Shortage Solutions 1: Remote Proceedings

One of the reasons given for stenographer shortage is that many reporters have a strict coverage area, and type or amount of work they will cover. Nothing inherently wrong with that. People have standards. Esquire put out a Georgia article about remote deposition proceedings. Photo archive. We’ll note that in the original article it says 70 percent of stenographers to retire by 2023, but the Ducker Report seems to suggest 2033. The basic idea is to increase the coverage area and reduce commute time by using video or audio to have the stenographer attend. We first came across that idea in SoCalReporters’s blog post, There Is No Evil Empire and mirrored it in There Is No Rebel Alliance.

Though we haven’t jumped into every state’s laws, we did spend quite a good amount of energy and time on learning our own state’s laws, and we think it would be feasible in New York. Remote swearing is allowed under the circumstances described in the CPLR. If you have a choice between agencies using digitals or patching us in remotely to these things, we hope you’re smart enough to choose being patched in. We hope agencies are smart enough to keep choosing stenographers first and coming up with creative solutions for complex problems. We hope that stenographers continue to recognize when they’re not being chosen first and go out to build bigger, better business.

We reached out to Esquire about this initiative and article, and for a brief interview with Avi Stadler, Esquire’s General Counsel, about the program.

Might be worth talking with your own agencies about these ideas. If you have or are building your own company or book of business, the investment in remote capability might be something to look at. They want stenographers. We want them to use stenographers. And the consumer pressure in many cases is for there to be a stenographer. All that’s left is for stenographers to get themselves in the mix and make sure we adapt to the market if this is how steno sells. Some important tips from an ex-freelancer:

  • Get immediate contact information from other attendees in case you’re cut off or lose contact. You need to be able to call the others and let them know you’re no longer there taking the record.
  • Learn how to hotspot your cellphone in the event of a site service disruption OR have some kind of backup plan or call service for technology failure. Adaptability can seize the day.
  • Unexpected things will happen. Let’s say an entire unrelated party gets linked into yours by mistake? Take charge. Be a leader. Explain to the other conference that they should call into the agency. Try to communicate with the agency that there’s an issue. Have emergency numbers or contacts saved directly into your phone so that internet errors don’t stop you from communicating vital information to clients and agencies.

We are thankful that there are so many entities and independents brainstorming and coming up with ideas for the field. We encourage working reporters to join the discussion. Make your concerns known. Have your ideas be heard. We understand that this isn’t the newest idea out there, and that various companies have promoted virtual depositions, even as far back as 2017. Archive. But the best we can do is acknowledge that work and ask for more promotion of stenographic services coast to coast. Hopefully in a year or two we’re eating our words on previous articles that told stenographers certain agencies were not their friends and watching the steno renaissance continue full swing.

For now, consider this one potential shortage solution in what may end up a series of many dependent upon reader feedback.

StenoFest 2019

Marc Greenberg’s been a real ally for the stenographic community. He runs Simply Steno, created the For the Record documentary, and most recently came out with StenoFest 2019, a virtual conference and webinar hub that let us start court reporting and captioning week off with a bang. I’ll be the first to admit, I dropped the ball and didn’t advertise it on here, and didn’t contribute to its success this weekend, February 9 and February 10.

They had tons of speakers and influences from all over the stenographic community. I couldn’t be present for some of my favorite steno personalities like Dom Tutsi or Mirabai Knight, but my understanding is I’ll be entitled to watch those on demand soon.

I did get to catch Mark Kislingbury talk on Sunday about shortening writing. I very rarely correlate a person’s success to their ability to help others succeed, but Mark had a very interesting theory and mathematical concept I think everyone should learn and know. Take your strokes per minute, divide that by 60 to get your strokes per second. He basically posited that writers will fall somewhere between three strokes a second and five strokes a second. He then said look at your strokes per 100 words. If you take multiple strokes for every word, it makes it much harder to reach high speeds even if you have very high finger speed. If you are phrasing and briefing, and you are getting many words into a single stroke, then you can achieve very high speeds even if your strokes per second are low. I support all writers, whether we are writing it out or briefing, but it is definitely worth taking the time to consider the math. If you are writing 3 strokes a second and every stroke is a word, that’s 180 words per minute. If every two strokes is a word, you’re down to 90 words a minute. It makes that much of a difference.

Bottom line: StenoFest was great. On Sunday, I saw over 300 people logged in from all over the world, including Australia. I think there was a lot to take away from it and if you have any interest in any of the seminars that occurred throughout the day, I advise you to look into getting it on demand. Everything from the pain of vicarious trauma to the future of court reporting was discussed, and it can all be relevant to how you live and work as a stenographer. Thank you, Marc, for StenoFest. I know you will inspire more webinars, more sharing, and a larger community.