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Contacting your Legislator

By Rick Russell

Chair, AAERT Government Relations Committee


In a prior article, I had discussed how to monitor legislation at the state and federal level that may impact your livelihood as a court reporter and/or transcriber. If you become aware of a bill, it is important for you to make your voice heard by reaching out to your legislators and urging them to support your position on the issue.

Here is a list of several websites that provide free resources for finding and tracking bills in your state legislature and in the U.S. Congress.

NATIONAL LEVEL – There are several good sites for keeping tabs on the U.S. Congress, including:

  • – Provides a lot of information on the members of Congress. You can enter your address to find your senators and representatives; voting records; what’s going on with various committees; et cetera. Click “Bills & Resolution” at the top of the home page and use the “Track By Keyword Search” to search for bills related to our industry.
  • CONGRESS.GOV – Another site that allows you to search current legislation for bills that relate to the court reporting industry.

STATE LEVEL – Start with the official site for your state legislature. These sites will provide basic information on the legislative process, members, session dates, et cetera, and most will have a search feature to assist you in finding bills related to court reporting. In addition, here is a site to cover all the states:

  • StateScape – While this site does offer subscription-based tracking, there is a lot of very good free information available. Included are links to all the state legislatures, session schedules, a primer on the legislative process in each state, information on the budget process, which tends to drive a lot of the other issues, and even links to the major newspapers in each state. Click on the “Resources” at the top of the home page to be taken to the “BillFinder.”

The sooner in the legislative process you identify a bill, the better your position to take action. Your first task should be to alert the AAERT Government Relations Committee to assist you. The next step will be reaching out to your legislators to support your position.

Before you make any contact with the legislators, please be sure that you are fully informed about the bill itself and also about the legislator you are contacting. What is his or her position on the bill? What political party are they? What is their past voting history?

When you are ready, you have several methods of contact available to you. You should employ as many of them as you can. For all methods of contact, it is important to be concise, clear, and polite.


This may be the most effective means of getting your legislators attention. Call their office and tell them who you are and that you are a constituent. Give them the bill number you are calling about. Tell them that you support/oppose the bill and ask for the staffer who handles this issue. If the staffer is not available, leave a message or voicemail and be sure to follow up if you have not heard back within two business days.  Be sure to get the name and contact information of the appropriate staffer.

If you do get the staffer on the phone, identify yourself again and tell them the bill number about which you are calling. Then give a brief description of the bill and a brief summary of why you support/oppose the bill.

Request that they ask the legislator to take action to support your position and to follow up with you in response to this call. Again, be sure to get their contact information and offer to send additional information on the issue via email/fax.


Although email is the preferred method of professional communication these days, writing a letter on letterhead, if you have one, will carry more weight and make a greater impact. You can then send the letter via email attachment or even via fax.

Keep the letter short (1-2 pages at most). In the first paragraph, identify the bill by number and title, and ask your legislator to support/oppose the bill. Then very concisely lay out the points in favor of your position. Again, focus on the effects of the bill on you and the other constituents of the legislator. Close the letter by again requesting specific the action that you want the legislator to take (vote yes, vote no, etc.).

Do not forget to run a spellcheck on the letter and also to be sure you have the correct title of the legislator and the correct spelling of their name. Include all of your contact information as well.


Call the legislator’s office to set up the appointment. It is always best to meet with the legislator themselves, but often you may have to meet with a staffer who handles this issue area. If you’re going with a group, be sure to coordinate within the group who will make what points and in what order. Present the most important points first to be certain they are covered. Your time with the legislator or staffer may be limited. Convey the personal impact of the legislation and how it affects the legislator’s district. Be sure to directly ask the legislator to support your position on the issue. Be prepared to explain your opponent’s position and the reasons why they are wrong.

After the meeting, send a thank you and include a brief recap of the issue, your position, and ask again that the legislator support you. Regardless of how you contact your legislator, be sure that you are always concise, direct, and professional. Ask for their support of your position and explain how this bill will affect you and the rest of their constituents.

Remember to always reach out to the Government Relations Committee to be sure we are aware of the issue and to provide you with the support and resources you need to successful engage in our democratic process. []


Rick Russell is the Chief Operating Officer at Neal R. Gross & Co. and for 35 years has been involved in all aspects of the court reporting and transcribing business. Rick has a BA in Political Science and Economics from Colgate University and an MBA in Finance from George Washington University. Rick has been a member of AAERT since 1995 and over the years has worked on many projects for the Government Relations Committee. In 2010 he joined the Board of Directors and since that time has also been serving as Chair of the Government Relations Committee.



PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE: December 10, 2017



As we move into the final days of 2017, I would be remiss if I didn’t look back to see what our Association’s accomplishments have been and what we should be thankful for. Our membership and certified members continue to grow in numbers. Our CEU material, provided through our Learning Management System on our website, continues to expand and provide easy and affordable access to continuing education credits. Schools and educational programs are reaching out to us for approval in increasing numbers. Our public awareness program has states and government agencies requiring our certifications in their contracts.

What am I thankful for? In addition to the hard work of our management team and our committee members, there are several things that I am thankful for. There is a growing demand for our profession. More courts and government agencies are moving to electronic reporting than ever before. The nationwide shortage of court reporters is placing our services in even greater demand. The advances in recording technology make electronic reporting and transcription more competitive. Most of all, electronic court reporters and transcribers are the future of court reporting.

This past month, I wrote an article, AAERT Welcomes Videographers: The Question of Videographer Membership. The purpose of the article is to stimulate the conversation about this parallel recording technology and to point out the similarities in how we perform our jobs and the benefits available to videographers with AAERT membership. If you know any legal videographers, spread the word. We’d love to have them join our ranks.

State legislatures across the country are ramping up for their legislative sessions. Some of these states may be considering legislation affecting court reporting and transcription practices in their courts and for taking depositions. AAERT’s Government Relations Committee Chair, Rick Russell, along with his committee members, continue to monitor changes that may have an impact on electronic reporting. In addition, this committee has been requested to reach out to several hand-picked states to introduce AAERT, our practices, and our certifications. Now is a golden opportunity for all of us to work together and monitor our local jurisdictions. Once you know the process, it only takes a few minutes a week to contact your local government agency and make an introduction. With a little bit of effort from all of us, we can open new markets and make a big difference in the acceptance of our profession. For more information on how to get involved in this important task, contact Mike Tannen at or Rick Russell at

The role of managers is to understand a process and to control things or people to achieve a successful end result. In order to do so, managers need to make decisions based on their knowledge of the situation. First and foremost in this process is having the right information at your disposal. To that end, our Membership Committee Chair, Jennifer Metcalf-Razzino, will be conducting several surveys in the coming months. Each survey will provide your AAERT leadership with valuable information about you and your professional needs. Please take a few moments and fill out the survey questionnaires.

We have made some amazing progress this past year. Your Board of Directors will be meeting in Providence, Rhode Island in January of 2018. We have a full agenda. With feedback and participation from all of you, we can improve our association, our profession, and your skills.

The AAERT Board, management team, and I wish you all a safe and joyous holiday season




AAERT Welcomes Videographers: The Question of Videographer Membership

By Geoffrey L. Hunt, AAERT President

The world of the electronic court reporting community has evolved and experienced many changes over the past 50 years. Since the 80s, videography has become a prevalent means of recording deposition testimony. State and Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow the taking of a witness’s testimony by video. That video can then be used in lieu of the witness appearing at trial. The technology for the legal videographer has improved in the same manner that court recording systems have.

Many of today’s legal videographers are members of the National Court Reporters Association. The NCRA provides this community with seminars at conference and testing for the Certified Legal Video Specialist certification or CLVS but lacks in involvement and voting rights.

At this present time, AAERT has a small percentage of our members who are videographers. At our past conference in Atlanta, a group of videographers gave a presentation on legal videos. Jim McCranie, Gary Smith, and Cliff Gonshery talked about the rules, equipment, and procedures necessary to comply with state and federal statutes when taking legal video depositions.

Our Board of Directors has been discussing the merits of promoting more video memberships in AAERT. There are benefits for both. The greatest common thread we have is that we both use a form of electronic recording equipment to perform our jobs. Another similarity is if you are a freelance court reporter, we are working for the same community of lawyers.

So, what is the benefit to the videographer in joining AAERT? We can provide networking and conferencing. We don’t, however, have a certification process in place for video at the present time. Under our Bylaws, the videographer would be an Individual Member with all the rights and privileges afforded them under that membership category. That includes a vote as an active member. Becoming a member of AAERT will bring the video community closer to a parallel recording technology.

Something they don’t presently have. As Individual Members, videographers will be entitled to sit for our Certified Electronic Reporter certification test. This new relationship with our court reporting and transcribing members will provide the legal videographer with access to transcription services for their clients that they may not have had previously. Providing legal video and transcription services opens the door for increased market share and income for the legal videographer.

The greatest benefit to AAERT is increased membership, the possibility of a new video certification, and the expansion of our sphere of influence in the court reporting community. I believe that there are positives for both of us. I encourage you to reach out to your fellow legal videographer and show them the benefits of joining our association. I look forward to hearing from you.

P.O. Box 9826 ●Wilmington, DE 19809

800-233-5306 ● 302-765-3510 ● fax 302-241-2177


In Memory of William E. Wagner, II


William Eugene Wagner, II quietly passed from among us on July 6, 2017, in Bothell, Washington. While many AAERT members may not recognize his name or his face, AAERT owes a great deal of its current status as a nationally-recognized organization to William Eugene Wagner, II. Writing about the totality of William’s accomplishments would take many pages of paper and thousands of words. Please consider with me just a few of his deeds as we remember Bill Wagner’s life and body of work.

During a portion of 1967 to 1969 while in New York City, Bill worked in the art department of a large publishing concern drawing illustrations. Some of his most significant work was a series of illustrations for a Bible encyclopedia, Aid to Bible Understanding (Volume A-E, 544 pages, 1969). Drawings were done by pen in India ink on large acetate sheets which were later photo reduced and etched onto curved rotary printing plates. Photographs and other research materials were available at the time, but these renditions were not mere tracings from projections.1

Bill was co-owner and founder of Wagner-Fuss, a successful and well-known reporting and transcription firm located in Bothell, Washington. Bill and Karl Fuss were both instrumental in many ways with the immense body of work they contributed to AAERT including accounting tasks, research, composing web site language and maintaining the site. Both possessed a wealth of knowledge on any subject.

The founding concepts for AAERT began with Connie Rill (California), who in 1993 invited two associates, Steve Townsend (Arizona) and Janet Harris (Wisconsin), to explore forming an organization to represent the electronic court reporting and transcribing industry. AAERT was formed in March of 1994 when about 75 interested private-sector practitioners met in Las Vegas to formally inaugurate AAERT. Bill was one of the original members of the AAERT Board of Directors and served as Treasurer.2

Additionally, Bill Wagner worked on the first official AAERT Electronic Court Reporting best practices guide. This Certification Test Study Guide documented best practices for electronic court reporting and transcribing and served as an aid to AAERT members to prepare for the early AAERT Certification exams. Initial scripts used for the Reporter practical examinations and for Transcriber practical examinations were written by Connie Rill, Bill Wagner, and Mary Ann Lutz. Without the exhaustive efforts of Bill, other volunteers, and legacy Board members, the AAERT certification exams would not exist.

Since its founding in 1994, the Association has represented electronic court reporters and court transcribers. Bill was elected to its charter board of directors, was treasurer for 14 terms, and served four terms as executive director. For many years he assisted in preparing content, graphics, and layout for The Court Reporter, the Association’s quarterly journal which was originally printed and mailed to the membership. With the onset of the Internet, Karl Fuss became AAERT’s webmaster and, with his partner, Bill Wagner, learned HTML and built and maintained the AAERT web site which was used for many years. Bill was known by some as “the personal professor.”

AAERT created the Wagner-Fuss Distinguished Service Award in honor of Karl Fuss and Bill Wagner. The award is presented from time to time to members whose contributions to the Association merit special recognition. While you may have never met Bill, AAERT as it exists today owes a great deal to this quiet and unassuming man.

William was also an avid researcher, created pedigree charts, extensively researched his family’s origins and DNA, and did photographic enhancement. He composed detailed charts, interpretive renderings of maps, and created animated overlays of topographic maps. Mr. Wagner also wrote poetry. “Prospect Park” was thought to have been written between 1969 and 1971 in New York, USA. Indeed, it is a beautiful and poignant reflection of his creativity as we fondly remember Bill Wagner in this fall of the year 2017.


Late fall dew soaking through my socks and shoes the grass is wet damp air, too and chill.
This is November now. Stiff north breezes meet me.

I hear rustling voices.

Leaves one and all, they’ve fled before the wind, agitated lemmings, nervous to escape. As I scuff along I crack their bones.

Later on, weekend strollers, tugging dogs with kids in tow     will come and bring some other sounds.
But now I stride ahead restless with the leaves. Stiff north breezes meet me.3

By Gail Malm Armstrong, CER, CET








President’s Message, September, 2017


By Geoffrey L. Hunt, AAERT President

As I write to you, many of our family, friends, and fellow members are recovering from the devastating toll of Hurricane Harvey and preparing for the devastation to come from Irma. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of them during these very difficult times.

As many of you may already know, I have been reelected as President of AAERT. I would like to thank the Board of Directors for their confidence in me by reelecting me to this position. I am very excited to be part of our association, our profession, and our future. A great deal of progress has been made over this past year. I am looking forward to continuing our momentum into the future.

I would like to thank Mike Tannen, Maria Tannen, and Sherry Simmons for putting on a great conference in Atlanta. The speakers and subjects covered were all top notch. Everyone provided valuable information about our profession, lifestyles, and insight into how digital reporting and recording are filling the needs of many courts. The week’s activities brought court reporters and transcribers together from all over the country. I think that I speak for everyone who attended when I say that we all received enormous benefits from an educational perspective as well as increased networking opportunities. In other words, it was worth every penny. Make plans to attend our next annual conference in Providence, Rhode Island, June 21 through 23, 2018.

As I reported to you in my last President’s Message, the state of the association is strong. Administratively, we have rewritten our bylaws. Our white paper, Analysis and Advantages of Digital Court Reporting and Recording in the Courts, Deposition, and Administrative Hearings Markets, has been widely distributed. Schools are reaching out to AAERT for approval of their programs. There are an increasing number of states and local governments requiring our certifications, and AAERT certification and CEUs have never been more attainable. What is next?

As has been predicted, the attrition rate of court reporters in state courts continues to increase creating critical problems. Texas and Tennessee are the most recent examples of court reporter shortages. This is a golden opportunity for AAERT and all of our members. Promoting our proven methodology to a vast community of attorneys, judges, contract officers, and court administrators is not an easy task. It takes time, money, and hard work. The good news is we can do it.

It is my goal to not only maintain and build on our accomplishments, but to also prepare for what is ahead. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word prepare as “to make ready beforehand for some purpose, use, or activity.” To prepare for something requires us to look into the future and determine what needs to be done to be ready to meet the demands that it places upon us. As court reporters and transcribers, we prepare for the day’s tasks, our families, businesses, and possibly retirement. For AAERT, today we continue to prepare for our roles as electronic court reporters and transcribers now and into the future.

To that end, our committees and volunteers are hard at work. To provide qualified reporters and transcribers to meet the growing demand, our Education Committee is busy reviewing educational programs and selecting for AAERT approval those programs that meet our standards. This committee continues to add more content to the Learning Management System platform with new CEU materials.

The Certification Committee is improving and adding to the test material for our certification tests. Plans are in the works to update our Best Practices Guide. New volunteers have been added to this committee to assist with the increased work load and grading tests. The Government Relations Committee is reaching out to state legislatures and courts educating them about AAERT and our certifications. The Membership Committee continues to offer new membership recruiting packages and to reach out to prospective members. The Communications Committee polishes our image, keeps AAERT in touch with our members and community of clients, and promotes public awareness of digital reporting, transcribing, and associated roles.

Keep in mind that we are all volunteers. Each committee is comprised of volunteer members who dedicate their time and efforts to promote AAERT, our goals, and our focused objectives. Consider volunteering for service on a committee. You will benefit greatly while becoming a more educated professional.

I have every confidence electronic reporting and transcription is the future of court reporting. AAERT is a powerful and dynamic force and is making this happen. We, as an association, are stronger when we work together for a common cause. All we need is to be prepared.

Thank you. It is an honor to be your president for another year.

Geoff Hunt, President





How to Lead a Freelance Team


How to Lead a Freelance Team

by Andrea Shields Nunez

With freelancers making up an ever-increasing percentage of the American workforce — studies estimate up to 40% by 2020 — business owners, executives, and managers are tasked with learning how to lead teams that are vastly different than traditional salaried employees.1

I recently facilitated a workshop titled “Leaders as Agents of Change” at the AAERT 2017 Annual Conference. There was a great group of participants, most of whom were small business owners who use teams of freelancers to handle much of their client work. While the participants reported that they understand the value in the approach I was sharing, the question of how to lead a team of non-employees came up again and again.

As I reflected on this question and how I could have addressed it better, I concluded that leading a freelance team requires all the same things leading any team does, but with a few important nuances.

Here are four absolute musts.

You must clarify your mission and vision. Who are we and where are we going?

Leading anyone, whether it’s freelancers, a sports team, or your children, requires a clear mission and vision. You, as a leader, must be clear on what your business is, who it serves, and where you want it to go. Every decision, every interaction, every policy, procedure, initiative, and objective must serve both your mission and vision. These are your guideposts and they allow you to be crystal clear about your expectations with everyone.

And guess what? Being able to easily and openly share your mission and vision with potential freelancers will set you apart from other people who are just looking for hired hands. Everyone wants to know what they’re doing is meaningful in some way. If you can express to someone how the work they do for you serves a greater mission and vision, they will be more energized, engaged, and loyal.

You must build relationships through empathy. What do I need to know so others feel understood?

In a traditional work environment, members of your team are often right there in the office with you every day. You have regular meetings together, you stop by each other’s desks to talk, you run into each other in the kitchen, you may even have lunch or go out after work together. Opportunities to get to know each other and create a strong working relationship abound.

With freelancers, these opportunities are significantly limited but you still must make the effort to get to know them, find common ground, and build on it. Tapping into your natural curiosity can help. Why did they decide to freelance? What do they like about it? What do they find challenging? What does the freedom from a regular 9-5 allow them to do? Everyone works better for someone they have a strong relationship with, so this is essential for creating a team you can count on.

And this is not just about you. If you have a team of people who are geographically dispersed and don’t have ample opportunities to come together and build relationships with each other, creating those opportunities can be extremely valuable. Many freelancers feel isolated and disconnected from their team members. Having a regular team call or video chat can foster valuable discussions and a collaborative environment for those who can’t stop by someone’s desk on their way to refill their coffee.

This is really about creating an environment and a culture where people are a priority. Being intentional about this will go a long way in fostering positive feelings and loyalty, even from people who serve other clients.

You must communicate and look for alignment with mission and vision. How can our work serve each other?

Freelancers are never going to be like traditional employees. They are business owners in their own right. So understanding that you each approach the relationship from a place of independence is key. If you both understand and respect this, then you can move forward into an interdependent, adult relationship that’s mutually beneficial.

One of the traps that’s easy to fall into is viewing freelancers as simply hired hands, a necessary evil for serving your clients. This is a short-sighted approach that overlooks the benefits of viewing this as a partnership. Taking the time to build relationships with each person will help you understand their mission and vision even if they don’t always express it in those terms. So you can continually assess alignment and recognize new avenues for collaboration.

You must strengthen relationships through strategic incentives. What can I do to optimize individual and team performance?

It’s vital to understand what motivates the people who do the work that supports your business. Getting to know them better allows you to know what’s important to them. It’s likely to be different for each person, but it’s nearly impossible to lead a team if you don’t know what motivates them. And the best way to find out? Ask! Create the type of relationship where asking someone, “What’s important to you?” is easy and natural, and will be received as a genuine question from someone who truly cares.

As you get to know your team members and understand what motivates them individually, you’ll also begin to see how they work as a team. You may notice that they perform great when they’re in friendly competition with each other. Or it may be that they perform best when given additional opportunities for collaboration. Or maybe it’s as simple as recognizing someone’s great work on the team call. Just as you’ll need to consider which particular incentives work best for an individual, a team personality will emerge and it’s important to understand how to incentivize on both levels. You can only do this when you’ve built strong, trusting relationships.

What we know for sure is that the former employer-employee paradigm is in a state of flux. The traditional contract is a thing of the past and all working relationships are now seen as voluntary. Some lament a lack of loyalty on both sides, but the opportunity here is to create adult working relationships, with a foundation built on common ground, where communication is open, expectations are clear, and everyone feels valued for their individual contribution.

If it sounds like a lot of work, it is. But this is what will separate those with efficient, enjoyable, and energized teams from those who just have a bunch of contractors they need to pay. As a leader, you get to decide which route you want to take.


Andrea Shields Nunez is a consultant with The Genysys Group, a full-service change management consulting firm. She has over a decade of experience in executive recruiting, and a background in operations, management, and education.





By Betsy Ertel

AAERT has labored in the past to offer robust opportunities to our members for required CEUs to retain certification privileges. Suggestions have been approved and recommendations have been suggested as viable options. To those contributors who have participated in this initiative in the past, we say thank you! Realistically, we live in a digital world where the work force has migrated to onsite and cloud platforms. Thus, a more strategic need presents itself for the convenience of our members.

The Education Committee for AAERT has been diligently working on behalf of the membership. Last year in June during our face-to-face Board meeting in Phoenix, we unanimously voted to merge our current AAERT website software platform. This unique platform accommodates the administrative needs of the Association through Your Membership (YM) with our new Learning Management System (LMS). The LMS contributes toward the long-awaited access to CEU education resources for our members and nonmembers. After extensive due diligence on the part of our administrative staff, the features and functionality of the LMS have been mastered with multiple creditworthy videos currently uploaded for viewing.

These videos contain presentations of previous AAERT conferences. Each video consists of a one-hour long presentation accompanied by questions at the end to review the material presented. Once you have completed each video and answered the questions satisfactorily, your credit will be applied to the Your Membership portion of the platform and assigned to your Personal Profile. The YM (Your Membership) section will contain an automatic running tab of all acquired CEUs. No more wondering which video you completed or watched! The system will document it all for you. At the end of your 3 years or 30 units, i.e. 10 units per year, a final tally will be visible to you and to AAERT. Additionally, this will help Administration to keep all your achievements in one place that will be accessible to you instantly.

The LMS will also house online courses to encourage professional growth. The courses will be accessible in like manner as the videos using the same link found at Each course will follow standard creditworthy guidelines with questions at the end. The verification of completion will go into your My Profile portion as the appropriate CEU amount acquired.

This information and further explanation is available at Read the AAERT LMS box description, and click on the “Learn More” button to access the page as a member or nonmember.  We encourage you to check out our new continuing educational fulfillment each time you are searching for new CEUs.

Click this link  and you will see the same instructions posted as below.

AAERT LMS for Continuing Education Units (CEUs)

In order to access our online courses in our AAERT LMS, you will need to be registered and logged into your AAERT account.

  • If you are not already a member of this site, it will only take you a few minutes to complete your free registration (Learner Only) and start taking control of your CEUs. Once completed, return to this page and click on the member link below.
  • If you are already a member, please log in to access your courses.

Our LMS provides you with an online, centralized learning platform enabling you to easily manage all of our training programs.

Additionally, using our LMS will also assist you in:

  • tracking your CEUs
  • finding approved courses for your recertification needs
  • ability to package courses at a discounted rate

For the purposes of this site, Continuing Education credits are measured in minutes.  Sixty (60) minutes is equal to one (1) hour of training or .1 CEUs. Some learners will complete a course in more or less time than that estimated for the course.

Upon successful completion of your online course, please be sure to print the certificate that applies to your specific needs. Active AAERT members will also have their completed courses and CEUs automatically transferred to their Professional Development area of their profiles where they can have access at any time.

Our online courses for CEUs will be updated each month with new topics and sources.

We trust you will find this new opportunity to be a convenience as well as an educational tool for future achievement of your professional goals. Be sure to sign into the AAERT website as a member to receive our member pricing. The AAERT Educational Committee continues its efforts to serve the membership. We will always strive to raise the bar of our profession through education, training, and professional guidance in a forum that is easy for members to access. Stay tuned for future additions to online education including informative webinars and training classes for your continuing education with AAERT. We trust you will appreciate what you experience.

Education Committee Chair





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