5 Steps to Prepare for the Post-Coronavirus Surge in Court Reporter Demand

Written by Lauren N. Lawrence, RPR

April 25, 2020

Uncertainty is often harder to handle than outright bad news.

That’s the challenge shadowing the court reporting industry — uncertainty about the future of our livelihoods as court reporters, scopists, and proofreaders. With court and depo proceedings at a near standstill, newer professionals may be questioning if they made the right career move.  Even some long-time professionals, the confident gurus, are feeling uneasy about the current state of the industry. What does the future of our transcript-based work look like? Hear me loud and clear:  The future of court reporting has never been brighter. I’ll say it again for the people in the back. THE ? FUTURE ? OF ? COURT ? REPORTING ? HAS ? NEVER ? BEEN ?BRIGHTER! Aside from all of the postponed — not cancelled, postponed — proceedings that need to be rescheduled and conducted (likely on an expedited basis), we’ve already started to see a spike in new legal filings.  And this is just the beginning. Crises and economic downturns always generate an increase in legal activity, and news headlines are appearing rapidly.  Corona-centered suits are being filed against insurance companies, healthcare facilities, cruise lines, colleges, and even certain countries.  Due to lawsuits and cases spurred by the COVID-19 outbreak, court reporters will soon have more work than they’ve EVER SEEN. Once the legal world returns to full swing, there will be years’ worth of COVID-19-related cases in need of certified, accurate legal records. For court reporters, scopists, and proofreaders, that means one thing: It’s all hands on deck. Legal transcript professionals are about to become more valuable than ever.  Here’s how to ramp up your business and prepare for the post-COVID reporting surge:

1. Get Cozy with Remote Proceedings

No shock here.  Remote reporting is a popular topic of conversation at the moment.  We could probably write a book about tips, tricks, and best practices, but some of the best folks in our industry already have that covered. COVID-19 will surely make a lasting impact on our lives, and even on our industry. One change we expect to continue is an increase in remote depositions, even well after the virus dust has settled. While remote reporting certainly has its challenges, it also has many benefits.  For example, do you really want to go back to long commutes and wearing real pants every day? Either way, law firms are beginning to embrace remote depositions, and reporters need to be ready and willing to adapt.

2. Prepare to Report 5 Days / Week

Qualified, certified court reporters were already in short supply pre-COVID.  In just a few months, as the industry continues to adapt or return to some state of “normal,” our community will be inundated with depositions and court proceedings and scrambling to keep up with demand.  Those who can organize their businesses to take on more work will reap the reward.  Imagine a 25-50% increase in annual income.  That kind of reward. But that kind of reward may come at a price.  Most transcripts take just as much time to scope, proof, and carry out the administrative tasks as it does to write the transcript.  This means that a full five-depo week requires most of our evening and weekend time to achieve our industry gold standard of verbatim perfection AND meet all the deadlines.  The midnight oil burns until we’re proud to put our CSR numbers on the final cert page. This kind of dedication to maintain the integrity of the record is energy-consuming.  Most reporters, at some point in their careers, have experienced physical, mental, and/or emotional burnout when they’ve accepted too much work.  With that lesson learned, reporters typically scale back to a comfortable page workload.  Unfortunately, scaling back to “comfortable” and missing work opportunities doesn’t increase personal income or support an overwhelmed justice system. Pause for a second.  We have uplifting news!  The fabled 5-depo workweek is not as unmanageable as you might think. With the right technology and team, you can delegate the tasks that other transcript professionals (scopists and proofreaders) are ready, willing, equipped to execute for you.  This allows reporters to spend time doing what they were born to do:  Reporting.

3. Streamline Your Work Processes

Let’s drill down into one area within your control that the Stenovate team, personally, obsesses over:  Streamline your work processes! This is how you report five days a week AND maintain your sanity. You must, must, must simplify your “homework” for yourself and your teammates.  This includes anything you’re doing “off the clock,” specifically all the stuff you do at home: scoping, proofing, paperwork, and all the tasks accompanied with running a team — organizing and relaying details and deadlines, negotiating rates, communicating spellings, uploading files, etc., etc., etc. Court reporters and their team members lose countless hours every week trying to manage work and communicate details and deadlines through multiple tools: spreadsheets, paper notes, a physical Depobook, Facebook Messenger, email, texting, Dropbox, Google Drive… you get the idea. Like the speedy (and delicious) Chipotle burrito line, you need to standardize your workflow to produce transcripts faster and more efficiently.  Stenovate simplifies all aspects of transcript management and collaboration with scopists and proofreaders.  Keeping your transcript team on the same page gives you the ability to crank out as many pages as possible in as little time as possible. In just a few short days, Stenovate is launching to the public, and you’ll be able to start exploring Stenovate’s all-in-one collaborative platform during this slow period, while you’re at home and have free time.  As soon as agencies start calling, the expedites start flying, and the transcript trepidation sets in, you’ll have peace of mind because you and your team will have all the tools needed to perform on another level. Speaking of your team…

4. Communicate Expectations for Post-COVID with Scopists & Proofreaders

As a wise person once said, “Teamwork divides the task and multiplies the success.” In our case, teamwork is the only thing standing between you and Death By a Thousand Pages.  No court reporter can work 5 depositions per week without the help of a stellar team of scopists and proofreaders. Now is the time to start building your team and communicating expectations: 1.  Ask your team how much work they’re going to be ready and willing to take.  Remember, it’s going to be all hands on deck!  Coordinating calendar expectations is essential. 2.  Consider adding new teammates to your line-up.  It’s reassuring to have a full bench of talented colleagues on your side, making you look good and alleviating stress.  Building a great team is critical for boosting productivity to 5 depositions per week.  If it’s your first time building a team, spend extra time interviewing candidates and be transparent when setting expectations. 3.  Start communicating grammar and punctuation preferences using a pre-made preference sheet.  Use this slow period to ensure your preferences are clearly conveyed for maximum consistency across your transcripts. 4.  Be sure you’ve discussed and agreed on rates well in advance. We always recommend doing a transcript “audition,” which can be a short transcript with known errors for you to use as a little test run.  It’s important to vet your teammates.  It is YOUR name on the cert page, and you should be doing quality checks.  As you build trust, this gets easier and easier. So get started ASAP.

5. Lastly, focus on controlling the controllable.

Now that we’ve discussed more tactical advice, let’s take a step back and use this moment to take a deep breath… hold it for 3 seconds… and release.  Now do that 2-3 more times.  Seriously.  Try it.  Please. ?? Do you feel a sense of calm and control washing over you?  You’re not alone.  Deep breathing physically alters our minds to make us more relaxed and present. In times of uncertainty, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by forces outside of our control. The best thing we can do is observe our emotions and recognize those emotions are there to help us make smart choices, stay present, and focus on the things within our ability to change. For court reporters, scopists, and proofreaders, that means preparing for the post-COVID surge of demand for our services.  Take this downtime to set the foundation for your future success.  That means:

  1. Get Cozy with Remote Proceedings
  2. Plan to Report 5 Days / Week
  3. Streamline Your Work Processes (Hello, Stenovate! ?)
  4. Communicate Expectations with your Team
  5. Control the Controllable

By preparing in advance, you will be ready to take full advantage of the flood of work coming your way. And breathe. Always remember to breathe. ?

Remember: You’ve. Got. This.

Times have been tough.  You’ve been stuck at home, out of work, and unsure of what’s next. So for anyone who needs a little boost of encouragement, here it comes. YOU’VE GOT THIS. You’ve SO got this! Actually, you never lost it.  You’ve always had this.  That’s how much you’ve got this. And when those pages come raining down from the Corona-free clouds, you’ll be ready—because you prepared your business, your team, and yourself to grow and adapt. The court reporting community is staring straight into the calm before a storm.  Soon, we’ll be flooded with more work than we know what to do with.  Those who can grow their businesses to accept more transcript opportunities will be in position to change their careers and, ultimately, their lives. YOU’VE. GOT. THIS!

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