True or false? Court reporters are all alike – FALSE. Not all court reporters are alike. There are several important things to consider before you hire a court reporter for a key deposition. We want to provide a comprehensive guide to help you know what to look for when you need to hire a court reporter.
Who has vetted the court reporter?
When you hire a court reporting firm, someone (most likely the owner) has taken the time and effort to vet the court reporter. They look at how many years of experience the court reporter has, how fluent they are in the technology of the court reporting world, and they also spot-check their transcripts for quality and accuracy. There are many factors that an owner of a court reporting firm accepts responsibility for because their name is on the door. That court reporting firm is more likely to send you a reporter who has time and again proven themselves to be professional, punctual and produces a high-quality transcript. The court reporting firm should consistently be training their court reporters and regularly checking to ensure they are following the best practices set forth by the court reporting industry at large. Many court reporters work for themselves, and they are called “independent” reporters or IC (independent contractors) court reporters. Be sure to ask them questions regarding all of the following topics to ensure that your deposition goes smoothly, your files are secure, and you get the level of service you need. At Cady Reporting Services in Cleveland, Ohio, we make sure that you always have the support you want and a team to fall back on for everything you need.
Who is the court reporter accountable to?
Many court reporters work for themselves and are their own boss. They are able to provide a level of service that some attorneys are comfortable with. However, when you hire a court reporter from a court reporting firm, that court reporter is accountable to many more people. They are accountable to the production department for accurate and on-time transcripts, the billing department for exact, correct charges. Ultimately, they are accountable to the owner of the court reporting firm. Accountability is not merely taking the blame if something goes awry. It is about making the commitment and delivering on it. Your court reporter (and the entire firm they work for) makes a commitment to you, and accountability delivers on that commitment. Your court reporter should be fully committed to making a professional appearance, creating a high-quality record of the proceedings, and delivering that record to you within the agreed-upon deadlines. We know the expectations and are committed to fulfilling them on each and every deposition.
Is your court reporter a resource?
Any court reporter that you hire should be very knowledgeable on all aspects of court reporting. That includes realtime technology, remote depositions, transcript procedures, and more. If you have any questions regarding depositions or the deposition process, your court reporter should be providing access to solutions, resources, training, and demonstrations. If you need services other than your local city or state, your court reporter should be able to provide an agency that they have personally vetted. Here at Cady Reporting, we are partners of NNRC (the National Network Reporting Co.) We have close personal relationships with the owners of court reporting firms across the country that we can call and make arrangements with. We know that these peer-reviewed companies can give you the same level of attention that we give you in Cleveland. Granted, not every court reporter can know everything. But when you schedule with a court reporting firm, you have access to so many knowledgeable people that can help and answer your questions. Since you are the priority, many people in the court reporting firm will work on your behalf to obtain the things you need.
Do they offer the latest technology, and are they knowledgeable about using it?
Perhaps you have heard of deposition technology such as realtime streaming or specific exhibit-sharing software. Does your court reporter have the resources to help you utilize the technology you would like to use on your deposition? A court reporting firm has the in-house resources and personnel to bring you answers to any questions you may have and help you during the deposition. If you have a specific need during the course of your litigation and are wondering if there is technology to help you meet your needs, your court reporter should be able to provide an answer and a solution regarding the technology available to you. As court reporters, we are the experts, and an expert is what you need to win your case. So an indication of a great court reporting firm would be one that delivers on the most advanced technology in court reporting.
What if you need something in an emergency?
It’s 10:00 at night. You are preparing for trial, and you need that transcript, that is…where is it? Or it’s 2 pm, and you need exhibits sent over to you now. Still, your court reporter is in deposition and won’t be able to send you the exhibits you need until at least 4:00 this afternoon when their current client finishes up their deposition. When you need files, documents, or exhibits sent to you immediately, is your court reporter available 24/7? At Cady Reporting, we have an emergency call line set up with two ways to get ahold of us. We all know that litigation is a fast-paced industry that doesn’t wait. Any court reporter you hire should be available to help you any time your case calls for it. Also, when you call, the court reporter needs to have access to the things you need. It is a good idea to ask how the court reporter’s information is stored. We store everything on a secure cloud-based server so that no matter what time it is where we are or where you are, any of our office staff can send you the files you need.
What if you need a court reporter at the last minute? Your litigation support company should be there when you need them. If the court reporter is suddenly unable to take the deposition, you will need support immediately. When you schedule a deposition with a court reporting firm, that firm has the resources to reach out to available reporters immediately. If something happens and a last-minute deposition pops up, can you trust that your court reporter will be free and available to help? A top-notch court reporting firm will have someone to help you 24/7. Staff should be available so that when litigation happens, everyone is ready to jump in and handle an emergency regardless of being a court reporter, scheduler, owner, or staff member. Make sure your court reporting firm has the resources to deal with emergencies.
How are the documents saved? Are they secure?
All attorneys are concerned about digital security. Your court reporter should also be attentive to the importance of securing and keeping your files. A good question to ask a court reporter or court reporting firm is how they ensure file security. Not only should you be looking for protection against hackers, but an attorney should also be able to trust that the court reporter will securely store any litigation support files and not delete them. An excellent example of a secure court reporting storage system can be found in another article here. There are explanations in both ‘computer-speak’ and pictures for the rest of us ;). Below you will also see an image that you can click on to enlarge. This infographic is a good baseline of what you want to ask your court reporter regarding security. I hope their file system is as secure as this one!
Is the court reporter qualified to take an expert deposition in any area of practice?
No matter what area of law you practice, certain words and terminology are embedded into that practice. Before hiring a court reporter, be sure to ask whether or not they are experienced and qualified to create a record of the proceedings in your specific area of practice. Make sure that they are qualified in the area of law that you are practicing. A great court reporter can take a deposition from any case in any area of law and have the knowledge to create a flawless transcript. Some of the areas of law that a reporter should be able to cover are commercial litigation, bankruptcy, personal injury, medical malpractice, education law, probate litigation, intellectual property, maritime law, aviation litigation, and more. When you look to hire a court reporter from a court reporting firm, the firm owner and staff know which court reporter has the most experience covering depositions in your particular area of law. They can knowledgeably assign a court reporter to your deposition who best qualifies in your area of practice.
What transcript formats does the court reporter provide?
As you know, attorneys integrate transcript files with many different kinds of litigation software, and they require many different kinds of file types. Before you hire a court reporter, make sure you know what type of software you’ll be using if the case goes further down the road to trial. It’s a good idea to check with the court reporting firm to ensure that they can provide you with the type of file you are going to need. All court reporters should be sending you an ASCII file, also known as a .txt file. The ASCII file is the most basic file that can be used with most litigation trial software. Some examples of trial software are Trial Director 360, OnCue, iPro Trial Director, TrialPad, and more. Some of the other file types that court reporters offer are PDF, E-tran (also known as .ptx files), etc. There are some particular circumstances where an attorney might need another file type, and your court reporting firm should have the resources to get you the types of files that work for you.
Can I schedule and cancel easily?
When you choose to hire a court reporter, ask them how you can schedule and cancel a deposition. This question is important because many court reporting firms charge fees for cancellations, whether it is a lower fee for 24 hours notice or a higher cost for less notice. This is a factor that you should consider before you hire that court reporter. At Cady Reporting, we have many ways our clients can schedule depositions with us. Attorneys and staff can call our office to schedule a court reporter, they can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we also have a convenient 24/7 online scheduling form. These are good examples of how you should be able to schedule a court reporter. If you book a court reporter online or through a website, it’s also a good idea to make sure your request went through if you don’t receive a confirmation soon after putting in the request.
What is the court reporter’s plan for litigation support needs in other states or countries? How do they ensure quality out of state?
We all know that litigation doesn’t only happen in one area. Complex cases and multidistrict litigation can take attorneys anywhere. While it is necessary for your court reporting firm to have a strong local presence, how they handle your depositions outside of their local area is an important question to ask. Here are some specifics they should be able to provide:
- Do they schedule out of state? What about in other countries?
- What is the process that they go through when choosing an out-of-state court reporting company?
- How is that company held accountable?
- Does your local firm personally know this company or the owner of this company?
- Has the out-of-state company been appropriately vetted?
Many court reporting companies just go to Google and call the first couple of results that are shown. Your case is more substantial than a simple Google search. Ask these questions of your court reporter and make sure to get satisfactory results.
Can they set up remote depositions with tech support?
With so many depositions being held via Zoom, especially during the COVID pandemic, it is vital to know whether or not your court reporter can set up a remote deposition. One of the most widely used platforms for remote depositions is Zoom. There are, however, others. Your court reporter should have the resources to provide a laptop at the deposition if needed. Also, the court reporter should be facile with all the different platforms for remote depos and be able to provide tech support for you or your team during the deposition. Court reporters can’t usually facilitate exhibits while taking a remote deposition, and sometimes even in-person facilitation of exhibits can be difficult with COVID restrictions in place. What solution does your court reporter suggest? At Cady Reporting, we have several ways to take the pressure off of attorneys and their staff members during depositions. Make sure your court reporter is capable of the same.
Do they offer training or refresher courses?
There are many features of remote depositions that can be beneficial to an attorney during a deposition. Maybe you haven’t participated in a remote deposition in a while and would like a refresher on the features. If you have a solo court reporter covering your deposition, how will they go over the platform with you if they are in deposition all day on the eve of your key deposition? If they are available, is your court reporter able to show you all the features at no cost? No matter what court reporter you hire, they should always strive to be a resource in the legal community.
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