Tech Talk: Trends to Know to Save Time and Be Better Organized

It’s hard to stay current in this whiplash-fast tech paced industry, but by working with law firms across the country, we hear a lot about tech problems and how other professionals manage their tech and stay organized. Here’s some of the latest tidbits that have come across our desk:

1. Windows 10 privacy dashboard.

Remember all the drama surrounding the launch of Windows 10? There was the forced-upgrade push and then came the serious privacy worries. But there’s a new dashboard now that’s easy to use, allowing Microsoft varying levels of access to your PC, protecting your sensitive data just in case.

2. Updating your Firewall

Speaking of protecting data, is your firm using a firewall? Are you using one personally?

With the marked rise in hacking, and the ever-increasing Bring-Your-Own-Device movement, we’re seeing more and more professionals compromising their data unwillingly.

If you need to up your protection, check out Norton for its long-standing presence in the firewall business, Tinywall for a lightweight solution, Anti NetCut3 if you spend a lot of time connected to public Wi-Fi, and Little Snitch if you’re working on a Mac.

3. Don’t forget your password. All of them.

With LastPass , you won’t. Consider all the time you waste writing, remembering, and resetting passwords. LastPass manages your passwords, so all you have to do is remember one master password. Brilliant.

4. Don’t run out of gas.

There are seven must-know tips available here. to extending the life of your smartphone battery. Like, using auto-brightness for the screen, tweaking your email settings to only check for emails on a schedule, and play downloaded music instead of streaming.

In addition, there’s also a list of battery-saving myths that aren’t necessary, from closing unused apps to always choosing Wi-Fi over cellular.

5. Keep it clean.

Last but not least, there’s SmartKlear, the carbon cleaning technology that’s actually used by NASA in their space station, to keep your phone screen bacteria- and streak-free.

If there’s anything else on your radar you’d like to share with us, please do! Our comment section is awaiting your suggestions on doing things smarter.


Court Reporting: It’s Not All Fun and Games


At First Choice Court Reporting, we see our jobs as high-stakes. Providing an accurate transcript can be the difference between a million-dollar settlement and nothing, the difference between an innocent and a guilty verdict.

That being said, we understand that some do not see things the same way.

Recently in Racine, Wisconsin, a court reporter was captured on a news segment playing FreeCell solitaire on his laptop while transcribing court proceedings with voice writing.

The reporter in question took exception to becoming a story, replying in a statement: “Buy a transcript. I don’t know what else to say. I don’t tell you how to do your job, and you don’t tell me how to do mine. And if I produce a transcript that is inaccurate, I will hear about it immediately. And I’ve never heard a word, and I’ve been doing this for 15 years.”

Experts Weigh In 

Psychologists claim that there are benefits of gaming during work, from reawakening us when the work becomes tedious, to providing stress relief and a feeling of being in control in an otherwise servient role. Longer hours, they say, make it easier and more acceptable to fit in a few minutes of play during the work day. According to Chris Ferguson, a psychology professor who researches video games, explains “Some video games are built to give you a short experience where you can be competent or autonomous.”

Entire companies, too, are embracing gaming as part of their corporate cultures. Google and Facebook offer a wide variety of fun office distractions to motivate workers and build workplace enthusiasm.

We can agree with all those points. A quick round of Candy Crush makes us happy. When we play solitaire with Vegas scoring, it’s fun to see how much imaginary money we’ve won. And if you’ve ever played Words with Friends with other reporters, you’ll understand the benefits of our always-expanding vocabularies!

But we believe that our clients’ work is more important. Proceedings, whether in court or in a deposition, will always take a priority for us. Even though people always speak more slowly than we can type, that is never an invitation to multi-task.



Integrity Matters

At First Choice Reporting, integrity matters. We feel strongly that the stellar reputation we’ve worked hard to earn is important not only to us, but also to our highly-regarded clients. First Choice Reporting stands out because our reporters and support staff work harder and place significant value on reliability and accuracy, all while maintaining the highest code of ethics.

Warren Buffet said it well: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

Five minutes. That’s one decision, if you think about it.

We all know there are awards available for purchase in our industry. Mostly every reporting firm receives the offers, but not every firm accepts the deal. We applaud those peers who refuse to be lured into the business of false accolades. We appreciate those who value their hard-earned success so much that they would never consider falsely inflating or misrepresenting their accomplishments.

We are with you.

To our First Choice Reporting clients, past, present, and future, we want to be clear that the only award that truly matters to us is your satisfaction, and the outstanding results we help you to achieve.

When researching services to represent your firm, we sincerely hope you will take a look at our true credentials, as well as those of our competitors. We are confident our stature and expertise will stand out from the rest.

And remember: If a service provider is misrepresenting their worth, they may also be misrepresenting their experience. Not to mention their integrity.  


2017: The Year of Setting Goals and Reaching Them

It’s been said that what we gain by achieving our goals is far less important than who we become by achieving our goals. We agree wholeheartedly. Our industry makes it easy to improve and grow on a fast-track schedule. Let’s take advantage of all goal-setting extends in both professional and personal development and turn 2017 into the year we courted success and accomplished more than we thought possible.

The National Court Reporters Association awards a number of honors and recognitions during the year. Why not throw your skills in the mix?

  • The 2017 Speed Contest will be held at the NCRA Convention & Expo in Las Vegas from August 10th to the 13th. Consisting of three five-minute dictations: literary at 220 wpm, legal opinion at 230, and two-voice testimony at 280. This is always an exciting event. Contestants are given 90 minutes for each segment to transcribe, and the combined scores are averaged to determine the champion.
  • Also at the NCRA Convention & Expo, CRR and Merit writing conference goers will be able to compete in a Realtime Competition, consisting of two five-minute dictations: straight matter at 180 wpm and a two-voice at 225 wpm.
  • Those who endorse the most new members and contribute to the continued growth of the NCRA are eligible for Endorser of the Year.
  • The Distinguished Service Award honors distinguished service by members of the NCRA for the benefit of the reporting industry. The deadline for nominations is February 12, 2017.

Another idea for starting 2017 off with intention is becoming a mentor to a court reporting student or beginning court reporter that may need some encouragement or guidance. Whether you’re a student, new professional, or a reporter who has enjoyed a rewarding career, contact The Virtual Mentor Program (mailto: vmp@ncra.org) and make a real difference!

To keep your skills current, sign up for a variety of continuing education offerings, like live webinars and e-seminars that fit easily into your hectic schedules. Or play NCRA’s Courting Disaster Game, the first online interactive learning game to simulate the challenges of a career in court reporting. This is a tremendous and fun resource for those contemplating a career in court reporting.

Finally, consider adding some fresh resources to your library, like the newly released Deposition Handbook, a copy of the Realtime Troubleshooting Pocket Guide , or even Susie King Luthy’s fictional thriller “A Court Reporter’s Nightmare.” Our favorite resource right now is “8,000 Soundalikes, Look-Alikes, and Other Words Often Confused.” (See: Cached or cashed? Canon or cannon? Caret or karat?)

There are many opportunities to not only achieve our 2017 goals, but also strengthen and grow our profession. Our ambitions are big enough to include the goals of those around us, so that we leave our community better than we found it. Cheers to a prosperous 2017 for us all!

Contact First Choice Reporting to learn about the resources we offer our staff and clients. We are accessible 24/7 with a full set of online services to remain connected to our community.


Why Voice Recognition Won’t Replace Court Reporters Anytime Soon

We’ve all heard the grumblings and mumblings, usually at dinner parties just before the entrée and immediately after we’ve announced ourselves as court reporters, captioners, or transcriptionists.

“Aren’t you worried Siri will steal your job?” we’re asked. “It’s only a matter of time, you know.”

Actually, they’re probably right. At some point in the future, robots with artificial intelligence will replace all of our jobs. And while voice recognition technology could be integrated more heavily into our role as transcribers, court reporting as a whole will be safe for years to come. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. The technology just isn’t ready to go it alone. Voice recognition requires a lot of human editing to achieve a useful finished product. Best-case scenario, it might be fine to transcribe a single user who speaks slowly and clearly, but the introduction of multiple speakers is still a definite problem. While computers may be fantastic at playing chess, they still have a way to go to keep up when things get heated and people start to talk over each other.
  2. At best, voice recognition software can be used as a backup or default mechanism. It could possibly catch some inaudible speech that the reporter missed, but the acoustics of a room, variety of accents, misused slang, and competing voices all contribute to the necessity of immediate human interpretation and clarification.
  3. Replacing court reporters and human employees with voice recognition technology is an expensive endeavor. There simply isn’t yet a better and more affordable option than paying a professional to sit in a courtroom and do what they’ve been trained to accomplish.
  4.  Computers are unable to differentiate the many nuances between similar words and phrases, and cannot recognize errors in real time. This industry doesn’t simply rely on the basic recording of words; it is bolstered by our inherent knowledge and instant interpretation of the language.

The following words, gleaned from the deposition of a neurologist, serve as an outstanding reminder: “Our brains are a miracle. Look at the Court Reporter here as an example, okay? This is a miracle in progress, happening right before our eyes. Let me explain what is happening here. I am speaking, so the information needs to come in through her ears, go through her temporal lobe, and then it has to go log itself into the language center. She has to be able to comprehend what I’m saying, then it gets rerouted to the prefrontal cortex where she has to hold the information, because I’m talking faster than she is typing. Then she has to analyze it, integrate it, and synthesize it. Then it has to go back to the cerebellum to be to be converted into these little symbols. Have you ever seen them? She is converting what I am saying into a different language. And the white matter tracts allow her to reroute all this information accurately and simultaneously, seemingly without effort. Seamlessly. OK? That is why I believe Court Reporters will never be replaced. Because no technology could ever replace the beauty and the miracle of the brain.”

So use this as a primer before your next dinner party. Better yet, be ready to make your case the next time an aspiring court reporter asks you for advice. This is a fantastic career with a vibrant outlook. The freshest technology doesn’t threaten our livelihoods; it only adds to our skills and expertise.


5 Foods to Eat if You Sit All Day

Most of corporate America sits at least eight to 10 hours a day, and our industry is no different. We try to take walking breaks and stretch periodically, but prolonged sitting is taking its toll. Linked to increased hunger, leg and back pain, and feelings of lethargy, prolonged sitting also causes inflammation and high blood pressure. And that’s where the real damage occurs, like obesity and diabetes.
Experts advise watching our diets, which is equal parts what to eat and what to avoid. Here’s a list of the best and worst foods to consume at your desk.
  1. Berries are best, added easily to your morning and afternoon routine. Pop a few in your smoothie or keep a bowl at your desk to ease those mid-afternoon pangs for something sweet.
  2. Say no to soda – even diet – and chips that claim to be healthy. (Did you know that baked chips contain high levels of the cancer-causing chemical acrylamide? We didn’t either.)
  3. Go nuts with almonds, which are the best sources of antioxidant vitamin E and help combat that dreaded inflammation. To avoid almond-boredom, make a homemade trail mix full of unsalted seeds and nuts.
  4. If you’re not planning on talking too closely with anyone at the office, add crushed garlic to your lunchtime vegetables. Or simply take an aged-garlic supplement every morning – much easier on your co-workers!
  5. With great sadness, we’re advising you to refrain from office birthday cakes, morning bagels, and the doughnut cart. Instead, opt for an orange or clementine; vitamin C lowers stress levels. Because as we all know, high stress always leads to the doughnut cart!

It’s hard for court reporters to leave our desks, as we tend to carry them with us wherever we go! But with a little thought and planning, and a promise to ourselves to stop being desk diners, we can alleviate the health hazards of prolonged sitting with the foods we keep close.


Checklist: How to Ensure an Accurate Transcription

A perfect recounting of the communication that occurred under our watch, whether during a deposition, in a courtroom, or elsewhere, is the primary responsibility of our industry. But at a rate of 200 words per minute, how does one ensure the utmost in accuracy? Even an outstanding 1% mistake rate could translate to a vital error. Transcription errors lead to translation errors, and before you know it, the record is faulty.

Our goal is to always get it right, which means we take extra care before, during, and after every proceeding. Beyond excelling at our own responsibilities, there are many aspects out of our control. Consider this a checklist – for you and for those around you – before your next transcription.

  1. Double and triple check your equipment, from your stenograph machine to your microphone and onto the recording device. Stock extra batteries, backup devices, and power cords.
  2. Instruct those involved on how to help themselves by speaking clearly, directly into the microphone, and taking care with difficult words. Ask them to avoid turning away while talking; this happens when attorneys multi-task, perhaps rummaging through their files or entering discovery into the record.
  3. When possible, request a list of applicable terms related to the case under discussion, like names, medical terminology, or industry-specific phrases. Pay close attention to acronyms, unusual spellings, and numbers.
  4. Control cross-talking. Most attorneys will direct the conversation with the witness, and most understand the importance of not overlapping speech. This includes the normal conversation interactions of interjecting “Umm hmm,” and “I see,” and even “OK” as a way of supporting the speaker.
  5. You may need to nudge attorneys into a proper lunch break, as many will have food delivered so they can continue working through the noontime break. It is impossible for a court reporter to simultaneously eat and report. Even a short break is a much-needed refresh, as overtaxed reporters are more apt to make mistakes.
  6. If ever in doubt, pause the proceeding. It can be awkward, but stopping to get clarification or remind the speaker to adjust his or her cadence or volume is always a welcome move, especially when it contributes to a solid transcription.

Some situations may be contentious and instantly heated, so have a plan in place just in case. A pause works wonders on temperaments and transcripts.

Court reporting is hard work in itself, and adding other unpredictable variables to the career makes it even more challenging. However, we wouldn’t have it any other way, would we?


Forget Carpal Tunnel: Text Neck is the New Malady

Remember Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? With each industry-wide warning and remedies flooding our inboxes, we shifted positions, stretched and iced our wrist and hand muscles, wore wrist supports on our busiest days, and tried every medication under the sun. It was the syndrome our industry just couldn’t avoid.

Now, the newest malady is Text Neck. Defined as neck pain and damage from looking down at our devices too frequently and too long, it is all about the angles. Imagine a bowling ball hanging from a selfie stick at a 45-degree slant; the force exerted on the stick would surely cause some damage. Now, imagine that stick is made of ligaments, muscles, and bones.

We get it.

And while this spine condition isn’t relegated exclusively to court reporters, it is an epidemic that greatly affects our community’s health.

Here are five ways to treat and maybe even avoid the perils of Text Neck:

  1. Our favorite treatment is tech-based. ALEX is a wearable posture coach and tracker, the first wearable to accurately measure the angle of your neck and the position of your head. It will alert you when your posture needs adjusting.
  2. Adjust your viewing angle to as straight ahead as possible. As ergonomic education gains popularity, we may be seeing a change in our court reporting tools and devices — perhaps a taller base or an upright positioning.
  3. Tech-digital disabilities occur with overuse, so take as many tech breaks as physically possible. Try to walk around, even if you’re constrained in a conference room or courthouse, paying particular attention to straightening your shoulders and elongating your spine, maintaining a straight-ahead gaze.
  4. Google “Text Neck Stretches.” Most will instruct you on simple chin tucks, scapular squeezes, and the standard Mountain pose in yoga. They provide instant relief.
  5. With Text Neck follows the dreaded Turkey Neck. Plastic surgeons and cosmetic companies are citing an increase in patients with sagging jowls and wrinkled necks on even younger individuals. From pricey anti-aging creams to ultrasound therapy and Botox, there are a variety of options to look better while trying to feel better.

More good news: There’s a pending U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of an injectable that permanently reduces small pockets of fat and is a miracle worker on sagging necks.

Mention Text Neck to some, and they may scoff at the idea. Text Tripping is the real danger, they say, citing bizarre stories of texters walking into traffic or falling into potholes. They might even suggest that holding a baby or a book invokes the very same posture and subsequent ailments. But most physicians agree that the continued practice of leaning forward for long spans of time can lead to musculoskeletal problems and eventually arthritis. So take care of that pain in your neck before it really becomes a pain in the neck.


Deposition Hall of Fame

Depositions, even when proceeding amicably, can quickly turn contentious. They are naturally adversarial endeavors. In the attempt to discover a witness’ knowledge and to preserve that witness’ testimony, there may be moments of frustration, impatience, uncooperativeness, and even evasiveness. Add celebrity to the mix, and the outcomes are nothing short of outrageous.

Celebrities and most people in powerful positions are accustomed to being in charge, so being forced to answer questions is an unfamiliar dynamic. But no matter the level of fame, basic deposition procedures pertain to all deponents: they should listen to each and every question carefully and answer them precisely. Further, the deponent does not ask any questions; he or she only gives answers.

But upon review of the decade’s most memorable depositions, it doesn’t seem as though some celebrities were adequately prepared by their counsels. Take Justin Bieber, for example. In 2014, during a Miami deposition while fielding questions from an attorney for a photographer who accused Bieber of ordering a bodyguard to attack him, the pop star was anything but cooperative.

He checked his appearance in the camera throughout, alternating between winking at his imagined audience and pretending to fall asleep. When asked about Usher, a celebrity instrumental in his early success, he replied that the name sounded familiar, but he couldn’t be sure. When asked repeatedly about his ex-girlfriend, Selena Gomes, he finally threatened the attorney, “Don’t ask me about her again,” wagging his finger for emphasis.

According to reports, he even extended his bad attitude toward the court reporter transcribing his responses. When she noted she could not understand the star’s whispered answer to a question, he replied, “’Yes’ and ‘no’ are (expletive deleted) pretty different.”

Tom Cruise was found guilty only of an inflated view of his circumstances. When two magazines wrote that he had abandoned his daughter following his divorce from Katie Holmes, he gave a deposition where he claimed being apart from his daughter was equal to someone fighting the war in Afghanistan. It’s no surprise the actor also extolled the virtues of flying private planes rather than commercial options.

And how about Kanye West’s 2013 deposition for allegedly assaulting a photographer? There is no footage, but many recordings of off-topic ramblings and declarations like, “I’m the smartest celebrity you’ve ever (expletive deleted) dealt with. I’m not Britney Spears.” When asked where he resided, Mr. West replied, “Earth.” The rapper clarified his position pointedly to the photographer’s attorney, “I’m in the business of trying to make dope s**t for the world. You’re in the business of representing scums and trying to make as much money as long as there’s this lapse in the law.”

Remember earlier, when we noted a deponent’s basic rules and expectations? It seems a few didn’t get the memo.

If you’ve ever transcribed a celebrity deposition, leave us a comment. We’d love to hear your experiences.


Thank Goodness

We’ve all heard the tales of woes in our workplace. There are the mumbling, whispering witnesses who rely heavily on hand gestures; machine and computer crashes at the most inopportune moments; the deposition distractors, also known as the pen clickers, microphone twirlers, foot tappers, knuckle crackers, and apple crunchers; wardrobe malfunctions; and heated arguments in real time, to name just a few. Who among us can ever forget the rogue reporter who caused courtroom chaos by repeatedly writing “I hate my job” on trial transcripts?

We’ve all been there, haven’t we?

But have you ever stopped to consider all the rewards of our industry? There are many, from schedule flexibility to competitive wages and a new adventure with every case. Our peers are justice-minded, invested in their communities, and intent on upholding the law and protecting those who need it most. We work hard together for a common good, often invisibly, and continue to work tirelessly even when it’s not recognized.

Especially then, in fact.

Instead of bemoaning the few trivial annoyances that appear in every career, why not cultivate a workplace culture that focuses on all the positive occurrences? The statistics connected to consistent gratitude are clear: thankfulness has a definite effect on happiness and energy levels. Did you know that simple acts of gratitude in the workplace increase motivation, attention, and commitment? Those who express gratitude enjoy stronger work relationships, less stress, and higher levels of peer support.

So as we reflect during this month of gratitude, let’s recognize each other’s efforts. We’ll start. Thank you, First Choice Reporting family and friends, for your long-standing commitment to us. We appreciate all that you add to our incredible industry culture, and we will continue to support you and your endeavors. We love our job!

We welcome your own “I love my job” stories. If you’d like, leave your best for us in the comments so we can all share in the thanksgiving. And while we’re talking gratitude, Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

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