This month, California-based Veritext digital reporter and former stenographic reporter Chris Spievak, and her son Jake Spievak, a Veritext digital reporter, sit down with Jeffrey Sackheim to reflect on their time and experience in the industry, what it means to be a consummate professional, and for them, how court reporting really is “all in the family!”
JEFFREY: Chris and Jake, so nice to talk to you! Thank you for taking the time today. Chris, let’s start with you. How did you get your start as a court reporter?
CHRIS: Wow, that was a long time ago. So in the ’80s I needed a job, and I met a court reporter who took one look at me and said, “Yeah, this job is not for you.” And so I decided I needed to prove her wrong, and I went to court reporting school. And so I became a court reporter in ‑‑ gosh, it was so long ago I can’t remember ‑‑ 1990. I reported for many years, and when I had my children I was blessed to be able to take time off.
I’d actually also taught court reporting and thought that was just going to be for a very short period of time. It ended up being eight years. And by then my skills were so rusty. Digital reporting was starting, and I thought, “Wow, I want to see what this is all about,” partly to protect the reporting industry and my people and see if this was a good product, and partly because I was too slow to do the machine. And it worked out great, and here I am!
JEFFREY: What year was it that you became a digital reporter?
CHRIS: That was in November of 2018, so I’ve been doing it for almost four years.
JEFFREY: Wow, great. And, Jake, what got you into court reporting?
JAKE: Well, to be honest, I always tell people that it was the family business. I’m just following in the footsteps.
DR is obviously a bit different than steno, but I grew up with my dad working for Sarnoff Court Reporting and then later Veritext; and then my mom went into DR a few years ago, and she thought perhaps it would be a good job for me as well. I type pretty quick. I’m good with computers. And I’m pretty personable, if I do say so myself. So I started training and met a lot of really nice people. Andy Fredericks and Luis Vasquez–they were all really helpful in my training. Veronica Garcia especially. And it turned out to be a really good opportunity for me.
JEFFREY: So, Jake, you became a digital reporter because of your family, but what has kept you in the industry?
JAKE: The flexibility of working on Zoom for now and the flexibility with regards to availability. We’re asked every week, “What days are you available to work?” And it’s really nice for me because I’m a student at Cal State Long Beach studying computer science, and it’s really nice because if I have an exam on a Wednesday, I can say, “Hey, I’m sorry, I can’t work Wednesday.” If I have a big project due, I can say, “Hey, I’m not available, Monday‑Tuesday” because it’s due on Tuesday night, or something like that.
So the availability and the flexibility are really nice.
I’ve loved working on Zoom. I’m a little nervous about working in person, but also a bit excited because meeting people in person ‑‑ and I do enjoy dressing up a bit, so that could be fun.
JEFFREY: And Chris, you could’ve taken a different path when you decided to come back to work. What brought you back to the legal industry?
CHRIS: Honestly, the pay is really good; but I love hearing the stories. Every day is different. I like working with attorneys. I find them to be mostly very nice and fun to be with. I’ve been very close to the legal industry because, obviously, my husband has been part of Veritext for many years.
JEFFREY: What were your biggest takeaways during that transition from steno to digital and the process of learning about new areas of the industry?
CHRIS: I wasn’t very techy at the time that I came in, and I thought that might be a stumbling block for me, but the training team is amazing and the tech guys are awesome.
The best part of the job is listening and taking notes. I do have a little issue where I want to type the whole job because I’m used to being a steno, so that was a little challenging for me. But I’ve learned so much about the audio and technical‑‑how to fix technical difficulties–and that’s helped me in the rest of my life as well. I just love that we do the best part of the job, and then I send it off and I get to go take another one.
JEFFREY: And, Jake, what has been the most rewarding part of the job for you?
JAKE: I didn’t know much about the legal industry going in and the different kinds of proceedings. It’s honestly wild to me how much of a variety there is day to day. Every day it’s something new.
JEFFREY: Chris, talk a little bit about professionalism, what that means to you, and how you show that in your work.
CHRIS: That is one thing that is very important to me about digital reporting because people that become digital reporters come from many different walks of life. I went to court reporting school for many years, and they actually taught us how to behave and the codes of civil procedure and the way that we relate with the attorneys through business practices. And it is very important to me to share that with the new DRs.
When I have DRs sitting in with me, I love to talk about those kinds of things. And you need to make sure that you’re protecting your record, but in a very professional way so that you’re not stepping on anyone’s toes. The attorney is our client, and they are conducting the proceedings. You almost have an opportunity to help them to do their job better. I seem to have had a lot of new attorneys lately, and they’ll talk about an exhibit but then they’ll forget to say that they want to mark the exhibit. So I very carefully say, “Excuse me, Counsel. Would you like to mark that on the record?” Some attorneys don’t understand they can’t mark their exhibits after the deposition is done.
So those kinds of things. You have to know when to say something, and when to hold back and say something on a break; and of course, being on time, being brief, to the point, and always respectful.
JEFFREY: What you said about helping the clients do their job better while remaining neutral, I think that’s such a key to being a great reporter. Jake, similar question to you. What does the professional aspect of this industry mean to you?
JAKE: I would say that’s something that was a bigger concern of mine going into this profession. Obviously being much younger, I find that I really need to step up in order to show attorneys that I know what I’m doing for them to take me seriously. I think I got my values of professionalism from my parents. Obviously, my mom has a very strong sense of needing to be professional, and my dad is very intense sometimes when it comes to work ethic and professional values, so they gave me a really good baseline for those things.
But honestly, it’s kind of a learning experience for me. Every day I experience something new on the job. And I just really work on keeping a level head and making sure that I’m thinking through what I’m saying before I say it and following a very professional tone with attorneys.
You dress the part, and then you also want to act the part. I just always try to look my best, and then I try to speak in a manner that I would feel respected being spoken to in.
JEFFREY: So, now for a fun question: How is it working in the same profession as your mom?
JAKE: That’s been one of the biggest blessings, having her working this job from the get‑go. She was helping me throughout my training, helping keep me motivated. I had a bit of a struggle getting through the training regimen, just because of how busy I was with school and with the job that I had, and it was kind of a weird time through COVID. Then when I started working, she was always there as well. And I could ask her questions, and we could chat about how our jobs went. We were able to share some of the weight with someone else who can understand what we were going through.
She’s just been really helpful; a really great resource to have. Her and my dad both.
JEFFREY: And, Chris, what about you? How is it working with Jake and having him follow in your footsteps?
CHRIS: Oh, it’s been great. I knew that he’d be perfect for this job because he’s super techy. We go to him with all of our tech issues, and it’s just really fun having another avenue to communicate. We come out on a break and it’s like, “Oh, no. They’re going to go for four more hours. Oh, my gosh.” And you feel better because somebody understands. That’s been a really fun thing.
And honestly, with my husband too. Court reporting changed a lot over the years, and how we did certain things changed, and so having him to ask questions about was super helpful as well. So the three of us are always discussing and making sure that we’re doing the best job that we can for our clients.
JEFFREY: So what does the future hold for you in the court reporting industry?
CHRIS: For me, yes, 15 more years of prosperity, I hope. I just hope the fingers can hang in there. And this job ‑‑ like Jake was saying about flexibility, when I had my shoulder surgery, Veritext was so nice and worked with me to bring me back on short jobs until I recovered. So I’m hoping that my body holds up and I can do this for, yeah, 15 ‑‑ that’s a good number ‑‑ years to come.
JEFFREY: Any final thoughts?
JAKE: Going back to my mom praising the tech team, just a quick personal story. My mom would be working from home this past summer before I became a DR and I would hear her on the phone with the tech team very often. They were always very helpful and very nice. I’ve had my own experience with the tech team now, and they’re great people to work with — very understanding, and patient.
I kind of have a background in computers, so I’ve had a really great time learning from them even in regards to computers and also just being able to share some like‑minded conversations.
JEFFREY: Thank you for sharing that. That’s some kudos that will be shared and passed along. I know they’ll appreciate it. They’re a great team.
JAKE: They are. They are.
JEFFREY: And what about you, Chris? Any last thoughts?
CHRIS: I just want to say that I’m not on the phone with them that often because I’m having trouble with my job! But they are wonderful. I’ve been blessed to do this in person and then during COVID online, and I love that we got to keep working. It was pretty scary. There were three weeks when COVID hit where it was like, “What’s going to happen?” And so just the fact that Veritext has pulled it all together, and the sales team getting the attorneys onboard with this, it’s been really, really wonderful to be able to work from home.
I do miss the views of the city from the office buildings, but we’ll get back to that. And it’s been such a great job, and I’m really thankful that Veritext has put everything into making this job happen and coming up with a new way to capture the record so that steno reporters alike can continue to work and we all have a job.
JAKE: Even just in the time that I’ve been doing DR, which is not even a full year, I’ve seen so many improvements that Veritext has been making.
The Champion system has been great. Veronica is amazing. Andy is amazing. I really have enjoyed having that go‑to person; someone who can be a representative of us within the company.
JEFFREY: Thank you for saying that. We’ve tried to position the feedback to help our community develop their skills and become better reporters. And it’s not just from a tech standpoint; it’s also that on‑the‑job professionalism as well‑‑how you’re doing in the room, whether it’s an in‑person or a virtual room. We really make it about development because that’s paramount to us. So thank you for saying that and the nice things that you said about the California team. It really is an all‑star team, top to bottom, from Operations to Sales. Just all around, they’re wonderful.
We’re happy to highlight such a great family who represents the best of this industry; and no matter what capture method they’re using or have used in the past, no matter what is going on, it really does showcase that professionalism and values get us the best record.
JAKE: I appreciate that. Thank you.
CHRIS: Thank you for your time. Thank you so much.
JEFFREY: Thank you.
Do you work with your friends or family?
It is easy to see the passion these two share for the industry and for their jobs. If you know a family member or friend looking for a new career, please visit www.veritext.com/work-with-veritext. If you would like to be featured in a future “It’s All In The Family” article, please email [email protected].
Jeffrey Sackheim is the Director of Digital Engagement for Veritext Legal Solutions. Prior to joining Veritext in November of 2018, Jeffrey was the Vice President of Diamond Reporting and Legal Video in New York, where he helped grow the firm into one of New York’s largest court reporting agencies.
Alongside his mother Jane Sackheim, the principal of the firm and tenured court reporter, Jeffrey utilized the latest advances in legal technology to provide superior court reporting and legal video services to the legal community throughout the New York Metropolitan area and New Jersey.
In 2020, Jeffrey stepped into the role of Director of Digital Engagement for Veritext Legal Solutions, where oversees the national engagement and utilization of Veritext’s court reporting partners.