Another One for the Court Reporting Students

by cathrynbauer

Well, it has been quite a busy three-or-so weeks.  I’m blogging about it in part because I want the CR students who follow this blog to know that it isn’t like this all the time (unless you make it that way or have poor time management and assertiveness skills), but it does happen that unexpected circumstance arise and things are difficult with juggling assignments, prioritizing, and the like.

So I started out with several good jobs about three weeks ago.  One hearing was more difficult than expected to edit because it had been difficult to transcribe thanks to a nervous, overeager attorney for the petitioner.  I had to check quite a lot with the audio on that one.

Digression Number 1:  Yes, it’s a guilty secret, we do have an audio backup.  It is not intended to be a substitute for the record, and woe betide the reporter who depends on it.  But when attorneys have a seven-hour limit in which to examine a witness, they tend to talk quickly and sometimes over each other.  If it is truly impossible and I have said my piece (“I need you to speak one at a time for an accurate record”) twice, I will sometimes put in the parenthetical (Overlapping voices.)  Sometimes you just can’t make them stop.  But yes, I do resort to audio, primarily to double-check numbers and the oddly-accented or unfamiliar term.  Using the audio really slows down the editing process.  And, of course, it’s part of a computer, meaning that glitches can happen with it.  So you don’t want to depend on it, but it’s forgivable IMO to be glad it’s there from time to time.  End of digression.

So I was moving through a full load at a good clip, but this transcript took a longer time because of the above-mentioned problems.   I had a minor surgical procedure for an ingrown toenail coming up, and Ted had gum surgery to complete.  And it was tax season.  So I accepted a two-day job in a Northern Virginia courthouse, meaning two long workdays and overnight stay.  At the end of the second day, the plaintiffs’ attorney came up to me and asked if he could have a transcript of two witnesses’ testimony that night.  I told him that I couldn’t do it since I was driving back to Prince Frederick.  He asked how quickly he could have it.  I told him over the weekend, thinking grimly of the two long days ahead.  Then I called the office because normal procedure is that everything sent to an attorney goes through the court reporting firm.  However, this was not going to happen, so I explained the situation.  It was verified with the owner that, yes, I could under this circumstance send it directly to the attorney with a copy to Production at the agency.  So I told the attorney that he could have his transcript.

Digression Number 2:  Never send anything to an attorney or negotiate rates, pressure notwithstanding, without talking to a manager or other authorized person at the agency first.  This is because the attorney is actually the agency’s client, not yours.  You need to have phrases at the ready that include:  “I need to check with the agency which I will do right now.”  “I’m not authorized to discuss rates.  You will need to talk to the owner/manager/name of same.  You can call the phone number on my card to talk to her.”  It is nearly always possible to do this politely as well as honestly.  When it’s not, go for honestly.  You simply can’t allow yourself to be manipulated on these issues.  The agency needs to know what’s happening with sales at all times, and rates are their call, not yours.  No, this is not the job for a chronic people-pleaser.  End of digression.

And these were not pleasant weekend days.  Already tired from two long days and finding my way in and out of an unfamiliar area, I had the added stress of anticipating Monday’s medical procedure.  My activities consisted of parking myself at the computer with the occasional foray for food and related bio breaks.  I did the longer of the two segments on Saturday, getting it to him in the late afternoon and then discovering — gadzooks! — an error after I’d sent it.  One of the witnesses had a fairly common name, but it had a double “L” in it that was not at all common.  I sent him a corrected copy.  The second day went very slowly because I recognized my fatigue made me prone to errors.  But I did get that testimony transcript to the attorney before the weekend was out.  And indeed, I did go into the podiatrist’s office feeling tired and overworked.

Mission accomplished.  Procedure gotten through.  I got a good night’s sleep and went back to work on another transcript that was due at the end of the week.  It was an easy and productive day.  The next morning, I was just finishing breakfast, reading the Flipboard news digests on my iPad Mini, when an email came in.  Yes, an expedite was needed.  An expletive (okay, a lot of them) got uttered.  I called the Production staff member who’d sent me the email and said that I could do the expedite, getting one in the following day and the other over the upcoming weekend, but then I wouldn’t be able to get my other job in on time.  Silence.  “When can you get it in?”  I said that it was due Friday, and I could get it to them on Monday.  “Oh.”  I asked if they wanted me to send it to the attorney myself; send it via ReporterBase; or attach it via email. I was to send the first volume via ReporterBase and send the second to Production over the weekend via email.  I got right to work, stayed up until 3:30 a.m. the following morning, then submitted the first volume via email.  I caught a couple of hours of sleep before getting up to drive with Ted to his ghastly gum surgery and shepherd him home.  That afternoon, I was back at Volume II.  I completed it and submitted it at 11:20 Saturday a.m., asking to be notified when they received it, then went to work on the transcript that I said I’d deliver Monday.  Saturday 5:00 p.m., no notification. I emailed one of the owners asking if it had been received.  She said thanks, it was, and cc’d me, sending it to the attorney.  Sunday, for a change (nod to the Fugs), a lot more editing.  And I did get that transcript submitted when I said I would.

It was (insert expletive of choice) hell.  Eating right and exercise, fiddle and spending time with my husband went right out the window.  But I did it.  I had to.  This is what you sign on for, the production of work that is fundamental to the justice-making process.  The work has got to be completed and sent out regardless of personal plans or energy levels.  Diligent planning and personal organization can insure that crunches like this are rare, but they are inevitable.  If you intend to continue along the court reporting path, it’s never too early to start thinking about how you will handle the crunches.  And with every such crunch, you are thinking about how you will handle the next one in a more effective way, like getting up an hour earlier and making the time for that workout.

And yes, sometimes all that gets you through is thinking about the money you’ll be making from the expedite.  I think if pressed, most reporters will admit this!