By: Lori Morrow – RMR, CRR, CCP, CBC, CLR
There are occasions with daily copy, realtime depositions, hearings and arbitrations when we as court reporters have the opportunity to work on a team with other court reporters. Sometimes it is with one other reporter, and other times it may be a team of three, four, or even more. In a career where we generally are the only court reporter on the job and where we usually work individually, it is fun to get to work together where we can share ideas, thoughts, strategies, and techniques and where we can collaborate with and support each other.
In the mid ‘90s, when realtime and daily copies were fairly new, I was assigned by the firm I was with at the time to do an eight-day daily copy, realtime trial in court all by myself, alone, just me, no team, me. Thankfully, the firm did the production, which at that time was not yet widely done. It was also before Bluetooth existed, and so there were cables running to every receiving computer. Also, the receiving computers were the lawyers’ and the Court’s computers, not computers I provided. I was a fairly new reporter and had been doing realtime and CART for only a couple years. This was an astronomical challenge for one person. It is a miracle I survived that trial.
WE’VE COME A LONG WAY: In today’s world, through experience and our knowledge of the effort that goes into writing realtime all day and then spending all evening and sometimes through the night producing a daily copy transcript, we have a realistic expectation for reporters, and we know to assign a team to these types of assignments.
TEAMWORK: From my experience of working on reporting teams since that first time, I have learned the following strategies to make these opportunities successful ones:
PLAN: Once receiving the assignment to work on a team with other reporters on a particular job, it is important that at least a week prior to the start of the job, the team gets together to begin coordinating. They need to figure out the schedule and how they are going to divide up the assignment so each reporter is able to get their portion done by the daily deadline. Each needs to clear their personal schedules, day and evening, for the entire length of the hearing. That might include finding child care or setting up meals for the week, planning to miss your nightly or weekly exercise class, book club or cooking class, or lining friends up to drive your kids to their daily activities. Plan to devote ALL your time to the job.
THE TEAM: The number of court reporters needed for the job depends on how long the job is expected to last. Is it a couple days, a week, two weeks, three weeks, or longer? A two-person team may not be able to sustain a weeklong hearing but very likely can do it for three or four days. Another factor to consider is whether the job goes from 8:30 to past 5:00 every day, in which case it is important to add a third person (or third shift) to each day, especially if the daily copy transcript is due the evening of or by midnight.
TRANSCRIPT SUPPORT: Very importantly, each team member needs to set up trusted, reliable, and competent scopists and possibly proofreaders depending on how much of the transcript preparation work they want to take on themselves. They need to clearly communicate their expectations for this job to their support people so they are on the same page as far as format, timing, and logistics.
EQUIPMENT AND HOOKUPS: Next, you need to know how many hookups will be required. Sometimes each party will want two or more hookups. It will look better and more professional if all team members provide the same type of realtime device, i.e., mini iPads, regular iPads (my favorite) or tablets, netbooks, or laptops. Make sure each member has enough devices, or they can plan to share or use each other’s in order to provide consistency. Technology changes all the time. You can provide realtime to
SETUP: Plan a day to get access to the room a day or two before start day to test the internet connection or the best way to connect (and stay connected!) to your receiving devices. Get access to a secure internet site rather than a public one if you can, or use your own private router. Keep in mind if you use your private router that you may need to get online at breaks to send your transcript to your scopist. If you are using a program like Connection Magic where your scopist is working on your transcript in your system as you are writing, you need to be online the entire time to provide them continuous access.
PROPER NAMES AND BRIEF FORMS – PREP, PREP, AND MORE PREP: If you have not taken previous depositions in the case, you should ask the scheduling attorney’s office for a list of witnesses, the case title, the names of all lawyers and parties who will be appearing, and a list of terms of art that will be used in the case. Set up a good and usable job dictionary and share it amongst all team members. As court reporters are oftentimes perfectionists, we want our realtime to look perfect (or as close to perfect as it can be)!
- Lawyers – Communicate with the lawyers involved in order to understand their expectations of you regarding the deadline each day for them to receive the transcript, how they want you to handle or not handle exhibits, how they want the exhibits indexed.
- Reporting Agency – Communicate with the reporting agency to understand their expectations of you as far as how production will be handled and page numbering, index and certification pages.
- Judge/Arbitrator – Communicate with the judge or arbitrator. Sometimes you will be expected to swear in the witnesses. Some arbitrators like to do it themselves.
- Your Team – Communicate with your team member(s) regularly and constantly regarding new terms and proper names, any changes in the room, any snafus in internet connection, any comments (negative or positive) from the lawyers, helpful tips, lunch, switch-off times, any changes in anything. Let your partner(s) know which witness will be on the stand when they come in, and give a description of the witness’ speech style and talking speed. Texting comes in really handy with this communication. It is also helpful to keep a printed word list, updated daily, on the reporter’s desk on-site.
- Keep a daily log on-site of who reported which shifts and their starting and ending page numbers. This is extremely important to keep transcript pagination accurate.
- Collaborate and agree on the style of your title pages, appearances pages, index pages, and certificate pages so they are formatted exactly the same. If working with an agency, defer to their protocols, but generally, it is best to have a certificate page at the end of each day rather than each person’s transcript and rather than at the end of the entire 1,000+-page transcript. Put each reporter’s name on the certificate page that participated that day. You should even collaborate on parentheticals you will use to keep the transcript uniform.
- Plan ahead of time whether you will be using headers and how you will be indexing exhibits marked, exhibits offered, and exhibits received/admitted.
- Talk about what time and how you will be switching off shifts when one reporter leaves and the other comes in. Sometimes you may get the entire lunch hour to switch; other times you may only get a 20-minute break to switch.
- Sometimes there will be an IT expert onsite. Sometimes a trial technology expert will be in the room who will have IT expertise. Get to know these folks and learn from them. They can be a great resource and one of your best advocates.
- Keep all your equipment charged and ready to go each day.
- Carry an extra set of all crucial equipment/have a backup at the ready.
- Arrive early for your shift. Enough said.
- While you probably won’t have time for your regular exercise routine or to get enough sleep during the hearing, come into it on the first day well-rested and healthy. Eat well so you can be strong throughout. Take care of yourself. This is an extremely demanding job, physically and mentally. We as court reporters know this better than anyone, and as a group, we are constantly challenged and are able to withstand enormous pressure in our jobs; even more with good rest and nutrition fueling our bodies.
- Stay professional throughout the job in all your interactions with others, with the lawyers, with the reporting agency, and, very importantly, with your team members. Remember, they’ve got your back. Keep a sense of humor and have fun. It is not often we get to work together, and it can be a very rewarding experience.
REWARD: It is extremely rewarding to have accomplished a daily copy, realtime hearing or arbitration working in collaboration with other reporters. It is a memorable experience, one in which we form trusting, professional, and caring relationships with our fellow reporters when we work together as a team towards a common goal.