The Value of Education and Continuing Education is often seen as the reason people earn more money. While money may be enough of an incentive for most people to seek more education, for others, job security may be more enticing. There are no guarantees of employment, no matter the level of education, however, it does make one more competitive in the job market.
As the economic rewards of an education continue to increase, so will the number of people seeking those rewards. We have had an interesting turn of events in the world of court reporting. Right now, we are in the ‘seller’s seat’. That is to say, the demand for professional court reporters is very high for courtroom reporters, even though the budgets have been cut drastically nationwide, and even higher for freelance court reporters. I would caution one not to get too comfortable here. We are facing a very different market today.
Court Reporting in the 1980s was at an all-time high. There was an increase in the number of stenotypists because the schools were strong and there were many; our rates were strong as well. There was an increase in the number of students graduating, courts were hiring as well as freelance firms. And then...
THE WAVE WENT OUT.... The wave reversed itself in the 90s. The stenotypist pool started declining due to aging reporters, reporter burn out, schools closing, greater demands by clients and budget cuts for government agencies and courts. All of these factors changed the playing field considerably.
Now we have a great demand for court reporters, but our challenge is convincing the clients, whomever they may be, that we are ‘court reporters’ not just monitors and that our method is valid, verifiable and we are more than capable to handle all types of assignments from hearings, trials, and depositions to large conferences. Because of technology, and timing, we have an opportunity to introduce the digital court reporting method to the legal community and to prove this is the preferred method because it is ‘verifiable’. However, this is impossible if we are all over the boards. Standardization, strict processes and professionalism are a must. Achieving this new AAERT Standard will require everyone’s cooperation, patience and commitment. This means emptying our wagon of old, outdated habits.
In the early 2000s, THE WAVE CAME IN.... The investment in education for those entering the field and continuing education for those already in the field, are very important requirements for gaining the respect of the legal community and other competing methods. Up to this point, the criticism has been no educational standards, no continuing education, home-grown reporters, and the constant criticism that anyone can do this job just by placing a recording device on the table and turning it on. While we realize how wrong those criticisms are, proving that we are more than just a ‘monitor’ or recording device operator or someone trained by a person trained by another person, trained by another person, and so on, without any real curriculum or standards, will require a commitment to education. This is a process and a career commitment. The opportunity for us now is great. We can change the entire legal community’s impression and expectations by doing it properly because now we do have the standards and education available to us. It is totally different now because of the technology, the speed in which we can learn the hardware and software tools of the trade and the seriously reduced cost of learning.
Know the competition. The comparisons:
• Stenotype method requires three to six years and up to $100,000.00 (includes hardware and software) and at least four years to become proficient;
• Voicewriting method requires one to two years and up to $30,000.00 (includes hardware and software) and at least two years to become proficient;
• Digital Court Reporting method requires three to six months and up to $12,000.00 (includes hardware and software) and at least six months to become proficient.
So, as you can see, the decision is simple for anyone interested in entering the field. However, this changes the game for those of us already in the field. How you ask? We need to practice what we preach. We must work on abandoning our old, bad habits, (emptying our wagons) update our equipment, participate in the continuing education programs offered, open our minds to change and set the example necessary for the legal community to respect us because we earned it. The natural reaction would be to get comfortable again and complacent. And with this, we face even more change.
THE WAVE GOES OUT.... The competition will be greater because it is a faster entry into the business and the cost is considerably less, more people will enter as they realize the opportunity causing the wave to go back out.
Many think that education is all about book learning and passing exams. This is partly true, but the "real" education comes from developing personal values of honesty, integrity, respect and professional habits and then remaining loyal to them and not compromising them under any circumstances.
Personal values are formed and reinforced through our families, friends, religious teachings, and even sports. Tolerance, honesty, truthfulness and respect for others are taught.
Teachers play a great role in developing personal and professional values. This is where a sound school education is important. The school must have ethical and behavioral standards for responsible adults to develop a sound, value based education.
Through sports we learn values such as respecting an umpire’s verdict, humility in victory, joy in defeat, and respect for team members. Team sports also develop selflessness.
If we do not have the courage of our convictions to guard our values, we may fall prey to a world where mankind pursues monetary benefits at the expense of relationships and personal values. Court reporting often presents doubtful situations, so in these instances we are guided by personal values.
Education is only a means to an end and coupled with personal values, the impact is profound. One may only go so far with their education and then once you get into the workplace, it is an entirely new game. You will have to learn from experience rather than textbooks. This requires adjustment and change. That means changing behaviors and habits. To have more, you will need to do and change more: attitude and behavior. This is accomplished through continuing education. Continuing education benefits professionals at all levels, the difference between the mediocre and the spectacular. How do you decide what you need to work on through continuing education? Be truthful with yourself. You need to understand what you don’t know before you can start learning it. Continuing your education through seminars, webinars, conferences, etc. are all excellent sources of knowledge. These opportunities also are excellent resources for networking. Once you have completed a course, put it into practice to reinforce your education.
Our court reporting educators play a great role in developing our professional values. A sound school education is important. It is not the status of the teaching institution that matters, but the ethical and behavioral standards of the teaching institution.
In the new world of court reporting, team players will be more valuable than ever before. Why? Because the demands will be greater and it is unreasonable to think you can do it all, do a great job, meet the clients’ demands and not burn out. Further, by working that way, just caps your potential income.
What is old is new again! In the late 70s and early 80s, the assignment was electronically reported and then the audiotapes were given to a transcriptionist to type the transcript. The court reporter was in the field five days a week. Then came the stenotypist with computer-aided transcription and they were doing it all: the assignment, the transcript, the proofing, the printing, binding, shipping and billing. (Is there any wonder they could only work in the field three days a week at a maximum or that transcript delivery rose to 25 to 45 days? That left the other four days for that solo reporter to ‘do it all’.)
Court reporting in the future will be a ‘team sport’. To establish and control market share, we must change the entire way we presently work. This is the change that we will be expected to make. We will have court reporters, transcription teams, and administrative teams to accomplish all of the necessary tasks to be competitive.
This is where education and continuing education becomes our lifeline. Presently, there are two academies, USAcademy for Digital Court Reporting (for civilians) and Academy for Veteran Education and Training (for U. S. Military Veterans).
We currently have curriculum based on the AAERT approved standards that will be taught in court reporting schools nationwide. This, of course, will be for those interested in entering the court reporting field. We will then have courses designated to earn CEUs based on that curriculum, that will be offered to those already working in the field.
Again, I repeat that this is a process and will take time. Invest in yourself. Education and training are a must to advance.
For more information on USAcademy for Digital Court Reporting (for civilians) and Academy for Veteran Education and Training (for U. S. Military Veterans), please visit our websites:
USADCR.org or AVET.org or you may call Tonie M. Wallace, Founder and CEO directly at 540.667.0077.