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Old-Fashioned Court Reporter?

I have been a Certified Shorthand Reporter for 34 years. When I got out of school, court reporters were still dictating their notes.  There were no computers.  When court reporters were first giving out rough drafts, I thought that was crazy.  Why would an attorney want a transcript that wasn’t perfect?  And then I heard about real-time reporting and thought that would never work.  Why in the world would I let an attorney see my raw writing?  It would be embarrassing.

Now I give out rough drafts and write real-time weekly, including streaming the transcript to remote sites.

BUT I have a feeling I might be old-fashioned in some of my thinking. The new norm is many court reporting firms are owned by non-court reporters, and new court reporters are trained how to punctuate by proofers.  My old-fashioned thinking is they need a court reporter to read their transcripts and teach them the nuances of punctuating a transcript, what to Global, and how to use parentheticals.  Modern reporters who wish to be great will go to seminars put on by their state associations and NCRA, and also might choose to learn online from the brilliant Margie Wakeman Wells on her website Margie Holds Court.  Margie’s website is a tremendous resource with webinars and one-on-one trainings available.  I didn’t know Margie’s website existed until a young reporter asked me if I thought that would help her with her English grammar.  I said, “Absolutely, yes.”

Another old-fashioned idea I have is that court reporters who become licensed shouldn’t put themselves out to be real-time reporters until they have at least two years under their belt. I believe most real-time depositions or trials are going to have complex, sophisticated subject matter, and a new reporter needs time to build speed, stamina, and a sophisticated dictionary.  I understand a new court reporter might have the knowledge to connect computers and send real-time, but my current belief system is that writing thousands of pages and having on-the-job experience would be a prerequisite to successful real-time reporting.  Maybe I am wrong.

As of three years ago, I thought that a court reporter getting out of school had to decide between working in court or freelance and report depositions. With the laying off of court reporters in civil courtrooms in California, the reporters have any option to be a hybrid and do both.  I find many court reporters are still choosing court or depositions, but as time goes on, I have met many young reporters who have a desire to choose court or depositions on any given day.

It has struck me in the last couple of weeks that there are a lot of new ways of doing things, and I am behind. I know a lot about real-time technology, electronic exhibits in depositions, and trial technologies.  I know about social media, connecting with LinkedIn or Facebook, but I am wondering what I don’t know.

My goal is to search out what I don’t know, and my plan is to talk to court reporters around the country at the NCRA convention in Chicago next month and ask them, “What’s happening?”

@rosaliekramm

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Stress free Court Reporters

How Court Reporters Can WIN the Stress Game

Stress free Court Reporters

Court reporters live with stress. Whether one has just gotten out of court reporting school and is having to deal with their first deposition, first hearing, first interpreter, whatever first, or one is a seasoned court reporter dealing with fast talking attorneys examining an expert witness in a patent case, stress is a part of the court reporter’s life.

In a recent TedTalk, health psychologist Kelly McGonigal said, “Stress is not the enemy we believe it is. In fact, according to a recent study, stress is only a risk to your health if you think stress is a risk to your health.”  In a study of 30,000 people, which took place over an eight-year period, researchers found that people who experienced a high amount of stress faced a 43 percent increased risk of death if they also believed stress is harmful to their health.  She says, “Instead of viewing stress as a health hazard, learn to make stress your friend.”  People who experienced the most stress, but did not believe it was harmful, had the lowest risk of dying. “Believing stress is bad for you was the 15th largest cause of death in the USA last year, killing more people than skin cancer, HIV, AIDS, and homicide.

“If you can change your mind about stress, you can change your body’s response to stress.”

According to the science, we have two opposing hormone responses to life. There are the fight or flight hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, which speed up your heart rate and create the hyper state which allows you to rapidly react your way out of danger; and there is the comfort and trust hormone, oxytocin, which has the exact opposite effects.  When life is difficult, your stress response wants you to be around people that will help you or comfort you, and being around those kinds of people your body has the built-in mechanism to counter stress, creating oxytocin.

Tony DeAngelis describes the hormone oxytocin in his article, “The two faces of oxytocin,” in Science Watch, published by the American Psychological Association, saying, “Oxytocin is produced mainly in the hypothalamus, where it is either released into the blood via the pituitary gland, or to other parts of the brain and spinal cord.” Oxytocin is described as “the love or cuddle hormone” as it increases feelings of trust and emotional bonding.

McGonigal states, “When you choose to view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage. And when you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience.”

I know when I am really worried about a deadline or a future job that I know is going to be super difficult, and I reach out to one of my dear friends in the court reporting world, people I have met at our state associations meetings, NCRA and STAR conferences, people who have the same stresses and pressures, and I ask for help or comfort, and I get the oxytocin flowing, my exhausting adrenaline surge will shift to positive energy. I am really happy to have found Kelly McGonigal’s TedTalk because now I know that reaching out to my friends is not only fun and makes me happy, but it is going to counteract the stress hormones and keep my healthy.

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Proofer court reporters' transcript.

Seven Tips for Newly Licensed Court Reporters

I have the privilege of working with newly licensed San Diego California Certified Shorthand Reporters. I am extremely proud of their writing ability and the fact they are not scared to learn and use the sophisticated functionality of their CAT software. I consider myself to be their coach.  My goal is their total success throughout their careers, wherever their incredible talent takes them.

In my coaching I have noticed a couple of issues that seem to come up that might be confusing.   Some of the tips would only relate to San Diego or California transcripts and might not apply to other parts of the country.

Tips:

  1. San Diego case numbers are extremely long, for instance, 2015-0000329-CU-PT-CTL. The case number is too long to follow the caption and fit on a line. What reporters do is divide the number up, 2015-000329-, second line CU-PT-CTL.
  2. For the certificate page, the court reporter signs their name on the signature line, and the date line should have the date of your signature, not the date of the job.
  3. Attorneys in Southern California will ask reporters to leave a blank for the witness to fill in, for instance, asking for a telephone number of a doctor. The reporter would leave a blank in a parenthetical format: (Information Requested: ______________________________________.) The index for the transcript would index the request:
  4. INFORMATION REQUESTED TO BE PROVIDED:                                                                               PAGE
  1. Telephone number of doctor                                                                                                                            23
  1. Women are known as Ms. (not Mrs. or Miss). Unless someone says “Mrs.” or “Miss” In a transcript, women are all referred to as Ms. In colloquy it will always be MS. JONES, never MRS. JONES or MISS JONES. If someone asked me to refer to her as MRS. JONES in colloquy, I would do it, but in the past 35 years no one has asked me to do so.
  2. Unlike school, attorneys won’t always sit where they are supposed to, on the left side of the table for plaintiff and right side of the table for defendant. My suggestion is to wait until the attorneys sit down and then assign the left or right bank to their name rather than if they represent the plaintiff or defendant. This is especially important if you have many attorneys present representing cross-plaintiffs, cross-defendants, or third parties.
  3. For some reason possessive seems to be tricky. The only time you write it’s is if the word is a conjunction, and it could read it is. “It’s” is never possessive, for instance, I love it’s hat. (wrong)
  4. Use the California State Bar Attorney search to find elusive phone numbers and email addresses of attorneys. Save it as a FAVORITE. Attorneys have to keep their information current on the site or risk losing their license.

I wish all newly licensed court reporters great success. Please know that experienced reporters all over the country are relying on you to take up the gauntlet and keep our industry alive and strong.  You have our support.  Ask questions.  We need you.

@rosaliekramm (twitter)

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Veronica with little setup

Court Reporters – What is an Oral Reply?

In certain jurisdictions and cases, attorneys hire court reporters to report an oral reply. In my experience, oral replies are typically used in union grievances especially in employment matters.  The court reporter is hired to take down the statement of the hearing officer, grievant, and her/his attorneys.  The hearing officer will swear in the grievant who will give their statement as to why they should not be reprimanded or punished for whatever charge they are being accused of.  For example, a border patrol agent might have gone home early before their shift was over and got paid for that time.

What the court reporter needs to expect is that the grievant many times will read the statement, and what I would suggest is the court reporter in a very matter of fact tone ask for any materials that are read. I will often say, “I need your statement that you read from so I have all of the correct spellings.”

I suggest that the court reporter ask the hearing officer at the end if the grievant is to have the opportunity to read and sign the transcript so you know whether or not to leave a penalty of perjury clause.   The reporter should include a cover page with the name of the governmental agency, the grievant’s name, “Oral Reply of Joan Smith,” and a date line and a certificate page similar or the same as a certificate page a court reporter would use in a court hearing or deposition.

 

 

 

Court Reporters and Legal Videographers - What is Witness' Name?

Court Reporters and Legal Videographers – What is the Witness’ Name?

Court reporters have the responsibility of getting the names of deponents, witnesses in court, and attorneys.  It might be surprising, but getting the spelling of a witness’ name can be challenging.

Having produced thousands of deposition transcripts, and having made mistakes as far as a witness’ name, I have created the following rules for myself:

  1. Always ask the witness for their full name, and never rely on a deposition notice or the attorney’s suggested spelling of the name.
  2. Upon asking for the deponent’s name, if the answer is something like, George Fallon, I always follow up with the question, “Do you have a middle name?” Otherwise, it is inevitable once we go on the record, and the attorney says, Please state your name for the record,” the witness will answer with a middle name that is tough to spell, for instance, “George Alan/Allen Fallon.”
  3. Once you get the full name, ask for the spelling of the whole name. The name David might be spelled Davyd. Never assume a spelling. I will ask, “Is David spelled the typical way, D-a-v-i-d, or does it have a unique spelling?” Otherwise, people might look at me like I am crazy asking how to spell David.
  4. Be consistent. If you use the full name on the cover page (Deposition of George Allen Fallon), use that full name on the certification page, the signature line, everywhere. Don’t use George Allen Fallon in one place, George Fallon in another place, or George A. Fallon another place. The transcript will not look professional.
  5. When the witness is doctor, Ph.D., (expert), put the appropriate initials after the name.  Do not use Dr. George Fallon; rather use George Fallon, M.D.  An expert’s report or business card will have the correct initials of any licenses or certifications.  If you use M.D., and choose not to put other initials behind the name, be consistent throughout the transcript.  For instance, use George Fallon, M.D. or George Fallon, M.D., Ph.D., BCED.

Names can be tricky, but not for great court reporters.

 

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Court Reporters and Legal Videographers - Financial Planning 101

Court Reporters, Videographers – Financial Literacy 101

A few weeks ago, while chatting with Bronwen Drummond, a financial advisor,  it hit me hard that court reporters and videographers, independent contractors, need to have a financial plan to protect their future and understand what is happening with any money they are making.   I know I used to just work, work, work, and not pay attention to what was happening because “that’s not my thing.”  At the age of 50 I decided to make it my thing, and now I feel more calm about the future.

I asked Bronwen if she would create for me a checklist of thinking points for court reporters and videographers.  Here is what she advises:

1.  Establish a foundation that includes a budget, “Save first and then spend what’s left over.  Rule of thumb for allocating your spending – 20%/60%/20%.  20%should be spent on saving and investing.  60% of your income should be spent on essential expenses, i.e., rent, mortgage, food.  20% can be spent on discretionary expenses, clothing, dining…

2.  Establish an emergency fund.  Have 3 to 6 months of living expenses saved.  Protect yourself against the unexpected.

3.  Risk Management – Protect yourself and your family from financial peril with disability insurance, health insurance, and life insurance.

4.  Debt Management Strategy – Educate yourself on the difference between healthy debt (debt that is tax deductible, i.e., mortgage, student loans) and unhealthy debt (credit cards).  DO NOT live on the mentality that you need to pay off your debt before you can start saving.

5.  Wealth Accumulation – Create a strategy for growth!  Where can you put your money so it works for your short-term/mid-term/long-term goals?  Short-term goals are what you want to accomplish between now and two years from now, i.e., down payment on a home.  The place to save your money for a short-term goal might be in a checking or savings account.  This is also where you put your emergency fund (3 to 6 months of expenses).   Mid-term and long-term goals, such as retirement, would use stocks, T-bills, bonds, and mutual funds; real estate.

I have read many experts opine that a third of your savings should be in cash, a third in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and a third in real estate.  The bottom line is having a strategy, setting goals, and then taking the steps to achieve the goals.   Being financially literate is truly not that hard.  It just takes some focus and perhaps a professional advisor along with your accountant and banker (your team) to help you understand where there might be tax savings, what products are on the market that would be perfect for you, and a plan.

I wish for everyone great success and a wonderful future.  We deserve it.

Rosalie Kramm

 

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judge

Motion GRANTED re Court Reporters’ Page Rates

Government Code Sections 69950 and 69954 regulate page rates an official court reporter may charge for transcripts in California Superior Courts. A lawsuit was brought by attorneys against an independent court reporting firm for charging more than what the Government Code provides for.   On Friday, January 8, 2016, the Court ruled on a motion brought be the Defendants for judgment.  The following is language from the ruling by Amy D. Hogue, Judge of the Superior Court.

“The Court is concerned, moreover, that government regulation of private court reporter rates compromises strong countervailing public policies favoring free enterprise and competition. The Court also agrees with Defendant that regulating the rates for private reporters may have additional impacts on the free market and potentially reduce the economic incentive for highly qualified private court reporters to serve as official reporters pro tempore.”

“With tax payers are no longer providing official court reporting services to all litigants and private reporters generating their own salaries, insurance and benefits, it is difficult to justify regulating private reporter rates as a matter of public policy.”

“The Court rejects Plaintiffs’ interpretation of the applicable statutes and finds that Plaintiffs have failed to state an actionable claim. The Court therefore GRANTS Defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings,” Amy D. Hogue, Judge of the Superior Court.

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Linda Pool Wins Disney Race

Five Tips For Success and Opportunity – Attorneys, Court Reporters…

In the last few months I have been approached by an attorney who just passed the bar, a financial planner that is selling for a large insurance company, a 53-year-old woman who was just laid off after 29 years working at a grocery store, and a newly licensed Certified Shorthand Reporter, all asking if I had any advice about networking and finding opportunity.  I know from experience certain things, but I wanted to give them “scientific, expert” advice.  Therefore, I did some research and found the following:

  1. A 10th of a Second: A series of experiments by Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov reveal that all it takes is a tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger from their facial expression and how they present themselves.  You need to be 100 percent ready the moment you walk in the room, smiling, dressed appropriately, and with a positive attitude.
  2. Adjust your attitude:   In a recent Forbes article, Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D., business coach advises, “People pick up your attitude instantly. Before you turn to greet someone, or enter the boardroom, courtroom, or deposition, think about the situation and make a conscious choice about the attitude you want to embody.”  Before you get in the room think to yourself, “It’s show time,” and get energized.
  3. Straighten your posture: Goman also writes, “Status and power are nonverbally conveyed by height and space. Standing tall, pulling your shoulders back, and holding your head straight are all signals of confidence and competence.”
  4. Physical Contact: Reading, “Psychology of a Handshake,” it states, “A good handshake relates positively to extroversion and emotional expressiveness like sociability and friendliness, while a limp handshake is regarded negatively, as being indicative of shyness, neuroticism, and introversion.  Learn how to give a firm, friendly handshake.
  5. Use the Person’s Name:  As Dale Carnegie states, “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”  There is a great article that talks about everything from using someone’s name you meet at a party to an email I found in the Washington Post, “Career Coach:  The Power of Using a Name.”

These five pieces of advice are all doable.  They are physical and practical.  Once a person has their degree, certification, or diploma, I believe you have the tools to embrace opportunity.  The key is to go forth and “do it.”  Congratulations to all of the newly licensed court reporters, attorneys, financial planners – everyone in the workforce.  I wish all of you great success in your careers.

 

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january 1

New 2016 Law Applies to California Deposition Notices

A new law requires language to be added to Notices of Deposition, AB 1197, effective January 1, 2016, authored by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla.

CA CCP 2025.220 now reads as follows with the addition of section (8): 

California Code of Civil Procedure 2025.220

  1. A party desiring to take the oral deposition of any person shall give notice in writing.

The deposition notice shall state all of the following:

(1) The address where the deposition will be taken.

(2) The date of the deposition, selected under Section 2025.270, and the time it will commence.

(3) The name of each deponent, and the address and telephone number, if known, of any

deponent who is not a party to the action. If the name of the deponent is not known, the

deposition notice shall set forth instead a general description sufficient to identify the person or particular class to which the person belongs.

(4) The specification with reasonable particularity of any materials or category of materials, including any electronically stored information, to be produced by the deponent.

(5) Any intention by the party noticing the deposition to record the testimony by audio or video technology, in addition to recording the testimony by the stenographic method as required by Section 2025.330 and any intention to record the testimony by stenographic method through the instant visual display of the testimony. If the deposition will be conducted using instant visual display, a copy of the deposition notice shall also be given to the deposition officer. Any offer to provide the instant visual display of the testimony or to provide rough draft transcripts to any party which is accepted prior to, or offered at, the deposition shall also be made by the deposition officer at the deposition to all parties in attendance. Any party or attorney requesting the provision of the instant visual display of the testimony, or rough draft transcripts, shall pay the reasonable cost of those services, which may be no greater than the costs charged to any other party or attorney.

(6) Any intention to reserve the right to use at trial a video recording of the deposition testimony of a treating or consulting physician or of any expert witness under subdivision (d) of Section 2025.620. In this event, the operator of the video camera shall be a person who is authorized to administer an oath, and shall not be financially interested in the action or be a relative or employee of any attorney of any of the parties.

(7) The form in which any electronically stored information is to be produced, if a particular form is desired.

(8) (A) A statement disclosing the existence of a contract, if any is known to the noticing party, between the noticing party or a third party who is financing all or part of the action and either of the following for any service beyond the noticed deposition:

(i) The deposition officer

(ii) The entity providing the services of the deposition officer

(B) A statement disclosing that the party noticing the deposition, or a third party financing

all or part of the action, directed his or her attorney to use a particular officer or entity to

provide services for the deposition, if applicable. 

___________________________________________________________________________

Below is sample language that law firms can use to comply with Section (8)

The undersigned counsel has been directed to use the court reporting firm that will be used to report the deposition.  

There is a contract between the party noticing this deposition or the entity financing the litigation and the court reporting firm that will be used to report the deposition.  

The aforementioned contract includes the court reporting firm providing services beyond deposition services.

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Court Reporters Punch Fear

Court Reporters Punch Fear in the Face

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the mastery of it,” said Victor Hugo.

Being a court reporter takes so many skillsets: the ability to write 250+ words per minute accurately, having the intelligence to understand words spoken by every type of expert in the world talking about every subject from mold remediation to DNA sequencing of the human genome, and having to, upon occasion, interact with high-maintenance individuals.

The type of person that becomes a great court reporter is the type of person who knows how to face their fear and master it.

When a person makes the decision to go to court reporting school, they have to take into account only 10 percent of the students actually graduate. They know it could take two, four, six or eight years to become licensed.  To go to court reporting school takes courage and determination, and I would suggest those who face any fear they might have about going to court reporting school, ignore the naysayers that worry for the student and ask, “What is wrong?  Why aren’t you done yet?” have a great career ahead of them.

When a person is first licensed to be a court reporter, there is a fear of all of the “firsts,” first deposition, first hearing, first I.M.E., first arbitration… Great court reporters put their heads down, ask for advice from more seasoned reporters, and take the job.  After 34 years as a court reporter, I still get nervous when I have a “first.”

Because court reporters have a tremendous talent, especially with their real-time skillset, new opportunities are opening up all of the time; for example, there are the court reporters who are reporting the trials at GITMO. I am lucky enough to be a friend of some of those reporters, and I would bet $100 that when they first flew down there they were nervous, and these reporters are some of the most talent court reporters in our nation.  Now, they are a tightknit team, providing amazing instantaneous real-time, scoping and proofing for each other, and have received accolades and praise for their work.

Being a stenographer and transcribing meetings, writing CART, providing closed-captioning are just some of the modern opportunities that court reporters have.

We know the average age of court reporters is 56, 57 in the United States, and the majority are women. I think it is GREAT that as a woman in my mid-50s I have the opportunity to keep walking through my fear/nerves and try new things.  To be honest, I have thought to myself, “I don’t need to learn how to work a webcam and stream video/text.  I can let someone else do it.  I know enough stuff.”  But then I think to myself, “I need to know as much as any other court reporter, so just do it, Rosalie.”  It is about winning.  I remember the first time I provided interactive real-time.  I was super scared, and real-time was so new the attorney stared at the screen the whole day.  He had never seen anything like it before, and he couldn’t help himself and kept stopping the deposition to point out a misstroke or let me know “tier not tear.”  A part of me never wanted to provide real-time again, but then another part of me got mad, and I wasn’t going to let an uneducated attorney stop me from working at getting better, clean up my writing, and then ultimately getting my CRR certification – so there.

This week I reported two public meetings. I didn’t ask any of the reporters that work with me to do them because meetings are always hard, these occurred at night, and it is hard to anticipate what is going to happen or the format.  I wanted to experience the meeting so I could coach court reporters in the future what to expect since we will be doing a series of these. It turned out to be super interesting, everyone there wanted to help me make a record, and they were mesmerized by my real-time screen.

Court reporters are amazing in so many different ways. Having a talent that so few people can master is something to be proud of, and I would suggest trying new things keeps people in their 50s and 60s young.  Punching fear in the face and moving forward is actually fun and is what court reporters do best.

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