What to look for before hiring a court reporter?

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It took money. It took time. It took dedication. It took your blood, your toil, your tears, your sweat. And now here you stand, diploma or CSR certificate in hand, ready, at long last, to begin working as a court reporter. But what if you barely passed your 225s and then only after devout entreaties to your deity of choice?

Or maybe you’ve been reporting a few years but feel it’s time to make a change and move from the freelance arena to the courtroom or from one freelance firm to another. What if you’re not a Registered Diplomate Reporter? What if you don’t write stellar Realtime? Heck, what if you don’t write real time at all? The Naples and Fort Myers court managers or the recruiter used to look for the following things before hiring the Naples court reporter and Fort Myers court reporters respectively.

Work Ethic

The very first thing that comes to mind when looking for a reporter is the work ethic according to Phyllis Clarke DeFonzo, RPR, of Freehold, N.J. “I want the commitment to work and willingly. There are a handful of reporters I could think of who are cooperative in every way and then some. That is what I look for. This sentiment is echoed by Forrest Brown, RDR, of Brown Reporting Inc. in Atlanta: “What I look for is someone who is hungry and wants to work, someone who doesn’t complain about their job assignment and who is willing to work late, if necessary.”

Lana M. Fruke, RPR, CMRS, CPE, manage a large pool of officials in San Diego. In her opinion, “Of course, good reporting, transcription, and proofreading skills are obvious prerequisites. As far as personality traits, I am looking for reporters who can withstand a lot of stress such as appeal deadlines coming all at the same time; are professional, conscientious and ethical; will walk the extra mile when called upon team players; and have good business sense and communication skills.”

Positive Mental Attitude

A positive attitude seems to go hand in hand with a strong work ethic. “We look for enthusiasm and team spirit,” says Donna Kanabay Harvey, RMR, CRR, whose family has owned Kanabay Court Reporters in St. Petersburg, Fla., for more than 30 years. Alfred A. Betz, RMR, of Al Betz & Associates Inc., Westminster, Md., puts it another way: “I look for experience and personality, a friendly person willing to put the client first.” Forrest Brown also concurs: “I want a neat appearance and a smile, a person who makes a legitimately good appearance and who has a bit of composure, a good personality.”

Broad Knowledge

Also important is the breadth of a prospective reporter’s knowledge. “A reporter today, particularly in a large metropolitan area, is likely to encounter testimony on a host of subjects, from financial analysis to biotech manufacturing processes to medical malpractice. Wide-ranging knowledge and curiosity are key, because a reporter can’t report well what she or he knows nothing about,” says Brock. “A liberal arts B.A., travel experience and knowledge of other languages are good indicators.”

Phyllis DeFonzo adds, “I share the view that college is definitely beneficial. In this day and age, we can never broaden our horizons too wide, especially being surrounded constantly by some very educated people.”

Technological Know-How

Knowledge of technology is another plus. Vicki Akenhead-Ruiz, RMR, CMRS, and an NCRA Past President, manages official reporters in New Mexico. In the job interviews she conducts along with a judge and court administrator, “We ask about computer knowledge and experience, what systems they have used and what types of software programs are they familiar with and can they use. We talk about technology in the courtroom, and I try to get their views and their perspective on the reporter’s role in the courtroom and within the judiciary, kind of their overview of the future and how we fit and how we contribute.”

Realtime Readiness

 

While Realtime-writing ability may not yet be a prerequisite for all reporting jobs, many employers look for those reporters who are at least moving in that direction. In Lana Fluke’s courthouse, “Real-time ability is not essential to become an official, and it is not a part of our job description. However, we are in the process of putting together our CART policies and procedures, and we will be looking for Realtime reporters to fulfill those needs. In addition, many of our judges are requesting Realtime for trials on a daily basis.” Akenhead-Ruiz asks, “Are they certified in Realtime and are they working on Realtime? We try to hire those who have at least attempted to pass the CRR test.”

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