From scheduling to reporting to transcribing, there are many high-pressure demands placed on court reporters in their job. In over 30 years of reporting, here’s what’s changed.
- Jobs are often booked last minute
- Jobs cancel with much more frequency
- Civility is waning
- Need for quicker transcript turnaround times
- Longer sitting hours
- Faster speakers
How do court reporters look after themselves, as well as meeting the needs of the industry? The following are some tips to consider.
Insist on breaks
- We all know the “evil eye” we sometimes get from attorneys who never want to go to the bathroom or eat lunch. Ignore the “look” and after an hour and a half to two hours max, request a break.
- On your break, even if it’s just 10 minutes, walk, move, stretch – just don’t sit at your machine working on your transcript! Just 5 minutes of moving and clearing your head makes the next chunk of writing time bearable. So if you do need to enter a few job dictionary words, do the walk first and then come back for a couple of minutes.
- Once you sit at your steno machine, they all think you’re ready to go; if that’s the case, work for a few minutes once the break is taken, then take your break to ensure you get that full recess.
- Last but not least, endure the look or the side comment you might get about requesting a break. As court reporters we’re not doing a sprint, we’re doing the marathon, and you must – MUST – advocate, professionally of course, for yourself and build a resilience to that look.
- I know, I know, we’ve heard this a million times but it’s true! The less work you do in writing, the faster you will be, the more stamina you will have, and the better your rough draft transcript will be to work on at the end of the day. The more on the page the better, right?
- Purchase a book, like Ed Varallo’s Steno Pro or Mark Kislingbury’s Magnum Steno Beginning Theory, and start to work on areas where you can shorten up. Pick a handful of new shortforms, and work them until they are automatic. Now you’re ready to do another small batch. The key to this is small, bite-sized chunks, not massive changes.
- After 32 years of court reporting, I took an Ed Varallo seminar and purchased his book. One single change affected hundreds of words, and eliminated an extra stroke for each of those words. It was truly an eye-opener and converted me to learn shorter to be more efficient and faster.
Work with a scopist
- There are times when it’s better to pay a scopist in order to buy some free time. I know many people who are reluctant to “give away” their work, but it’s time for court reporters to evaluate the physical, mental and emotional costs of working with as many dynamics as we do.
- Like any relationship, you need to test the waters slowly with any new scopist. Do they meet deadlines? Do they communicate? What kind of job do they perform? If you have to redo the transcript, then obviously it’s not worth it. But that doesn't mean you give up; there are good scopists out there and you've got to find yours.
- Feed your scopist some work, even in slow times. Once you’ve established a good relationship, you don’t want to lose it over a few slow weeks and no work sent their way!
Take time to meet your needs
- If you burn out, you’ll be of no help to anyone: your agency or court, your colleagues, your family or your friends. It’s so important to ensure that you make YOU time.
- Physical: exercise, walk, bike, dance – just move! Don’t forget a massage works wonders for the tight muscles in your shoulders and back.
- Mental: meditate, read, watch a movie, turn off the social media, have a nap, sleep in – let your brain have a break.
- Emotional: go have a glass of wine with your friends, a meal out with a loved one, go to your book club, your church, or simply go hug a tree – make sure there’s an offload of feelings and thoughts, and a reconnection to your inner self.
- Turn off the digital world. We do teach people how we want to be treated, so if you answer emails on a 24/7 basis, people come to expect this from you. Set limits, let people know that, for example, at 8 pm you "turn off" and if something is urgent to call you, because you're not staring at your screen at all hours!