By: Caitlin Albrecht
I still remember with crystal-clear focus the very first job I took on my own. It was a call-out at a car dealership, and I couldn’t get in to set up until right before the depo was scheduled to start. As I began to get ready, I felt my blood pressure rise as not one, not two, but five attorneys made their way into the conference room. (Of course, now my mantra is, “The more attorneys, the merrier!” But not so back then!)
Internally, I began to panic: Five attorneys! This must be really important! They have no idea I’m a brand-new reporter. They’re going to figure it out. I’m dead! I’m going to be fired! MUST. NOT. LET. THEM. SEE. MY. REALTIME.
Having graduated from school only months prior, to my eyes, my raw realtime feed was nowhere near what it needed to be. If attorneys saw my computer screen, I’d be exposed for the rookie I was. So there was only one thing to do: Lower my computer screen, put a smile on my face, and do my best to look like I was a seasoned pro getting every single word they said, with ease.
That about sums up my first couple years as a freelance reporter: Set up, smile, lower computer screen, pretend to be writing perfectly. On the inside, though, I cringed every time I made writing mistakes and exhaled with disappointment at the end of every job, wondering when I’d ever be good enough to write realtime.
Then one day a friend challenged me. “Just go ahead and start. Start providing realtime on every job.” “Are you joking?” “Why not? You’re good enough. I want you to provide realtime on every job you do, starting now.” You’re nuts, I thought. “I’ll try it,” I conceded. A couple weeks later, I stroked out the first “visible-to-anyone-other-than-me” realtime job of my life. As my heart raced and my hands shook, I had no clue that I was diving into a process that would transform my writing and skyrocket my confidence as a reporter.
Fast-forward to six months later. On every deposition, instead of a lowered computer screen, attorneys see an iPad in front of their chair. “What’s this?” they often ask. Instead of shying away from realtime, I am no longer shy. I can’t wait to say, “Let me show you this new technology we’re rolling out. You’ll love it!”
Since I started realtiming for clients, my writing has jumped to a whole new level. It’s become an invigorating challenge to try to make everything translate correctly the first time. Attorneys have used my realtime feed to formulate their objections and review their last question, and knowing that a client is relying on accurate translation gives me the adrenaline boost I need to work to capture every word as accurately as possible. And guess what? They use it even when it isn’t perfect! They’re just impressed and pleased to have instant access to their record. (Unless they’re scared to death to touch an iPad. And in those instances, I try to give them a quick primer when opposing counsel is not in the room, for which they always seem grateful.)
In the process of throwing down iPads on every job to grow my confidence and improve my writing, I have learned a few important lessons, like my writing can actually not be perfect and I won’t die, and I won’t get fired. I have actually picked up new clients by helping them learn about realtime! But the most important lesson I’ve learned is it doesn’t have to be perfect to be realtime; it just needs to be instant. Attorneys don’t expect perfect. (And maybe it’s a good thing they don’t get perfect realtime or they’d expect those finals on their desk the next day!) To them, it’s like getting a rough draft … right now!
Do my hands still shake when I write? Sometimes. Does my confidence still waver? All the time. Will I ever be a perfect writer? Heck to the no! And it took a leap of faith (and a little shove from a friend) to go there. But now there’s no going back! I’m a better writer, I’m more confident, I take bigger jobs, I make more money, and I love my job more than ever! So go ahead, make that leap! Or at least start making strides towards writing realtime. I promise you: There. Will. Be. No. Going. Back.