By Ken Ortolano, Greenhouse Reporting
In 1986 when I decided on a career as a court reporter I, nor did anyone else, would anticipate the fast-paced and technology-driven 21st century. Thirty-two years later, I love what I do, and with the same excitement, I felt when I started.
Attorneys rely on us, and we take that responsibility very seriously. While we experience daily reminders about the wonders of technology – our firm has adapted a host of tools to support our clients– we find that we have developed another skill that goes well beyond court reporting: The discipline and courage to stick with practices and tools that deliver the best value for our clients.
Just like other industries, court reporters face pricing pressures- something we’ve come to expect in a technology-driven universe where knowledge is power and information is available at a press of a thumb. With the emergence of internet-based solutions to legal advice (like digital recorders in our industry), we passionately believe that the legal profession and court reporters who serve them offer value that is far superior to any modern A.I (Artificial Intelligence) system. Not everything is tech-able especially when it comes to observed human behavior and “capturing spoken words.”
Nowhere else in time is the adage of “you get what you pay for”more valid than today, especially when it comes to court reporting services – Litigating attorneys recognize that transcripts created by experienced court reporters facilitate an efficient process and smart legal advice for clients.
I thought a good question to ask would be, “what should attorneys do to maximize their return on court reporting investment?” and I have put together a checklist, born of over thirty years and thousands of hours, for ensuring a productive court reporting experience.
- Familiarize the reporter by providing advanced relevant information that will also serve to minimize possible interruption to the proceedings:
Copy of Notice and Glossary of names or terms that may come up.
- Slow vs. Clear. A proper balance of the two is essential for optimal reporting: Speak as clearly as possible, not necessarily slowly, but not at runaway speed.
When reading from documents, resist the temptation to speed up.
- Provide your court reporter with copies of documents you are quoting from, so they can check later to make sure they have accurately transcribed what was read.
- Court reporters are not mind readers. Best practice when taking a deposition is to “assume nothing,” i.e., Court reporters are trained to focus on the spoken word, not to interpret body language or draw conclusions. For example, if you want to go “off-the-record” make sure you say out loud enough for the court reporter to hear it. It may even be beneficial to double-check, “we are going off the record, did you get that?” The same applies when attorneys object but use nonverbal/unspoken gestures. Best practice? Keep it simple and over-explain to ensure nothing was missed.
- No multitasking! Be in-sync at all time. Take the time to inform your court reporter what comes next, then let him/her finish that part. This is extremely important when reporters are asked to mark exhibits, and you’re not waiting for them to finish. They will only do one thing at a time and if you keep talking it will not be on the record.
- Give your reporter a break at least every ninety (90) minutes. Court reporting requires intense concentration, and breaks are essential for maintaining focus and consistent quality.
Humans often underestimate or take for granted the power of words. But, as court reporters, our livelihood is dependent upon accurately capturing spoken words; our transcripts facilitate the next step in a legal proceeding and move an inherently complex process forward.
While many court reporters have successfully adapted digital technology and secure electronic delivery options, behind each accurate transcript stands a hard-working professional reporter, an equally accommodating attorney and both are united to provide the highest level of service to their clients.