Court Reporting in the time of COVID-19

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To commemorate the National Court Reporters Association 2021 Court Reporting and Captioning Week, we’d like to honor the driven and incredibly talented court reporters and videographers on our team. During a time in history when in-person interactions are limited and virtual meetings are used to converse safely in groups, it feels extra appropriate to spotlight and show gratitude for these men and women who go to great technical lengths regularly to ensure accurate coverage of legal proceedings.

It has been almost a year since COVID-19 first captured the world’s attention, and depositions look a lot different now than they used to. Capturing dialogue accurately on its own is a challenge – and when the people speaking are dozens of miles away, some without headsets or quality microphones, court reporters have to pull a few audio tricks and a lot of patience out of their bags to create great transcripts.

We asked our team members a few questions about reporting remotely during a pandemic and whether they had any advice or suggestions to offer:

 

When COVID-19 first hit, how long did it take you to adjust to working remote, getting your office set up, etc.?

I was in the midst of moving when COVID first hit, so it took me a month or two to get everything the way I wanted it. Now that I feel like remote depositions are here to stay, I am revamping my setup again to ensure I have the clearest audio possible from the Zoom platform.  I feel very high-tech!  

Meghan Minnick
RPR, CCR-MO 
Active court reporter: 3 years

Two to three weeks. I rearranged my office, bought a new desk, and spruced it up knowing I was going to be doing remote and wanted a real office feel.

Mary Lynn Cushing
CCR-MO, CSR-KS
Active court reporter: 33 years

It was more building up my nerves. I had a spare laptop that is now my Zoom laptop, and I have upgraded my way of listening, so I am digging it now! Let’s go full remote! I love how this has forced technology on us. 

DeAnne M. Renken
RPR, CSR-IL, CCR-MO, CCR-AR
Active court reporter: 21 years

 

Since COVID-19 has caused depositions to go virtual, what has been the most difficult part of working remotely as the court reporter?

Unreliable internet connections, hands down. A seamless remote deposition depends on every participant’s internet connection being stable, which doesn’t always happen. Poor internet connections can cause words to not come through clearly or at all, which is a court reporter’s worst nightmare! I have gotten used to interrupting and asking for clarifications a lot more. 

Meghan Minnick
RPR, CCR-MO
Active court reporter: 3 years

Court reporters are used to some sort of remote reporting, whether it be telephone or videoconference, even before the pandemic. Remote depositions through Zoom are great if all parties have a stable connection and good audio.

Renee Combs Quinby
RDR, CRR, CCR-MO, CSR-IL, CSR-CA, CCR-AR, Realtime Systems Administrator
Active court reporter: 22 years

 

What are your three must-haves for covering virtual depositions?

1) Good lighting – I purchased a selfie light ring for around $30 that really helps!
2) Headset or ear buds.
3) Comfortable seating and strong coffee – you sit for a long time!

 Taedra Hickam
Active legal videographer: 10 years

Comfortable chair, as with any deposition, snacks and drink nearby and a notepad. 

Angie Kelly
CCR-MO, CSR-IL
Active court reporter: 22 years

A good set of headphones, a small desk fan, a second monitor.

Renee Combs Quinby
RDR, CRR, CCR-MO, CSR-IL, CSR-CA, CCR-AR, Realtime Systems Administrator
Active court reporter: 22 years

 

What are some key takeaways or helpful tips that you’ve found useful while covering depositions remotely?

I like to say hello to everyone when they first log on – as if they just entered the deposition room in person. By having this interaction, I’m able to check the sound levels of every person on the call upfront. If there’s an issue with sound, it’s taken care of BEFORE the deposition starts.

I will also let participants know at the beginning of the call that if anyone sees me disappear, they need to stop talking because that’s a sign I’ve had technical difficulties and I’m disconnected. I try to get orders before the deposition starts, as well as ask how to handle any exhibits, if used. This way if people kick off quickly at the end, it is no big deal because I’ve already gotten everything I need.

Tammie Heet
RPR, CCR-MO, CSR-IL
Active court reporter: 26 years


The cost of the Zoom kit is well worth it. The Zoom kit is offered by Sound Professionals and it hooks up your Zoom computer, your CAT computer, and your machine giving you great audio quality. Any noise that might be going on around me is not getting recorded on my audio file. It’s far better than the audio I would get if I just had a microphone sitting out on the table next to the computer. The Social Distancing Kit from Sound Professionals is also worth the cost for taking in-person socially distanced depositions.

Julie Sievers
CSR-IL, CCR-MO
Active court reporter: 30 years 

Learn about the features of the videoconference platform you’re using so you can help troubleshoot any issues or audio problems. Also, keep yourself unmuted so you can always jump in and interrupt if you need to, but tell everyone else who is not speaking to mute themselves. 

Meghan Minnick
RPR, CCR-MO
Active court reporter: 3 years

 

Do you have any advice or suggestions for attorneys to help ensure successful virtual depositions? 

Log in early. Make sure your witness knows to log in early as well and to speak clearly. NO MASKS, if at all possible. Don’t get frustrated when court reporters ask you to repeat something because of an audio malfunction.

 Sue Pybas
CCR-AR
Active court reporter: 12 years

Invest in a good microphone or headset.  Advise witnesses to use a computer or iPad/tablet over joining from a cell phone for video, if available. 

Meghan Minnick
RPR, CCR-MO
Active court reporter: 3 years

Speak clearly and pause after answer before asking question to allow for the lag time. 

Kathy Johnson
CSR-IL
Active court reporter: 34 years

 

What do you enjoy most about virtual depositions?

Location, location, LOCATION! Deposition is done, and my commute is over, especially for short jobs and bad weather days!

DeAnne M. Renken
RPR, CSR-IL, CCR-MO, CCR-AR
Active court reporter: 21 years

What I love most about virtual depositions is being able to mute myself and speak as loudly as I want into my mask!

Jennifer Estes
CCR-AR
Active court reporter: 7 years

Saving time on getting ready and driving somewhere; I feel like I’m relaxed when working from home. When the weather is bad, I enjoy not having to drive anywhere.

Mary Lynn Cushing
CCR-MO, CSR-KS
Active court reporter: 33 years

 

What has been your strangest experience during a virtual deposition?

A lady was logged in for the deposition while she was driving, and it was not a safe experience. She kept rolling down her window and talking to people during the deposition.

 Angie Kelly
CCR-MO, CSR-IL
Active court reporter: 22 years

While taking the deposition of a female economist expert witness, I saw a man enter the room behind her – no big deal, right, we’ve all seen people walk behind a person giving a depo?  Well, in the middle of a sentence, she turned her camera off, finished her sentence and then asked to go off the record.  When she came back on, she informed us that her husband came into the room to “change his trousers and didn’t think he could be seen on camera.”  The attorneys busted out in laughter! 

Tammie Heet
RPR, CCR-MO, CSR-IL
Active court reporter: 26 years

Witness was a prisoner in a high-security prison and although he was appearing virtual, he had to wear a mask and what looked like a surgeon’s gown while testifying.

 Renee Combs Quinby
RDR, CRR, CCR-MO, CSR-IL, CSR-CA, CCR-AR, Realtime Systems Administrator
Active court reporter: 22 years

 

What’s the number one issue you see or hear regularly that can be easily solved?


The main issue I see is bad audio and/or low internet strength on the attorney’s or the witness’ end. These are the two most important people in the depositions, so I think addressing the importance of internet strength and suggesting headset use early on would benefit everyone.

 Taedra Hickam
Active legal videographer: 10 years

Sometimes people can leave Zoom and get back in and the sound is better.

Kathy Johnson
CSR-IL
Active court reporter: 34 years

The most difficult part of doing remote is trying to keep everyone to just talk one at a time and pause for a second to make sure they are finished talking.

Sheila R. Vogt
CCR-KS, CCR-MO
Active court reporter: 19 years

 

How do you unplug at the end of the day and manage your work-life balance?

I walk away from the office and do something totally unrelated to court reporting. 

Linda Madel
CCR-MO
Active court reporter: 37 years

Exercise – at least 30 minutes.

 Renee Combs Quinby
RDR, CRR, CCR-MO, CSR-IL, CSR-CA, CCR-AR, Realtime Systems Administrator
Active court reporter: 22 years

Read a book for fun rather than reading a transcript.

Meghan Minnick
RPR, CCR-MO
Active court reporter: 3 years

 

Any other thoughts about court reporting from home?

My situation is a tad unique.  I broke my leg in August and had surgery, so I’ve been unable to go to in-person depositions.  COVID has benefited me and let me continue to work! COVID is my friend.

Sue Pybas
CCR-AR
Active court reporter: 12 years

I always go to Florida during the winter from January through March. Virtual depositions have allowed me to do some jobs down here in Florida, which has been great!!

 Sheila R. Vogt
CCR-KS, CCR-MO
Active court reporter: 19 years

The pandemic made me realize something. Court reporting is not just what I do; it’s part of who I am. 

Linda Madel
CCR-MO
Active court reporter: 37 years

 

Anything you would like to add about court reporting as a profession?

“Court reporting is exciting as it is never the same thing twice, and you meet so many interesting people, it never gets boring to me.”

Angie Kelly
CCR-MO, CSR-IL
Active court reporter: 22 years

“Court reporting is a wonderful career if you want something that is always different, interesting, and you have the ability to make your own schedule. I feel honored to work for Alaris; they always have my back!”

Jennifer Estes
CCR-AR
Active court reporter: 7 years

“This job is the most frustrating, time consuming, challenging, exhausting, difficult, mentally and physically draining job I’ve ever had and I LOVE IT!”

Sue Pybas
CCR-AR
Active court reporter: 12 years

For questions about our court reporters and videographers, or for more information on working with the Alaris team, connect with us by sending an email to scheduling@alaris.us.