Court Reporters: How to Keep Busy While Waiting Out a Pandemic
By Jan Schmitt, RPR, CSR, CCR – Principal, Washington
This article was originally published on the Schmitt Reporting & Video, A Veritext Company blog.
Although we are in the midst of some new and uncertain times right now, this too shall pass. So, while we are waiting out a pandemic, let’s make the most of our time. What should you do with limited work, limited activities and a lot of free time? How do we stay prepared for the onslaught of work that will be barreling our way in a few short months? Here are some suggestions and tips to keep you ready to work, rebalancing life as we know it all while making the most of this situation.
For starters, shifting ourselves into a new philosophy of work can be helpful. This is the perfect time to get some tasks done that will make you more efficient when normal work resumes. Contact any clients that have a hold (no order) proceeding and ask if they are interested in ordering at this time or if the case has settled. It’s a great way to stay in front of your clients and possibly create some additional work. You can also set aside an hour per day to go through your personal dictionary and eliminate incorrect and outdated entries.
Get the certification(s) you have always wanted or needed. Our firm covers two states: Oregon and Washington. Oregon is not a certification- required state, but has a CSR (Certified Shorthand Reporter) certification. CSR certification allows you to administer oaths remotely. So if you are a reporter that uses a notary to swear in witnesses, you will not be able to report remote depositions unless another party is designated to swear in the witness. Washington requires a CCR (Certified Court Reporter) to report any legal proceeding in the state. The good news is if you have an RPR (Registered Professional Reporter), you can become certified in both Oregon and Washington.
Set up your home office appropriately for remote proceedings. Depositions with all or most of the parties appearing remotely will likely be the way we conduct business for the foreseeable future. Make sure to test that all your equipment is in working order for videoconference and phone depositions, that you have external speakers and microphones, if you should need them, and that your Internet speed is solid. If you would like to be the first pick to be assigned to a virtual remote proceeding, it’s important to be knowledgeable and comfortable using the remote platforms, such as Veritext Virtual (including Exhibit Share), Remote Counsel, Go-to-Meeting, WebEx and Zoom. Many of these platforms have test centers and helpful articles or videos that demonstrate how to navigate within them. Be sure to set up your machine to your laptop and practice writing at least three times per week. It’s shocking how quickly you can lose your speed. If you don’t have practice material, try using the audio of a challenging job you still have on your computer.
Take this time to increase your knowledge. A number of associations are providing Continuing Education at low or no cost. For instance, STAR offers online webinars at no cost to STAR members and for a low cost to non-members. Your state associations also are providing online and remote conferences with valuable content to members and non-members.
Check out the latest features of your court reporting software. Cindi Lynch has some fabulous blogs, including one about Case CATalyst and one about remote reporting that is most helpful. Eclipse also has a number of past and present webinars on their website, including Working with Eclipse Remotely Featuring Zoom.
To stave off boredom and stir-craziness, USA Today has a great article on 100 Things to Do While Stuck Inside Due to a Pandemic. Here are a few more activities you might be interested in: Interview your parents and create a transcript of your interview; try a new recipe each week; write a journal about your days; start a photo-a-day challenge; or call someone who you know would love a little socialization (like people in hospitals and care centers that cannot have visitors) and chat, Facetime or Zoom with them. Find a way to give back. You can make face masks for healthcare workers or family and friends. If you don’t have material available, you can use old shirts or bedsheets.
Now, more than ever, it’s important that you take good care of yourself. Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of water, exercise, maintain a healthy diet and get fresh air. Limit your time watching or reading the news. Meditate, pray, or try out the Breethe: Meditation & Sleep app (for Mac and for Windows). Count your blessings, literally. I’ve been taking Yale University’s fabulous (and free!) class, The Science of Well-Being, presented by Professor Laurie Santos. In this class you will engage in a series of challenges designed to increase your own happiness and build more productive habits, essentially learning to be happier.
Remain hopeful. Work volumes are increasing every day, and clients are setting more and more entirely remote proceedings. Make the most of this time so you can look back and feel grateful to have had an opportunity that rarely presents itself. To each of us, time is one of our most valuable commodities. Most mothers when asked what they would like to have more of have the same answer: Time. So make the most of this rare opportunity. Take care and stay healthy.
About Jan Schmitt, RPR, CSR, CCR
Jan Schmitt has been a professional court reporter for over 30 years, working in Portland, Oregon and Southwest Washington. Her experience and professionalism has attracted and retains the top court reporters and videographers in the region. Our court reporters average over 20 years of experience, with most of them having worked with Jan their entire career. Jan continues to report as well, as she enjoys the client contact and the relationships that develop over years of reporting.