This series of blogs is dedicated to answering all of your questions from our May 2020 webinar. The questions outlined in this series of blogs are all of the questions not addressed during the live event. We hope you will find these blogs informative. The questions were submitted by students from schools across the U.S. and Canada, and from every level of the court reporting program.

Part 2 | Part 3

If a new reporter were to take a year off (and, say, go wilderness camping in Alaska), would it be very difficult to come back to the machine and regain speed?

As a new reporter, any time away from the writer can be devastating to your speed development. Consider all that you had to do to reach 225 wpm – is wilderness camping in Alaska so important that it couldn’t be put on the back burner for a few years to really allow yourself a fair opportunity to ground your new skills?

Liken your skills to that of a concert pianist. The pianist decides to take a year completely away from his instrument and sails around the world; arrives to the concert hall directly from the airport and doesn’t touch the piano until the curtain goes up. The audience has paid good money for the performance, but when the pianist begins, the notes are less than melodious. The pianist tries to start over, but his fingers are rusty and clumsy on the keyboard. His frustration rises as the audience members make their displeasure known with jeers and boos.

There are many times in court reporting where plans need to be changed for any number of reasons, a last-minute expedite, sickness, an unforeseen emergency – we must learn how to adapt quickly, make accommodations we had not planned for, all in an effort to further our client relationships. Of course, no one can decide what is best for you, but be sure you’ve considered the ramifications of making such a big decision on the heels of completing such a unique process. Also keep in mind that by deciding to take time away from the profession, you are also missing out on entering the field at a pivotal time – the shortage is very real, and qualified reporters are in huge demand. Taking time off could equate to losing out financially.

What’s some advice you can give to students on how to get out of school fast?

There really is no advice or secret to getting out of school fast. A suggestion is to look the challenge straight on and simply practice. Your job as a student is to apply yourself and make school your priority. Consider this your job until such time as you have met your academic requirements. The more focused and diligent you are about your practice time, the more likely you are to gain the necessary speed to complete your studies.

What are some home remedies or things you can do to help with hand and arm pain from typing?

To start with, set up your office space to be ergonomically friendly. Many reporters have a desktop computer to work from when they are editing/scoping/proofreading; add an ergonomic keyboard to that setup as well. Make sure to have the appropriate chair that is adjusted specifically for your workstation.

If you are in the market for a new writer, perhaps you should consider an ergonomic writer, such as the Infinity II from StenoWorks. Or perhaps you just need to add a tilting tripod to your existing writer to provide the ability to reposition the angles and height of the writer when you feel fatigued.

It may also be worthwhile to consider adding routine hand and arm massages with a licensed professional as a way of staying out in front of built-up stress. Consider adding exercises specifically for your hands, wrists and forearms for strength, but also to help relieve tension when writing those long jobs.

You may also like to check out another recent Planet Depos blog about how to set up your home office to function perfectly for you.

Is it possible to do depositions and CART at the same time when freelancing?

Of course it is possible. Remember that as a freelance reporter, you make your schedule. If you have a client that you provide CART for on a regular basis, simply adjust your availability to freelance agencies accordingly. It would probably be most advantageous to try to keep your CART jobs to a regular schedule so that the agency you work with doesn’t have to jump through hoops to accommodate your schedule.

You also need to have flexibility for those freelance transcripts that get expedited without advanced notice, so working with a scopist and/or proofreader could be critical to meeting those deadlines. Keep in mind that waiting to vet a new scopist or proofreader until you have an emergency can backfire. You need to foster and grow these relationships over time and with care so that when the unexpected happens, there is little disruption to workflow and productivity. It may also be worthwhile to know another CART provider that could possibly step into that role for you should the scenario of the unpredictable expedite become reality.

Do you think it is better to set up a freelance CART business as an LLC or a sole proprietorship? I realize that’s more of a legal question, and it probably depends on what state you live in, but I was wondering in your experience what you have found.

It is best to consult with an accountant and/or lawyer when setting up your business.

What is the best way to get your name out there to potential clients?

As a new reporter perhaps your first step should be to start working with a freelance agency to get your career off the ground. You can then use this time to learn more about the lawyers and law firms in your area. Keep in mind that the court reporting world is very small, so tread lightly if you aspire to opening your own agency. If agencies you are working with believe that you are trying to hijack their clients, you may find yourself out of work quickly. There’s more than enough work for everyone and burning bridges to get to the work directly could bring about unintended consequences.

Make sure to always be professional and get your transcripts out on time – clients will remember you and they may even begin to request you for all of their work. If you get enough personal requests through an agency, seeking out your own clients may not be necessary. Foster client relationships and let your agency handle everything else – scheduling, production, billing, complaints, etc.

I’m coming to court reporting as a second career, and most of my questions and worries are about the prospects and career longevity for someone getting into the field who is over 50. I’ve had a successful 25+ year career in the chemical industry and am looking for a change. I’m finding the steno coursework is very challenging (I’m just finishing Theory 1 after a year), and so I fear that by the time I finish my certificate, I won’t have many years left to recoup my investment. So basically, I really hope I’m not making a mistake!

What are employers looking for when they hire new graduates?

First and foremost, agencies are looking for a new reporter to demonstrate they are professional. This starts with your resume. A professional-looking resume automatically tells an agency owner that you deserve a further look. Make sure there are no typos in your resume, or in your cover letter or e-mail. This can immediately send a signal that you don’t pay attention to the details, and the details can make or break your reporting career.

Be reliable and always on time. As many have said, on time is late. So demonstrate that you will be at your job location at least 30 minutes before the start time to allow yourself time to get set up, time to collect your thoughts about the prep you did the evening before your assignment, and the opportunity to greet people as they begin to join the room.

Agencies like team players. Showing you can be flexible and accommodating goes a long way to building trust with an agency. Be prepared to work late to accommodate a witness or attorney. Perhaps a good practice to get into is to not make evening plans during the work week, unless you are willing to change or cancel them with little or no notice.

I know there are various certifications to pursue, but are they required to start working? Is an online certificate enough to get started? And if so, what are the drawbacks in salary and opportunities without the certifications?

            You may live in a state that requires certification (or licensure) in order to work as a court reporter. Your instructors should have this information for you. If not, contact your state court reporting association to learn the requirements for working as a court reporter. For those states that do not mandate certification, there is voluntary certification available through the NCRA, NVRA and AAERT.  Getting required certification is one thing; obtaining it willingly on your own says something entirely different about you! That goes for advanced certifications, too.

            It is important to remember that certification, while important, is not as critical as demonstrating your ability to be a great reporter. Turning in your work on time, or ahead of time, keeps the agencies calling you back. If you are flexible and accommodating, schedulers will remember you. If you are always the utmost professional, clients will remember you and ask for you by name. You control your destiny in this regard – set the bar high and hold yourself to it. The rewards will follow.

            If you live in a state that requires certification and you are struggling to pass the exam, consider relocating to another state that offers the opportunity for you to begin working with an agency or court system that provides training programs and oversight of work while you’re learning the ropes. Some agencies may provide for a relocation incentive, so be sure to check that out. If you are interested in working with Planet Depos and/or relocating, please contact Kathy DiLorenzo at