It’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week! What an appropriate day to start off our special week (Valentine’s Day). Your Memphis Court Reporters love our profession! Hope you enjoy this short video.

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It is a period of ever-changing technology! Court reporters, in the courtroom and deposition setting, are winning with tools and gadgets to help them work smarter and provide their important clients with the technology to assist them in their cases.

Okay, I’m a technology/gadgets geek – I admit it. So excited that the new Star Wars film opened this past December!

Here are some awesome quotes from the Star Wars series that are totally relatable to court reporters using gadgets and technology to help them provide great realtime output for their clients.

The first quote is from Yoda, that wise master:  “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

“Do” embrace the realtime technology. Use it to be more productive and provide your clients with a service that they crave for. If you “do not,” they may look to other reporters or other technology.

Some reasons that have been cited for “do not” include:

  • writing is not good enough
  • do not want anyone to see my mistakes
  • hookups are intimidating
  • overlapping voices can be distracting
  • no control over the environment

Here are some ways to overcome those fears and hesitancy and be more confident to “do.”

  • improve by practice — write at least 15 minutes a day
  • analyze your writing and keep a journal
  • build your dictionary
  • keep current with technology
  • offer realtime to a client you are comfortable with
  • let your software work for you
  • relax and breathe
  • stay positive

“In my experience there is no such thing as luck.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

In order to be realtime-proficient and keep your feed topnotch, all reporters should practice for speed and accuracy on a regular basis. Practicing and speedbuilding takes time and hard work (it’s not just luck), but the benefits are enormous! In addition, be prepared for each and every job, whether it’s realtime or not, and there will be less editing time at the computer later.

Some things to do prior to each job include:

  • create a job dictionary with brief forms, if possible, for all attorneys, participants, proper names, witnesses, case-specific terminology, and technical words
  • practice new briefs prior to the job
  • create a “cheat” sheet for the briefs during the job as a reminder

“In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way.” – Yoda

As I said previously, we need to educate ourselves as much as possible about the case-specific terminology for a realtime session and add brief forms to our dictionary in order to have our feed be topnotch! Our CAT software can help us too. I love my BriefIt on my Case Catalyst software.  During a recent fast-paced deposition, this brief form saved my butt:  AO*EUK (independent contractor). Embrace and learn more about your specific CAT software and let it do some of the heavy lifting.

“It’s a trap!” – Admiral Ackbar

Don’t get caught off guard. Be prepared for every realtime job by bringing your cables, power cords, router, iPads, netbooks, et cetera.  This past month, I was scheduled for a daily copy trial in a rural town several miles from my home base that required me to stay overnight. In addition to my Luminex, laptop, and realtime software, I also packed up a mobile office of sorts. Included were things such as the following:

  • extra writer
  • extra laptop with CAT software loaded
  • iPads
  • netbooks
  • router for realtime feed (just in case they changed their mind)
  • portable scanner
  • Dymo labeler for exhibit stickers
  • office supplies (stapler, paperclips, binder clips, etc.)

“May the Force be with you!”

So, that’s my wrap-up for Star Wars quotes.

Remember that Luke was not a youngling when he learned the Jedi ways. Reporters do not need to be younglings, either, to provide realtime. I am always striving to pick up better ways to write and tips and tricks from my colleagues (even after 30 years in this amazing profession). My colleagues are a valuable resource for me. All one needs to take that leap into realtime is the belief in yourself and your abilities, a strong desire, hard work, and the focus to get there.

Hope everyone had an awesome time seeing Star Wars:  The Force Awakens.  And, oh . . .  “May the Force (a/k/a/ realtime) be with you!”

Lynette L. Mueller, CRR, RDR, FAPR

The opinions expressed are my own and I receive no compensation for any of the products or services mentioned in this blog post.

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It’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week starting February 14-20th! What an appropriate day to start off our special week (Valentine’s Day) — I love my profession <3

Each year the National Court Reporting Association honors the unique professions of court reporting and captioning by showcasing to the public the large impact court reporters have had, and do have, on capturing history for posterity, as well as the wonderful services captioners make available to help better the lives for millions of Americans who are deaf and hard of hearing by providing captioning in realtime for live sporting and theater events, church services, movie houses, and many other venues.

In honor of this special week, I’d like to share with my colleagues and legal professionals one of my new favorite gadgets. A “gadget” is generally thought of as perhaps a mechanical device; however, I am broadening the meaning of “gadget” to include a device that is perhaps unique, not necessarily mechanical, and helps me be productive with my court reporting work.

Court reporters need to keep up with technology to help them be at the top of their professional “game.” We have to invest our hard-earned dollars in equipment to help us work better and be more productive. Our equipment is essential for practicing our craft — writer, laptop, iPads, Dymo labeler, portable scanners, CAT software, and the list goes on. As freelance court reporters, our office is a mobile one at all times. We have busy lives trying to balance family and work as well. There are days when after the job is complete one needs to stop at the post office to mail those transcripts to our clients, make a quickie run to the grocery store to pick up food for dinner, and the list goes on. What happens to our equipment when we make those stops? Well, we leave it locked in the trunk of our car, of course!

Let’s face it — in today’s society we run the risk daily of thieves breaking into our car and confiscating our valuables. Good luck finding the culprits and retrieving our equipment we just stowed in the car! Well, now there’s a way to hopefully retrieve that Luminex and laptop — Tile to the rescue!

What is Tile? Tile is a tiny Bluetooth tracker that helps find your lost stuff in seconds. Attach, stick, or place Tiles inside everyday items and keep track of them in an easy-to-use app for Android and iOS. Tile is a small square device (about 1.5 inches) that you simply place in any article that you’re always misplacing. If your Tile is within the 100-foot Bluetooth range, it will play a loud tune until you find it. The app automatically records the last time and place it saw your item. So, if you left it somewhere, you know where to look first.

I have a Tile in my wallet. Sometimes it’s hard to remember which handbag I used last. Remember, we all have busy lives and can’t keep track of everything!

There’s also another Tile in my equipment rolling bag. In some of the court reporter Facebook groups, court reporters have shared their nightmares of being a victim of theft and the repercussions that happen because of it. Number one on the list? No equipment, can’t take jobs, resulting in lost income. The downtime can be lengthy when you need to replace your writer and ancillary equipment.

Tile can still help you find that lost or stolen item even when it has gone beyond the 100-foot Bluetooth range! If you placed the Tile in your item before you misplaced it, everyone in the Tile community can help you search for it. Just select “Notify When Found.” As soon as someone running the Tile app comes within range of your item, you will be notified of its location. Then, simply use your phone to guide you to the spot your item ended up.

This “gadget” can be a powerful tool for everyone. Tile was instrumental in assisting people find their keys, wallet, and cars during the most recent snowstorms in the Northeast. Tile was instrumental in helping an avid bicyclist find his stolen bike. Click here to read stories about how others are utilizing Tile to help them find their lost items.

I love this new “gadget” and gifted my entire extended family one this past Christmas! To learn more about Tile, check out their website.

View my favorite gadgets here.

Happy Court Reporting & Captioning Week!

“Technology is Great!”

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So, I live in a household with two guys.  As you can imagine, our moviegoing outings tend to be action films, science fiction, and comedies.  Don’t get me wrong — I am not complaining in the least.  I love all of those genres!

This summer’s movie season has been great! The last two movies we’ve seen — Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. — are flicks about secret agents and packed with continuous action!

As is the case with most action films featuring secret agents like Ethan Hunt, James Bond, and others, common elements can be found throughout the movies:  mysterious plot, superhuman skills and maneuvers, amazing chase scenes, continuous action, and the gadgets that help them achieve their mission or goals. The heroes generally have the same character traits: dependable, in peak physical condition, and prepared for any situation. They exercise continuously and consistently because they know it can mean the difference between life and death out in the field.  They don’t cut their workouts short when they’re tired or miss a day because they’re not up to the challenge.  They train hard, train with purpose, and train as if their lives depended on it. Even though I’m a working reporter, I feel it is imperative to practice my writing on a daily basis. There are several resources to find practice material.

So, in our effort to channel our inner “secret agent,” we can learn from these fictional characters in our quest to become the best professional court reporter ever!

The definition of “professionalism”:
the skill, good judgment, and polite behavior that is expected from a person who is trained to do a job well

Just like Ethan Hunt in the Mission: Impossible series, court reporters should use technology tools and gadgets to solve everyday tasks and real-world problems in order to help make the job easier.  Court reporters should keep in mind that in order to be effective and stay relevant, we must keep abreast of technology, embrace it, and never be skeptical of the newest innovations. This past June, I co-presented with my good friend, Keith Lemons, at a seminar about realtime tips and fears and also the gadgets we use to help us be more productive.  Some of the favorite gadgets:

  • smartphones
  • iPads/tablets (realtime reading devices)
  • Apple Airport Express (output for realtime)
  • MXL AC404 USB Conference Microphone (great for AudioSync)
  • DYMO LabelWriter (create exhibit stickers and mailing labels on demand)
  • Bolse 4 Port USB AC Rapid Charger (charge multiple devices at once)

Find a full list of my gadgets here.

In the opening minutes of Mission: Impossible, Ethan Hunt dangles precariously from a mammoth four-engine turboprop plane that pushes triple-digit speeds during a steep vertical takeoff — superhuman skills for sure and in peak physical condition!  While we court reporters may not be superhuman, we should strive to be the best we can be and keep up with our writing skills.  Being realtime-proficient is the key to achieving super agent status for our clients and meeting their needs so they have the tools necessary to prepare their case. The benefits of realtime are huge:

  • improved writing skills
  • less editing time
  • improved translation delivery
  • quicker transcript turnaround
  • job satisfaction
  • name recognition; people ask for you
  • increased income
  • readback is phenomenal

In The Man from U.N.C.L.E., the two main characters, Solo and Illya, realized they were going to have to work together and they discussed what they knew about each other. Both of these men had clearly done research about their respective rivals and gathered information that would help them down the road to achieve their joint mission. Just like Solo and Illya, court reporters need to be sure to be prepared for each assignment and know where to search for answers to different scenarios we may be faced with on a daily basis.

In order to make our realtime feed topnotch and prepare for the job, we should reach out to our clients and/or their assistants to request as much information about the case that is available.  Some things to request:

  • full caption/style of case
  • list of attorneys/participants
  • proper names and case-specific jargon, if available
  • previously marked exhibits
  • research online for case-specific terminology and technical terms
  • create and enter briefs into job dictionary
  • practice newly created briefs
  • create a cheat sheet with new briefs

Finally, everyone knows all secret agents are dependable and can get the job done speedy quick!  Dependability means that court reporters should arrive to the job at least 20 minutes early, be prepared for each assignment, willing to comply with expedited transcript requests whenever possible, and meet transcript delivery schedules.

Court reporters, our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to be even more awesome every day!

The opinions expressed are my own and I receive no compensation for any of the products or services mentioned in this blog post.

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Dropbox is an amazing productivity tool for court reporters! I’ve written about some of the best features in previous blog posts: How to install Dropbox on your new computer, transcript order forms utilizing Dropbox, upgrading a new PC and using Dropbox, top productivity gadgets, and more . . .

  • Do you ever feel you receive too many attachments in one email and realize you forgot to save one?
  • Sometimes a colleague is trying to email an attachment and the file size is too large.
  • Need that audio file from your videographer?
  • That out-of-state client wants to send multiple exhibits and is sending them in email batches.
  • Want to gather photos from a convention or seminar from your friends and colleagues?
  • Working on a project or newsletter for your state court reporter association?

Dropbox has added a new feature called File Requests. With File Requests, gathering photos, docs, and more from several colleagues is simpler than ever. Just send out a link to let others upload files directly into your Dropbox folder. There’s no need to rely on a collaborator to have Dropbox installed on their computer. With File Requests, people who upload files to your personal Dropbox will never have access to your account and only you can view uploaded files by others, unless you decide to share with them.

I’ve been using this feature for a few weeks now with a fellow reporter in my firm and find it’s an absolutely easy way to be more productive and save time for both of us.  It’s easy to start collecting documents now with File Request. Click here for more information on how you can get started today.

Of course, as always, the beauty of Dropbox is that you can access all your files across multiple devices!

Technology is Great!

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As Court Reporting & Captioning Week is winding down and I am reflecting on my assignments for the week, I am ever grateful and thankful to be a court reporter! I’m sure my family and high school friends wouldn’t believe the person I have become today — gone are the days of the introverted girl who could barely speak during class. Thank you to my social studies teacher for pushing me to pursue court reporting and encouraging me to learn more about it.

I have grown and evolved because of this profession and the amazing people I’ve met during my career. It has pushed me to soar and reach that next certification. It has helped me conquer my fear of putting myself out there when meeting new people. My colleagues make it fun to learn together and grow together by finding new and better ways to write short, sharing realtime tips, technology and gadget advice, and much more.

Mayor Wharton, Mayor Luttrell, and District Attorney Amy Weirich

During this special week, my assignments included CART; depositions; and public hearings, with more than 30 people in attendance, to celebrate the Blueprint for Safety program in our city.

What a glorious ride! I wouldn’t trade this profession for anything.

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My new favorite scanning app for court reporters is Scannable by Evernote! The ease and intuitiveness of this app is amazing. I already use Evernote to keep track of my digitized world. With this new app, scanning is even faster and easier.

My smartphone is my number-one gadget that I take with me to every job. With so many app options available, it essentially means that I can leave the bulkier gadgets back at the office for the more heavy-duty production tasks.

Here is a list of some of the uses for scanning during a deposition or hearing:

  • The attorneys are retaining the exhibits and you need to check a quote on one of the docs.
  • A physical exhibit may be marked that cannot be attached to the transcript. Simply take a pic of the object, print the PDF scan, and slap an exhibit sticker on it.
  • A witness may be reading and quoting from a text and not marked as an exhibit. So during a break, ask to take a quick snap of the quoted text.
  • One of the participants in the deposition ran out of cards. Simply scan their contact information from a pleading.
  • Oftentimes an attorney might have only one business card left and doesn’t want to let it go. Ask him if you can scan his card and return it to him within seconds.
  • Business cards should always be scanned. I scan the cards at the time of the job. This one little step ensures that their contact information will never be lost in a drawer or at the bottom of your handbag.

The advantages of Scannable:

  1. Faster to scan. Simply place the doc on a contrasting background and point the app at the document and it will auto-capture it. No more tweaking the edges or color.
  2. Within the app, you may sign in to your Evernote and LinkedIn accounts. This means that once a business card is scanned, it takes that information and adds in details from that person’s LinkedIn profile, including a picture. If you’re like me, having a face attached to a name is an excellent memory tool.
  3. Once the business card is scanned, you may also save it directly to your Contacts. My Contacts are synched across all my devices. What that means is that once it’s saved to my smartphone, I can go to my computer or iPad and have access to email addresses there, too. The information is entered once automatically, so I don’t ever have to type in the information on multiple devices.
  4. You can also send or save documents and meeting notes from within the app: email, Evernote, Photos, text message, and more.
  5. The app does give each scanned image the name Scannable Document. Edit the scanned document within the app and give it a name that you will remember later.

Technology is great!

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Skype is a software application that allows users to make voice and video calls and chat over the Internet with the click of a mouse.  With the advancement of this technology, sharing information has never been easier.

I’ve been reporting depositions via Skype for several years now. It seems that attorneys are getting more comfortable with Skype recently, and Omega Reporting, your Memphis court reporters, are receiving more requests for this service. With the high costs of airline travel and the expenses associated with it comes the need to find affordable solutions to take depositions critical to a litigator’s case.

The benefits of using Skype rather than the traditional videoconference and/or telephone deposition are many.

  1. Skype is free — there is also an upgraded account available at an affordable price.
  2. Eliminates long-distance telephone charges one would incur in a traditional telephone deposition.
  3. Eliminates costly airline travel and extra expenses associated with air travel.
  4. Cost-effective method to use when your client may be budget conscious.
  5. Viable option when you cannot conveniently meet in person.
  6. Allows legal professionals more time on deposition preparation and the discovery process.
  7. Gives legal professionals a face-to-face experience with potential witnesses.
  8. Skype gives you the ability to gauge reactions and facial expressions of all participants.
  9. Share exhibits and documents easily utilizing Skype. You can send files online to multiple contacts during a voice, video or group call, and in an instant message.
  10. All Skype-to-Skype voice, video, file transfers, and instant messages are encrypted. This protects you from potential eavesdropping by malicious users.

What you’ll need to get started:

  • The latest version of Skype for your device
  • A high-speed broadband connection
  • A high-quality or HD webcam
  • A microphone and speakers (built-in or external headset with microphone)
  • If using Windows, a DirectX 9.0c compatible video card.

Your computer will also need to meet the following hardware requirements:

CPU:     1 GHz (minimum);  at least 1.8 GHz (recommended)
Graphics card:   32 MB (minimum); at least 64 MB (recommended)
Memory:    256 MB (minimum);  at least 512 MB (recommended)

Skype works on computers (Windows and Mac), tablets, and many mobile devices. There are apps for the following mobile devices: Android, iPhone/iPad, BlackBerry, Windows phone, Nokia X, Amazon Fire Phone. I’ve successfully used an iPad and my Mac computer on Skype depositions. The iPad, of course, is such a great portable and lightweight option. Just set it on the stand in front of the witness and we’re ready to go!

Tips for making your next group video call/Skype deposition:

  1. With Skype you can enjoy group video calls with up to 10 people (including yourself), anywhere in the world.
  2. Although mobile device users cannot initiate a group video call, they can join it.
  3. All callers must meet the minimum specifications for Skype video calls.
  4. Audio transmission problems may be a concern when using Skype. If testing reveals problems with the audio, setting up a conference call is an easy solution. If a conference call is your method of choice for audio, remember that everyone needs to mute their speakers on their device of choice.
  5. Everyone should set up a Skype account and provide you with their Skype name.
  6. Check your call quality settings. If you or the person you’re talking to have a lot of programs open, try closing some (or all of them). If you’re using Skype on a laptop and you’re in power-saving mode, try plugging your computer into AC power or switching it to maximum performance mode. More hardware settings troubleshooting tips.
  7. Turn off any and all notifications on the device you are utilizing for the Skype deposition. You don’t want any distractions during the testimony.
  8. Practice a mock Skype deposition with your friends to ensure that you are comfortable with the features of the service and, also, that you’re comfortable with the proper settings for your hardware.
  9. Be sure to schedule a test call with your booking attorney or legal professional. Sometimes it’s their first time for a Skype deposition and you want them to feel comfortable with the service as well. The test call will provide the time necessary to address any potential problems that may arise.
  10. All participants should call 15 minutes prior to the start time of the deposition to make sure everything is set up correctly.

“Technology is great!”

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If you are a court reporter who uses Case CATalyst software for your realtime output and have experienced issues with your feed suddenly stopping, you can follow the below steps to correct that problem like I did.

I currently have a Diamante writer, have the current version of Case CATalyst, and a laptop with Windows 8 operating system.

1. Go to Control Panel.

2. Next, go to Hardware and Sound.

3. Click on Power Options.4. Choose Power Plan.

5. Select High Performance.

6. Go to Change Plan Settings.

7. Next, select Change Advanced Power Settings.

8. Click on USB Settings.

9. Next, USB Selective Suspension.

10. Select Disable for both “on battery” and “plugged in”.

11.  Click on Apply and that’s it!

Technology is great!

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backup ~ : a copy of computer data (as a file or the contents of a hard drive); also : the act or an instance of making a backup

In today’s technologically savvy environment, there is no excuse not to have a great backup plan for court reporters’ data.  After all, those transcripts are our bread and butter; right? Court reporters should have a firm solution in place for the storage and protection of their data in order to retrieve it, if needed, at a moment’s notice. Clients and litigants rely on us, as the guardians of the record, to preserve that important testimony.

I utilize multiple backup methods in my business:  my laptops, external hard drive, Drobo, Min-u-script, and CrashPlan.  My career has spanned 30 years, and I’ve purchased several new laptops during that time, so my backup storage plan has evolved.

Late this afternoon I received a request for a 2011 transcript that was not transcribed at the end of the job. My initial panicked reaction, upon reading the email, was: “Oh, my gosh! What computer is that file on?” Of course, that’s always every reporter’s worst nightmare, right, not being able to locate an old file!

Once I took a breath, I knew I wouldn’t have a problem, because I had all my files backed up going back to 2003.  With confidence, I hit the Reply button to my client and advised him, “Why, yes, I can have that transcript to you.  When do you need it?”

While I may go a “bit” overboard with my backup options, I would recommend that every court reporter start the new year right by devising specific backup options that will work for you and be confident you will always locate those old files at a moment’s notice. Your clients will thank you for it!

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