By:  Angie Ballman Punton

ScreenshotWednesday, June 21st started out like any other busy day at Paradigm Reporting & Captioning.  But it turned more interesting than most Wednesdays around 10 AM when I got buzzed by our receptionist Erin stating WCCO News was on Line 3; could I take the call?  “Absolutely!” I said.  Holding was John Lauritsen, a television reporter, who explained he wanted to do a piece on the fascinating skill of court reporting for the 10 PM segment of “Good Question.”   Our President, who would normally field this call, was out of the office.  Not wanting to miss out on this wonderful opportunity, I told John, “We can absolutely help you with this!  I have the perfect person…”   John replied, “Great!  We’ll be there at 11:45.”   Gulp!  That’s less than two hours…

That’s when I put in a call to Merilee.

Merilee Johnson, RPR, RMR, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, RSA, is Paradigm’s Director of Reporter Relations and Technologies.  Before becoming a freelance court reporter and CART Captioner, Merilee spent 14 years as an Official Reporter for Minnesota’s Fourth Judicial District.  She’s also a trainer for Stenograph, and an Adjunct Professor at Anoka Technical College, in addition to being one of the techiest people I know.  Merilee is a bona fide court reporting expert.   She would be perfect for this unusual assignment!   The rub was that Merilee was covering two assignments for Paradigm that day.   Could she squeeze a little television interview in between them, I wondered?

Merilee picked up my call in her usual enthusiastic way.   Little did she know the request I was about to make!  Being the humble person she is, it took some work to convince her that she was, indeed, the perfect representative to shine the spotlight on the court reporting profession.  Not one to gravitate toward the spotlight, Merilee’s passion for her profession propelled her past her reluctance to go on camera and she graciously agreed to reroute downtown to our offices in between her two jobs.  Oh, the exciting and dynamic life of a freelance court reporter.

Merilee started by showing John her reporting equipment.  She even encouraged him to try writing a few strokes on her steno machine.  “When you think about it, we are a tie between a pianist and a translator,” she explained… then went on to describe the shorthand keyboard and how the machine can capture short phrases in one stroke.

What impressed John the most was the speed at which a court reporter can process and “type” what is spoken.   When he took that Good Question to the streets and asked the public how fast they thought court reporters can type, the guesses came in between 60 and 80 words per minute.   “You have to graduate with 225 words a minute, with 95 percent accuracy,” said Merilee. “That’s the standard.”  However, she also noted that court reporters and CART captioners have been known to keep up with speeds of over 400 words per minute for short bursts of time on fast-paced assignments.  Court reporters are truly impressive!  Even having worked in the industry for over eight years, I am continually amazed by the skill, concentration and discipline necessary to do their job.  It’s practically a superpower!

The reality is, these superhumans with whom I have the privilege of working every day are in high demand.  In fact, one of the most pressing issues facing the National Court Reporters Association is not voice recognition taking over this space.   Actually, just the opposite.  It’s projected that there will be over 5,000 openings for court reporters and CART captioners in the next five years.   Because the space in which these highly trained professionals are working is not one in which Siri is (and perhaps ever will be) qualified to compete.

If court reporting seems amazing or intriguing or at all interesting to you, I highly encourage you to check it out.   Here in Minnesota, we’re privileged to have one of the premier schools in the country – Anoka Technical College.

For more information on how court reporting works, check out Merilee’s segment on WCCO:

To learn more about the fascinating, lucrative career of court reporting, check out this link:

If you’re curious how court reporters got their starts in the industry, check out these achieved blogs:

May 2017:  The Five Year Question – Guest Blogger Lisa Knisley

February 2014: Living Life on the Edge: Why I Love Court Reporting – Caitlin Albrecht

March 2012: Transitioning From Student Court Reporter to Working Court Reporter –
Anne Hegerman



The Five Year Question

by admin on May 30, 2017

By: Lisa Knisley

If you had asked me five years ago where I saw myself now, I can guarantee you the answer would not have been, “Close to finishing court reporting school.”  At that time, I was working behind the bar of the same restaurant I had worked at for the previous nine years.  Part of me thought I would work there for the next nine, or nineteen, years.  Another part of me assumed I would find something that…that…that what?  Therein laid the problem.  So I started to think about what I would WANT from a job.

The one thing I knew for sure was that I didn’t want a job, I wanted a career.  Don’t get me wrong, having a job is great.  It has allowed me to do all sorts of things like eat and have a roof over my head.  And while it’s nice to know you can pay the bills, I wanted more.  I wanted to feel challenged.  I wanted to feel important.  I wanted to learn a skill (I’d already done the “learning for learning’s sake” college experience and all it got me was a piece of paper and years of slinging drinks).  And I didn’t want to be doing the same thing all day every day.  Unfortunately, you can’t put all those career options into Google and get an answer on what to do with your life.

Fortune, however, was on my side.  My husband was working with a woman who was in the court reporting program at Anoka Tech.  She would rave about it at work.  He suggested I do a little research into what it was, exactly, that court reporters do.  So I did.  And as I did, I compared what I found to the list of things I was looking for in a career.  Challenging?  Check.  Important?  Check.  A skill?  Variety?  Check and double check.  It was official.  I had found what I was going to do as a career.

Even after all the research, I didn’t fully understand the profession until I started the program at Anoka Tech.  I didn’t realize the dedication and the commitment it takes to become a court reporter.  I wasn’t aware of the (much deserved) pride that court reporters have in their skill and the passion they have for the profession.  It was inspirational.

Of course, no amount of inspiration makes court reporting school easy.  I have had moments where I have questioned my ability to become a reporter.  I have cried.  I have had to stop myself from knocking my machine over in frustration like a child losing a board game.  But I stuck it out, and now here I am.  Nearly four years after starting school, I am nearing its completion.  I am so excited to soon join the ranks of working court reporters!  I can’t wait to get certified and be able to sport some letters after my name.  Most importantly, I am so glad that my answer to the question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” is completely different now than it was five years ago.

Lisa Knisley is a Judicial Reporting student at Anoka Technical College, and the 2017 Paradigm Student Scholarship recipient.  


Jan Ballman Honored with Nancy A. Sullivan Community Leadership Award by Barnes & Thornburg

May 4, 2017

Paradigm President & CEO Jan Ballman, RPR, CMRS, was honored at Barnes & Thornburg’s 6th Annual Women in Leadership – Exploring Pathways event on April 20th with the Nancy A. Sullivan Community Leadership Award.  Created in memory of beloved B&T Partner Nancy Sullivan,  the award recognizes a woman in the community who has “(A) Achieved […]

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2017 Paradigm Scholarship Awarded to Court Reporting Student

May 4, 2017

Anoka, MN:  Paradigm Reporting & Captioning President and CEO Jan Ballman was pleased to present the 2017 Paradigm Scholarship to Lisa Knisley, Judicial Reporting student at Anoka Technical College.  Lisa explained in her scholarship essay that this is her second career, and stumbled upon the idea of court reporting school through a friend of a […]

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Team Fargo Weaves Work with Friendship

April 28, 2017

By: Deanna Sager, RPR, RMR We all have key people in our lives who influence and teach us along the way.  Let me tell you about two amazing ladies in my life I have been blessed to know, work with and call my friends. In 1986 I met fellow court reporters Charla Pawlik and Paula […]

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Paradigm Supports NALS Twin Cities

April 20, 2017

Minneapolis, MN:  Paradigm Court Reporting & Captioning was pleased to sponsor NALS Twin Cities at their Annual Spring Seminar at Gray Plant Mooty on April 19th.  Paradigm is a long-time sponsor of the National Association for Legal Professionals – NALS (formerly legal Secretaries), whose mission is to enhance the “competencies and contributions of members in […]

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