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Court reporters, paralegals, legal assistants find time.

Legal Assistants & Paralegals: Turning a Word doc into a Fillable PDF

Paralegals, legal secretaries and others in administrative positions in the legal field deal with many different types of documents.

As a court reporter and owner of a court reporting firm, my staff and I certainly have to deal with our fair share of documents.

Filling out documents and forms sure can be time consuming!

Receiving a Word document that requires multiple blank lines to be filled in can be extremely time consuming.
It is a waste of time to have to print it out, handwrite in the information, scan the document, name it, save it somewhere, and then send it back to the sender.

Looking for a solution, I found the following steps that allows us to reformat a Word document to a fillable PDF and thought it might be helpful if I shared this with you. These steps involve using Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat.

1.  Open the Word document.
2.  Go to “FILE” and then choose “Save as Adobe PDF”. If you do not see this option, choose “PRINT.”  Make sure the printer selected is “ADOBE PDF.”  Click print.
3.  Word will ask you where to save the file.  Choose your desktop or where you want to find the file.
4.  Your computer will create a PDF file, and it will open automatically in Adobe Acrobat editing.
5.  At this point your document is a basic PDF.  Click on “TOOLS.”  Then click “FORMS.”  Then click “CREATE.”
6.  Acrobat will ask which document. Choose “Use an existing file.”  Click “NEXT.”
7.  On the next screen choose “Use the current document.”
8.  Acrobat will try to detect the fillable fields.  You might have to edit some of fields manually.
Acrobat might think decorative lines are to be fillable fields.
9.  If you see a form field that you don’t want to be fillable, click on it.  It will highlight in
blue.  Press the “DELETE” button on your keyboard.  You aren’t deleting the line on your form, just
the fillable field Acrobat set incorrectly.
10.  When you think your form is ready, click the “PREVIEW” button and proof that the fillables are correct.
11.  If you want to make additional edits, click on “Edit” (where “Preview” had been).  You will return to
the form editor.
12.  When you are satisfied with your form, use the “SAVE AS” feature and save the form wherever you wish.

Kramm Court Reporting salutes legal secretaries, legal administrators, and paralegals and we will be posting more articles in the future that we believe will be helpful to you.

@rosaliekramm  (Twitter)

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Tips for Attorneys about Realtime Reporting

9 Tips Attorneys/Realtime Reporting

Having access to the instantaneous transcript provided by a court reporter during a deposition, arbitration, or trial has great value to attorneys. Court reporters can provide the realtime transcript text to attorneys in the deposition suite or courtroom and stream that text to any computer in the world.

The realtime technology has changed in the past two decades. Court reporters used to send the feed via wires (and some still have to in certain courtrooms); then they transitioned to using dongles (USB) ports and routers.  The feed is still for the most part a serial connection which is old technology, but is still the standard.

In my experience 90 percent of the attorneys now rely on court reporters to bring a realtime device (tablet or computer) with the realtime software and drivers already loaded and ready to go.

So what does an attorney that is using realtime need to know?

  1. If you are using CaseNotebook (Thomson Reuters) or TextMap (Lexis Nexis), the court reporter will need to connect to your computer. Popular software that a reporter will use to connect with you: CaseViewNet, LiveLitigation, Stenocast, and Connection Magic.
  2. If the reporter is using LiveLitigation, the reporter can connect locally or stream the realtime text.
  3. If you are using LiveLitigation, CaseViewNet, or Bridge Mobile, you can download free apps to your tablet and  makes notes, marks, and save the transcript as a .ptx file.
  4. If you have installed Bridge on your computer (free software provided by Advantage Software), you can make notes, marks, and export the .ptx file for use in your transcript management software.
  5. The .ptx file once saved in CaseNotebook or TextMap can be updated with the cleaned-up rough draft or final transcript, and you won’t lose your marks and notes made during the realtime transcription.
  6. You can leave the room with your computer or tablet with the realtime transcript during a break, and when you return the transcript will sync back up with the court reporter’s realtime feed when back on the record.
  7. Tip: If you decide to scroll up or mark a portion of the transcript, the realtime feed will stop at the place you are reading/marking. There will always be an icon or a method to turn the scrolling realtime text back on. Ask the court reporter at the beginning of the day how to get back to the scrolling realtime text.
  8. If the reporter is using Stenocast to send the feed, you will need to download drivers into your computer. Go to www.stenocast.com and choose ALL COLORS. Different reporters will have different colored dongles (you don’t need to know why). If you choose all colors, you are covered.

Many realtime court reporters have become techno experts when it comes to serial ports, device managers, and understanding transcript management programs. Our goal is to provide the very best product and service in assisting attorneys in doing their job, and we take great pride in doing so.

 

@rosaliekramm  (Twitter)

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Filing the deposition with court - CA CCP

California Attorneys – Who Files Original Deposition Transcript?

‘Recently I read a stipulation by Southern California attorneys that the court reporter was relieved of his duty to file the original deposition transcript with the court.   Filing the original deposition transcript with the court is not one of the court reporter’s duties.

CA CCP 2025.550 reads: “(a) The certified transcript of a deposition shall not be filed with the court.  Instead, the deposition officer shall securely seal that transcript in an envelope or package endorsed with the title of the action and marked “Deposition of (here insert name of deponent),” and shall promptly transmit it to the attorney who noticed the deposition.  This attorney shall store it under conditions that will protect it against loss, destruction, or tampering.”

Court reporters, Pengad has the perfect envelope with a clear window so that the caption and deponent’s name on the transcript cover page will show through. The Pengad envelope allows for a professional, easy method to seal the transcript and comply with 2025.550.

 

@rosaliekramm (Twitter)

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Filing the deposition with court - CA CCP

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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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.

 

 

 

sittingsmoking-01

Beware Attorneys, Court Reporters, and Legal Videographers “Sitting is the New Smoking”

At a lecture on health by Angel Chelik of Sea Level Workouts, Angel made the statement, “As you’ve probably heard, sitting is the new smoking.”  The audience was made up of court reporters. Angel had everyone’s attention.

Following the lecture, I Googled “Sitting is the new smoking,” and was shocked to find article after article about medical studies and experts writing about the hazards of sitting.

The following are some of the maladies that stem from sitting:

  1. Sitting increases the risk for obesity
  2. Prolonged sitting increases the risk of developing Type II diabetes. Sitting for extended periods of time effects blood sugar levels and insulin in the body.
  3. Frequent sitters are susceptible to muscle issues. (No kidding.)
  4. LPL or lipoprotein lipase is an enzyme that breaks down fat and uses it as energy. When the enzyme is not working as it should, fat is stored.
  5. Sitting makes it more difficult for the “feel-good” hormones to reach the receptors; therefore sitting for long periods of time is associated with a higher risk of developing depression.
  6. Heart disease
  7. Perhaps colon cancer and other types of cancers.

Mayo Clinic endocrinologist, James A. Levine, M.D., made the statement in a recent New York Times article, “Excessive sitting is a lethal activity.” Levine subsequently created the idea of the “treadmill desk.” Mike Miller, NCRA Director, would attest to the benefits of the treadmill desk.

Reading a Pittsburgh Quarterly article, “Is sitting the new smoking,” Marc T. Hamilton, of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center of Baton Rouge, LA, stated, “As soon as we sit, electrical activity in our leg muscles stop, impacting a variety of metabolic pathways influencing heart disease and diabetes. For example, an enzyme that acts like the vacuum cleaner for blood fat is shut off, leading to other effects of on cholesterol metabolism.”

What is disappointing is researchers are finding that the ill effects of prolonged sitting can’t be fixed with a gym workout. “’Even if people meet the current recommendation of 30 minutes of physical activity on most days each week, there may be significant adverse metabolic and health effects from prolonged sitting, concluded the authors of a 2009 editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.”

What can we do? Hamilton states, “Any type of brief, yet frequent muscle contraction throughout the day, may be necessary to short-circuit unhealthy molecular signals causing metabolic diseases.”

So what does this mean for court reporters, legal videographers, and attorneys who have to sit through depositions? With the seven-hour rule in place, many depositions last eight to nine hours with a timed seven-hour sit-down. And because the testimony is crucial, and time is of the essence, the breaks are quick. I know I have sat through breaks editing the transcript and replying to emails; thus, I don’t even stand up for four hours at a time.

My goal is to become more disciplined and force myself to stand and walk around the room, do something, during breaks, maybe create an exercise room at the Discovery Conference Centre. When no one is looking I will do some shoulder and open-the-chest exercises. I do notice after getting the blood circulating, when we go back on the record, I write cleaner and faster.

I don’t know of an easy solution for court reporters. Having a standing tripod? That might feel great for a two-hour stint during a deposition or trial. If anyone uses a standing tripod, please let me know what you think. I would suggest that videographers stand occasionally during depositions. I have seen attorneys and witnesses ask for permission to stand during examinations because of back pain, and everyone in the room immediately says, “Please stand whenever you need to. Don’t even ask.” I believe most people who have had any type of back or knee issues could attest that sitting causes discomfort. I know of two judges in San Diego that stand while on the bench.

I wanted to share my research with everyone in my wonderful profession as well as all of the sitters in the legal professions. Let’s all stand up for our bodies. We deserve it!

 

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request a transcript

How to Get a Transcript or Video of a Witness if You Are Not a Party to the Case – CA CCP

Once or twice a year our court reporting firm gets a request from an attorney to purchase a deposition transcript of a witness, and that attorney does not represent anyone in the case. Because Kramm has archived past depositions, exhibits, and video, the testimony is available. When we get the call from the attorney making the request, typically she/he is not quite sure how to go about getting the transcript. We will send 2025.570 to the attorney and ask if they want us to proceed and mail out the notice letter. The notice letter will trigger the 30-day clock wherein a party to the case can seek a protective order so that the deposition testimony cannot be sold to the requesting party.

Note: 2025.570 shall only apply to recorded testimony taken at depositions occurring on or after January 1, 1998.

The code section reads as follows:

2025.570. (a) Notwithstanding subdivision (b) of Section 2025.320, unless the court issues an order to the contrary, a copy of the transcript of the deposition testimony made by, or at the direction of, any party, or an audio or video recording of the deposition testimony, if still in the possession of the deposition officer, shall be made available by the deposition officer to any person requesting a copy, on payment of a reasonable charge set by the deposition officer.

                (b) If a copy is requested from the deposition officer, the deposition officer shall mail a notice to all parties attending the deposition and to the deponent at the deponent’s last known address advising them of all of the following:

                (1) The copy is being sought.

                (2) The name of the person requesting the copy.

                (3) The right to seek a protective order under Section 2025.420.

               (c) If a protective order is not served on the deposition officer within 30 days of the mailing of the notice, the deposition officer shall make the copy available to the person requesting the copy.

                (d) This section shall apply only to recorded testimony taken at depositions occurring on or after January 1, 1998.

This method of obtaining transcripts and video only applies to cases filed in California State Courts.

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Rough Draft Photo

CALIFORNIA ATTORNEYS WERE SHOCKED – YOU MAY NOT CITE ROUGH DRAFT TRANSCRIPTS

At a recent presentation to attorneys and paralegals, I pulled up a slide that referenced California CCP 2025.540(b). I asked the audience, “Does anyone ever cite to a rough draft transcript in court for a motion or hearing, in a brief?” The majority of the participants said, “Yes, all of the time.”

When the next slide came up with the code language, the attorneys and paralegals were shocked. One person stated, “But the Courts allow it.”   The code does not allow attorneys to use any portion of rough draft transcripts in court.  I suggested that CCP 2025.540(b) could be used to argue the admissibility of an opposing party’s brief when the rough draft was cited.

The code section reads as follows:  2025.540(b): When prepared as a rough draft transcript, the transcript of the deposition may not be certified and may not be used, cited, or transcribed as the certified transcript of the deposition proceedings. The rough draft may not be cited or used in any way or at any time to rebut or contradict the certified transcript of deposition proceedings as provided by the deposition offer.

The solution to citing portions of a deposition transcript would be to order an expedited transcript from the court reporter or order a final partial transcript that contains the testimony needed for the brief.

Note: If a partial transcript is ordered and provided to one party, all other parties in the case have the right and opportunity to know what portion was ordered and purchase the partial transcript as well pursuant to 2025.510(d), which reads: If the deposition officer receives a request from a party for an original or a copy of the deposition transcript, or any portion thereof, and the full or partial transcript will be available to that party prior to the time the original or copy would be available to any other party, the deposition officer shall immediately notify all other parties attending the deposition of the request, and shall, upon request by any party other than the party making the original request, make that copy of the full or partial deposition transcript available to all parties at the same time.

Rough draft transcripts are incredibly valuable to litigators when prepping for future witnesses and having testimony available immediately after a deposition, court proceeding, or in an arbitration. Court reporters typically insert a statement at the beginning of the rough draft to warn the readers that the rough is not to be used in court. The rules that apply to rough drafts are important for attorneys to know.

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Filing the deposition with court - CA CCP

Court Reporters and Codes, Rules, and Geographic Stipulations – We Have to Know It All

Court reporters don’t have the luxury of assuming different states and regions all operate in the same way or have the same rules and laws that apply. When reporting a deposition in a matter that is in a jurisdiction that is not familiar, it is important to pay attention and ask questions. There may be stipulations that are typical in certain states or geographical areas. For instance, the waiving of signature is rare in California and typical in other parts of the country or certain types of litigation, such as asbestos. If the signature is waived, it should be noted, and no signature line be provided. Out of habit or a macro, I have seen court reporters insert signature lines and penalty of perjury clauses on transcripts when they are not called for.

Some states are known to court reporters as “nonwrite-up states.” Those are the states wherein attorneys have the custom and habit of not having a deposition transcribed until they believe they will need the transcript for a hearing or trial. California is not one of the nonwrite-up states.

What California is, and which is unique, is it’s a state with a code section that gives the court reporter direction as to whom to charge for the transcript if opposing counsel orders it transcribed and the noticing attorney has asked that the court reporter to not transcribe the stenographic notes.

California Codes, Code of Civil Procedure Section 2025.510 (a) reads: Unless the parties agree otherwise, the testimony at any deposition recorded by stenographic means shall be transcribed. (b) The party noticing the deposition shall bear the cost of that transcription, unless the court, on motion and for good cause shown, orders that the cost be borne or shared by another party.

I have had the situation in which one of my clients has asked that a transcript not be produced. The opposing counsel wants to purchase a copy. In this scenario, I believe this code section triggers the noticing attorney to have the responsibility to pay for the original and one, even if she/he doesn’t want the transcript, unless the parties come to an agreement otherwise.

I understand that Washington State is a nonwrite-up state, and there is no such language in their state codes. Therefore, the Washington State court reporters have to be very careful and not assume a transcript will be written up, always ask; and if opposing counsel orders a copy, it has to be very clear who is going to pay for the transcribing of the original and one. Florida is another nonwrite-up state. I am sure there are others.

Being a great court reporter takes a lot of skill other than just writing steno fast. They have to know the laws that govern their profession. It truly is amazing how wonderful court reporters are and what they do every day. I am proud to be a court reporter.

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Court Reporters and Legal Videographers – Beware of Address Searches on the Internet

Filling out an appearance page for a deposition or court transcript takes time and concentration. Everything has to be correct. Getting an attorney’s card is the best way to ensure you have the correct information, but as everyone knows many attorneys forget to bring their cards.

Plan B would be to go to the internet. I believe a best practice is to go onto a law firm’s website to get contact information, including the email address. Sometimes with smaller law firms, because attorneys are worried about keeping their information private, the email address is not published.

Plan C would be to go onto the state bar’s website. The California State Bar has an attorney listing website with the name, address, phone number and a high percentage of the time the email address.

I would not use Google Maps as a tool to find a lawyer’s address. In the past month I have found a doctor’s office address to be completely incorrect, and when I called the doctor’s office to confirm their address, they were shocked to hear that Google Maps had it wrong. This week one of our reporters had an incorrect zip code found in Google Maps.

I believe every court reporter’s appearance page in the modern transcript should include the name of the law firm, attorney’s name, address, phone number, and email address. Every great reporter has correct appearances.

@rosaliekramm

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