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TWO DAYS IN THE HENNEPIN COUNTY CENTRAL MONITORING ROOM

By Margaret Ann Morgan, AAERT CER, CET Hennepin

I am an official court reporter-electronic for Third Judicial District in Rochester, Minnesota and am certified through the Minnesota Supreme Court and AAERT (CER and CET). I work in the courtroom one-on-one with Judge Pamela King. When not in court, I have other chambers responsibilities (preparing correspondence and jury instructions; proofing decisional memoranda; responding to inquiries from the public, attorneys, or other court partners; and as a back-up to Judge King’s court clerk). I also work for other judges when her/his court reporter is not available. I prepare my own transcripts and am required to do them outside of regular work hours.

One benefit of AAERT membership is learning how other courts function, including central monitoring rooms. I have to admit that a central monitoring room environment has always terrified me. I am accustomed to being present in the courtroom capturing a verbatim record one hearing at a time, start to finish, and writing detailed log notes. I struggle with the thought of being responsible for monitoring multiple courtrooms, not hearing every word, and not being present in the courtroom to interrupt the proceeding when something occurs that impacts the record. In my mind, being located on another floor or a different building and having to simultaneously monitor multiple courtrooms is simply impossible. But read on.

I am participating in a work group where central monitoring was a topic. To better understand the central monitoring environment, I wanted to experience it firsthand. I worked two days in the Hennepin County Central Monitoring Room in Minneapolis, Minnesota. During the 2015 AAERT conference in Minneapolis, attendees toured this impressive unit.

I have strong feelings about the presence of a court reporter in the courtroom to control the capture of the record. I tried to put those feelings aside while working in the Central Monitoring Room (“CMR”) and went in with an open mind. I was nervous and a little anxious about having to simultaneously report multiple courtrooms. I imagined it would be like a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant (a family-friendly/kid-friendly pizza place that has every possible video arcade game, animated entertainment, and music, all going at the same time). To someone like me, that is total sensory overload!

The first morning I worked one-on-one with “Jane.” She was assigned two lightly- scheduled courtrooms, which gave her the opportunity to explain to me what she does and their procedures. Wearing a second headset, I listened to the proceedings while observing Jane capture/monitor the proceedings and write tags. She moved between courtrooms with ease, and her notes were organized and complete.

I was struck by the organization and level of communication among the users in the courtroom and the reporters in the CMR. “Users” include the court reporters, judicial clerks, courtroom clerks, judges, and attorneys. I was also struck by the structure in the unit. There is a procedure for everything. The audio was clear. Hennepin County uses CourtSmart with four recording channels. Since I am accustomed to ForTheRecord (“FTR”) with eight channels, that was an adjustment for me.

Under Jane’s supervision that afternoon, I reported and wrote tags for two courtrooms. For a short time, I handled three courtrooms, which was challenging for me. By having to move between courtrooms, I found it difficult to follow the proceedings. I had family court cases in two courtrooms, both discussing custody and parenting time. I had trouble keeping the parties straight, and I couldn’t write the level of detail in my notes that I usually do. That said, the more I moved between the courtrooms and by limiting the detail in my notes, I began to feel more comfortable.

The next day I worked alone reporting/monitoring and writing tags for two courtrooms with varied schedules. Jane and other reporters were nearby to answer my many questions. Since I am always in the courtroom and reporting one hearing at a time, my log notes are very detailed. In my regular work assignment, my notes are available to Judge King and her law clerk to reference at all times. I also add a separate monitor for Judge King during jury trials so she can review my notes when needed (similar to a real-time feed, but not verbatim). In the Central Monitoring Room, log notes or “tags” serve a different purpose. The tags are to note the start and end of a hearing, file number, case name, appearances, and limited summaries like “scheduling discussion,” “discussion regarding child support payments,” or key phrases that identify what is happening at or near the timestamp, such as “defendant sworn,” “examination by Mr. Smith,” or “hearing concluded.” I had to adjust my note taking.

I struggled with writing less detail. Once I grasped the use of the notes for the CMR (as opposed to my regular use), it went much better. The court clerk in the courtroom also writes tags, and those are merged with the court reporter’s tags. There are also shortcut phrases. With the double click of a mouse, a phrase is entered with a time stamp, such as “new case called,” “off the record,” or “case concluded.” Because notes are less detailed, the reporters are able to move between courtrooms frequently. A timestamp is entered each time a reporter leaves one courtroom to monitor another.

At the end of the calendar, the courtroom clerk called me to advise they were finished for the morning. I stopped the recording system. Before the afternoon calendar was ready to begin, the courtroom clerk called me so I could start the recording system. On a separate monitor at my desk I watched for activity in my assigned courtrooms so I could anticipate when the morning or afternoon hearings were about to begin.

One of the courtrooms I was assigned had hearings scheduled approximately every 15 minutes. Between hearings, the recording system remained active so I captured the exchanges between the judge and clerk. I learned a little about the play Hamilton or the benefits and drawbacks of Uber or a taxi. There is a standard tag to note those types of conversations as “between hearing discussions,” and they not part of the record.

The next day I reported for a judge scheduled with a civil calendar and a child support magistrate with family court hearings. At the beginning of her calendar, the judge instructed the attorneys regarding the digital reporting system and the importance of speaking into the microphone. She called the case and asked for appearances. In the other courtroom the magistrate called each case, recited the file number, asked for appearances (often self-represented parties), and stated the subject matter. When one party started talking over another party, the magistrate stopped the party and instructed him to not interrupt the other, to avoid speaking when someone else was speaking, and about proper procedure for the court record.

It was clear that the judges, judicial clerks, courtroom clerks, and attorneys are very much aware of the digital reporting system, the importance of staying in front of a microphone, and controlling interruptions or simultaneous talk. I assume this is something that evolved over time.

I also went into a courtroom to observe a proceeding. I wanted to see the “blue light” that indicates the recording system is on. I found myself constantly looking for the court reporter. I listened to the judge ask a witness to state and spell his name and then clarify if Jeffrey was spelled J-e-f-f-e-r-y or J-e-f-f-r-e-y. After starting to answer before his question was completed, the prosecutor instructed a witness not to talk at the same time and to wait for him to complete the question before answering. He referenced the digital reporting system. In my regular work assignment, these are things typically done by the court reporter.

The court reporters who regularly work in the Central Monitoring Room prefer to be assigned four courtrooms. Some are comfortable with more. I’m told they develop a rhythm. They know the types of courtrooms they need to “hang out” in more than others. I had to laugh when a reporter asked me if I was bored with having just two courtrooms!

On Mondays the CMR scheduling staff contacts the judges about the calendar for the following week. Based on the types of hearings, the judge determines court reporter needs: CMR (a “central monitoring room reporter”) or IPR (an “in person reporter”).  There are criteria about which hearing types require an IPR, such as jury trials, complex cases, multiple participants, etc. Some schedules are mandatory CMR calendars. The judges have input regarding their reporter needs.

A break in the Central Monitoring Room is a true break. I walked away for 20 minutes once in the morning and once in the afternoon. When I asked one of the reporters about it, she indicated the regular breaks and a set schedule was less stressful than having to work around the often chaotic courtroom schedule. In my regular work assignment, “breaks” from the courtroom consist of returning to my desk to do chambers tasks like preparing orders, checking email, voice mail, returning calls, etc. During breaks in the CMR, another CMR reporter takes over the other’s courtrooms.

The reporters in the CMR are professionals. They are confident in the record captured and the transcripts they produce. I attribute the structure and organization of the Central Monitoring Room to the court reporters who manage, supervise, and work in the unit every day. There was a core group of six reporters in the CMR from the beginning. Five of those six are still there. They had significant input in creating procedures. If one procedure didn’t work, they created a new one. I applaud Hennepin County Court Administration for having the insight to involve court reporters from day one in the creation and operation of the Central Monitoring Room. In 2012 AAERT recognized the Hennepin County Central Monitoring Room for keeping court reporters responsible for the court record, the individuals most knowledgeable about the capture, preservation, and preparing transcripts.

I still struggle with not being present in the courtroom. I believe it is the best practice for the court reporter to be in the courtroom controlling events that impact the record, reminding individuals to stay close to a microphone, not to speak over each other, request verbal responses (or note a nod/shake of the head), and address equipment malfunctions in the unlikely event one occurs. In my mind, it is the only way to ensure an accurate and complete record. I can write detailed log notes, which are used for the judge and/or the law clerk to review after-the-fact. I refer to them when preparing the transcript. Many courts contract with professional transcribers to prepare transcripts. Minimal or no log notes is a frequent complaint from transcribers who are expected to transcribe, identify speakers, note appearances, have proper spellings, etc. Transcribers do an incredible job, but more information in the notes would save them research time, result in faster turnaround times, and more accurate transcripts.

There is no doubt in my mind that the digital reporting systems capture an accurate record. I simply want to be there to respond to any situation that impacts the record. That said, after this experience I am less fearful of a central monitoring environment. Perhaps that is because I am an electronic court reporter. I am comfortable with and have total confidence in the digital reporting systems. But for the less detail in log notes and not hearing every word, it wasn’t such a leap for me.

I asked Jane about not hearing every word and certifying transcripts. She said to me multiple times “let it go.” “Trust the system.” It was difficult for me to let it go. I have complete trust in the digital reporting systems. I use FTR every day and I know it captures an accurate record. I simply feel I need to be in the courtroom when the unexpected happens so I can interrupt when needed. By covering one hearing at a time, my notes are detailed. Judge King and her law clerk frequently refer to them. I can answer a question from court administration by reviewing my notes instead of having to scroll through the hearing to confirm the information. I refer to the notes when preparing transcripts, and they are available to another reporter or transcriber when I need help with transcripts. When covering multiple courtrooms, more detail in the notes is not possible. I don’t mean to discredit the central monitoring room concept. Accurate recordings and transcripts are made in CMRs every single day. If that wasn’t true, they would not survive. CMRs are operating in many states.

In addition to the digital reporting system and CMR reporters, the “system” in Hennepin County includes the judges, the courtroom/judicial clerks, and the attorneys. I witnessed them all working together to assist in the capture of an accurate record.

The Central Monitoring Room reporters include: (1) IPR steno reporters who are assigned to work in the courtroom writing steno; (2) steno reporters who no longer write steno for various reasons who primarily work in the CMR; and (3) a handful of electronic reporters, who primarily work in the CMR and are periodically assigned in the courtroom. When not assigned to a courtroom, the IPR stenos work in the CMR where they digitally report and write notes.

Unfortunately there are still the steno versus electronic reporter issues that cause some tension. Hopefully that will resolve in time since digital reporting continues to expand — especially in the courts. There are benefits and drawbacks to both methods and plenty of opportunity for both in the courtrooms.

This is just a brief summary of my experience in the Hennepin County Central Monitoring Room. I worked there for two days and handled lightly-scheduled courtrooms. I experienced a small slice of what they do every day. I was impressed and now I am less terrified!

Hennepin County is hiring. If you are interested check out the link below.  While it refers to seeking stenographic reporters, electronic reporters will be considered.

https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/mncourts/jobs/1930628/court-reporter-court-reporter-unit-multiple-positions?pagetype=jobOpportunitiesJobs

* * * * *

Margaret Ann Morgan has worked as an official court reporter for the Third Judicial District in Rochester, Minnesota since 1994. She has served on various AAERT committees, is a past AAERT board member, vice president, and president.

Morgan

 

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Contacting your Legislator

By Rick Russell

Chair, AAERT Government Relations Committee

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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:

  • Govtrackwww.govtrack.us – 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.GOVhttps://www.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:

  • StateScapehttp://www.statescape.com/ – 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.

CALL THEM.

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.

WRITE TO THEM.

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.

MAKE A VISIT.

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@aaert.org]

Russell

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

BY GEOFF HUNT

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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 mtannen@aaert.org or Rick Russell at rick.russell@aaert.org.

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

GeoffHunt2016rev_website

AAERT WELCOMES ALL VIDEOGRAPHERS

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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

GeoffHunt2016rev_website

In Memory of William E. Wagner, II

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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.

 PROSPECT PARK

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

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REFERENCES CITED

1http://tennismills.org/gallery2.htm?i=1

2http://www.aaert.org/?page=History&hhSearchTerms=%22william+and+wagner%22

3 http://tennismills.org/gallery3.htm

 

President’s Message, September, 2017

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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

GeoffHunt2016rev_website

 

 

 

How to Lead a Freelance Team

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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.

1http://http-download.intuit.com/http.intuit/CMO/intuit/futureofsmallbusiness/intuit_2020_report.pdf

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.

 

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