One of the greatest things about technology is the fact that it is now easy for court reporters to network with each other. Networking between court reporting firms can be defined in many ways, but in its most basic form, an example of networking is if a firm in Atlanta has a deposition in San Diego, and their client needs a location to host the deposition, the Atlanta firm owner will contact their San Diego affiliate to set up the location and make arrangements for a court reporter and/or legal videographer to report/video a job.
The following are suggested Tips & Tricks for Networking Court Reporting Firms:
1. Understand the firm sending you network work is your client. Ten years ago I had the mindset we were doing a favor for the firm to help them cover their calendar. That is absolutely the wrong way to think. The networking firm’s protocol must be respected and adhered to if you agree to accept the job.
2. Court reporters/legal videographers cannot deal with too many instructions and too much paperwork. I believe firms that network extensively are making a great effort to simplify instructions for the reporters/videographers. Bullet points and single line items might be the best way to communicate. People don’t have time, energy, or desire to read pages of instructions. One could argue if you take the job assignment, you need to read all of the paperwork. But the reality is court reporters are super busy, and a large percentage of the time will only skim the paperwork. It is suggested that a firm administrator consolidate the information for the reporter/videographer, and the firm handle the details.
3. Traveling attorneys come from states with different rules. Court reporters in the field typically don’t know every rule regarding reading/signing in all 50 states. The safest thing to do is get the witness’ mailing address and telephone number (for read/sign letters to be sent if necessary). Many firms will send their firm worksheet for the reporter to fill out after the job. If there is a question, “Where to send the original,” or, “Instructions for original,” that is a prompt that the reporter needs to ask the question.
4. Worksheets need to be filled out. If a firm has their own worksheet they send with the job, they want it to be filled out. Some firms have their staff fill out the worksheets, and some expect the court reporter to fill out the worksheet. As a working court reporter, I find it awkward to fill out handwritten worksheets. I would prefer to type in the information or copy/paste appearances and captions. As a firm owner, I understand why firms send out their own worksheets. We have received worksheets from other firms that are impossible to figure out the information and have to call the reporter. This is a tough subject to write about because there is no “right answer” about the perfect worksheet. Some smart reporters have programmed their worksheets to be created with their CAT software, and they don’t want to do two worksheets. I totally understand their frustration at having to fill out two worksheets. When I have to fill out two worksheets, I think of it as being part of the job.
5. Order forms and/or getting orders on the record. I believe every court reporting firm that sends out networking jobs has as one of their major line items: “Get order forms filled out and signed” or “Get Orders on the Record” or “Don’t ask about orders – we have standing orders and it will irritate the attorneys.” Some firms will go on to write, “If you don’t get an order form signed or get the order on the record, you will not be guaranteed payment.” Some reporters are more comfortable than others asking for order forms to be filled out. A suggested practice is for the reporter to fill out as much information as possible and then say, “We want to make sure you get exactly what you need, so here is your order form,” and have the attorney check off what they want and sign the form. Many times the attorney does not know what their firm wants, but that is the subject for another blog.
6. Rough Drafts: Another important line item found on most networking instruction sheets is what to do with rough drafts. I would say 50 percent or more of the networking firms DO NOT want court reporters to directly email rough drafts to the attorneys/paralegals. Why? It could be that there is bad credit history with that law firm or “whatever.” Bottom line, the networking firm is the client, and if they prefer to have all email correspondence with the client, that is their business decision.
Networking between court reporting firms has its pros and cons. It is a business decision that cannot be taken lightly. Having a clear understanding about payment terms and procedures is essential. I believe working with affiliates around the country to cover your national calendar with great court reporters is a smart business practice.