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.

Relationships

Welcome to Rosalie’s blog.  My purpose in writing this blog is to share information with attorneys, legal secretaries, paralegals, court reporters and videographers – anyone who can benefit from the knowledge I have.

The one thing I know for sure is that relationships are the key to success.  My relationship with all of you is extremely important to me.  I became a court reporter in 1981, started my company, Kramm Court Reporting, in 1985.  Since then I have reported thousands and thousands of depositions and have traveled the world as a court reporter.  I have sat on state boards and served as the president of DRA (Deposition Reporters Association of California).  I currently belong to six associations related to court reporting and sit on the STAR (Society for the Technological Advancement of Reporting) board.

I have partnered with Chris Jordan, Legal Video Specialist, Jordan Media, Inc.  Chris began as a legal videographer with AJL in 1982 after receiving a degree in film from UCSD.  He then founded Jordan Media, Inc., in 1998.  Chris, too, has a long history with the court reporting/legal video field.  He has videotaped thousands and thousands of depositions and has worked with some of the most prestigious attorneys in San Diego – pretrial and during trial – supporting paralegals and attorneys in court.

Chris and I met at a deposition on August 2, 1994.  We were married in 1999.

Court Reporting/Legal Video is our passion.  We both have the same philosophy of serving our clients with the best of everything – service, technology, and integrity.  We want you to look good for your clients.

Kramm Court Reporting and Jordan Media, Inc. will share information freely.  Chris and I take great pride in who we are and what we do.  We believe in relationships.

It is an honor to have this opportunity to blog our knowledge for the world to read.