Win Before You Begin – Court Reporting

So I know I talk/compare steno a lot with tennis, but that’s because that’s what I know – tennis and movie stuff – those are my other main interests.  So…another tennis story for you that involves my son – this happened just this week – the wounds are still fresh! 🙂

Court Reporting Winning

My son just finished his tennis season at his high school – he had the best record of any player from his school in years!  Okay…that says more to how bad his team is than how good HE is (sorry, but it’s the truth!).  After the season is sectionals, where all the best players from each team have a tournament to decide which single players are best.  My son has had anxiety issues over the years, so it’s not odd that he was nervous, but…

The morning of his first match (they get to miss school!) he was dressed like normal –

Me – Why aren’t you in your tennis clothes?
Boy – I put them in my backpack – I’ll change there.
Me – Why?  When you get there you’re going to start playing your match.
Boy – What if I have to sit for awhile before I start?
Me – Then you’ll sit in your tennis clothes.

I knew at that point we were in bad shape.  Mentally, he had already lost.  I could tell he was going to play, hoping not to lose, rather than playing to win.

And it was even worse than that.  He got on the court and barely moved – looked like he just emerged from a 3-year coma (this was a kid he could beat).  The coach asked me what was wrong – I had no answer other than, “This is a special moment.”  I was embarrassed for him. I was embarrassed for me.  I was embarrassed for everyone that had to watch.  It was that bad.  If it would not have caused life-long damage, I would have yanked him off the court after 10 minutes – I would rather he be at school.

He lost before he ever walked onto the court.  He wasn’t mentally prepared.  And because he wasn’t mentally prepared, he physically (and mentally) failed.  And I’m not saying anything he wouldn’t agree with here 🙂  He stayed home from school yesterday because he was such a mess.  Initially he blamed it on the flu…then later agreed it was his attitude.  We made a fresh start today.

YOU need to be mentally prepared before you even put your fingers on those steno keys.  “Let’s do some solid writing!”  “Accurate strokes today!”  “Remember to breathe – relax.”  “My fingers know what to do.”  Anything else is defeating. “I haven’t practice a lot lately, so this should be rough.”  Wrong.  “I’m having a bad writing week.”  Wrong.  “This speed is too hard.”  Wrong.

I’m not saying you should be in denial – steno is tough!  But you don’t need to add extra barriers by caving into those thoughts.  Win the day before you even begin!

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Court Reporter or Cat Wrangler?

My son plays tennis. But he doesn’t play tennis like I play tennis, which is fine. I play an aggressive game while trying to always improve both physically and mentally. When I was younger, I took lessons, even when I was the best in my age group, because I knew that my current skills would only take me so far – my instincts would only get me to a certain level. My son…he lives in the moment. He hits this one forehand shot that looks like his arm is broken – it’s a horrible thing to witness! And when I tell him this, his reply is, “But I usually win the point.” Me – “But it’s horrible form and you’re creating horrible habits that are going to stick with you. Those other players are going to get better…and you’re not. They’re going to be crushing that shot of yours next year.” The Boy – “But right now I’m winning.” Okay, trying to be rational to a 17-year old (especially your own) is like trying to wrangle cats.

I totally understand instant gratification. I’m a victim of it all the time. But when we’re talking about developing skills that will be used for years and years…it only makes sense to do the right things now so those years and years will be as easy as possible. As that relates to steno, I get MANY working court reporters who come back to work with me to clean up their writing because they’re tired of spending days cleaning up their transcripts. Their goal in school was to pass tests and start working. And they did…and now they’re paying the price. Their goal should have been to write well and start working. The tests take care of themselves.

“If I don’t get at least part of the word down, I’ll have no chance of knowing what the word is.” True. But if you write half a word, you’re then telling your brain it’s okay to write half a word. You may pass that test, but you’re also slopping up your writing. Better to drop that word, then practice it later.

Now if I could just get my son to practice his forehand…

Court Reporter Wrangler

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Court Reporting School – Am I Too Old??

“Am I too old for court reporting school?”  I hear that question at least once a week.

Let me just start off by saying age is just a number….and in my case…it’s a very high number 🙂 I’m 50. Okay, that’s not so high really. I don’t drool or anything. But it’s definitely higher than 30! I relate most things to tennis. And at 30, I was relatively pain free – could play 4 times a week – singles – then eat a whole pizza. Today…lots of pain…play 3 times a week…and eat a veggie burger. BUT…after 30 years of being rated as a 4.5 player (a pro is 7.0), I may actually move to 5.0 after this year! I’m 19-4 in my tournament matches over the last 3 years – off to a good start this year. Am I getting better? No, I’m getting smarter. I’m conserving my energy on the court. I’m playing the odds. I’m hitting smarter shots. So how does this relate to steno?

People always talk about age with regard to steno – am I too old?

There’s no denying a couple things –

1 – Younger students tend to get to 225 faster.
2 – The “sweet spot” seems to be between 22-25 for students who go through fast AND become good court reporters.

After that, it’s all opinion. And here are my thoughts (and most are generalities, of course)…

I think younger students tend to get through faster because they tend to have less on their plate – have not set so many learning/living patterns yet – are more capable of letting things go. BUT…they tend to have a harder time working at first because they have less work experience – and they haven’t invested so much time that they’re not willing to quit. I can think of 5 or so students who graduated school at 20…then just said, “No thanks” to working as court reporters. They didn’t struggle enough – and they still had plenty of time to try something else. So being young is great…unless it’s not 🙂

Older students tend to have more obligations – be more set in their ways of learning – more rigid. So time management becomes more important, as well as being open to a new thought process. They’re probably not used to failing something 20 times before succeeding, so this is a new experience after a lifetime of experiences.

Overall, I think younger students need to intern more – the older students need to give up some control a bit. Good and bad on both sides.

But when it comes to finger movement, barring some injuries, it’s all the same. I think the person at 50 can move their fingers just as fast as the person at 18. So don’t let that be an excuse.

As always with steno, self evaluation is key. “Why am I where I am?” “What can I change to get to where I want to be?” You hold all the answers in your brain…your 20-year-old brain, 30-year-old brain…60-year-old brain.

Now I need to go stretch – I have a tennis match later today!
– SimplySteno

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Jeffrey Weigl Interview – NCRA 2016 Speed Champ

Competing August 3rd in Chicago, Jeffrey Weigl swept each category, earning gold medals in the 220 wpm Literary leg, the 230 Legal Opinion leg, as well as the 280 wpm Question & Answer portion, all while tallying 39 less combined errors than his nearest competitor.


The Edmonton court reporter has just been crowned champion at the National Court Reporters Association’s annual speed contest.

The contest, held every year in the U.S., pits court reporters against each other in a series of tests to see who can take the most accurate transcriptions of dictations. In other words, Weigl is the Usain Bolt of stenography.

Three tests are taken. The first is a literary reading — usually a speech — read at 225 words a minute. The second is similar but involves far more legal jargon — much like the judgment delivered at the end of a trial — at 235 words a minute.

Finally, writers try their best to keep up with a question-and-answer testimony involving two people read at a lightning-fast 280 words a minute.

For comparison, the average person speaks at around 160 to 180 words a minute.

This year, Weigl won all three categories to take home the prize, becoming the first Canadian to do so since the competition began in 1909.


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Mock Trial Reporters – Student Outreach Program

I’ve been working on the teaching side of court reporting for about 20 years now. I’ve only dabbled in the promotion side of things over the past few – my court reporting documentary, For the Record, for example. This new project, Mock Trial Reporters, is an attempt to reach a wider, more targeted audience. I believe this will be the largest outreach program ever attempted in the court reporting industry – and based on the response from just one week, I think it will be the most successful. It’s not enough to “create” new reporters – we need to make sure they have job opportunities. So with this project, my goals are to –

  • Establish that court reporters are a needed part of the legal process
  • Bring new people into this industry

Mock Trial Reporters is a program that provides free court reporters for mock trials at the middle school, high school, and college level (over 2,000 schools take part in these each year – over 20,000 students!). I see it as a win-win-win (yes, an extra win!) situation.

  • 1 – It exposes court reporting to those at the most impressionable age in terms of career choices.
  • It’s reaching a target audience that is already interested in the legal environment.
  • It establishes that a court reporter belongs in the courtroom, a place where many of these students will be working in the future.
  • It’s a way for court reporters to give back to their profession and community.
  • It’s a GREAT way for court reporters to earn PDCs towards their NCRA certification (if needed).

I reached out to several mock trial state associations last week and already have a huge response – and our first agreement in South Carolina! The South Carolina Bar organizes regional and state mock trial competitions each year…and they’d love court reporters included. With this single, small step, we will reach about 350 students and over 30 schools.

Initially, my plan was to wait to hear back from all the state mock trial associations before recruiting court reporters. But now that I’ve heard back from one state and realize the scope of the endeavor, I know that NOW is the time to reach out. And NOW is the time for you to help promote your industry! I encourage you to sign up as a mock trial court reporter in your area. And you don’t have to be a courtroom reporter – you can be a deposition reporter, CART provider, captioner – all can apply! The details…

  • You sign up here – Mock Trail Court Reporters – Sign Up
  • Once we have a mock trial in your area, we will contact you with the details – you can take part or decline.
  • Most mock trails take part on Saturdays – some on Fridays. Depending on the competition round, some may take all or part of a day. Although we prefer reporters to commit to the entire day in a single location, we do have the option of splitting days between more than one reporter.
  • Details of your “work” that day will be confirmed by the organizer. In most cases, you’ll just be asked to sit and write. No interrupting. No reading back. No transcripts. For our first season, we just want to establish that a court reporter BELONGS in the room. Once that’s been established, I expect the interaction to grow over coming seasons to make the trial process more realistic.
  • You will get the details of the case beforehand – proper names, subject matter, etc.
  • If you need PDCs (like CEUs) for NCRA certifications, you will get a letter of approval from the organizer after you’ve completed your session. Please note that PDC credits for each NCRA reporter cannot exceed the 1.0 PDC (or 10 hours) maximum per certification cycle.

The goal is to work with only professional, working court reporters. That said, there are MANY mock trial requests coming in, so we will be turning to high-speed students to fill those slots if needed. We will need reporters in every part of the country – chances are there’s one near you. Mock Trail Reporters will organize everything – you just show up and show off our profession.

Sign up HERE!!

And thank you in advance to all the hard-working court reporters who take part in this huge endeavor. Together, we can show communities the value of our profession, bring in new students, and have a lot of fun in the process!

Thank you,
Marc Greenberg
Mock Trial Reporters

PS – Please share this information with everyone you know within the court reporting community.

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Court Reporter – Stuck in the Middle With…

Many students want to become court reporters because they love the legal field.  “It’s exciting!  It’s so professional!  It’s dramatic!”  True, but it’s also tough to listen to at times.  Keep in mind that being a court reporter means being in the middle of some very nasty moments.  People don’t sue (or get sued) because of a happy situation.  It’s never about puppies and rainbows and too much love.  It’s a fight…and you will be the one sitting, as the court reporter, in the middle of it.

Speaking of Puppies and the Court Reporter…

This is similar to the situation I experienced when I was about 20.  I LOVE animals!  I thought, “I’ll work at a veterinary hospital so I can be with animals all the time!”  What I didn’t consider was that those animals are in the hospital because they’re sick…or need a flea bath…or shots.  They never come in because they need more cuddling.  That said, I worked as a veterinary assistant for 3 years.

Same thing in court or depositions.  People might be lovely and fun to be around as a whole, but in a trial or deposition setting, you will often see people at their very worst – combative and mean.

None of this is meant to dissuade you from becoming a court reporter.  In fact, I think it’s an amazing occupation with endless opportunities.  But it’s important to go into your field knowing what you will be encountering.  In fact, many court reporters went into this field because of the drama.  They love the thought of hearing important arguments and seeing legal matters played out, all while having a front-row seat.

As a court reporting student, or prospective court reporting student, you’ll want to make sure you experience the courtroom or deposition setting before you get too far in your education.  Sit out with court reporters.  Sit in on depositions.  Be prepared for the job you eventually want.  And bring a puppy along…they love that!

Court Reporter

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Sick? Pass Your Court Reporting Tests!

Not feeling great? A little under the weather? Now’s the perfect time to pass your court reporting tests! I’ve seen it happen time and time again. A student walks into a classroom, steno machine under one arm, a box of tissues under the other. “I’m really out of it today – but I wanted to come to class.” The student sits in the back of the room in a zombie-like state and writes, taking time out to cough, wipe the nose and let out the occasional groan. When test time rolls around – “I’m gonna stay for the court reporting tests, but then I’m going home and getting into bed.” The next day they’re presented with their PASS!!!

And it makes perfect sense. Since so much of writing hinges on your nerves and brain activity, the involuntary shutdown of some of those actions is a big help. When you’re sick, you don’t have the energy to tighten all your muscles. You don’t have the brain resources to agonize over each error you make. You’re just a writer in a pure form, which is how you do well on court reporting tests.

You CAN write everything you hear right now – no matter where you are in your speedbuilding program. Some things come instantly, while others take a few seconds, but you CAN write everything you hear, given enough time. That’s because the information you need is stored in your brain – just like folders on a computer. The delay happens when you hear something and there’s a delay finding that information – like when you do a search on your hard drive – some things will be found quickly and others will take minutes. How long it takes to access that information is in direct relation to how many other brain activities are taking place at the same time (and accrued muscle memory).

Each thought process you have going on is a roadblock on the path to that information you need – the proper strokes you need to pass your court reporting tests. But when you’re really sick, you basically always have one thought process taking place, “Ahhh…I’m sick!” And the rest of the brain is up for anything – in this case, writing. Those roadblocks/hesitation just aren’t there because you don’t have the energy to put them there.

Court Reporting Tests - Sneeze, Cough, PASS!!

Share Your Court Reporting Tests – Not Your Steno Germs!

Now, I’m NOT suggesting going to class when you’re contagious! I don’t need 50 emails from irate teachers and students. But consider the process and how it works – maybe you can make it work for you.


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Court Reporting Student Syndrome – Part 1

There’s a name for it – “I’m getting it!” syndrome.  If you’re a court reporting student, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  You prepare yourself to take a dictation test – it begins – and everything is going great!  Your fingers are keeping up – the teacher is reading clearly – all the words are going straight from their mouth to your fingers.  THIS is how it’s supposed to be.  Just…like…umm…I’m getting it…I’m getting…wow, I could actually pass this!  This is awesome!  I’ve been waiting for this for…oh, what did she say…where…who…why?

And as quickly as you had it…you lost it!

SimplySteno Testing

Court Reporting Students – Staying in the moment –

So as a court reporting student, how do you overcome this black hole that’s stealing your focus in the moment of testing?  I suggest to my students that a change of focus is key – recognizing that you’re NOT in the moment, then deciding where your energy will be channeled.

Are you breathing?  The first place to redirect your focus is to your breathing.  Like the ocean, it’s naturally calming.  A gentle breath in…and a gentle breath out.  It’s the simplest, most automatic function of our bodies, yet has the power to be the most centering as well.  When you focus on your calm inhale and exhale, your nervous energy (or distracting energy) ebbs like the tide.

The second focus option – your body.  But don’t think of the body as a whole – break it down into bits and pieces.  Court reporting students are notorious for curling their toes as they write.  So start at the toes and make a mental note of that – “Relax my toes.”  Then work your way up the body.  Are your feet flat on the floor?  Are your calves loose?  Are you sitting relaxed in your chair or leaning forward?  Eyebrows furrowed?  Teeth clenched.

Break down each part of the body.  Focus on your breathing.  Before you know it, the test is over!  Let the power of being in the moment override your thoughts that are trying to pull you into “what if?” territory.  So as a court reporting student, how do you pass a test?  You don’t think about passing a test!

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For the Record Documentary in New York!

“There’s a documentary about court reporting??!”  I’m still amazed at how many times I hear that.  I’ve spent 3 years working on For the Record – another year promoting it – injecting it into every nook and cranny of the court reporting community – only to hear, “There’s a documentary about court reporting?”  I guess I have more work to do!

Let’s start here – we have a screening in New York on July 31st!  Only about 20 tickets left.  You can check out details here –!nyscra-screening/c1rzl   If you’re going to be in town for the NCRA convention, this is a perfect opportunity to check it out.

What are in you for?

1 – An “intro” video with entertaining clips and a special message from a secret guest.
2 – The movie, For the Record!!!
3 – A Q&A panel after with many of the stenolebrities from the film!
4 – A fun time with 140 other people in the court reporting field 🙂


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Steno by Number

Stenography is very big on numbers when you’re in court reporting school.  What speed are you in (number)?  What was your percentage rate on that test (number)?  How long have you been in school (number)?  How much do you pay for steno school (crazy number!)?  And once you become a professional, you get a whole new set of numbers!  What’s your page rate (number)?  How long have you been a reporter (number)?  How big is your dictionary (number)?   How fast did the speaker get today (number)?  What was your untranslate percentage (number)?

Steno by Number

I want to tackle just a few of those numbers.

Untranslate Rate (measured by CAT software) – That’s the percentage rate CAT steno software gives you for things you stroke that are not defined in your dictionary.  BUT…the steno software isn’t saying the translated words are correct – what you were supposed to write – just that it’s a word.  An untranslate does the same damage as a wrong word, so why bother even having that percentage displayed?  What I’d rather see…though artificial intelligence isn’t there yet…is a “Correct in Context Rate.”  That would define the percentage of strokes you had that were both in the dictionary AND probably correct, based on the context of the sentence.  Again, impossible with today’s technology, but…a man can dream!

Speed (measured by CAT software) – We’ve all seen posts from reporters – “My CAT software said I was writing 340 today.  And I was doing that for like 3 hours!”  Well…no…you weren’t 🙂  CAT software checks the speed based on a VERY small section of time – seconds, not minutes.  So let’s say you write “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury” in one stroke.  The steno software says you just wrote 6 words in about 1 second, which means, congrats!, you’re now writing 360 words a minute.  So that speed measurement is based on a burst of speed, not a long period of time.  I bet if you took a 3-hour deposition, you’d average 140 words per minute if you factored in all the dead time.

“My Speed” – I understand that we need to determine your goal steno speed – we need to know how hard to push.  That said, the very best students don’t think about speed in terms of a number, they think about speed in terms of writing better.  Stan Sakai is the perfect example.  To paraphrase him, “I never knew what speed I wrote.  I only knew I wanted to get faster and more accurate.  That’s how I measured myself.”  His goal was not 225.  His goal was “As good as I can get.”  Imagine if you could let that number go – how freeing it would be!

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