This book attempts to provide answers to questions I receive frequently from court reporters about a variety of topics from how to correctly fill out a jobsheet to how to handle a particular type of situation to where to find information on something. This is a how-to manual for new and old reporters alike. Watch for an upcoming summer of 2010 workshop near you.
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Transitioning from Student to Professional Court Reporter
By Pam Gwin Coder
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2009 Pam Gwin Coder
All right reserved.
Chapter OneI'M ALMOST A REAL REPORTER. NOW WHAT?
You've finished reporting school or are about to. You are getting ready to take or have taken your state test, if your state has one. What should you do now? Well, first of all, you need to find a mentor or two or three. Every beginning reporter, and for that matter, every reporter, should have someone they can go to when they have questions. Your mentor should be someone who teaches you what they know about reporting. There's so much to learn and absorb that you can't possibly get it all in school. Your mentor should teach you the proper way to fill out jobsheets, order forms for attorneys, and anything else they think will help you as you begin your journey in the wonderful career of court reporting. You must find a good mentor. Go out with as many reporters as you feel necessary until you find someone you feel comfortable with in asking questions. The more questions you ask, the better. In my opinion, you can never ask too many questions. That's how you learn. Go out to different types of jobs: depositions, hearings, arbitrations, court work. There's a multitude of different types of jobs out there. Don't get stuck going to only onething. Experience what's out there. The more you experience, the more prepared you will be when it comes time to go out on your own.
Most school programs have internships that require you to spend 50 or 60 hours of writing time with a reporter. Do it. It's a very important part of your training. If your school doesn't have this program, do it for yourself. Keep track of how many hours you spend writing. If you don't know any reporters, don't worry. Call a local reporting firm in your area and ask if you can go out on a job with one of their reporters. Most reporters I know would be happy to help you out.
It's also a good idea to spend some time at a firm learning the ropes of how everything fits together. Go spend a few days at a reporting firm in the production department or scheduling department and see how jobs are assigned and what the final product looks like. You can never have enough knowledge about how things are done. You know that saying "knowledge is power"? It's so true. Know your craft.
Next, it's time to choose your software and writer. This is your most important job. Do not, and I repeat, do not decide your writer and software based on what you used at school. Your software is something you will probably use for your entire career as a reporter. You must like working with it and feel comfortable with it. Your writer is also very important. I personally, because I write almost every day, purchase a new writer every three to four years. Remember, reporting is your business. You must have the proper equipment to keep your business running smoothly. You must make sure that the writer you choose works with the software you're interested in, also.
If your school has "vendor" days, where the different reporting vendors come to your school with equipment, go. Try everything. Ask questions. Write on the writers. What feels comfortable to you? What works with your hand position? Never choose your equipment based on the fact that other people bought this one, so it must be good. This is a very important decision not only because of the amount of money involved, but because it will be your source of income.
There are a multitude of software/writer vendors out there. I am going to list the ones I'm aware of here. Please check for yourself in case I leave off anyone. Advantage Software - Eclipse; AristoCAT; Cheetah International, Inc.; Gigatron Software Corporation - StenoCAT; ProCAT; Stenograph, LLC - Case CATalyst; Stenovations - DigitalCAT; Treal.
If your school doesn't have vendor days, call these vendors on your own and ask to try out their equipment. Ask if they're going to be at a seminar near you so that you can try them out. Most vendors will be at the big seminars, like the NCRA seminars. Go. You need to experience these seminars for yourself. Go to the student seminars and spend a day with the vendors trying out their equipment and asking any questions you have.
Remember that you can lease your equipment if you can't pay for it all at once. When you've decided on your writer and software, if they're not from the same company, don't forget to ask your software vendor if the writer you've chosen works with their software. That would be tragic if they didn't work together. Very important.
Now that you've chosen the all-important equipment, it's time to choose your computer. Do you want a desktop to work with at home? Do you want to just use your laptop? What size is best? Well, these are questions you have to answer for yourself. I personally like to use a smaller laptop to carry every day to my jobs. Please, please, please, carry your laptop to your depositions. Being able to see what's coming up on your screen at your jobs will help you improve your writing tremendously. You can add words to your dictionary on breaks. You can work when the attorneys leave you sitting there. It's a timesaver. I never carry a computer over 14". They're just too heavy or burdensome. My current one is a 13.3". You also don't want one too small.
How do you know which brand to purchase and what you need in your computer? Well, after you've chosen your software, you go to the vendor's website and see what their recommendations are. Every vendor has a list of requirements listed for their software for how much memory, et cetera, is needed for their particular software. I always call my tech support people for my software vendor and ask them what brand they recommend. My first question is always: Which computers are you having no problems with. Then they give me a list. Some software vendors also sell computers with their software preloaded. You can buy your computer and everything through that one vendor.
I also have a desktop at home to use in case I have any problems with my laptop at any time. You should always have a backup, whether it's a desktop at home or another laptop. Backups are very important in this profession. I personally upgrade my computer every two to three years. Then I take the old one, keep the software updated, and use it as a backup or for realtime jobs or for a student to use when I'm mentoring them. Consider the computer one of your overhead expenses.
On a personal note, I almost always buy my computers at Best Buy. I purchase the cheapest extended warranty that gives me the free power supply. Power supplies run around $80 to $100, which is the cost typically of the warranty. A power supply is the electrical cord connection from your computer to the wall outlet. These have a tendency to wear out with extended use. In my household, with little doggies running around, something invariably happens to my power supply, as in it gets chewed on if I'm not careful. Then you just call Best Buy within the warranty period and get a new power supply. Kills two birds with one stone, so to speak. You get a power supply that you would have had to pay for anyway, and you also have a warranty in case of computer problems. Always do your own research and choose the brand that's most compatible with your software. I advise plugging in at all jobs. Don't run on battery power. You don't know how long the job will go. If you run out of battery power, you won't have your audiosync backup.
Okay. You have your equipment. Now what? Now, if you haven't already, you should join NCRA. Why, you ask? Well, because NCRA has a multitude of services for reporters from equipment insurance to continuing education seminars. Most homeowner's insurance policies do not cover your reporting equipment if it's outside of your home when something happens to it. I personally have my equipment insurance coverage through the NCRA program.
I pay less than $300 a year for $15,000 worth of coverage. I highly recommend this program. If you lease your equipment, the company you lease from may have their own program. Be informed. Compare them to see which is the most beneficial for you. But by all means, insure your equipment. It's your livelihood. Please remember to turn off the sounds on your computer and set your screensaver to never turn on.
It's also a good idea to join your local reporting associations and your state associations. Mingle. Get to know other reporters in your area. Networking is very important in this profession.
You've got your equipment. You're ready to roll. Now, let's get you organized and ready to take on the world of reporting. We'll take this step by step.
Chapter TwoWHAT SHOULD I CARRY?
What to carry daily is also a personal decision. I am going to list for you what I carry with me on a daily basis. You can pick and choose what works for you. First of all, you need your writer, computer with software loaded, audiosync, a case to put everything in, your tripod for your writer, and your connection from your writer to your computer. That's your basic stuff right there. You're asking me right now: What kind of connection from my writer to my computer? Well, your writer should come with a hookup/cable for connecting to your computer. If you don't want to use a cable, you can purchase a wireless connection through StenoCast. They have the StenoCast Edge JR, which is a plug and play wireless connection from your writer to your computer. They also have the Edge, which has synchronized audio and backups of your audio and steno files. It's all about what you can afford at the time and what makes sense to you.
Audiosync is the audio recording software that syncs your text and audio and should come with your software or as an option. It's a very good idea to add this to your software purchase if it's an option. It is a transcription timesaver.
Your bag is very important. You don't want something that's so heavy with everything in it that you can't lift it into your car. Remember, this is your "daily baggage." Most of the major vendors have some sort of "reporting" case, such as Stenograph. I personally carry a Tutto bag, which is on four wheels and takes the pressure off of your back. Tutto makes bags for different types of professions, court reporting being one of them. They have different size bags depending on how big a bag you want to carry. If you're going to be traveling on a plane a lot, you may want to go with the smaller size bag and carry a laptop bag also. Much easier to fly with. Do your research. There are many vendors out there that carry bags. Going to conventions is a great way to see what's out there. Also, talk with other reporters. See what they like and what's worked for them. I just happen to like Tutto because it's comfortable, has lots of pockets, and it's lasted the longest without falling apart.
I'm going to list the other things I carry. Remember, choose what works for you and your clients.
Power supply for your writer and your computer Tilting tripod for your writer Tripod and tray table for your computer *Microphone for your computer * Business cards for each firm you work for and some of your own Surge protector * Extension cord (s) * 2 prong to 3 prong adapter
Exhibit stickers Order forms for attorneys for each company you work for Jobsheets for each firm Paper clips, black binder clips in different sizes Rubber bands, big ones Kleenex * Bottled water or something to drink Assorted pens (blue, black, red, highlighter) Stapler/staples/staple puller Digital recorder (not a cassette or mini tape recorder) Batteries for your digital recorder Microphone for your recorder Batteries for your microphone if it uses batteries Thumb drive
You will need some type of zipper-closed bag to put your completed job in, including exhibits, when you're done at the end of the day so that nothing gets lost or separated. I purchase clear zippered bags from the Container Store. I keep ten at all times. They last a very long time. They have letter and legal size. It's always best to get the legal size in case of long exhibits, and they hold more paperwork.
Now, you see my little stars "*" up there. The microphone for your computer is very important. Not all microphones are created equal. Some have batteries, and some don't. Some plug in to a USB port. Remember the noise level of your computer in these cases and buy an extender so you don't get the fan noise on your recording.
Try out different microphones. If your microphone has a battery, I recommend you change it out the first day of every month regardless of how much you've used it that month. You don't want to lose your audio because you forgot to change your batteries. If you've used it a lot after two weeks, change it out then. Use your discretion.
I've found that Martel Electronics in California is awesome and reporter-friendly. The last time I purchased a microphone, they sent me a bunch of them to try over 72 hours, put it on my credit card and as soon as I sent back the ones I didn't want, they credited my card. Martel also sells digital recorder packages for reporters.
Extension cords are very important. I had a job once that was actually outside, a long way from the nearest plug. It took the videographer's extension cord and three of mine for us to hook everything up. I always carry about a 15-foot extension cord in my bag, along with a surge protector. I keep an 8-foot and a 25-foot extension cord and an extra surge protector in my car at all times. You never know where the nearest plug is going to be.
The two-prong to three-prong adapter can be purchased just about anywhere. I don't know about where you live, but down here in Houston, we have a lot of "historic" buildings or houses that still have two-prong plugs. Some of your equipment may have three prongs. It's always a good idea to carry several in case your videographer forgets to carry one.
Bottled water or something to drink sounds so basic, I know. I can't tell you how many times I've gone to a deposition that lasted three hours or more, and no one ever offers you anything to drink. I always carry something with me. It just becomes a habit. It's a good idea to also carry snacks, such as almonds, fruit, protein bars, whatever you like, in case you don't take a lunch break. It's hard to write when your hands are shaking, and you're so hungry you can't think.
Exhibit stickers can be purchased at a variety of vendors. I personally like the ones with a blank line on top then the word "Exhibit," alongside a blank line and space at the bottom for the date and your initials. They come in a multitude of colors. I can tell you that attorneys have told me that judges do not like the bright-colored stickers. I tend to stick with the white or yellow stickers. There is usually somewhere local that you can obtain your stickers. Otherwise, you can purchase them through almost any online reporting vendor.
_______________ Exhibit _______ EXAMPLE Space for Date Initials
Every firm that you work for should have their own order form for the attorneys to sign and a jobsheet, either preprinted that they send you with every job assignment, or a blank one for you to fill out for every job. It is a good idea to have separate folders for each company you do work for with copies of these documents so that they are always on hand. When you get down to less than ten in your bag, it's time to make more copies.
I cannot express enough how important it is to have business cards with you at all times. I carry my own personal business cards that I made on the computer myself with my name, Texas CSR number, cell phone number and e-mail address and enough space to write in who you're doing work for at the top. Most firms that you work for regularly will provide you with cards after you've been there for a while. If you're doing overflow work for a company, they will usually send you cards also. Ask for them. If they don't have any and you do quite a bit of work for that firm, make some of your own with their information - name of company, address, phone number - and your name, cell phone number, and e-mail address. It just does not look professional when you show up to a job with no business cards.
But remember, you are promoting the firm you are representing at that job and not necessarily yourself. You need to make sure and put the firm's name on the business card.
Excerpted from Transitioning from Student to Professional Court Reporter by Pam Gwin Coder Copyright © 2009 by Pam Gwin Coder. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1 - I'm Almost a Real Reporter. Now What?....................1
Chapter 2 - What Should I Carry?....................7
Chapter 3 - Resume and Interviewing....................13
Questions for a Prospective Firm....................16
Chapter 4 - Do I Need to be a Notary?....................19
Chapter 5 - Reporting in Texas....................21
Chapter 6 - Parentheticals....................23
Chapter 7 - What is Realtime and When Am I Ready?....................37
Chapter 8 - Types Of Jobs....................39
Workers' Compensation Hearings....................40
Examination Under Oath....................43
I'm at a Deposition. Now What?....................44
Appearance or CNA....................49
Chapter 9 - What's a Notice?....................55
Chapter 10 - Which Beginning and End Pages Do I Use?....................59
Beginning & Ending Pages List....................61
Chapter 11 - Using a Scopist and/or a Proofreader....................79
Reporter's Preference Sheet....................83
Questions To Ask A Prospective Scopist....................84
Chapter 12 - English Rules Anyone?....................87
Chapter 13 - Filling Out a Jobsheet....................137
Chapter 14 - Turning In The Job....................145
Chapter 15 - Find an Accountant....................147
Chapter 16 - Forms....................149
Chapter 17 - Computer Desktop Organization....................157
Chapter 18 - Three-Hole Notebook Organization....................159
Chapter 19 - What Do You Do If?....................161
Chapter 20 - Reference Material....................165
Chapter 21 - Websites....................167
Chapter 22 - Answers To The What Do You Do If Questions:....................181