A best practice for court reporters is to have a smart phone. When a last-minute job comes in, the easiest way for a firm to get it covered is to send out an email blast, whether the intended recipients are court reporters or legal videographers. The resource that is sitting by the phone waiting for a call might lose out on opportunity.
The downside to the smart phone is you are never free of it, and when you’re in a deposition, hearing, or arbitration, and the phone vibrates with a new message, it is sometimes almost impossible to not check and see who wants your attention. I have been at depositions wherein I have the phone resting on my thigh while I’m writing, and the moment someone stops talking to look at an exhibit or think, I am sliding the wake-up bar to see my new message. This habit can be very problematic. Sometimes I have my Outlook open behind my CAT software so I can check emails that way. And then other times I have my iPad resting on a chair behind me (if the deposition table is a bit narrow), and I will swivel my chair to check my email.
My office knows I am always available via email if something comes up that needs my attention, and it is important that I deal with issues that come up during the day. The question is, when is it affecting my writing, my mental well-being, and becomes irritating to the attorneys?
I have come up with some personal guidelines on paying attention to emails during a job:
Never have the phone on vibrate. Even though there is no song that plays or crickets that chirp, the vibration on the table is irritating and distracting. Turn the phone off or on a quiet mode.
Don’t have the email up during the morning session at all. Unless you are familiar with a case, the initial two hours of a deposition are usually fast because the attorneys are giving the admonition, getting background information that the witness can say off the top of his/her head without thinking, and the court reporter is writing new names, terms, and material that is unfamiliar. Plus we’re making up briefs and thinking. It is too stressful to be reading email.
Once exhibits begin being introduced and marked, there typically is time to check emails. Witnesses are usually asked to read over the document and become familiar with it before answering questions.
I was speaking with Lisa Michaels of Chase Deposition Services last week, and she commented that because she has a keyboard on top of her steno machine, that allows her to type directly to her laptop. She can answer emails quickly. There is no need to turn her body and move her hands to type on the laptop keys.
Know when the deposition is too fast and furious to even consider looking at email. It is exhausting writing 200+ pages in a day and also be looking at emails, answering them, and going back and forth. If I write two all-day depositions two days in a row, and I am writing emails all day, my brain is so tired by the end of the second day that I get to a point that I don’t care about anything or anybody (including myself). Life is too short.
I am thinking some court reporters who read this blog post might advise to never look at email during a deposition and be very critical of anyone who attempts to do so. I very much respect that opinion. Maybe one day I will stop dealing with emails, but until then, I plan on following my guidelines.