By: Amy Lizotte, Court Reporter
Preparing for a day in my life as a freelance reporter begins before I even open my eyes. There are many things I sort out in my mind before my feet hit the floor, starting with the big question of the day: Do I have a job, or am I working from home?
If I’m working on transcripts, what needs to go out today? How long will that take? What other things can I accomplish around those hours of editing? (Can I fit in a run? Hit the gym? Run to the grocery store?) Do I need to drop exhibits at the office? Can I be done in time to make it to my son’s soccer game at 5:00? What should we have for dinner?
If I’m scheduled to take a depo, I wonder how long of a day behind the machine lies ahead? How challenging will it be? What if they need it expedited? What do I have going on tonight? What time do I need to leave here to get there well in advance of the start time? What can I pack for a snack in case I need to work on my transcript over lunch, or need an energy boost late in the day? Do I have everything ready to go, or did I need to pack up my laptop and chargers? Don’t forget your water bottle! I obviously don’t have a crystal ball as to exactly how my day will play out, but this exercise in mental preparation always helps me feel as though, whatever the day may bring, I am ready for it!
On days when I have an assignment, another big part of my preparation is grooming. I don’t want to walk out that door without looking my best. Dressing professionally and putting the necessary time and effort into pulling everything together not only helps me feel confident but helps ensure I will make a positive impression on our client and all present when I walk into the room.
Another layer of prep that happens before I leave the house is mapping out exactly where I’m going. A lot of times it is somewhere I’ve never been before. I research where I might park and even have a backup plan. Weather and road construction can make getting places on time very challenging. I have the mentality that I’d rather get there way too early than late, and that has always served me well.
As far as preparing for a specific assignment, I use a “deposition book” to capture all details and get my brain into “job mode.” I go over the Notice and any other case management provided and think of how I may want to write certain words and names and maybe jot down a few brief forms. At times I will google company names to find out what they do so I know in advance what terms may come up. I also Google the case caption, because sometimes, especially with big cases, you’ll find the meat of the issues have been discussed somewhere on the World Wide Web.
While on the job, having a professional demeanor is important in the court reporting profession. Being in charge of the record is a huge responsibility, and it’s certainly very important to every person sitting in the room that it’s reported accurately, so it’s imperative that I am alert and paying close attention at all times Once on the record, it becomes the only thing I focus on. I challenge myself to listen carefully to every single word that is spoken and get it down accurately. I write as though I am providing realtime or will be asked to send out the rough draft immediately after it concludes. This mindset keeps me laser-focused and writing my cleanest, and in turn, that helps cut down on the time it takes to get out the final transcript.
Once the proceedings have concluded, I try to save myself time later by gathering as much information as possible before leaving the job site, such as asking for spellings of names or getting clarification around case-specific jargon that I was unfamiliar with and therefore wasn’t sure I heard correctly. I spent countless hours as a new reporter researching names, terms, street addresses, acronyms, etc., and it all could have been avoided had I just asked while in the presence of the people who knew those answers. They truly don’t mind providing that information, so I make it a priority to keep track of my questions throughout the job so I can quickly run through them as soon as they conclude. I also try my best to secure each party’s transcript order in person before they leave the room, knowing that if they walk out the door, I will have to chase after it via e-mail or calling their office. Speaking of e-mail, I also make sure I have the e-mail address of all counsel present before they leave, as I’ve discovered they can be hard to find online.
Once my long/short/easy/hard or whatever kind of job I’ve had is over, then the real work begins. A transcript can take days to produce. Editing the testimony line by line, proofreading and final corrections are all required before a transcript is salable. Sometimes I get home and get right to work on producing transcripts; other times, I take a break before sitting down in front of my computer. But if an attorney needs a transcript right away, the choice is not mine to make; I am duty-bound to meet client deadlines. Some days I walk in the door and the phone’s ringing to alert me that the case I just reported settled and they won’t need a transcript. But an hour later I could get a call that they need the job I took yesterday by tomorrow. Such is the life of a freelance court reporter! My days are as varied as my high heels! I wonder what tomorrow will bring… and what shoes I will wear!