I have been a court reporter for over 20 years. (I always cringe when an attorney asks me how long I’ve been reporting, as I don’t FEEL that old!) I love court reporting, and I love being a busy court reporter. In fact, I start going a little bonkers when it’s slow. But too much time spent in my home office is not good for me….or likely for anyone!
I used to think being busy all the time, and therefore making more money, would make my life so much easier, and therefore make me more relaxed. (Don’t most of us think that way at some point in our lives?) These days, I’m more into working smarter, not harder. We court reporters know there are always going to be very busy times, and when they’re here, we just have to power through them. But when we’re writing on the job all day, then coming home and editing well into the night, working that hard day after day certainly takes its toll. At least it did for me.
I think my turning point in working so many crazy hours was when my kids started complaining that all I ever did was come home from work, change my clothes, talk to them for MAYBE five minutes, then impatiently say, “I need to get some work done. Can you just leave me alone for a little while? Ask Dad if you need something.” Kids being kids, they still constantly came into my office and tried to talk to me or play a game or read or just BE with them. But mostly they got to look at the back of my head, because I couldn’t tear myself away from my editing. I always had a rough draft due (and, gosh, that had to be “perfect”), or I just needed to get a few more pages done, as I had to go back on a job the next day and I already had three days of backlog awaiting me. I used to get super stressed out just taking time away from my desk to tuck my kids in at night! (I certainly wasn’t winning any Mother of the Year awards back then.) My kids used to love to chat with me at bedtime. Now I get it. Aside from wanting to delay going to sleep, they just wanted to spend time with their mom, as they usually hadn’t seen or talked to me much all day. They would ask, “Mom, why are you always working?” And I would say, “I just need to get this job done, but tomorrow I won’t need to work when I get home.” Then tomorrow would roll around and I’d say, “Okay, I just need to work for ONE hour…” which would turn into two or three. We all know the drill. You know how hard it is to walk away from your desk when you’re almost done. Or when you’re right in the middle of something. Or when you want to get to a certain page before stopping for the night. Or you just need to fill out the billing sheets. And since we never know what we are going to be doing in the coming days, it’s always wise to just make sure we don’t have too much backlog, or else we are REALLY going to be working some long hours!
Well, I finally got tired of this lifestyle. Really tired of it. I love my job and wouldn’t choose any other profession, but I began feeling very guilty about the lack of time I was present, really present, for my family. I knew I was missing out on a lot. My kids were at an age where they still liked me (most of the time), and I knew I wanted to spend more time enjoying that. I resolved to either cut back or get help.
I decided to hire a proofreader. That turned out to be one of the best decisions I had ever made. She is a true gem and I absolutely love her. I really rely on her expertise, as she’s very smart and knows way more than I could ever hope to know. Her turnaround time is unbeatable! This is actually what drew me to her in the first place. My work is always back within a day or two at the most. She turned out to be my lifesaver! I know many people have proofreaders who read directly in their transcripts and then send back the entire transcript already corrected. My proofreader reads my transcript and then sends me back a correction page so that I am the one who makes the ultimate decision on what to change. (Yes, many court reporters struggle with perfectionist tendencies!)
So now I had a proofreader. Wow, how nice life became! No more going through 300-page transcripts and wasting precious hours reading what I’ve already sat through, and then sat through again while editing. However, I realized I still was spending a lot of time editing. Other reporters kept mentioning a scopist (who is someone who listens to the audio and does all the editing of your transcripts) and how invaluable they are to a court reporter and how I should use one. But wait – someone else messing with my masterpieces? What if they get a word wrong? What if they misspell a name? What if they don’t catch that I identified the wrong speaker? What if they put “Ms.” instead of “Mr.” in front of the attorney’s name? How can I trust that they will do as good of a job as I would? Gosh, this scopist stuff is scary! Overcoming that fear was huge. It took me a long time, but I finally decided a few years ago to take the plunge and hire a scopist.
I have come to know that having a reliable scopist in whom you can trust is so worth the money you pay them! There is an investment of time for them to get to know how you handle certain things in your transcripts because everyone does things a little differently, but it’s so worth it in the end. They have your audio, listen to everything, and if they have a question about anything, they tag it for you and send it back for you to proof. I’m not going to say that all of the “what-ifs” are gone, but it is my job to catch any scoping errors in my proofreading. Yes, I do my own proofreading of work that others scope for me. I believe my eyes need to be on the transcript before it goes out. I’m responsible for this transcript, and I was in the room and heard and saw what went on and will likely catch anything that looks strange. Our scopists weren’t at our job, so while they have the benefit of the audio, there is still room for error when my writing isn’t clean (how could THAT ever happen?!) or the audio isn’t crystal clear. So they do their best to discern, but then all of those uncertain parts are flagged for the reporter’s review. The more pages you put out together, the better you work together.
When I think back to the days before I had a scopist or proofreader, I am not sure how my husband and kids stuck with me! I had basically used up all my “niceness” on the attorneys during the day, and by the time I got home, the “nice” tank was often empty. Sure, that still happens from time to time, as there will always be very stressful, very hard and very long days behind the machine, and of course there are always going to be those unexpected expedited orders. But when you have a scopist and a proofreader, they take much of the burden off your shoulders. Plus, you can take a lot more work when you have competent professionals working on the “back end” of your transcript. It enables you to spend more time on the front lines writing, which is exactly where I want to be, as that is the part of my job that I truly love.
So, yes, it’s a bit scary at first to let go of some of the control and allow someone else to have hands on your transcripts. However, today I can be very busy yet it is extremely rare for me to work late into the night. I may come home and do a quick clean-up on the rough draft, but normally that’s it. After that, I am able to spend the evening with my family. I get enough sleep, I have time to eat decent meals, and my kids and husband no longer have to look at the back of my head all night. Yes, I still lug my computer all over–even to sporting events–and everyone kind of chuckles at me, but when you live the crazy life of a court reporter, you learn to use all of our time wisely. (It just took me a bit longer than hopefully most other reporters to learn how to use it REALLY wisely!)
So if any of you reporters out there find yourselves super stressed, working all the time, barely getting any sleep, not making time to eat decent meals and instead grabbing fast food on the fly and snacking on chips and cookies as you’re editing, I would highly recommend finding a scopist and/or a proofreader. You’ll be so glad you have one when “super busy” hits! Think of it as an investment in your health and your family’s wellbeing. You will be pleasantly surprised at how much “nice” is left in the tank when you can go home knowing you can relax and enjoy the evening because the next leg of your transcript’s journey is being handed off to someone you completely trust.