US Legal Support Switches to Ultimate Staffing in Its Bid to Betray Industry

US Legal, in furtherance of its scheme to inflate the shortage numbers, overcharge consumers, and cover up its questionable practices, has apparently moved its LinkedIn recruitment to a company called Ultimate Staffing despite concerns that digital court reporting will hurt minority speakers.

Stenographers across the country should be feeling confident. It’s time to ask for a raise. We were barraged by false claims that the shortage could not be solved. It has been about two months since I first pointed out there was an honesty problem with the company. The company’s response to the social pressure? Run, hide, and hope no law enforcement comes knocking. Prior to my allegations, Rick Levy from US Legal spent a good amount of time trying to convince reporters that the company was on our side.

Image originally posted 9/9/21, Stenonymous.com

What is he doing these days? Pretending that I don’t exist. That’s a perfectly normal thing to do when someone is accusing your outfit of fraud. Right?

It is not my actions alone that are making the difference, but the actions of court reporters across the country. It is all of you educating each other and sharing my posts. It is all of you continuing to supply me with information and monitoring questionable behavior in our industry. It is all of you sending donations so that we can spread word of what’s happening in our field. It is all of you that have filed complaints where appropriate. It is all of you that are bringing my research to attorneys. We are collectively making a difference just like I said we could.

As of today about $6,751 has been spent. Over 260,000 impressions have been made. About $2,800 from donations must still be allocated. Seeing how we are changing the course of a $3 billion industry with less than $10,000, I must ask my colleagues that have not donated to consider doing so. Financial security for me would only free up my time to fight for your financial security and the future of working reporters across the country. In two months you have seen the shortage go from impossible to solve to an expansion of the USL partnership with Project Steno. Trust that every single dollar will make a tremendous impact and that I will not stop until every last one of you has the respect you were robbed of these last two decades.

To my friends in US Legal Support leadership, you can still start recruiting stenographers and paying them fairly. If you do not, you risk 30,000 court reporters making me a millionaire and a full-time advocate. Abuse thrived in silence and now yours has told us all that we will ever need to know about you.

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US Legal Terrified of Stenonymous, Donates $50k to Project Steno

In an effort to obfuscate its fraud and deceit, US Legal donated $50,000 to Project Steno on Friday.

Much like with Stenograph, I applaud donations to pro steno causes. But let me just say that it is an incredible coincidence that all of the entities undermining stenographers have ditched NCRF and NCRA for Project Steno. The only people that might benefit from NCRA being weaker? Digital reporting CEOs.

At this juncture, I don’t have any information that Project Steno is doing anything bad. It’s my assumption that it’s being used. The appeasement of stenographers has been a corporate tactic for a while. Given how US Legal and Stenograph both donate to Project Steno whenever there’s any modicum of political pressure applied to them, I think it’s safe to say that that’s what these “big ticket” donations are.

Just to put into perspective what stenographers are generally asked to give, NCRF asks its angels to donate about $1,000. If you make $100,000 that’s 1% of your income. If you make $200,000 that’s 0.5% of your income. US Legal is estimated by Owler to make about $100 million. 50,000 is about 0.05% of its income if Owler is accurate. To put this into better perspective, this would be like celebrating me donating $50.

So unless we are ready to celebrate me donating $50 on the same level as that $50,000 donation, we shouldn’t be celebrating US Legal. Remember that US Legal is the company that bought and destroyed StenoTrain and has advertised for a digital reporter on LinkedIn every day since I accused it of fraud, including the day of its donation. This is the company that, on multiple occasions, attempted to frame the stenographer shortage as impossible to solve despite clear evidence and math saying that it could be solved. The donation is a hedge or hedging strategy. When they fail to eradicate stenography, they hope they will get to turn around and point to their Project Steno donations to “prove” their good will towards the profession. They’re probably even relying on me doing what I usually do, backing off, and saying “wait, let’s see.”

Let me surprise everybody. Keep the pressure on hard! I repeat my words yesterday. If your profession was going extinct, they wouldn’t give a damn about you. You hold all the cards. Keep pointing out to attorneys that they are being defrauded. You can use materials by NCRA STRONG and Protect Your Record Project to do it. Digital proponents really whine when we use the STRONG stuff.

“Waaah, the stenographers we were trying to lie out of existence didn’t lie down and die like we told them to.”

Keep starving the company pushing so hard to starve you and your families. The company does not deserve your mercy or the benefit of your doubt. The company’s Chief Strategy Officer had no problem bullying the women in our field or others. The company had no problem underpaying stenographers. The company had no problem charging unreasonable rates for services. We need to have no problem burying the company under the weight of its own dishonest, incompetent, and arguably illegal behavior.

I must urge colleagues not to relent. Every time you share my video or research and every conversation you have about it leads to a world where US Legal can no longer ignore its bad behavior. From potential collusion to operating in a state where it has been inactive for two decades, US Legal has a lot to answer for.

Seriously, it’s been inactive in New York for 20 years. I’m still trying to figure out if it’s even allowed to do business here while in inactive status.

Screenshot taken 11/5/21

U.S. Legal Support Charged the Equivalent of $4.90 on a Copy Sale in CA

Thanks to my amazing network of sources, I got my hands on another document that gives us a more complete picture of what attorneys are dealing with.

In brief, US Legal wanted $550 for a 112-page transcript copy. That boils down to the equivalent of $4.90 a page. The lawyer wanted to pay $0.25. The court more or less split the baby and said $2.50 was reasonable.

Three major highlights: Herein it talks about US Legal charging for things the attorney did not explicitly order. I cannot think of anything that would support my contention that the company has an honesty problem more. But since over a thousand people have liked my Tweet about Giammanco, I guess that’s old news.

But more than that, reporters making less than $2.50 on a copy should realize that a court just came to a conclusion that $2.50 is reasonable. Guess what New York companies have been paying reporters for the last decade? About 25 cents. Hey, New York, it’s time for a raise. Even our court copy rate of $1.00 falls well short of what California calls reasonable. This isn’t greed, it’s basic math and economics.

But more than that, we now have good evidence of the cost shifting I wrote about. By undercharging original clients and inflating copy costs, the larger companies in my field are overcomplicating the market. Add that to the despicable lies of Veritext and US Legal, and you have a pretty compelling reason to never do business with either.

And in its own defense, US Legal wanted to make the argument that all the court reporting companies charge inflated prices, an argument which was, thankfully, flatly rejected.

They’re not alone though. I’ve reviewed documents showing Naegeli attempted to charge about $11.50 a page on a copy sale in Washington State. But that story is for another day. In the meantime, court reporters, remember that your worth is what you are able to negotiate. It is not tied to what anyone dictates to you. Don’t believe me? There are plenty of other role models to look at.

Though not too many of them are fighting for you the way you could.

PS. For anyone feeling a little lost, court reporters tend to charge by the page. Original transcripts tend to be more than copies of that same original. Depending on the market, we are about 30 years behind inflation. So while systematically underpaying court reporters, companies like USL are actually charging ridiculous amounts to satisfy their bloated management overhead. Because we stenographers are a heavy ethics culture and fairly connected to each other, the companies have an interest in breaking us and replacing us with digital reporters despite evidence that utilization of digital reporting disproportionately impacts minority speakers.

Tipping Points Are Hard!

After my accusation that Veritext and US Legal appear to be colluding to sell the inferior digital court reporting service to attorneys despite clear evidence that the market preference is stenography, I took an entire day off blogging and looked up exactly how to get this information to the FTC.

Then I did it. I sent them a nice email laying out my thoughts. Because given all the information I have, who wouldn’t? I had filed a weaker attorney general complaint in my state, but the FTC is an agency that needs to know.

Then I gave them my contact info.

This is in addition to the social media pressure I am exerting on the company.

And you know what? There is plenty of pressure to apply there. Not only was L. Freiler accused of slander, this looks like Giammanco’s MO, accuse women who are a threat to him.

And you know what, court reporters? People are on your side. This is what they have to say about Giammanco’s actions.

I make it no secret that I think US Legal is despicable. I tag Rick Levy occasionally to let him know. Partially because it’s hilarious and mostly because I want every court reporter in this country to see with their own eyes that the companies pushing us around all these years are weak. How many months of watching Chris Day do whatever he wants will it take for court reporters to realize that they are each individually just as powerful? Because that’s how many months we’ll be experiencing this together.

I don’t just scream out to the void, I let people know when their employers are hurting society.

My frustration isn’t misplaced. After I explained that digital reporting would hurt minority speakers, USL increased digital court reporting recruitment. I’ve gotten a notification from LinkedIn every day about joining USL as a digital.

But now other companies have realized the lie and are now openly announcing they will do what USL cannot and provide stenographic court reporters. Lexitas has jumped in on the LinkedIn game, and instead of pushing the word digital, they are looking for court reporters in New York City.

I have to point out that US Legal is on real shaky ground. If you’re working with them it’s time to ask for a raise. Tell them you’ll walk if you don’t get it. They’ll give it to you or they’ll be swept away by their own incredible incompetence. Everybody from the production people to the court reporters needs a raise right now. Anything less is disingenuous braying by US Legal and I urge my colleagues not to fall for it.

Mary Ann Payonk, a popular realtime reporter, has a saying. “Tipping points are hard.” The idea was that the field was headed more and more towards AI and digital. We were at a tipping point, and once things started sliding against us, it wouldn’t stop. Only good court reporters might survive. Keep improving or be replaced. A wonderful message insofar as it encourages reporters to be better and do better. But that was before all my research into how bad digital reporting is for the public, consumers, court reporters, investors, and people in general. That was before the Racial Disparities in Automatic Speech Recognition study. That was before Bloomberg broke the news that much of AI was people behind screens. Now we know our value. Now we know that there is a place for every stenographic court reporter. Now we see that by advocating for ourselves, we can change the course of history in the same way that computer programmers did.

Tipping points are pretty hard. And since a small fraction of us just tipped things in our favor and the others are getting motivated to jump in, I can’t wait to see what happens next. It is time to get involved with stenographic nonprofits and associations. Together, we will take what was an industry in decline and create a paragon of success and morality that will ensure the safety and quality of America’s legal records and captions.

My plan for the blog is pretty simple. I am going to continue to use donations that come in in whatever way seems appropriate and keep publishing for our field. If the people that have not donated to me yet donate about $300 to me, I will have about $3 million and I will retire so that I can be a full-time steno advocate and set up funding programs for stenographic nonprofits and associations. I can’t help but float the suggestion. You know who you’re hiring for the job and you’ve seen what I can do with a sensible budget set by the good will of court reporters. I have proven that for the working reporter there is no better friend than Christopher Day.

And as always, thank you to all of you that made this possible. To people that have donated already, I have to ask you to share this with at least one court reporter. You will be helping them overcome the fear so prevalent in our field. There’s no greater honor.

Veritext and US Legal Lied to the Public About Stenographer Shortage

Veritext, through its puppet Cooper, and US Legal, have both been lying about the stenographer shortage. How do we know? Cooper claims the problem started 8 years ago. This is objectively false. Firms 8 years ago were saying they could not pay better rates because there was a glut of reporters. Even if you don’t believe that, stenographers are 30 years behind inflation, which does not happen if a field is experiencing a shortage.

But they’ve made it even easier to tell they are lying and committing a fraud against the legal profession. Let’s see what Cooper has to say.

As you can see, Cooper claims you would need 82,000 students to enroll in court reporting training programs nationwide in 2019 and each year following in order to overcome the deficit.

What does US Legal say?

Wow. 82,000 enrollments needed and only 2,500 enrollments occurred. Sounds like a death knell for stenography. Right?

Liars. How do we know? In 2014, BLS told us there were 21,000 court reporters. From my own independent analysis of the numbers and NCRA statistics, there are actually closer to 27,000 or 28,000 court reporters. It does not matter whose statistics you use, the conclusion they’re lying remains the same. There was no shortage crisis in 2014. We have roughly the same number of court reporters today as we did back then. The 2013 Ducker Report told us that 70% of court reporters would retire over the next 20 years (2013-2033). 70% of that 28,000 is about 20,000 reporters. Succinctly, the retirement cliff we are trying so hard to fight is about 20,000 people if you trust NCRA and about 15,000 people if you trust the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

About 10% of people that start steno graduate. So if we had 82,000 enrollments a year, that’s 8,200 new stenographers per year. But look at what US Legal wrote again. “We needed 82,000 new students to enroll in court reporting training programs nationwide each year to overcome the impact.” If we, in fact, have 82,000 new students each year from 2019 to 2033 (15 years), we would have 1.23 million enrollments or 123,000 graduates. Our field would be quadruple the size it is today, and if you go by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly six times larger than it was in 2014.

To combat our retirement cliff of 20,000 people between 2019 and 2033, we need a total of 200,000 enrollments. That’s about 13,400 enrollments or 1,340 graduates a year, a number six times smaller than the one proffered by US Legal and Veritext/Cooper. If you’re six feet tall, that’s like me claiming you’re 36 feet tall. If we required 8,200 stenographers per year, about half of all depositions would be going uncovered right now (8,200 x 3 years 2019-2021, a gap and demand for 25,000 stenographers by 2021.)

If you accept Owler’s revenue numbers, Veritext controls about $490 million in revenue and US Legal controls about $100 million. That’s a combined total of $590 million. If you accept the Kentley Insights 2019 Stenotype Services market research report, that’s about 20% of our field, and they are using their power to destroy it.

590 million divided by 3 billion is almost 20%

Some have said: They’re lying. So what?

Well, the market preference is stenography.

Court Reporting Industry Outlook 2013-2014 Ducker Worldwide

We know from nonprofits like Protect Your Record Project that attorneys are being told they must accept digital because no stenographer is available even after attorneys order stenographers. So we know there’s some serious false advertising going on.

Previously, I was unsure if there was collusion between major players in the field. Considering that both are using similar language it seems unlikely that both have come independently to the same incorrect conclusion. It’s not like the two firms are enemies. They’ve lobbied together before.

It seems much more likely that following fraudster Jim Cudahy’s lead via the Speech-To-Text Institute, the two companies are involved in a plot to hurt the market and rob consumers of their choice. Quite frankly, Cudahy uses his ex-NCRA credentials to lend credibility to this fraud. After all, STTI has been instrumental in creating the propaganda ruining our field. STTI was, without a doubt, created for the sole purpose of promulgating propaganda and facilitating the ongoing fraud, against its stated mission of representing all modalities in speech-to-text transcription. STTI’s lies are also easy to see through.

Virginia Lawyers Weekly

A gap of 11,000 predicted by 2023 according to a recent study. What study was that? None. The year 2023 doesn’t appear in the Ducker Report. At best, these numbers are extrapolated from an outdated report that could not account for the positive recruitment impact of NCRA A to Z, Project Steno, and Open Stenoinitiatives that Jim Cudahy should have known about in 2019.

Unless you believe 2 + 2 = 24, the stenographer shortage is being exaggerated and exacerbated by Veritext and US Legal Support. And now you have a brief video to help explain it directly to attorneys.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Corporations Gaslight Stenographers Into Fighting Each Other and How To Beat That

Following a series of unprecedented articles that touched on US Legal’s nonsensical JD Supra article, STTI’s awful and intentional misreading of the Ducker Report, and a bit of history, science, and my thoughts on how we got here, the response was overwhelmingly positive. People donated. People said “thank you for writing what others are scared to say.” There are more Sad Iron Stenographer mugs in existence today than there were last week, let me tell you. It’s September 9, 2021, and we’ve already had more visitors this month than all of August and blown past readership from previous years. If you’re enjoying your time on Stenonymous, you’re in good company.

Over 2,000 visitors in a month is really good when that month has 20 days left and there are only about 27,000 people in your field.
Associations, consider reaching into the wallet and advertising our field a bit. Miniscule amounts of money make a large difference in exposure.

Let me just note that when I’m referring to corporations, I’m really looking at the colloquial “big box” variety. The ones that we would think have millions of dollars in the budget but spend almost all of their outward effort on building their digital reporting business no matter what a bad decision that is. Small agency owners might look at my work and think “anti-business,” but it’s really pro-people. If you’re not being a liar or a bully, the chance that you’re going to end up here in a bad light goes down. If you are being a liar or a bully, just stop doing that, we’ll have a redemption special, it’ll be fun. It’s a lot easier than fooling all of the people all of the time, which I’m about to give a lesson in.

So while most of the responses from my work were positive, there were a few comments that came off as trolling comments. I’ve written about trolls before, how they can be hired to achieve a goal, and how it is important to not allow the narrative to be controlled by them. Now it seems important to point out that “trolling” comes in two major forms, intentional and unintentional. An intentional troll is someone who understands the issues and plays dumb or attempts to obfuscate an issue. They’re basically gaslighters meant to confuse, discredit, and distract. A paid troll would be an example of intentional trolling. An unintentional troll is someone who makes a comment that could come off as hostile or disingenuous, but is just ignorant or sees a situation differently, not malicious in any way. It can actually be really hard to distinguish between the two because the key difference is intent, which you cannot usually tell from a one-off interaction. Defined this way, even I’ve been an unintentional troll before. It’s just a thing that happens. Sometimes we interpret something incorrectly, say the wrong thing, or fail to correctly assess a situation.

What we are going to see now is a push to confuse the issues. The intentional trolls will plant doubts and let the unintentional trolls carry those doubts into the discussion so that we spend more time arguing and less time organizing / advertising. The key to this is to respond cordially and logically if you are not absolutely sure who the person is or where they’re coming from. Take the following example off Twitter:

I’m using social media screenshots. I’m officially a journalist.

The comment writer correctly points out that Veritext has some involvement with a school in Maryland. At that point, I have three choices, let it get under my skin and react in a hostile way, ignore the person for daring to question my “amazing writing,” or reassess my feelings and ask myself why I feel the way I do about Veritext. And I feel the way I do because about five years ago, we were all asking each other whether digital was in use and to what extent. That’s not necessarily Veritext’s fault, but there was a lot of back and forth on social media about how digitals weren’t in use or were in emergency use only. Because evidence was scarce, stenographers were divided. Eventually, I got my hands on evidence that they were trying to get lawyers to change deposition notices to allow for digital. It was very clear that they were interested in promoting digital reporting. Then the VP of Sales wrote a pro-digital piece that caused an uproar, and the company threw her under the bus. I tried to keep an open mind and was pretty open about broadcasting scholarships they sponsor for our field. If you go back to just last year, you can see my cognitive dissonance with all this forming, but I was pretty sure the company as whole was not being honest with our community. It all culminated in me asking them what the deal was. Why was I getting digital reporting ads on LinkedIn instead of stenographic reporter ads? I was given a throwaway response about how they feel recruiting from their network is more effective, and I pretty much left it there.

After reassessment, I was still left with a choice of what to do. Without knowing this person, and having no information that they are malicious, I can only assume that their intentions are good and that they are a potential ally. As you see, I chose to make a concise statement in support of the good that Veritext has done for the field, but used my knowledge of the Ducker Report to make the point that more than half of court reporting business comes from California, Texas, Illinois, or New York. These are the states where we have the most ground to lose and in my estimation the most likely to produce reporters that will relocate to other states due to their high cost of living. By spreading that idea, anyone who reads has a piece of information that they may not have had before, and the truth prevails rather than the distraction of “but they support a school!” Any other choice would’ve made me come off as a jerk or make it appear that my writing was based off incomplete information.

The bipolar attitude corporations have towards stenographic court reporting is likely a result of the hedging mindset. Will stenographers fail to recruit enough to meet demand? The company has no idea, so it has to support both, lest it choose the losing side. This is the same mindset that the straddle strategy is based on in investing. If someone thinks the market will move in a particular direction, they hold two opposing positions, and the winning position hopefully makes enough money to cover the loss and earn a profit. It’s quite brilliant, but it’s not good for us because we are people and not stock options. This all gives us valuable information though. If the $400 million company doesn’t know what’s going to happen, there’s a pretty good chance nobody does. That means what we do, how we think, and how we talk to each other will change the future. It also shapes how the corporations respond, which we know from studying how the narrative has shifted over time and how fast they threw that VP under the bus when we started talking to each other.

This isn’t even a new thing. History is rife with the status quo versus the voiceless. Look at women’s suffrage in the United States. Here there was an entire class of people with no right to vote, who were brutalized for demanding such a right, and yet still successfully persuaded the voting class to do what they wanted them to do. Here we are a hundred years later, 2021, with largely the same pattern of institutions and organizations telling a field of 88% women how to feel, what to think, and that the situation is hopelessly against them. What is the difference beyond issue and scale? It’s one group of people telling another group of people how things should be, and the group of people that wins gets to decide how the story is told later — sort of.

But now that you’ve had an example of unintentional trolling and hopefully see why responding without facts or failing to respond at all is dangerous, let’s discuss further how to distinguish the unintentional from the obviously malicious or misleading views.

A comment that looks like it’s designed to make my blood boil?
I have literally trained my whole life for this.

A Reddit account slapped down some good information about how US Legal has hired a stenographer into a top corporate position. They asked if I was “going to ignore that one as well” and asked if giant facts were bothersome to the cute writing style. This is an example of the claim game video that I published in May where I told six lies, one partial truth, and one actual truth in fifteen seconds and challenged my readers to identify which was which and think about how long it would take to prove or disprove any one of those claims. The commentator is sprinkling one truth, that US Legal Support hired a stenographer, among a bunch of distractions meant to discredit my work. Was I going to ignore it? No, I’m about to write about it. Are these giant facts too bothersome? What giant facts? The commentator is gaslighting me. They created the Reddit account in order to create a post that would cast doubt on my work. We know that because the account was created shortly before commenting and this was the only comment on the profile.

I can’t assume good intentions here because there’s no substance to what they’re writing about and they seem to have created a Reddit account for the sole purpose of discrediting my blog.

As an aside, isn’t it a little strange that a field so small has so much intrigue that people are fabricating Reddit profiles to take shots at my blog? I am both fascinated and confused.

Let’s review. Honest comment that we personally disagree with? Don’t attack. Attacking risks losing valuable time and energy that could be spent advocating for our field and spreading facts. Malicious comment that is clearly designed to derail the conversation? Same deal. Don’t spend too much energy on attacking. Lay out the facts or ask for clarification. We’re not going to win the malicious commentator over, the win comes from what other people think when they read the comment.

What happens when things are not so cut and dry? What do you do when your soul tells you things could be either way? I had such a moment with the very same stenographer that I assume the Reddit commentator was talking about, Rick Levy. My blog posts have been making shockwaves on social media, and he’s commented a few times in ways that I was actually quite moved by. I started to doubt my own conviction US Legal was supporting digital out of an agenda rather than a need. I started to doubt my own conviction that they had intentionally not put enough effort into Stenotrain. I started to doubt my own conviction that the lackluster stenographic recruitment was intentional even though I had documented how robust their digital recruitment was by comparison. I have to ask my readers: When you look at this, do you feel all those same doubts?

He does his best. And at that time, I believed him.

I no longer doubt my convictions. But I am not operating in a total vacuum. I have in my possession a series of e-mails exchanged in May 2021 from the NCRA firm owners listserv. I spent most of August doing research for upcoming articles related to those e-mails, and those e-mails acquainted me with Rick’s modus operandi of disarming people with kindness. Since I’m not ready to publish all of those today, I’ll give some context. In the e-mail string, Lisa Migliore advertises Reliance, a collection of court reporters and smaller firms that donates to NCRA to keep yearly costs down. Rick Levy starts questioning Reliance’s potential. By itself, it’s actually a good thing. It is GOOD to question, learn, and reassess.

Remember, questions, GOOD.

Rick asks:
1. If Reliance is necessary due to lack of funds from national firms.
2. If the model is sustainable.

During my August investigation, I learned that not only was Reliance successful, but very much like Allie Hall, it takes my theory about the collective power of stenographers, kicks my ass, and turns it into reality. After reaching out to Lisa Migliore, I learned that in 2019 Reliance met its $25,000 goal in three days. Once payments were settled for 2021, it would double that, with $50,000 collected for 2021. Not only does Reliance seem sustainable, it seems capable of raising sums of money that will eclipse national firms that do not start supporting stenographic court reporters. We can also see this in Project Steno’s donors, where the big donations — and particularly the ones from US Legal — are a great boon for a great nonprofit, but small donations add up to something special.

We did that together.

Things got a little heated in that e-mail exchange and then-President Christine Phipps reminded everyone of the listserv rules. Then there was a big wall of text where Lillian Freiler was accused of making libelous comments and NCRA 2.0 was accused of disparaging past leaders. And I started to realize something very important —

very, very important.

— there was a possibility that this was gaslighting instead of genuine concern! The claim game was hard at work. Remember, gaslighting is about confusing, discrediting, distracting. And it was starting to look very much that way. Why do I term it as distraction? Think of magicians. They set up a trick, get you to look somewhere else, and then wow you with the trick. Here, there trick is getting everybody in defense mode so they don’t talk about Reliance and/or US Legal’s hedging/dishonesty. I’m going to sum up his points and why I feel they’re examples of gaslighting.

1. Is Reliance necessary? Irrelevant. Reliance exists and is raising money for stenography. Distraction.
2. Is Reliance sustainable? $50,000 in 2021 say it’s more than sustainable, it’s successful. Distraction.
3. I was an NCRF Angel and not enough of that goes to students. Distraction.
4. Accusing Lillian Freiler of libel. Scare tactic and distraction. She was merely citing my work, which I have not been accused of libel for because it’s not libelous.
5. I’m offended because NCRA 2.0 is advertising that they stopped burning members’ money and fixed the budget. Another distraction. Seriously, is anyone actually upset that NCRA balanced the budget? But going on the offensive has a chance of getting people involved in that discussion to doubt themselves; it looks much more like a tactic than an honest feeling.

While everyone is focused on these distractions, the main point, the undisputed fact that US Legal is trying to bury us, gets buried.

Now I had suspicions of dishonesty, but this was not enough for me to make up my mind about the situation. After all, we cannot expect everyone to remember, research, and document every facet of court reporting. Luckily, I was given another window from which to view this situation. After my articles last week, Rick Levy messaged me in what I can only describe as the strangest conversation of my life. I’m the purple. It all started with an offer to talk.

Again, my response is in the context of the shifting narrative we are experiencing in my field. But he came back and gave me some more.

“I’m willing to talk with you, but I don’t know if I can trust you.” “Well, if you don’t want to talk, fine, I’ve got 25 years in the field, and haven’t you heard about the shortage?” “How about we stay on point and talk more about what USL can do for us?”

The only question for me was whether you were fooled by it or complicit in it.

So let’s get something straight here, here I am on a Wednesday night, eleven years into my career, telling a stenographer of 25 years and self-reported NCRF Angel of 15 years that works for what is ostensibly a $100 million corporation that they can find stenographers on Sourcebook, now renamed PRO Link, which has existed for years. If that was not weird enough for me, it got weirder.

And, idiot me, makes the assumption that this is genuine. I explain Sourcebook and give proof that a large swath of the industry is reading my blog. He mentions he was on the board when the Ducker Report was done and that he knows about it. Then he asks a question of profound importance.

He asked me where my blog is well after he had commented on it on Facebook. Now I knew that the commenting was more or less a public relations thing. US Legal’s intention is not to recruit stenographers, it is to get us doubting ourselves and each other. So the next time that Rick commented on my stuff, I did what I could do to “politely” tell it like it was.

Let’s review. We have an admission that they’re not recruiting through Sourcebook. We have an incredibly weak public pledge days later that the stenographer with probably the most pull at US Legal will “look into it.” We have that after a very serious conversation with me where I was as honest as practicable about my intentions, data, and feelings. Again, I’m looking at the totality of the circumstances. How can they make the claim that the stenographer shortage is impossible to solve when they have not, by their own admission, done the bare minimum to find stenographers? When they can arrange for recruiters to try to drum up digital reporting interest but can’t be bothered to know Sourcebook exists, there’s a problem. How many lawyers are being lied to about a stenographic court reporter being unavailable when they’re not trying to recruit court reporters?

But we continue to harvest valuable information. The corporate mentality has absolutely no answer to this kind of blunt trauma by truth. Our consumers are lawyers, some of the most educated people on the planet, and it’s very hard to keep lying to them when someone is publishing evidence that there is a lie in progress and thousands of people are sharing it. All they can manage is a “we’ll try, we’re trying, really.” And rather than chase down 101 distractions, I suggest we keep with one simple answer, “try harder or cease to exist.” Seems fair to me. That’s pretty much what we’ve been told as a profession.

We all have a choice. We start taking action to counteract the false narrative or we sit back and watch this gaslighting continue. I will be working on an ad campaign for next week that will wrap up a lot of articles and links in a digestible format for the legal profession. Once that’s launched, I will ask for donations in the amount of about $20 a reader. My statistics show we’d have about 120 weeks worth of heavy advertising if everyone reading this contributed, which I’m happy to split between advertising steno and facilitating consumer awareness. Even if a reader can’t donate, there are other ways to help, which I will put right at the bottom of the ad campaign itself.

In my view there should be no more excuses. Short of a binding contract where US Legal agrees to tell every single one of its digital reporters how to get involved in our wonderful field, scaling back that part of the business over the next few years, and taking actual steps to build interest in our field, their words are hollow and the company should no longer be allowed to poison the legal field with its lies.

Does Stenonymous Spend More On Steno Ads Than US Legal?

When you care about something, how difficult is it to do? I can only go by my own experiences here. I hate calling lawyers. A family member got fired and there was potentially an attached legal issue. I was on the phone chain calling lawyers for them until I found one that could speak to the family member that same day. I don’t have any desire to be a public speaker, but I figured it out when I thought our profession might need it. US Legal, by all appearances, cares a lot about attracting digital reporters and strengthening AAERT.

I would love to talk to you too, senior recruiter.

In fairness, US Legal does have a reporter corner and a few spots on their site where they specifically mention stenography. But we have to look at the totality of the circumstances to decide whether this is out of genuine care or whether it’s a facade to point at and say “look, we care!” It’s been known for a while that US Legal is backing digital reporting. They bought out Stenotrain, made some announcements to look good, and killed it. Now reporters are getting offers to join USL as long as reporters drop the stenotype and fall in line with whatever junk USL wants to peddle to consumers. Again, I have to look at my own experiences, and when I don’t advertise very much, my site can get as little as 500 views a year.

What a year that was. Am I right?

Meanwhile, when I spend a few hundred bucks on an ad, I get the word steno in front of thousands of people.

A seven-nation army couldn’t hold me back.

Hopefully the point is pretty clear. If and when they cry shortage and say they just can’t fill the seats, it’s a lie. According to Owler, they have a revenue of over $100 million. They’re taking that money and betting it against stenographic court reporters. There are national, state, and nonprofit databases of reporters. This is a game to take our relatively high-paying jobs and organized, educated workforce, and replace them with low-paying jobs and people who won’t have the same ethics culture we do.

It’s a game I need some help winning. All corporations are made up of people. Educate those people on the truth, and just maybe they’ll realize they’re risking everything by backing the losing horse. If you happen to get a message from one of the recruiters working on this, please don’t blast them, but let them know what’s happening. Chances are good they have no idea.

I do wish him luck and success. But I also hope he finds a better employer.