Court Reporter Spotlight: Merilee Johnson, RDR, CRR, CRC, RSA
Veritext Director of Reporter Relations and Technologies
Q: When and how did you get into the court reporting profession?
A: In high school my career counselor said my area of interests recommended a career as a stenographer. At the time I didn’t know what a stenographer was, so I figured if I didn’t know what the title was, it probably wasn’t the right field to go into.
So I went the traditional route of enrolling in a four-year college. After three years I realized getting a four-year degree wasn’t creating a pathway to a career, it was only providing me with a degree. At a crossroad with what I was going to do, I was reminded of my high school counselor and decided to check out court reporting school. Like all of us, I was enamored the first time I put my hands on that writer.
Q: What do you enjoy most about this business?
A: The unique thing about court reporting is that it has so many professions tied up in one. There’s more to it than just being on our writers. I love learning secret nuggets of info in a vast variety of fields. It reminds me of the fun part of school: where I get to learn but don’t have to do the homework.
In addition to that, flopping between CART and depos has been a fun challenge to adjust my writing for each setting, and I’ve enjoyed expanding my knowledge of the software. It has also forced me to face some of my fears, such as walking into someplace new every day, not knowing anyone. It’s helped me address my anxiety with certification testing. But the one thing I’m most proud of has been training myself not to sweat through my shirt every time I provide realtime reporting.
Q: Most interesting depo you’ve taken or experience you’ve had?
A: I will never forget providing CART to a consumer having a medical procedure. The consumer chose to stay awake for the procedure, and I provided CART to help this person communicate with the doctor. I sat by the client’s head, put my computer sideways so my client could read it laying down and provided captions for six hours. The gratitude the medical staff and the consumer shared reminds me that what we do every day is a unique skill that very few people in the world can do.
My favorite reporting job was reporting a speech by Bill Clinton. He was slow, methodical, articulate and easy to take. He should teach a course to all presenters and attorneys on how to speak. He’s a dream to report!
Q: What is one of your favorite writing tricks?
A: Writing shorter is the key to speed and accuracy, but I struggle trying to remember all the short forms I’ve jammed into my brain. I recently picked up a new trick that I’ve dubbed the “reverse command.” I use this command if I accidentally write the wrong homonym, if I misstroke a word, I use this command to solve a conflict or reverse what I wrote.
I’ve adopted R-R as my reverse command (which is also my short form for “railroad,” but when defined with these other strokes, there is no conflict).
For example, let’s take “compliment” versus “complement” sometimes my thumb just hits the “E” instead of the “EU” when I write “compliment.” When that happens, instead of deleting back and rewriting it, I will invoke my “reverse” command, and it changes “complement” to “compliment.”
My notes will look like this: KPLEPLT/R-R
I will also use this for ending quoted material. For example: in ?” versus “?, I will use my stroke for ?” and then write R-R if I want it to be “?.
Q: What is some equipment that makes your job better?
A: A few of my favorite gadgets to bring on jobs include:
- Anker Portable Multi-Angle Stand for Tablets – These are small and easy to use.
- Vogek 6-Port Charger – I use this for every realtime job. During lunch I leave the iPads where they are and do a quick charge of all the iPads in the room.
- Foot Rest Cushion – I was delighted to discover this little footrest. It sits under my desk and has made working at home much more comfortable.
- Dymo LabelWriter – The infamous label maker. I am updating to the wireless version, but this little label writer pleases the masses.
- Rolling Bag – I have recently changed to this bag and my back thanks me for it! It fits more than my old Duet Rolling case did, is smaller and lighter, and rolling it down the street is much easier.
Q: What you love to do when you’re not working?
A: When I’m not working, I enjoy most anything that will keep me out of a chair at the end of a conference table. A good run to clear my mind, a hearty glass of wine, and time with my son are my life’s pleasures. (Not in that order. Well … some days.)
Q: Favorite things?
- Food: Something I don’t have to cook myself
- Sports teams: Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Wild
- Music: Any song that I actually know the words to. Most of the time I’m bouncing my head trying to sing and realizing I only know a couple random words here and there.