Inner Strength

I Remember – Inner Strength in Real-Time Court Reporting

Every day I would go to school with a sick feeling in my stomach, with a crippling fear of the cruelties my teacher would subject me to that day. Quite frequently, I felt sick in class. When I would approach her with my hand on my stomach and request to go to the restroom, she’d call me a “rotten egg” and direct me to the sink inside the classroom so I could get sick in front of all my classmates. What a concept this woman had; if she didn’t excuse me, maybe I wouldn’t get sick in front of the entire class. She was wrong.

But before sending me to get sick at the sink, she called me horrible names. She’d say it loud enough for all to hear. Everyone would have to stop what they were doing to watch me. I could feel all eyes on me. It was complete torture every day!

The preceding excerpt is a true story, one that I lived through my kindergarten year. The abuse I took from that teacher, however, made me a stronger person. Rather than allowing her to turn my world upside down, I simply remembered. I remember what she said. I remember how I felt. I remember well enough to NEVER do the same to anyone else. I remembered well enough to know how to talk to people that experience such horror. I remembered well enough to help myself through other difficult situations in the future. Instead of a victim, I am a fighter. It taught me that I can survive.

I’m not just a court reporter; I’m a real-time court reporter.   Real-time reporting is a specialized skill. Real-time is when the testimony that is being taken down on a steno machine is also displayed on the attorneys’ computers, laptops or iPads in real-time. Not an easy task. You have to be accurate so they can read the testimony and you have to be fast and capable of writing 260 words per minute and keep it clean. And when you make a mistake, the attorneys can see it. That’s a short and simple explanation of real-time reporting. In addition to the spoken word being displayed on all devices, one also needs to be able to trouble shoot when problems occur with such devices and the broadcasting of testimony gets interrupted or stopped.

As a court reporter, when I have to take a real-time deposition or trial, many times I get that same sick feeling in my stomach as when I was five years old. I have a difficult time sleeping the night before. I can’t eat, and I definitely can’t drink caffeine.

Finally, when I arrive at my job (usually 1 hour ahead of schedule) my nerves are on heightened alert until the attorneys walk into the room. Before they arrive for the proceedings, I set up my equipment and their equipment. I’ve got all my notes about the case at hand. I practice memorizing the attorneys’ names so that I properly identify them on the record.   I Premark all my exhibit stickers so that I have them ready upon demand. There’s a long list of things to do before the proceedings start and I check them all off. I’m ready to go.

Once the proceedings start, the first words spoken by counsel are inevitably jumbled and a little messy. I soon catch my composure, calm down and gain control of the situation and it’s all good.

The initial shot of adrenaline actually helps me to write better. It’s usually smooth sailing after the first 10 minutes. Throughout the day’s proceedings, the attorneys will talk about all aspects of the case and I’ll hit some rough patches, especially when they exceed 260 words per minute. When it’s experts that are being examined, the terminology they use and the speed at which they speak always makes my job difficult, but I get it done and I can do it well. That’s when I shine. When the attorneys see the fast and dense testimony coming up on their screen, it never ceases to amaze. And when I can read it back, it further proves to them that I am performing at my best and they’re getting the best service available in the industry.

After a real-time proceeding, I feel a great sense of accomplishment and pride, as I have just provided a specialized service to a group of people, made a good day’s pay and, most importantly, I survived.