The Millennial Court Reporter: 10 Ways to Stand Out in the Industry
By: Jennifer de la Chevotiere
Whether you’re actually a Millennial entering the field for the first time, or a member of another generation making a career change, you’ve made a great professional choice.
Despite some misconceptions about being edged out by technology, court reporting is actually a growing field with a lot of job security. Not to mention, it has great pay, a flexible schedule, a short time in school, and a lot of variety.
But the job also requires a high degree of skill, and like most skilled professions, there are exceptional people who are constantly in demand and not-so-great people who struggle to find work.
To make sure you’re part of the former group, there are a few key competencies you’ll need to master:
1. Be On Time
Your job is an integral part of a deposition, so if you run late – or worse – fail to show up, you’re making other people’s jobs more difficult and giving yourself a bad reputation in the process.
Take time to make sure you know where you’re going and how you’ll get there. Then, show up about 30 minutes early to give yourself plenty of time to set up before it is expected to start.
2. Know Your Terms
Deposition content can be technical, full of jargon, or riddled with confusing acronyms. If you don’t know a lot about the industry you’re serving, ask for a spreadsheet of terms you can study a few days before the session. This will help you improve your accuracy when it’s time to go.
3. Avoid Multitasking
Not every day will bring exciting new information to record. Sometimes, depositions can be paint drying levels of boring. But even if you consider yourself a master multitasker, don’t give into the temptation to split your attention.
Looking at your phone will give everyone in the room the impression that you aren’t paying attention or taking an accurate transcript. It doesn’t matter if the resulting transcript is actually flawless, this will diminish your reputation.
4. Make Sure Your Requirements are Known
People don’t always speak clearly. In fact, often, people don’t really speak at all. Instead, they use implied sounds like “uh-uh” and “uh-huh” as substitutes for “yes” and “no”.
It’s your job to record both what was said and how it was said. And when people use language substitutes that your stenograph doesn’t have shorthand notation for, it puts you at risk for falling behind the conversation or losing quality in your transcript.
Take a moment before the session begins to let participants know to speak slowly, clearly, and avoid using implied sounds.
5. Take Charge
It’s your job to accurately preserve the words spoken during a session. And sometimes, the other people in the room will make your job much harder.
Don’t be afraid to interrupt when people are mumbling, speaking too fast, or speaking over each other. Remind them of your needs as a court reporter.
6. Get the Spelling Right
Accuracy is fundamental. This includes the spelling of names. Don’t assume common names are spelled the way you expect. Take a moment to ask the witness to spell their name for the record, even if it means you’re interrupting something.
7. Control Your Emotions
As a court reporter, it’s important to stay neutral. But it isn’t always easy. There may be times when you have to listen to discussion of sensitive topics and witness strong emotion from the parties involved.
But you must provide an impartial transcript. If people see you laugh or cry during the session, it can give the wrong impression. Remain calm and professional, no matter what’s happening around you.
8. Work With Attorneys
Both you and the attorneys involved have an important job to do. For everything to run smoothly, it’s vital to build a rapport with attorneys and ensure clear communication.
For example, “I need it tomorrow” could mean first thing in the morning or by the end of the day. Make sure you know which.
9. Keep Your Tools in Working Order
If you’re just entering the industry, chances are you’ll be using up-to-date industry tools. But in case you’re thinking about saving money by using older tools, be careful.
Make sure your computer and steno work reliably, as well as any other software or accessories. Time is valuable, and you don’t want to be viewed as wasting it when your equipment breaks down or requires an unexpected update.
10. Take Breaks
Court reporting can be demanding. You have to maintain intense focus for hours at a time without frequent breaks. This can be a stress on your body and mind.
So take breaks when you can. Have a nice lunch, go out and enjoy the sunshine, do what you can to mitigate the effects of an intense job. This will help you avoid burnout and continue to operate at peak level.
Court reporting is a promising and lucrative career. To rise to the top of the industry, invest time in learning the nuances of the profession to gain a positive reputation.
While mastering the nuances will help separate you from the crowd, don’t forget the basic elements of professionalism required in any industry. Dressing appropriately, maintaining a professional attitude, continuing to develop soft skills, and focusing on how you can deliver value every day are just as important to becoming a star court reporter.
Don’t get discouraged. You may lack the experience of some of your colleagues right now, but while experience is important, offering quality service and dedicated professionalism will help you in every step of your career.