Why Being a Court Reporter Is Like Living Through March Madness 12 Months a Year.

When most people think of March Madness the first thought may be of a basketball, a court full of crowds, cheering, or a trophy. Or, if you are like me, it is the fans’ game of “guessing” who will be better than any other team on any given day. But rarely do I think of the beginning of the season, or everything else that transpires before March Madness, leading up to the thrill of the Final Four. As I am looking forward to watching the end of the 2017 March Madness this weekend it occurs to me that March Madness is not that different from court reporting. “Have you lost your mind?” “You cannot be serious.” While that may be your response, let’s compare the two and see if you then agree that March Madness is a similar experience to what court reporters go through year-round.

Start with the idea of practice. Practice makes perfect, right? Well nothing but perfection is acceptable in depositions, where the court reporter’s job is to take down every syllable verbatim. Even an experienced court reporter is not ready to walk into a deposition without practicing their skills and speed. While it is not running sprints or making free throws, court reporters spend hours every week exercising their brains and racing their fingers across their stenography machines in preparation for their next deposition.

But before practice comes the initial training phase. This includes working on achieving speeds of over 225 WPM in the case of a court reporter. Learning first how to “read” the 22 keys on the stenography machine is much like the first shot a young child takes at the driveway hoop. It is the beginning of the training process, which can take several years for a court reporter to learn. A court reporter is not learning positions on the court, or the technical way to make a basket, but legal court terminology and legal dictation skills. And this too takes time and proper training.

No matter how much you practice your skills, if you don’t know your playbook, you will not achieve the best results. For a basketball player the playbook is literally each pre-drawn play that the coach could call upon the players to run during a game. But court reporters also have a playbook. The court reporter playbook may include their plan for depositions such as where to set up to achieve the best view of the deponent and attorneys, a predetermined process for responding to potential scenarios or disturbances during the deposition, as well as their pre-planned and rehearsed dictionary. Without this playbook the court reporter may lack the ability to perform as well as expected.

Know more than one play. Any good basketball player knows more than one shot, and that is true for an experienced court reporter. A good court reporter can do more than one type of deposition and knows more than standard stenography. Their other plays may include realtime transcription, or streaming of deposition testimony to participants across the country.

Just as on a basketball court a player would not be game ready without proper attire including athletic shoes and a fully aired basketball a court reporter needs the right equipment.  The court reporter’s equipment includes a stenography machine, and possibly a Polycom telephone, microphones, laptop or other gear, as well as back-up machines. Without the proper equipment the stenographer or basketball player will not be a top performer.

A basketball player cannot win the game on their own just as a court reporter needs to have a team off the court supporting their performance. Teamwork is key to basketball players, attorneys, and court reporters alike. None of these professionals can do their job alone. The same player cannot make every shot, take every dribble, and bring the ball down court for the entire 40 minute game. Similarly, while the court reporter is the “face” of their industry they cannot also handle the scheduling, production, billing, trial technology, and other important duties that make the court reporter’s performance possible.By all working together the court reporter and their team back in the office provide a seamless experienced for clients.

Just as a player on the court needs to listen for the plays being called by coaches and to their teammates for quick changes a court reporter’s listening skills are imperative.In a deposition the court reporter must differentiate numerous people speaking, sometimes over each other, and possibly in different dialects or accent. It may not be the roar of the crowd that players have to hear over, but the court reporter’s listening skills are key to their job performance.

Whether you are up or down in a game you may need to make adjustments to reach your full potential. Court reporting and basketball players alike need to be proactive and think on their feet making adjustments when necessary.

Fans don’t like to cheer for a team from afar. Centrality for fans is important. It would be hard to play a game and have the all-important “sixth man” scattered across the country, and it is also difficult to meet expectations and perform top-level customer service if the scheduling, production, and billing departments supporting your court reporter are not centralized.

Postgame matters too. The game does not stop at the final buzzer. It is then that the coaches and team review the tape and discuss what they can improve upon.  For court reporters the game may just be starting when the attorneys go off the record. It is then that the court reporter has to go full speed to complete their transcript and produce it to the client. Without the post-game rituals and review neither the basketball star nor star court reporter will have completed the game. 

For all of these similarities it does feel to a court reporter like they experience the Final Four year-round.

PohlmanUSA court reporters and our friendly, professional office team are always ready to perform in or out of court. We’re always listening.® PohlmanUSA offers traditional court reporting, realtime streaming, videography, videoconferencing, multi-platform video conferencing, trial support, records collection and more. To learn how our team can make you a winning team call us today at 877-421-0099 or visit http://pohlmanusa.com/our-services/.