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2022 Court Reporting & Captioning Week

2022 Court Reporting & Captioning Week
Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters and Certified Legal Video, LLC
1321 Jones Street, Omaha, NE 68102
402.556.5000
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It’s the perfect time to shine a light on a career that’s a best-kept secret

2022 Court Reporting & Captioning Week, hosted by the National Court Reporters Association, is happening Feb. 5-12 and marks the perfect opportunity to showcase the skills of your station’s captioner and to share with your viewers more about the unique careers stenographic court reporting and captioning offer.

Did you know…

  • That court reporting and captioning do not require a four-year college degree, providing graduates to enter the workforce more quickly and with less debt?
  • That there is a growing need for professionals to fill stenographic court reporting and captioning jobs?
  • That this career choice offers good pay, unlimited opportunities, the chance to travel at home and abroad, and many times, a front-row seat to history?
  • Stenographic captioners do wonderful work to help better the lives of millions of Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing by providing captioning in real time for live sporting and theater events, church services, movie houses, many other venues, and newscasts like yours!

 

Here are a few more fun and interesting facts about the court reporting profession:

  • Capturing the record of important proceedings dates to the fourth century B.C.
  • The ampersand (&) is one of the earliest forms of shorthand.
  • There are official court reporters who are employees of the court, freelance court reporters, broadcast captioners, and CART captioners (Communication Access Realtime Translation—often employed in classroom settings to assist students who are deaf or hard of hearing).
  • In an emergency, broadcast captioners can provide vital information to 48 million Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Court reporters and captioners use cutting-edge technology to bring the spoken word accurately to text in real time.
  • There is currently a steady demand for professionals in the court reporting and captioning professions as many in the field are reaching retirement age in the next several years.
  • Annual salaries of court reporters and captioners can reach upwards of $80,000.

Court reporters and captioners rely on the latest in technology to use stenographic machines to capture the spoken word and translate it into written text in real time. These professionals work both in and out of the courtroom recording legal cases and depositions, providing live captioning of events, and assisting members of the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities with gaining access to information, entertainment, educational opportunities, and more.

If you’re looking for a career that is on the cutting edge of technology, offers the opportunity to work at home or abroad, like to write, enjoy helping others, and are fast with your fingers, then the fields of court reporting and captioning are careers you should explore.

The NCRA  A to Z® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program is a free online six-to-eight-week introductory course that lets participants see if a career in court reporting or captioning would be a good choice for them. The program is an introductory course in stenographic theory and provides participants with the opportunity to learn the basics of writing on a steno machine. There is no charge to take the course, but participants are required to have access to a steno machine or an iPad they can use to download an iStenoPad app.

The NCRA A to Z programs are taught by volunteer professionals working in the court reporting and captioning arenas who also share insights into the many aspects of court reporting and captioning that make it a viable profession, including good salaries, flexibility, interesting venues, and the increasing demand for more reporters and captioners to meet the growing number of employment opportunities available in the field.

To arrange an interview with a working court reporter, captioner, or a current court reporting student, or to learn more about the lucrative and flexible court reporting or captioning professions and the many job opportunities currently available, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

About NCRA

The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) has been internationally recognized for promoting excellence among those who capture and convert the spoken word to text for more than 100 years. NCRA is committed to supporting its more than 13,000 members in achieving the highest level of professional expertise with educational opportunities and industry-recognized court reporting, educator, and videographer certification programs. NCRA impacts legislative issues and the global marketplace through its actively involved membership.

 

Forbes has named court reporting as one of the best career options that do not require a traditional four-year degree. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the court reporting field is expected to be one of the fastest areas of projected employment growth across all occupations. According to 247WallSt.com, the court reporting profession ranks sixth out of 25 careers with the lowest unemployment rate, just 0.7 percent. Career information about the court reporting profession—one of the leading career options that do not require a traditional four-year degree—can be found at DiscoverSteno.org.

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Future of Court Reporting Discussed at Town Hall Meeting

In September, the Omaha Bar Association hosted a town hall meeting with members of the local legal community to discus the futrue of court reporting in Nebraska.  As a part of that town hall meeting, Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters was asked to sit on the panel to provide insight into the matter.  Below are photos from the meeting, as well as an article by David Golbitz from The Daily Record about what transpired at the meeting.  Thank you to the OBA for including Thomas & Thomas in the town hall meeting.  We truly appreciate being a part of the discussion.

 

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Future of Court Reporting in Nebraska Up in the Air

By David Golbitz

The Daily Record

The Omaha Bar Association hosted a town hall meeting with members of the local legal community to discuss the future of court reporting in Nebraska.

A contentious issue, the hour-and-a-half long meeting—moderated by Omaha attorney Stu Dornan — raised a number of questions but provided few answers.

At the heart of the discussion was the fact that Nebraska has a shortage of trained, qualified court reporters, leaving many courtrooms to rely on potentially inaccurate transcriptions made from digital recordings of the testimony.

“(Accurate records are) the lifeblood of what we do,” Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey Funke said. “We can't have a justice system without the record. It's important for the litigants, important for the attorneys, important for the trial judge and it's extremely important for me in my job now as an appellate judge. All I do is read the record.”

Most of the lawyers and judges who spoke at the town hall agreed that having a court reporter in the courtroom is the absolute best way to ensure an accurate record.

“If I had my druthers, I would say every courtroom should have a stenographic court reporter,” Funke said. “Is that financially feasible? No. Is that feasible with the shortage that we’re experiencing? No. So what do we do?”

One of the reasons for the court reporter shortage is that Nebraska doesn’t offer a competitive salary. Some court reporters previously employed in Nebraska are leaving for higher wages — by one count, there are currently nine court reporters working in Iowa who used to work in Douglas County.

Funke said that a pay study is currently underway to determine how much Nebraska should be paying its court reporters, but the study won’t be ready until the end of the year.

More competitive pay doesn’t, on its own, mean that there will be enough qualified workers to serve as court reporters, though. Many employers are struggling to draw in the talent they need, and the shortage of court reporters is national — there just aren’t enough workers for all vacancies.

Douglas County Public Defender Tom Riley wants the state to do whatever it has to do to ensure every courtroom has a court reporter.

“Cheaper isn’t necessarily better in this context,” Riley said. “I can think of any number of instances where I’m so glad that there was a court reporter that was involved, a human being, a steno, that knows what they’re doing and can keep track of the record both with regard to the physical evidence and the testimony.”

Riley added: “As far as I’m concerned we should do everything we can to keep live steno court reporters in the courtroom as often as we can. And whatever changes we need to do, keep them here.”

The problem with not having a dedicated court reporter in the courtroom is that something might be missed by someone who is just listening to an audio recording.

“I think of all the sidebars we have where you might be talking over me, the court reporter will say, ‘one at a time’ or ‘slow down’ or ‘you’re too quiet,’” Chief Deputy Douglas County Attorney Brenda Beadle said.

Court reporters are able to actively listen to what’s being said.

“If there’s not a way to discern between what’s not important and what is actually important, that is a concern,” Interim Omaha City Attorney Matt Kuhse said.

The potential that a key part of testimony might be missed is significantly higher without a court reporter working in real time in the courtroom.

During her presentation, Sarpy County court reporter Stefanie Allison presented a transcript that had been made from a digital recording that had “261 untranslates, indecipherables, indiscernibles and unidentified speakers.”

“This is an appeal,” Allison said. “This is somebody’s life here, and this record is not accurate. You can’t make a ruling on this.”

Douglas County Court Judge Thomas K. Harmon said that he has had to change the way he presides over his courtroom when he doesn’t have a court reporter.

“One of the things that I try to do on the bench is to be very clear in the questions that I’m asking, hoping that I’ll have an audible record that will in fact, if an appeal comes about, that you do have those facts available and that there is a record made,” Harmon said. “I’m very anal about making sure everyone identifies themselves, making sure that the names are spelled correctly.”

Kuhse said that judges shouldn’t have to split their attention between listening to testimony in the moment and wondering whether the audio recording is going to be clear enough on a later review.

“I do not like recording systems in county court,” Kuhse said. “It places too much burden on the judges to have to get the exhibits, mark the exhibits, keep track of the exhibits, when their attention should be on the evidence and testimony.”

The town hall meeting ended without a clear idea of how to ensure an accurate record is kept for every case if there is not a court reporter in every courtroom.

Most attendees believe there will have to be some sort of hybrid system between having inperson stenographers and using digital recording technology, but no one knows what it will look like.

“Part of solving that problem is to incorporate digital recording into District Court and do it in a way that supports stenos,” District Court Judge Shelly Stratman said. “How is (digital) going to incorporate with our stenos? And how are we going to make sure that we have the software, the equipment, and everything we need to make sure that every attorney and every litigant is getting an accurate record?”

Until that hybrid system is figured out, there will still be only one surefire way to ensure that the court record is accurate.

“I will tell you right here and now the reality is that if you do not have a stenographer in that courtroom you cannot guarantee that that record is accurate,” Allison said. “You cannot. Period.”

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How to Conduct Remote Depositions

Last week, Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters spoke with Dave Sommers at the Omaha Bar Association to discuss how law firms can continue to conduct depositions during the current coronavirus outbreak.  Below is the recording of said interview as well as an explanation of the benefits of remote depositions and our recommendations on how to successfully conduct one.

While the ability to conduct remote depositions have been around for a while, the advent of the coronavirus has put them in the forefront of the legal community.  Having performed over 2,500 videoconferences, Thomas & Thomas has seen the benefits of remote depositions firsthand.  For starters, it is easy to use.  We generate a unique link and send it to all the participants.  One simple click and you are in.  Another benefit is you can connect from anywhere.  Given the current climate, we have seen attorneys, deponents, and court reporters appear from businesses and homes, allowing flexibility to those who cannot or prefer not to be out in public.  Our remote deposition platform, Zoom, also allows the participants to share exhibits in real time with all the other participants.  This function ensures everyone is on the same page and can easily follow along.  Zoom also works with almost all devices – PCs, Macs, and other videoconferencing units. 

Benefits of Remote Depositions:

  • Connect from Anywhere- Connect from your home or office
  • Easy to Use- Simply click a link to connect
  • Incorporate Exhibits- share your desktop to ensure all participants can see and follow the exhibits in real-time
  • Universal Connectivity - Connect to PCs, Macs, and V/C Units

Even though remote depositions can be a great alternative to conducting an in-person deposition, the participants should be aware of the pitfalls and how to avoid them prior to conducting their first deposition.  As with any technology, you should do your best to use current, up-to-date products that have the latest updates and security patches installed.  As technology ages, they become less compatible with current software and devices and may not work properly.  External devices, both webcams and speakerphones, are essential to a smooth videoconference.  We recommend Logitech’s HD Pro Webcam and Jabra’s noise-cancelling USB speakerphone.  You also want to ensure you have a stable internet connection.  Make sure you conduct the deposition from somewhere with a constant, high-speed internet connection.  Conducting a videoconference on a public network may be subject to varying internet speeds.  If you can, hardwire the internet connection.  If your device doesn’t have an ethernet port, try acquiring a USB ethernet adapter.  Finally, you always want to test your system with the parties involved.  Ideally, it will be the same setup and in the same location as the deposition.  Thomas & Thomas always tests with each participant prior to each deposition to ensure the user knows how to connect and that there is a stable connection.  Troubleshooting in advance ensures your deposition will get started on time and will be successful.

Recommendations for Conducting a Successful Remote Deposition:

  • Use a stable, current device – desktop, laptop, or tablet
  • Invest in an external webcam
  • Use an external, noise-cancelling speakerphone or call in telephonically
  • Use a hardwired internet connection whenever possible
  • Test, test, test!

Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters has led the way in court reporting and litigation support technology for over 40 years, and now we welcome the opportunity to assist you with any need you may have. If you would like to learn more about remote depositions, please do not hesitate to contact us. We would love to show you the multitude of services we have to offer. We look forward to making your life easier.

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Court Reporting, Legal Videography, and Trial Presentation Services Tips, Tricks, and Tidbits from Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters: Focus Groups

 

Welcome to court reporting, legal videography, and trial presentation services tips, tricks and tidbits from Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters.  Each month, we will be providing some insight or thought on a particular litigation support service.  Hopefully, you find these posts and videos informative and come back each month for additional content!

 

This week we will be discussing focus groups.  Below are several tips, tricks, and tidbits we have learned over the years by conducting our own focus groups.  In the event you have questions or want to learn more, please reach out to our office.  We would be happy to talk with you. 

 

Focus groups can be conducted in many different ways.  From deciding whether a case is worth taking, all the way to a mock trial, focus groups can be beneficial to your case regardless of where you are at in it.  Below are just a few examples of why you might want to conduct a focus group:

 

  • Case development:
    • Know whether a case is worth taking
    • Develop facts
    • Determine which expert you are going to need to hire
    • Prepare information for a deposition or mediation
  • Mock trial
    • Prospective jury’s perception of your client or witness
    • Practice voir dire, openings and closings
    • Gain insight into the deliberation process

 

In my experience, though, you should try and stay away from using focus groups to determine a dollar amount for your case. 

 

One of the most important things to remember when conducting a focus group is to remain neutral, both in presentation and in setup.  Here at Thomas & Thomas, we offer a neutral, third-party location so the participants do not know who is conducting the focus group.  If you conduct it at law firm, they may come into the focus group with a preconceived notion of who you are and what you are trying to accomplish.  We also issue the checks to the participants so that everything comes from our office and not a law firm.  If our clients desire, we will also present the facts of your case.  This ensures that your biasness does not interject itself into the presentation of the materials. 

 

Other important things to consider are making sure you have a true representation of your eventual jury and having the participants signs confidentiality agreements.  You will want to provide snacks and/or meals to the participant to ensure they stay happy and engaged.  Regular breaks also help keep them focused.  We like to provide forms and notepads that you can collect at the end of the focus group, as each participant may respond differently to the setting.  These options allow you to capture the thoughts of a quite participant that you may not hear from much when conducting the focus group.  Being able to record the session for future playback is immensely important.  Often times people tell me that they learn something new each time they rewatch the video.  You may also want to consider streaming the session to another room so non-participating individuals can observe the session without affecting it.  Streaming is also a great way to allow the participants to “deliberate” during a mock trial and still be able to observe their thoughts and feelings in real time.  

 

Focus groups can be wildly entertaining and informative if presented in the right manner, and we hope you are now better positioned to do just that. 

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Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters Provides A/V Equipment Rental for Trial at Douglas County Courthouse

Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters Provides A/V Equipment Rental for Trial at Douglas County Courthouse

Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters is excited to be providing A/V support for a three-day trial at the Douglas County Courthouse this week.  Thomas & Thomas brought in four monitors, a large screen TV, ELMO document camera, and a matrix switch so the parties can present their cases in an efficient, digital manner.  Said A/V equipment can be used to show exhibits, videos, and PowerPoints to the jury, counsels’ tables, and the judge. 

Don’t feel comfortable running the equipment?  Need additional tools like trial presentation software (i.e. TrialDirector, Sanction, etc.)?  Thomas & Thomas has you covered.   Our trained trial technicians can assist you at your next trial, ensuring everything runs smoothly and the jury’s attention is kept.  Contact us today to learn more about our court reporting, legal videography, and trial services. 

 

AV Equipment Rental Douglas County Courthouse Omaha

 

AV Equipment Rental Douglas County Courthouse Omaha2

 

 

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Trial Presentation Services in LeMars, Iowa Leads to Defense Verdict

Trial Presentation Services in LeMars, Iowa Leads to Defense Verdict

Last month, Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters were asked to provide trial presentation services for two-week trial at the Plymouth County Courthouse in LeMars, Iowa.  Specifically, defense counsel needed assistance working with MRI images and a radiologist to counter plaintiff’s contention of what the images showed.  For those who have worked with medical imaging software, you know this process can be difficult and unpredictable.  That is where Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters came in.  We worked with the doctor to select the best images and how we might present them in the best way.  Ultimately, we decided between a joint effort of trial technician, doctor, and ELMO document camera operated by the attorney.  With all of the A/V equipment being run through our trial technician, switching between sources was seamless and the elicited testimony proved dispositive in the jury returning a defense verdict. 

Whether it is court reporting, videotaped depositions, or trial presentation services, consider using Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters the next time you need litigation support services.  With over 40 years of experience, we know how to get the job done right. 

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Omaha Court Reporters Transcribe and Provide Realtime Feed for 2017 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting

On May 6, Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters provided court reporters for and transcribed the 2017 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting, which was held at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska.  This was the seventh straight year Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters transcribed the Annual Meeting live throughout the day, and was the second straight year we provided a realtime feed for Mr. Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger during the question-and-answer portion of the meeting.  The realtime feed provided Mr. Buffett and Mr. Munger with a direct written record of investor and analyst participant questions so they could better respond as the questions were posed.  Known as the "Woodstock of Capitalists," the event drew an estimated 40,000 attendees.

 

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