Bogart

Bogart Sleeping At Work

Bogart Sleeping At Work

Bogart in Aries Room

Bogart in Aries Room

Here you see Bogart.  He is our mascot and keeps us grounded.  Bogart knows he is in a very formal office and stays 98% of the time in his bed.  Sometimes he will sleep on the floor, but as you can see he is always ready for the FedEx guy to come over and throw the ball.

You might ask, “Why would a court reporting firm have a mascot?”  The answer is simple.  Bogart makes us smile and laugh.  There was one time we were a little worried about him because he decided to be bad and ran away for two hours.  We don’t know where he went.  He  sure got into trouble when he came back, opening the front door with his nose and walking in all lotty-dah.  Allison would hardly look at him the rest of the day and gave him the silent treatment.

We have clients come take depositions at our office.  Our conference room is upstairs, and most people don’t notice Bogart.  When a stranger does see Bogart in his bed, he/she inevitably smile and want to talk to him.  He is very polite and only visits when he is approached by someone else first.

I think everyone should have a mascot in their office.  The world would be a happier place.

rosalie@kramm.com

Allison’s Art

Allison's Art

Allison

I am lucky enough to be surrounded by a wonderful staff.  Allison runs our production department.  Allison started at Kramm Court Reporting on September 1, 2006.  As you can see by the photo, Allison is artsy.  She found an old manual steno machine out back.  She secretly took it home, found a perfect little table for it, and planted happy yellow daisies in a pot.

Allison and Sheri (Sheri works with Allison in production) share what is known as the Aries room (the production room).  Both Allison and Sheri are Aries. A lot of our reporters are Aries.  I think the Aries people have formed a little informal club and like to hang out in the Aries room.  It is a peaceful room with the window typically open, a candle burning, and our mascot Bogart sleeping in his bed.  Bogart comes to work every day and keeps us sane.  I believe having one of God’s creatures in our office keeps us grounded.  He stays in the Aries room 98% of the time, only coming out for treats from Steve and Clark and to play ball with our FedEx guy.  Sometimes Walter comes over with Linda (an Aries reporter) and Walter and Bogart play together.

It might sound like all fun and games around here.  I can assure you Allison and Sheri and all of the Aries reporters work really hard.  Our production department gets things done right and on time.

rosalie@kramm.com

 

The Summit – The Sun and Stars

I am proud of my team.  Kramm Court Reporting is about to host Summit II.  Our first Summit was at the W Hotel in August 2008.  We had 14 reporters there along with Chris Jordan and Clark Wilson.  Clark runs our calendar and Chris, as you might know by now, runs video and technology.  Clark was in charge of coordinating all of the details for The Summit.  He did a marvelous job.  The food was amazing.  Clark knows how to throw a party.

We introduced the exciting new innovative technology that Kramm Court Reporting is doing for our clients.  The reporters were incredibly wonderful in embracing everything we were showing off.

I believe the best part of Summit I is the fact that reporters did some of the presenting.  Lynn Penfield went through and showed everyone all of her “gadgets” and magic ways of being organized.  Lynn is a Virgo through and through.  She shared everything from a laundry bag that folds up and can hold exhibits to how to have her depo assignments go straight to Outlook and how she could send Clark her days off electronically.

Then Jane Bramblett talked about Sugarsync.  It is a sweet way to send massive files (wav files) that costs 0.0.

Linda Pool and Nichole Miller shared their experiences with wireless realtime.

On January 24, 2009, we will hold Summit II.  We have a full house.

I know from experience many firms have reporters that would rather not help their fellow reporters be better than themselves.  It is human nature in the freelance world to take care of yourself and be jealous of people who might get a job that you want.   We all suffer from the same crippling disease of jealousy sometime or other.

About 16 years ago I was in Puerto Vallarta to take a deposition.  I was sitting by the pool with my wise friend, Patty O’Neil, who had come along to keep me company.  The depo was only about two hours long, so there was time for fun.  Patty is super wise.  She gave me some wonderful advice.  She said, “Rosalie, why don’t you just be the sun that shines light on the people around you and let them be stars?”  Her words totally resonated with me.  I knew that by holding back what I know to “be better than everyone else” was wrong and actually went against my nature.  It takes practice and consciousness to break the bad habits of jealousy, but the payoff is marvelous.

What is happening is the individual reporters get to be the sun and shine on each other during our Summit.  Our team is stronger than ever.  The feedback from the reporters is positive.  Everyone is becoming empowered.  Everyone gets to be a star.  The energy is addictive.

I would wish for all my profession that we can alternate being the sun and the stars.  I love court reporting.   I would love it if our profession could shine on the world of litigation and make this a better place.

rosalie@kramm.com

The Wall Street Journal

About two years ago I decided that I needed to know more about the world and particularly finances.  As a court reporter, I am privy to hearing about almost every subject on the planet.  I am attracted to complex business litigation and intellectual property because both subjects are fascinating and completely out of my “box.”  I have a basic high school education.  I was a C, B student.  I really struggled with math and science.  I took the minimum amount of math classes in high school (2) to graduate and barely got through them.  I tried really hard, but my mind didn’t work that way.

So two years ago I set a new goal, understanding high finance and the marketplace.  In my mind’s eye I see people of my past who would read this raising their eyebrows, thinking, “Rosalie trying to understand market fluctuations?  Short selling?  She is dreaming.”  That is my old, negative thinking at work.  I scoff at those thoughts.

Two years ago I subscribed to The Wall Street Journal – hard copy every morning on my front porch and online access.  Before subscribing to The Journal, I had always loved reading The Wall Street Journal when I was traveling, staying at a hotel that gave me access to it.  I kind of thought The Wall Street Journal was for super sophisticated people who did complicated business, and I was sneaking into their world as an imposter when I got my hands on a paper.

So for the past two years I have gone through the Journal on a daily basis.  My rule is that I at least read all of the headlines and the first two paragraphs of every article.  If I am bored or totally lost, I just move on.  I’d say about one-third to two-thirds of the paper I read completely.

It just hit me today that I am really starting to get it.  I understand so much more than I did two years ago.  I am reading more of the articles all the way through.  Being a firm owner, I am becoming more confident because I am learning that the “super sophisticated businesspeople” share a lot of the same insecurities, decision making quandries, and need for advice as I do.  Of course, they are in a league of their own, but when it comes to business acumen and philosophy, it is incredibly interesting to find out how these people think, and I try to find parallels with my business and learn from them.

I still struggle with percentages and ratios.  Luckily, I have smart people around me who can get me answers.  I have found reading The Wall Street Journal has absolutely made the world bigger for me.  I feel connected to the international economy as well as the US economy – not just California and San Diego.  My “box” has expanded.

The economy sucks right now.  That is just the way it is.  I believe the more I understand what businesses around the world are going through, the better I can protect my business and my people, make smart decisions, and weather the storm.

I love my Wall Street Journal.  I would encourage everyone to read it.  You don’t have to be a big business exec.

rosalie@kramm.com

New Year, New Beginning, New Best Practice – Order Forms

Now that 2009 is finally here, I want to start the new year with new best practices.  As our industry shifts, both firm owners and independent court reporters need to become more “businesslike.”  What does that mean?

Court reporting firms throughout the nation are requiring transcript order forms to ensure payment of transcripts.    The reporter is the one onsite who gets the order forms filled out.  Many reporters don’t want to get into the business of having order forms be filled out.  Attorneys don’t want to always sign them.  Reporters are shy to ask for the form to be filled out.  Attorneys run out at the end of the deposition and are not interested in filling out forms.

Why do reporters have to get these filled out?  Why do they have to get into the middle of the whole thing?  The answer is more and more attorneys are not paying their bills and/or are refusing transcripts.  We as an industry need to become more businesslike.  Contracts are a typical part of every business from gyms to janitors.  Some attorneys get their rough draft and never plan on paying for a final transcript and sometimes won’t even accept the COD for the certified copy.  The “old days” are gone when attorneys are trusted to pay for their copies.  Even though you might get the order on the record, having a signed order form is a contract, and if an agency has to take the attorney to small claims, having that signed order form is a contract.

I have talked to Jon Imel, one of our videographers, who does a really good job getting the forms filled out.  Here are his tips:  (1) Fill out the generic part of the form, and then have the attorney just initial the order and sign the form.  It saves the attorney time.  (2)  Start early, either before the deposition begins or at the first break.   Ask, “Counsel, are you going to be ordering a copy of the transcript?”  Then you can follow up and say, “A rough draft will be available following the deposition if you would like it sent to you.  Just let me know.”

For attorneys you are not familiar with, use the form.  If the attorney does dozens of depositions with our firm, don’t worry about getting it filled out or signed.  If you don’t know if the attorney does work with Kramm and the attorney says, “I have done work with Kramm for years,” you can quietly check with the office and confirm the relationship.

The order forms are important.  I have found attorneys like them because they don’t leave the deposition having forgotten to order their rough draft or order an expedite.  The sooner you know as the reporter what to expect, the better off you are.  No one wants the phone call when you are in another deposition asking for a rough or an expedite.

I wish everyone a fabulous 2009.  Let’s go out there and be better than ever.

rosalie@kramm.com

Holiday, Gifts and the Economy

As the song goes, it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  It is the day after Thanksgiving and the stores have Christmas trees, lights, and huge sales.  Yesterday I went out to “dip my toe” in holiday shopping to see if it would be crazy out there or not.  I found the stores to be relatively empty and no lines at the checkout counters.  That is good for me, bad for the economy.

Every year since 1985 I have given all of my clients champagne in December to say, “Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.”  Over the years the cases of champagne that I ordered grew and grew.  I loved the feeling of giving gifts to people I truly love working for and respect.

This year is different.  I have seen on TV and read in the newspaper how the food banks across the USA are almost empty this year.  There are so many more people who need help to feed their families and so many people who are used to giving to their charities cannot afford to.

In my heart and soul, I know that my clients would be much happier if I gave the dollars that I would spend on champagne to feed a hungry child or hungry senior citizen living in downtown San Diego. There are a lot of charities that need dollars.  I have decided to give a donation in the name of my clients to charities that feed people.  The charities include the Potiker Family Senior Residence, the San Diego Food Bank, the Salvation Army, and Father Joe.

Please send any comments to rosalie@kramm.com.

A Court Reporter in Russia

In early October of this year, I was lucky enough to go to Russia with NCRA through People to People with a delegation of court reporters.  Past Presidents Merilyn Sanchez and Laurel Eiler were our leaders.  35 court reporters spent 10 days seeing the historic sites of Moscow and St. Petersburg and meeting with attorneys, judges, and court secretaries (court reporters) of Russia.

In Russia the person who is in charge of the official court record is a court secretary.  To be a court secretary, a person must first be an attorney.  Being a court secretary in Russia is considered to be a stepping stone on the journey to becoming a judge.  70% of the judges of Russia began as a court secretary.

Court secretaries do not create a verbatim record of a courtroom proceeding.  Rather, the court secretary takes what we would consider to be minutes of a trial and documents the “important events” of a trial.  The newer courthouses are putting in ER to supplement and back up the “minutes” as recorded by the court secretary.

There are many similarities between the USA court system and the Russian court system.  They do have jury trials.  One difference is if a person is found to be not guilty in a criminal trial, the prosecution can appeal the decision to a higher court.  There is no double jeopardy.

One of the highlights of the trip was going to the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation.  It is a court that considers cases relating to the compliance of the federal laws.  It is the first judicial body of constitutional review in the history of Russia.  The Court was created in October 1991, after Soviet time.  In its very first decisions, the Constitutional Court confirmed the supremacy of international human rights law.

As a delegation, every representative of the court system who spoke to us was very open.  We were never told we couldn’t touch on a certain subject or ask specific types of questions.

In the past I might have been hesitant to accept a reporting job in Russia thinking it might be difficult or intimidating.  I would encourage any reporter who gets the opportunity to travel to Russia to go.  It is a beautiful country.  The people are kind.  It is safe.

Have your passport ready just in case you get the call, “Can you go to Russia to cover a deposition?”  (You will need a visa – go to http://www.passportvisasexpress.com)

Why I Use a Scopist

I have been a working reporter since August of 1981.  I have always prided myself in being a hard worker, being efficient, and getting it right.  My pride got in my way for 25 years.  I thought I could scope faster, better, and smarter than anyone in the world.  Being a hard worker, and wanting to be a great reporter, I would write 2000 – 3000 pages a month.  I loved reporting, loved my clients, and loved producing a beautiful transcript.

My work ethic meant great sacrifice.  As any reporter knows, if someone is writing 200 – 300 pages a day, three or four days a week, that reporter will be working nights and weekends to get the work out.  If there was an expedite and I was slated to report again the next day, I would say, “No problem,” put my head down and find time everywhere, anywhere I could.  I would work through lunches, breaks, get home, make myself spaghetti, pour out the water, mix the marinara sauce in, and basically eat it out of the pot because I didn’t have time to put it on a plate and relax.

Kramm Court Reporting was founded in 1985.  So on top of getting out transcripts I was running a business.  On top of that I was refereeing soccer games at a professional level (NASL, MISL, CISL) as well as refereeing college, high school, men leagues, and little kids.

My life might have sounded pathetic, but I was happy to be the hard working reporter who could get out perfect transcripts fast.  I was building my reputation and my business.  I believed my life was GREAT.  Even now I don’t regret those years of hard work.  Those years taught me a lot.

But about five years ago, I started getting a tingling feeling that life was passing me by.  Every Saturday morning I would get up, get my coffee, have my computer set up from the night before, and start working.  I had weekend rules.  I would work seven to eight hours on a Saturday and only four hours on a Sunday.  Sometimes the Sundays became another eight hours, but it meant on Monday I could start over again with all of my transcripts out – ready to start another week of depos.

At least I was getting great meals – Chris Jordan is my personal chef.

I needed to take baby steps in giving up control.  First I started with a proofer.  I still believed I needed to scope my jobs since I was physically present at the depositions and would remember little nuances of the day.  That lasted about a year.  My proofer wanted to become a scopist.  She didn’t know steno, but she had a degree in biology and was a ghost writer for Sea World.  She is a smart woman.  That tingling feeling about life passing me by was getting stronger.  She got the Eclipse scoping package.  My audio was working well.  We went for it.

To make a long story short, I will write a 250+ page day.  She starts working on it the next morning.  I have it back for proofing within two to three days.  If I were working all of the time, that would allow me to go back the next day to the job.  When I think about the fact that my job the day before is being worked on, I feel empowered and energized.

As a firm owner, if I know a reporter has a good scopist, I am more inclined to give that reporter the “big case,” because I know if it becomes an expedite, their whole world doesn’t stop.  If the attorneys call that night and ask for it to be done in two days, the reporter has a solution.  It doesn’t have to become panic time, and the reporter doesn’t have to be off calendar the next day.

Once in a while I will still scope a job.  I think it is kind of fun.  I am careful to get in as many globals and proper names as I can during a job.  If the witness or attorneys are particularly difficult, and I think the transcript needs me, I will scope it and let my scopist proof it.  I trust my scopist.  I know she listens.  Our video department syncs transcripts to the video.  I know if the transcript syncs or not.

My pride is still intact, but it doesn’t get in the way of having fun and having a more full life.  There is one thing I know for sure.  The people who talk about balance and success are correct.  Having a good scopist, trusting others, will lead to a better life.

Rosalie’s Business Travel Gadgets

I find myself traveling all of the time for depositions, conferences, and meetings.  Thanks to Chris Jordan’s influence, I have learned how to be more efficient with my time and enjoy being on the road.  Chris loves all things technical.  He researches, reads, and pays attention to what others are doing.

I want to share some of the “gadgets” that I bring on every trip.

  1. COBRA POWER INVERTER (www.cobra.com) – Model CPI-150-BK – Business and First Class airplanes typically have a power source in each row.  Select rows in coach also have a power source.  I plug in the Cobra Power Inverter, and it allows me to plug in my laptop, charger for my phone, or even power my IPOD if it is getting low.  The Cobra Power Inverter also can be used with a cigarette lighter in your rental car if you are running out of battery.  (Cost:  approx. $69)
  2. BLACKBERRY phone for GPS.  I get lost easily when I am driving around a new city, or I might be in NYC walking around looking for an address of a building I need to get to.  My Blackberry has a GPS function.  I can use it to see where I am and/or to find a destination.  I understand the Iphone and Instinct phone have a similar function.
  3. GARMIN GPS – If we are taking an extensive trip with lots of driving, we bring along our GARMIN to help us find our destination, find restaurants, and points of interest.  Chris will put in all of the addresses we might need on the trip before we leave home so we are ready to go the moment we get into our rental car.
  4. BOSE headset – I love listening to my IPOD.  Familiar music makes traveling so much more relaxing and even fun.  Sitting in a plane where there might be lots of commotion, crying, and ambient noise, there is nothing better than my BOSE headset to drown it all out.
  5. SPRINT air card – I need to be online for email and internet research constantly.  I have my card ready to go at every opportunity.  If I have a 45-minute layover in Dallas, I am up and running the moment we land.  As a court reporter and firm owner, time is always of the essence.  Everything is an expedite.  I need Google to be ready to go.  (BTW – I am online during every deposition with my air card – it saves me time over and over again.)

When traveling as a reporter, I have more tricks and tips that are geared towards reporting on the road.  That information will be shared in an upcoming travel blog.

Wireless Realtime

About a year ago I was at a STAR seminar in which Mike Miller (Depoman.com) presented.  He talked about wireless realtime.  This is realtime in which the reporter doesn’t have to use cables to connect to attorneys’ serial ports or USB-to-serial connections.  The reporter would just use a router box to send a feed “wirelessly” to a USB port on an attorney’s computer.  It sounded intriguing.

I contacted the company who sells the technology, Stenocast (stenocast.com).  They were in beta mode with a new product and had nothing available.  I couldn’t wait to do a realtime depo with no wires on the table.  I trusted that if Mike Miller was touting it, it was going to be something great.

Then in March of 2008 the package finally came.  Chris Jordan is a stickler for trying out new technology before you even think you might need it out on a job.  (It is a good trait even though it is sometimes irritating.)  So we set up five laptops all around our conference room table one Saturday morning.  I am an Eclipse writer.  I sent out the usual Caseview 2400 feed.  We installed the Stenocast driver on all of the “client” laptops.  We had two Sonys, two Fujitsus, and a Dell laptop.  Some had a serial port and some did not.

We put the little blue flickering-light USB thumb drives in each client computer.  Chris went through and found the serial comport and assigned it to the software on the client computers.  We were running both Bridge and LiveNote on the different client computers.

I am not kidding.  It worked the first time with each laptop.  We were high-fiving and feeling really good about everything.

Since then four of our reporters have gone wireless.  There are some lessons we have learned in the field:

  1. Get to depositions early or the day before to install the Stenocast driver on the attorney’s computer.  If the attorney has an older version of LiveNote, you might not be able to use the Stenocast because you are going to be using comports that can range from 7 – 16.  The older versions of LiveNote don’t give the option for the higher port numbers.  This is never a problem with Bridge.  Bridge can handle any comport number.
  2. Buy the Stenocast product that allows for a serial port with a cable.  Many times one person in the depo room doesn’t (a) want wireless; or (b) can’t use it because of the issues I discussed in Item 1 above.
  3. Have the attorneys who want to be online wirelessly during the deposition (to check their email or surf the Internet) get on the web before you start the realtime feed.  If they decide to go onto the web with a wireless connection during the deposition, it will knock out your feed, and they will have to reboot.  It is not a big deal to reboot, but it can freak out attorneys.
  4. Sometimes if an attorney uses an air card to be on the Internet, it will block the serial port.  You will need to ask the attorney not to have the air card physically in the PCM slot if he/she wants realtime.

Be ready for anything.  One of the “hassles” of the wireless realtime is your CAT software settings.  If you transmit the realtime feed through a PCM card or USB port, the comport number is going to change.  You will have to be ready to change your realtime settings back and forth.  It’s not hard.  It just takes a couple of extra steps before a job – another reason to be at a realtime deposition 30 minutes before the stated time (hopefully with the client’s laptop already available).

Kramm Court Reporting is embracing wireless technology.  Our clients have been impressed.  If an attorney shows up with no Keyspan or Belkin USB-to-serial adaptor or doesn’t have the drivers, this is a perfect solution.  The technology works.  If you have any questions, please contact me at rosalie@kramm.com.