every time you read something that is indicative of growth, we are actually growing a little more as a community. To their credit, Veritext sees this too, and is taking at least some interest and leadership in the public perception of the reporting industry by offering a .1 CEU webinar, and right at the top they say “re-popularizing the reporting profession together.”
  • As the news spreads that stenography is the thing to do, more people will invest in training stenographers and becoming stenographers, and the shortage might just take care of itself. To all those entities and allies in New York and around the country celebrating stenography, don’t be afraid to get some press into your events and let them in just a little on who we are and the importance of the record we protect. In many ways we have started on this road of positivity and changing perceptions, and I am not the first to propose this idea, but I am happy to be a part of spreading the message that this field has a future and can provide for the people and families in it.
  • Interview with Esquire GC

    Pingback: Shortage Solutions 1.

    After reviewing the Esquire Deposition Solutions, LLC’s article about their remote court reporting solution to the the ongoing court reporting shortage, I reached out to Esquire and got a prompt response from Avi Stadler, former litigation attorney and current General Counsel at Esquire.

    Across social media, reporters have been wondering about this initiative and what it might mean for them personally and the field as a whole. We’ve gotten a good first look at what the program is and how it might develop, and we encourage all readers to keep on reading about it below. Note that the following is not a verbatim transcript but a recitation of what was said.

    We asked:

    1. When did the remote deposition initiative start? We’ve found articles dating back to at least 2017 for Esquire being a leader in promoting remote depositions.

    A. Actually, the program started very recently. Where there might be some confusion is we first promoted remote depositions, which are the attorneys appearing remotely and the court reporter with the witness. Now we’re rolling out remote court reporting, which is the court reporter appearing remotely in jurisdictions where that is permitted by law.

    2. Did the Ducker Report and forecasted shortage play a role in the development of the remote deposition technology and program?

    A. The shortage isn’t forecasted, it’s here. We are having issues every day with covering work. That said, we are looking at remote reporting as our flagship approach to the shortage that will allow reporters to cover more jobs and stack depos without wasting travel time, gas, and money. If a reporter has to commute two hours there and two hours back, that’s four hours lost. This can give reporters back that time.

    3. Is there any special training required or is it an intuitive program?

    A. We do train reporters rigorously, but the technology is not very complex. We’re starting this program in our offices so there are always dedicated Esquire staff there to help. If the program is very popular, we may actually expand it to other locations after proper testing and quality assurance.

    5. What states is Esquire looking for remote stenographers in?

    A. Several. We are not giving out legal advice, but we do have a document which cited some of the laws in various states that I’d be happy to give you. Notably, Texas and Florida do not allow remote swearing of witnesses so we do not offer remote reporter in those states. Federal depositions may be remotely reported, and we are exploring that as well.

    6. Is it true that 70 percent of reporters are retiring by 2023? The Ducker Report seems to suggest 2033.

    A. I’m not entirely sure. There may be a typo in our article — but I’ll say this: demand is outpacing supply. At the time the Ducker Report was written in 2013, the average age of reporters was about 51 and now it is 57. At that time, there were 1500 new entrants expected and 5100 set to retire, so we all have some work to do together to close that gap and meet the demands of our clients and the industry. Anecdotally, it has become increasingly difficult to cover jobs. We’ve even asked for coverage from other agencies at times and still been unable to cover.

    7. Any specific areas pop out as being difficult to cover?

    A. California has been very challenging. We’ve even talked to the California Deposition Reporters Association about it, and they’ve said the same. Other than that, non-metro areas. For example, border towns in Texas can be hard to cover. Unfortunately, again, Texas does not permit remote swearing of witnesses. Rural areas are difficult to cover.

    8. Has the forecasted shortage increased opportunities for reporters in terms of work or pay?

    A. More work is definitely available for stenographers. I wish more people would pass the tests. It’s a great career. Our mission is to ensure the sanctity of the record is preserved, very much like all of you. So there’s a ton of opportunity and more people should get into it.

    9. Has the forecasted shortage increased court reporting costs?

    A. Costs have definitely gone up. Court reporters are charging more. Some companies are paying hundreds of dollars in bounties to get jobs paid. It’s a difficult situation, and that’s not sustainable.

    10. With the remote court reporting program, who is responsible for ensuring compliance with local laws?

    A. Well, we are not giving legal advice to our clients. But, again, I have a document I’ll share with you that cites the laws in various states and that we are confident in. Ultimately, our clients have to be comfortable with remote court reporting and whether or not it’s allowed in their jurisdiction.

    11. Is Esquire running any stenographer training programs?

    A. We do offer a mentorship in all of our offices where a new reporter can be paired with a more experienced reporter. We also engage with state court reporting associations and have occasional programs related to court reporting, continuing education, and business. For example, last year we had a program “Like A Boss.” That program was designed to help with the challenges of being an independent contractor and offered tax tips. Finally, we work very closely with the schools. Here in Atlanta we offer to have reporting students tour the office, see what we do, and get a feel for what it’s all about. We also have an internship program that allows students to sit out with Esquire reporters to gain deposition experience.  We’ve had over 30 interns across the country participate over the last 3 quarters.  Additionally, we offer two scholarship opportunities each quarter to our interns.

    12. Any other initiatives or ideas you’d like to tell stenographers or clients? Anything you’d like to tell us at all?

    A. My boss — the CEO of this company — loves this industry. Her son is currently completing service in the army and plans to enter court reporting school after that. We are all committed to the industry. Personally, I see it as Esquire freeing court reporters to do what they do best, making the record, while Esquire takes care of the sales, marketing, production, collection and pay.

    And there you have it. Often on this blog we encourage readers to think critically and always be informed. Today’s no different. Be informed, be inspired, and be ready to realize that there are a lot of opportunities out there for the working reporter and aspiring entrepreneur. There’s a big demand for reporting, and stenographers have the capability to fill it. There’s a big demand for solutions to problems. For example, perhaps many of our readers feel the stenographer should have a physical presence so that the stenographer remains a fixture at proceedings. That’s good! It’s another perspective which can lead to more and better solutions.

    So whether you come away from the blog thinking you want to work with Esquire or thinking you’ve got way better ideas, I’ve got to encourage you to get out there and do it. Say it. Be a part of the conversation and lead your peers to be more marketable, professional, and ready for the future.

    There Is No Rebel Alliance

    We’ve got a natural leader on the field. There are a lot of leadership styles, but two very prominent ones are those who want to lead, my way or the highway, and those who do not want to lead but know that speaking out is the right thing to do. We think we’ve got the latter! We came across a California blog, SoCalReporters, that does pretty much what we do and brings forward important issues related to steno. And we’d go so far as to say the author(s) behind SoCalReporters are needed natural leaders! The post zeroes in on Veritext, but we all know they’re not the only ones. Sounds like a Sam Smith song.

    In the blog post There Is No Evil Empire, the author explores how many Veritext-owned companies there are. The post goes on to say: Have you worked with those companies? That’s okay — we have too! And this is a fine example of what we often try to impress upon people, it doesn’t matter where you work, but the deal you make for yourself and the impressions you give potential clients matter a lot. The post moves into suggestions for what to do with regard to the shortage. Notably:

    • Stop destroying each other over where we work and start building each other up.
    • Talk to each other about the issues.
    • Create alternatives. The writer notes video depos and remote steno appearances in California may not be legally possible for the reporter. In New York, they are possible under specific circumstances. If I could’ve taken depos via video from a satellite office in Brooklyn or Staten instead of White Plains or Long Island, I would’ve saved dozens of hours of my life from the commute. These are possibilities worth exploring.
    • Picking up clients. The blogger eloquently sets forth that it might be time to reconsider how we market ourselves and that this is a great time to market ourselves. Make people feel good, and the money’ll be rolling in.

    Believe it or not, No Evil Empire is very much the kind of thing we need a this point. Whether or not you believe these big box companies to be the Evil Empire or not, you have to admit that the salient theme of working together to propose solutions is paramount.

    We are proud each and every time a reporter breaks the silence and seeks to introduce their ideas. It happens on Facebook. It happens on blogs. It happens through associations and submissions to the JCR. It’s happening all over the place. And it happened on February 9, 2019. All that is left is for us to organize these efforts and ideas into a coherent strategy. And let’s face it, whether or not you believe there is a rebel alliance, you surely see the merits of working together to solve perceived problems in the field.

    Keep writing, keep leading, keep reading, keep learning.