court reporting and technology

At personal risk of being the target of attack, I respectfully address court reporting leadership’s campaign of sending out a woefully outdated 16-year-old Advisory Opinion on court reporters who video record Zoom depositions. I first wrote about this issue in Court Reporting and Technology.

First, let’s recall that this is a pre-Zoom, pre-pandemic, 2006 outdated opinion, and only an opinion. This was never a rule, never a regulation, nor a law.

If you will recall, this language was addressing a completely different animal in 2006 in live depositions, and it was drafted before the ease of Zoom and modern technology even existed.

This language specifically was addressing live in-person depositions and reporters who were frantically managing videography hardware during depositions. Reporters with tripods, wires, cables, lights, and cameras were showing up to depos. It was 2006 and the tech explosion was just starting to happen. (Twitter was only just about to be launched.)

Court Reporting and Technology

Fast forward to today, it is embarrassing that professionals would employ such obviously outdated language to slow progress. Throw away your 8-track tapes, so to speak, and let’s get upgraded to today’s standards of court reporting and technology.

We should all demand an updated position from NCRA and our state associations before they issue more ill-advised dusty opinions like this.

“Follow the money.”  This anti-reporter movement is partly motivated by companies that are losing millions of dollars each week overcharging for video-recording, even though today modern technology makes it safe, efficient, and Code-compliant.

Be aware that this is another brick in the wall to advance non-reporter proceedings, with a goal to eventually have only the digital reporter (tech/videographer) present. They are doing an excellent job of trying to muddy the water and diverting our attention as they are unopposed in this business plan:  Live stenographic reporter replacement.

Both court reporters and videographers are in short supply. Like in every industry, the crossover is inevitable, efficient, and cost-effective. We should be striving to keep the reporter in the proceeding in as many ways possible, even if an added video certification is deemed best practice.

Is NCRA going to tell the legal industry that reporter-recording a Zoom deposition is unethical and unsafe? Really? This is a bright, forward-thinking, and dynamic demographic that we serve, one that has had hundreds of thousands of proceedings successfully remote recorded by court reporters already.

We all have lived through and adapted through this pandemic. The legal industry has grasped onto advances in technology these last three years. Some went kicking and screaming, but we all adapted, including managing technology for court reporting. Are you going to tell them that we reporters are going to stick to our antiquated 2006 protocol? Really? This is professional suicide for the reporting industry. Please reconsider. More attorneys are asking for Code-compliant, reporter recording of Zoom depositions.

I appreciate that court reporters are intimidated by this massive marketing propaganda, especially when our state associations unwittingly walk in lockstep with a darker agenda. Most have not taken the time to read the RCP language or do their own due diligence, to deeply engage with clients and the marketplace, or to keep updated on this specific issue. Court reporters decline to record because it is new, and yes, there is a learning curve, and many of us just don’t like change. That is completely within their right to turn down this type of job. No argument there. No one is forcing them to accept this task and we appreciate them for the skills they do retain.

Zoom video recording is yet another valuable, advanced skill set, just like real time or captioning. There are court reporters who can write real time and there are others who cannot. They all deserve an opportunity. After all, we know court reporters are in demand across the country.

Thanks to rapidly advancing technology, Zoom video recording is not rocket science. All the hyperbole and criticism that recording a Zoom proceeding pursuant to statutory protocol is too much of a distraction for a reporter is just that, hyperbole…and it is totally subjective. What may be impossible for some reporters is second nature and enjoyable to others.

All protocols and code requirements can be learned and implemented by those that have a desire to expand their skills and be the ultimate professional. It has already been done and continues across the nation in hundreds of thousands of proceedings.

We simply cannot stick our heads in the sand and try to un-ring the bell of progress. 

This is especially true because it clearly opens the door to digitals aligning with videographers with virtually no objection to push the stenographic reporter out completely.

Do not tie our hands while handing them the key to the city.

Let us at least attempt to keep the playing field level.

The tighter our made-up restrictions are, the less competitive we will be… and the easier we will be to replace.

Court reporters need to become video certified for Zoom recording. Period.

 

For those that are simply not comfortable learning this skill set, with all the associated responsibilities, to disparage those that are comfortable and capable, is ill-advised, unkind, and non-productive to our industry. It’s akin to degrading someone who chooses to write real time, caption, or any other advanced skill. It’s like telling the industry it is too challenging for you so your opinion is wrong. It just doesn’t make sense.

This 2006 citing has been outdated for over a decade. Those in leadership that diligently crafted this opinion 16 years ago never could have predicted the amazing progress technology has made, never could have foretold of a global pandemic that would force the world to learn new advances overnight that have developed in the last decade.

It is time to stop living in the past and trying to scare, intimidate and disparage our fellow reporters. That gets us nowhere. If you are not building someone up, then you are tearing them down. Let us all strive to be better than that. We need to have this discussion with mutual respect and consider all the issues and complexities, form a committee with member collaboration to craft a modern advisory opinion that relates to today, here, now in 2022.

No one loves court reporting and court reporters more than I do. No one.

For 41 years I have loved going to work each day. The wonderful professionals and lifelong relationships continue to sustain me. We are all in this beautiful chaos together.

We need to demand of our National Court Reporters Association better leadership on this topic, and not just a regurgitation of their work in 2006.

As a court reporting community, we need to demand ethical, unbiased direction that protects our industry, not just large firms.  We respectfully ask for updated guidance that considers the differences that exist in technology, adaptability of our members, and the looming encroachment of non-reporter digital and video recording. Please at least put up a fight for us before there is nothing to fight for.

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