Driving to the Del Mar, Carmel Valley area of San Diego for a deposition can be very stressful for a court reporter, and sometimes it seems to take forever and ever to get there. It kind of reminds me of getting out of the 140 – 160 speed in court reporting school. It seemed to take me forever and ever (six months).
A couple of weeks ago I received an email from a court reporting student who has been stuck in 140 – 160 for seven months and wants to know if I have any advice. A lot of the students in her class have been stuck at that speed for over a year. She asked me if I have any tips for “cleaning up” her writing. As anyone who reads my blog knows, I went through school fast, but because of that I did not pick up very many briefs, particularly briefs for phrases. I had preponderance of evidence (POF) which I was really proud of, but that was about it. I still am trying to get down “to your knowledge” and “to the best of my knowledge.” I regret not picking up the phrases and just pounding my way out of school.
My advice for the students stuck in 140 – 160, work on your briefs, particularly phrases. If you can write three or four words in one easy stroke, you will save a tremendous amount of time and have fewer finger faults.
I would do an analysis: Is it jury charge that is holding me back? Q&A? Do I have a need for speed? Is it Congressional? What test(s) am I struggling with? Once you have that answer, start focusing on what briefs are utilized in that type of test. If it is Q&A that is stopping you from getting out of a class, that means you need to get your speed up and learn to get your mind to go blank. I know I had a horrible time with jury charge because I did not have the briefs, and I would freeze when I heard language that sounded odd to my ear (legalese). I was really great at Q&A because speed was my strength.
Stay focused and passionate about becoming a court reporter. Just like driving through Carmel Valley, it might take me a while to get up the freeway and to the deposition, but I know I will get there. Sometimes court reporting school might seem like you are moving at a snail’s pace, but I promise you – Pow! You will start moving forward again and reach your destiny as a court reporter.
One of the reporters I work with, a 12-year veteran, told me to help alleviate her fears for the first two years of being a court reporter, she would go to the attorneys’ directory and look up the attorney she would be working with at a deposition and study the photograph. That way when the attorney walked in the room, she knew it was the client and was ready to shake her/his hand and introduce herself.
I have a similar practice, looking attorneys up on their websites and getting to know who they are. Advice: Don’t let people know you read their bio or looked at their photo before you meet them. It seems to make people uncomfortable. At a deposition I thought I would make friends with an attorney and told her, “Oh, I read you went to Yale and were a UCLA undergraduate and you enjoy horseback riding.” She accused me of being a stalker and was kind of mean to me the rest of the deposition.
I suggest court reporters go on the internet and Google expert witnesses and doctors when assigned to upcoming depositions. You can start putting together terms of art for the industry that witness is in, briefs, and get a feel for what you are going to be hearing when you are on the record.
I have been reporting for almost 30 years, and I still get nervous before certain depositions. Sometimes you know you are going to be walking into a battle with complex, technical terminology. The more information you have about what to expect, the easier your day will be – plus the attorneys will perceive you as being an expert court reporter ready for action with a good understanding of the subject matter.
Being a court reporter means you have to be ready to write about all industries, different sciences, and every subject matter known to man. Use the internet to know the participants and what people are going to be talking about. You will be GREATER THAN EVER!
I have been reading the raw realtime transcripts of two court reporters who want to go to the next level of reporting, and I find it surprising (worth blogging about), both of them leave out most of the commas, periods, and semicolons in the body of a question/answer or colloquy. I am thinking they learned somewhere to leave out punctuation to save strokes, and I believe that is a bad habit and one that needs to be broken.
If a person is leaving out punctuation, obviously it is going to take twice as long to scope/edit the job. Plus when you want to write realtime, it is not going to look good for the client. It is possible to create briefs, if necessary, to put in commas or semicolons if they always come up. For instance, I suggested to one reporter to create a brief for comma, Doctor, comma. So when you have a question, “Well, Doctor, what was the diagnosis?” you can have the phrase with the punctuation in one stroke.
What is most interesting to me is one of the reporters that I am reading the transcript of has been reporting for over a decade and is a good reporter.
No matter where we are in our court reporting career, we can all be better. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of taking classes, webinars, and keeping up with the technology of our CAT software. Many court reporters are sad they are not getting more work or better work. I challenge those reporters to shift and use the time available to be better. I promise you, one day in the near future there will be more deposition work for court reporters than you can handle. Be ready for it. Be great.
Please leave any comments – we can all help each other be better than ever!