I’ve always known that court reporters can sometimes be paranoid creatures. There’s so much to be afraid of -- no work, no clients, too much work, too many clients, not fast enough, not smart enough. In 2015, we still have all those basic fears to face, but larger threats are looming for us all. Is this deposition I’m on an illegal contract? Will somebody file a complaint against me if they think it is? Will I lose my license? Will realtime reporters replace me? Will national firms suck out all the business in our state? Will everyone think “bad” of me because I don’t have my RPR? Will there be any business left for me, the small independent? Can I ever be fast enough to keep up? On and on and on, our minds are filled with this stuff daily.
As court reporters, we’re all on this journey together, just maybe taking different paths; and, as I begin my presidency, I want to share with you a little bit about my history in court reporting thus far and see if it resembles yours in any way.
I began my court reporting career as a legal secretary in Murfreesboro. At that time, to become a paralegal, your boss simply had to say, “I crown you paralegal.” I learned a tremendous amount about the legal system and terminology, and it was a huge help to me later. I was raising two sons, and a legal secretary salary didn’t go far enough. I began typing/transcribing for the court reporter my boss sent our business to, Nancy Morris, Murfreesboro Court Reporters. I was a good typist, and my name got around. I soon added Bettye Menck from Shelbyville to my list of “clients,” and I began learning to read Nancy’s notes and Bettye’s shorthand. I HAD to type out 100 pages per day to help make ends meet.
I was fairly comfortable with that work-at-home setup when the first stage of paranoia struck: CAT SYSTEMS! Nancy bought one, and she didn’t need a typist anymore. I felt that, with training, I, too, could do that job so I enrolled in the last court reporting program offered at MTSU and learned to do what court reporters do. My first job was as an associate with Murfreesboro Court Reporters, and I am forever grateful for the knowledge and integrity Nancy shared with me. (Let me add that I am grateful for the feistiness and tenacity that Bettye Menck taught me as well. Remember this when you think mentors don’t matter.)
My old attorney/bosses/friends became my best clients. I made a good living on workers’ comp, divorce cases, an occasional med mal case, lots of trials, lots of workers’ comp settlements. It was hard work, but I had plenty of it. I was beginning to hear about something really foreign called “realtime,” and I wondered what that might be. I was working and typing on a word processor and couldn’t imagine that anything would ever change or get much better than that. Besides, what attorney around Murfreesboro would ever want to pay for such a thing as realtime???
Well, things did change. Workers’ comp reform happened; mediations in domestic cases happened; caps on med mal cases happened; insurance companies abandoned discovery and pushed for cases to settle; lawyers experienced cutbacks. And if that wasn’t enough, my really good clients moved on to become state senators and judges. These things changed my court reporting world forever. So I began to network with other firms, local and out-of-state firms. The internet and Google search came along, and those things made the small world I had lived in for so long very large. Now out-of-state firms could find me. Now I could find them. Now I had a chance to do some of that very good work that had never graced the small town of Murfreesboro before.
The point of telling you my hopefully not-too-boring story is this: Our field is a constantly-evolving profession. We need to learn to embrace change and evolve with it. Now I’m writing realtime, something that I had feared would take away my ability to earn a living. But I have come to the realization that this “realtime” thing might just save my ability to earn a living. It has been predicted that there will be 5,500 open court reporter positions by 2018. Of those 5,500 positions, how many will require realtime? Where will these reporters come from, especially in light of the shortage of schools and the aging court reporter population? There has to be a court record after all. If there are not enough of us to fill the need, you can be assured that our most extreme fear will come true: We will be replaced with another method of making a record.
A lot of you know that I am opposed to proposing legislation that will impose more regulations on court reporters. I attended the last TBCR meeting in which it was affirmed that the legislation that our association pushed so hard for and that was so costly in time and money really doesn’t do what it was intended to do. Our attorney Board member spoke and interpreted the legislation as saying that contracting is allowed; but if you do it, you must first disclose and then stipulate. This is the legislation that our own association put into place in the beginning. This is what we’ve got. This is our current law. One of my concerns is when and if we propose and implement more regulations, we must be careful or we could be facing, as in this case, unintended consequences. We have got to be very careful and make sure we understand the future ramifications of our actions when it comes to imposing more regulations on ourselves and our profession.
In my official capacity as president of TCRA, I will strive for the right thing, not just the “right” or “left” thing. (I firmly believe everything will fall into place if we do that.) I will strive for transparency from our Board and committees. If the membership has questions, feel free to ask. I will do all within my power to find the “correct” answer and not the answer that I want it to be. Our Board is comprised of some really intelligent people, and I believe we can help you if you need it. I will strive for fairness when it comes to membership in the committees. What we have been doing for so many years has not been working. We’re deeply divided, and we need to come together for our common good.
In my “personal” capacity as a court reporter belonging to TCRA, I will strive to pass the RPR. At 60 years old, I’d say it’s about time. I can do it. I probably could have passed it years ago, but life and jobs or some other excuse got in the way. NCRA will be allowing us to take the test online going forward so none of us has an excuse anymore.
A couple of months ago, I reported my first streaming realtime deposition of a very knowledgeable and successful doctor with a heavy Indian accent, and it was difficult. But I learned such a valuable lesson from this doctor. During a break, he spoke to me about how his father had raised him, and this is what he told me: “People strive for success. If you strive for success, it won’t last long; on the other hand, if you keep on striving for EXCELLENCE, success will follow."
So that’s my plan, personally, professionally, and as your president; and I hope you’ll join me and the new 2015/2016 Board on the journey!
Victoria Huntley, Essay Winner
Each year TCRA sponsors a scholarship for court reporting students. Students may participate in the program by writing a short essay. The student scholarships are awarded to deserving students each year at our Annual Convention. This year we had some great essays submitted from several students. It is so inspiring to read their essays and to hear the passion and enthusiasm in their words.
Victoria Huntley is our 2015 recipient of the Tiffany Brosemer Student Scholarship Essay Contest. Congratulations, Victoria!
Read Victoria's essay below.
"Why I Want to Be a Court Reporter"From the age of five years old, I have been a competition-oriented musician. When you decide you are going to play in competitions, you then begin the long hours of hard work, dedication, and attention to detail. After you feel you have almost pushed yourself too far, you realize that you’re ready. You realize that you’re finally ready to put your skills to the test and be the best musician that you can be. Court reporting is exactly the same.
Court reporting students get up every day with a drive to be meticulous, hard-working, and focused. We students realize that to be the best that we can be, we have to sit and criticize every stroke we make. We realize that there are theory principles we have to master, punctuation that we can’t miss, and speeds that we have to pass. For some it’s just too much, for others it’s just enough.
It’s not just a job that I’m going to be doing in the future; it’s not just something that I’m going to school for; it’s a craft. I love the look on peoples’ faces when I tell them that I will soon be able to write at 225 words-per-minute. Their response: “Do people even talk that fast?” Oh, how I wish they could sit in on a speed building class. I love being able to show people that court reporting is so much more than a person sitting in the corner of a courtroom tapping away on a weird looking machine. I love being able to educate people on what really goes into this schooling and the profession itself.
And when it comes to what has made me want to become a court reporter the most, it has to be that steno is a lifelong puzzle. No one could have ever prepared me for what goes into learning a theory and then being able to build on that theory to create your own language. You spend so much time working on a good platform so that your mind can process the most basic steno ideas, and then you are left with freedom to create whatever you want to create. And in a profession with so many great people, everyone is always learning from each other and building off each other. The learning never ends, which means that no two reporters’ strokes are exactly the same. That’s what I love most about court reporting.
The Tennessee Court Reporters Association (TCRA) was founded in 1949. Our association is a volunteer organization made up of an Executive Board and, also, comprises two Directors from each of the three divisions of our state.
Per our current bylaws:
The members of this Association shall strive to establish and maintain a proper standard of proficiency in the profession of court reporting, to establish and maintain a proper standard of professional ethics, to promote friendly interaction and good feeling among the members of the Association, to promote enactment of just and equitable laws upon the subject of court reporting, to protect the public against the imposition of incompetent and unethical court reporters, and to promote by all proper and lawful means, and consistent with the public interest, the legitimate interests of professional court reporters in the State of Tennessee.
Tenn. Code Ann. § 20-9-604 established the Tennessee Board of Court Reporting (TBCR). According to the TBCR website: Beginning July 1, 2010, court reporters must be licensed to engage in court reporting in the state of Tennessee. This board will issue court reporter licenses, conduct disciplinary inquiries for ethical violations, ensure completion of continuing education requirements and maintain a registry of court reporters.
Your TCRA Board has always and will continue to bring our members the most current and up-to-date court reporting information and news available as we receive it. As our members are aware, our avenues of communication are varied: annual conventions, regional seminars, e-blasts, website, quarterly newsletters, Facebook page, and Twitter! Our state association can boast and be proud that we are one of the few state associations in the country that is so technologically advanced.
The TBCR was established to prescribe the qualifications of court reporters and to issue licenses to persons who demonstrate their ability and fitness for the licenses. If anyone has a question about licensure, continuing education guidelines, reporting guidelines, inactive status, or reporter complaints, your questions must be directed to the TBCR.