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As we approach our fifth anniversary, Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC is proud to welcome the talented litigation support professionals of Traver & Bishilany Court Reporting Services, LLC to the CRP family as of January 1, 2021!

Co-Founded by Michelle Bishilany, RDR, CRR in 2007, Traver & Bishilany enjoyed an impeccable reputation in the Cleveland legal community and are proud to bring their talent, knowledge, and experience over to CRP in a combined commitment to excellence and innovation in our field.

Cleveland is a big law town. Litigation is one of our largest industries. Consequently, there is a very competitive litigation support market, with some court reporting and litigation support firms having been in operation for decades, and some others being completely absorbed by national giants. The merger of T&B and CRP operating under the umbrella of Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC results in the most talented team of court reporters in Northeast Ohio with a fresh and modern, progressive business philosophy.

Existing T&B clients will continue to receive the quality services they have come to expect, but now under the CRP umbrella can also expect exciting new and innovative products and services:

Traver & Bishilany shares in our love for litigation support and will no doubt help us in our commitment to ensure that our clients’ needs are met securely, with considerable care and thoughtfulness. At CRP, we don’t just provide a list of finite services to choose from; instead, our philosophy is to determine what challenges our clients are facing in any aspect of their cases and create efficient, innovative solutions.

From all of us at CRP, we warmly welcome T&B to our team and are so excited to see you all out in the field!

CRP Co-Founders:

Todd L. Persson

Grace Hilpert-Roach

Christine Zarife Green

 

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Court Reporters v. Digital Recording and Voice Recognition: A Comprehensive Breakdown

 

 

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American society is on hold. Indefinitely. Three weeks ago, what seemed like a short-term inconvenience is now a long-term reality as much of the country is on lockdown for another 30 days at least. However, fortunately for all of us who work in the legal industry, our main commodities are ideas, communication, and information, which can easily be shared using technology and creativity while still practicing necessary social distancing.

Litigation support firms across the country have been screaming from the rooftops about remote deposition capabilities for over a month, but it seems the message is not being heard by many. But as the timeline for this lockdown continues to extend into the foreseeable future, it is time for discovery in civil litigation to push forward.

If you are a litigator with clients who desperately want to get their civil cases moving again, here is some critical information you may need regarding remote Zoom depositions before you start sending out those notices again.

REMOTE OATH ADMINISTRATION

Last month, we at Cleveland Reporting Partners published an article as a call to action for states to loosen their notary laws to allow for the swearing of witnesses remotely through video or teleconference. The National Court Reporters Association, many state reporting associations, and litigation support firms have all worked directly with Secretaries of State to get these restrictions temporarily lifted with varying degrees of success.

Before you send out your notices for remote depositions, check your state notary laws for any emergency action that has been taken. The National Court Reporters Association has published a state by state listing of notary laws regarding oath administration.

OHIO NOTARY LAW

While many states have very clear language regarding remote oath administration, Ohio is not one of them. The Ohio Court Reporters Association has issued an opinion/legal guidance through their legal counsel that oaths can be administered remotely in the State of Ohio, but parties should stipulate on the record that there are no objections to this before the deposition begins. Again, this is the OCRA’s counsel’s opinion and interpretation, and it is up to parties in any case to either agree or disagree with this interpretation for the remote deposition to move forward without objection.

NOTICING A REMOTE DEPOSITION

After you have checked your state notary laws and have decided to notice a remote deposition in your case, it is a good idea to change the language to reflect the platform on which the videoconferencing will occur. Check with your preferred litigation support provider. Most use Zoom, but there are other platforms out there in use.

We at CRP recommend that you do not include any meeting URLs or Meeting IDs on any notice of deposition. Instead, ask that your litigation support provider send this sensitive information through one-to-one emails to all intended participants.

THE ZOOM ADVANTAGES

As stated earlier, there are many intuitive web-based videoconferencing tools out there, but the most common by far is Zoom. Most litigation support firms around the world have been hosting remote depositions using Zoom for years, long before “social distancing” and “flatten the curve” became phrases of our everyday lexicon. However, as the use of Zoom has erupted over the last month, some of its security issues have been brought to light. But by working with an informed host, most or all of these security issues can be easily mitigated.

THE PLATFORM AND INTERFACE

One of the main reasons Zoom is so popular is because it is so simple. The interface is intuitive and functions are virtually all self-explanatory on the screen itself. All a participant needs is a device with a screen and a webcam, and you’re ready to join a deposition from your home.

THE MEETING LINK

Before the start of a deposition, your litigation support firm host will send out one-to-one emails to all participants who will be attending the deposition. This will include a meeting link, a meeting ID, and a meeting password. Some of the recent issues with Zoom have been due to hosts sending out meeting invites without a password. Be sure to work with hosts who always require a password for any Zoom proceeding. CRP recommends you never click a link to join a Zoom meeting that is not password protected.

Once you click the link provided to you by the host, you will be prompted to download the Zoom app. This takes little time and will automatically run once installed. If you have used Zoom in the past and have not updated your app, please be sure to install the latest version that has taken care of many of the security issues that have recently come up.

CONNECTION AND AUDIO

CRP recommends you use an ethernet connection for the videoconference, but it is not necessary. If you are using wifi, be sure you have enough bandwidth to support live video streaming. It may be a good idea to have others in your household refrain from large amounts of streaming while you are in the deposition.

We also recommend you use a phone for the audio rather than your device speakers. The meeting invitation will give you a dial-in number to use to connect to the audio portion of the meeting. It is also a good idea to use a Bluetooth conference phone. This is highly recommended to the court reporter so he or she can obtain the highest quality audio possible for obvious reasons. CRP recommends the Jabra Speak 510 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker to pair with your cellphone.

THE MODERATOR

When scheduling a remote deposition with a litigation support firm, be sure there will be a monitor other than the court reporter that will handle all technical issues or questions that may arise. The court reporter has enough responsibilities during a remote deposition. Worrying about the tech should not be one of them.

You can live chat through IM to the monitor if you are having audio issues, or you can simply speak up and ask the moderator for help if your audio is still connected. The moderator will quickly resolve any issues, and the deposition can proceed.

BREAKOUT ROOMS

Breakout rooms for parties are very important in a traditional deposition setting, and Zoom offers this ability by splitting up parties into private “rooms” during breaks. The moderator can create these rooms beforehand and then split parties up for breaks if they want to continue to conference privately. When all parties are ready to proceed with the deposition, the moderator will bring everybody back to the main meeting.

FILE SHARING

Most depositions will have some exhibits involved. Now, sometimes the information contained on such documents is highly confidential or even protected PPI. Therefore, CRP does not recommend file sharing on the Zoom platform itself. One of the security issues that have come up with Zoom is its lack of end-to-end encryption. Sensitive files should not be shared on this platform.

Instead, be sure to work with litigation support that will provide all parties access to deposition documents through the use of a password protected, encrypted portal. It is a good idea to provide all exhibits to the litigation support firm you are working with ahead of time, and then the moderator will facilitate access to each document as they are introduced.

VIDEO RECORDING

Traditional depositions are oftentimes recorded by a trained videographer. This obviously cannot be done with a virtual deposition, but Zoom does give the host the option of recording the proceedings if requested by the parties, and that video could then be synced to the transcript. However, we highly recommend that all parties agree to the recording of the proceedings before the moderator does so. If you do decide to record the proceeding, all participants will see an icon on their screens that the proceeding is, in fact, being recorded.

GENERAL CONCERNS

While the majority of Zoom depositions run extremely smoothly, there have been reports recently of Zoom being overwhelmed with increased usage and questions about its security. More and more reports of “Zoom bombing” have been surfacing, where a malicious entity will gain entry into your meeting. However, simply by adding a password for all attendees to join your meeting significantly decreases the possibility of this ever happening.

As stated before, Zoom is not end-to-end encrypted (although the company does state that it is). Therefore, you should not be sharing any files over this platform. When working with deposition exhibits, it is mandatory for the protection of sensitive case material that you provide exhibits beforehand to your litigation support host so that the moderator may distribute them securely to all participants on an encrypted platform.

Although there are these two main security issues known on the Zoom platform, mitigating them is easy with a knowledgeable moderator who knows how to set up a secure environment and pay attention during the entirety of the deposition.

GETTING CIVIL LITIGATION BACK ON TRACK

I think it is so important for any industry to keep working by taking advantage of technology that can allow a sense of normalcy while still practicing social distancing. Civil litigation is an industry that can keep moving forward if we are all willing to do things a little differently and not be afraid to work outside the norms we have lived in for so long.

If you have never conducted a remote deposition, maybe start with a non-critical witness to test the waters. I certainly wouldn’t recommend jumping right in with a seven-hour 30(b)(6), but you can start somewhere. Ask your colleagues if they have any experience with videoconferencing to gain some further insight about what to expect and any issues you may encounter. It is a new and uncertain world, and we can all make it a little more normal by using our collective creativity and having a willingness to try new things.

If you would like a demonstration of a Zoom videoconference, contact Cleveland Reporting Partners at 216-459-7880, or email us at scheduling@clereporting.com. We would be happy to answer any and all questions through a Zoom meeting with you and your team and hopefully give you the confidence to start taking remote depositions!

About the Author:

Todd L. Persson has been serving the Cleveland legal community as a court reporter since 2002 and is a Co-Founder of Cleveland-based litigation support firm Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC. He has spoken on the future of court reporting and technology on the Stenographers World Radio national podcast, has had blogs featured nationally by the National Court Reporters Association and the American Translators Association, and has had articles published in the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Journal. To read Todd’s full bio, visit our Partners page. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.

CRP Blog Editors in Chief:

Grace Hilpert-Roach has been serving the Cleveland legal community as a court reporter since 1992 and is a Co-Founder of Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC. To read Grace’s full bio, visit our Partners Page. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

Christine Zarife Green has been serving the Cleveland legal community as a court reporter since 2008 and is a Co-Founder of Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC. To read Christine’s full bio, visit our Partners Page. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

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As normalcy in American Society is being redefined daily in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the possibility of discovery in civil litigation coming to a complete halt seems like an inevitable reality. Do we in the industry simply accept this disruption for an indefinite period, or is there something that can be done to create a safe and effective pathway for discovery moving forward?

REMOTE DEPOSITIONS

Over the past several weeks, litigation support firms across the country have been diligently reminding litigators about alternative methods of taking depositions remotely via video and teleconference platforms. However, while videoconferencing has been effective in the industry for over a decade and does eliminate the need for travel to conduct depositions for most, there is still one roadblock that needs to be lifted for remote depositions to continue as our cities move closer to complete shutdown.

ADMINISTRATION OF THE OATH

As stated above, depositions conducted on videoconference platforms do eliminate the need for travel for most, but not all involved. While attorneys and parties can attend from the comforts and safety of their homes or offices, court reporters and deponents must still travel to outside locations where they can be physically present together due to notary laws regarding the administration of the oath.

Notary laws are changing all across the country, and here in Ohio, the Ohio Notary Public Modernization Act has recently been adopted to allow for certain duties of a notary to be conducted via two-way videoconference, such as notarization of legal documents, titles, and contracts. However, when it comes to the certification of depositions and administration of the oath, the court reporter notary and the deponent must still be physically present together for a deposition transcript to be admissible in court.

IMMEDIATE CALL TO ACTION

As major American cities move closer and closer to a complete shutdown in the wake of COVID-19, all the videoconferencing in the world will not stop discovery in civil litigation from also completely shutting down without an emergency change to our notary laws. Now, this would be fine if we were talking a few weeks, or if we actually knew for certain the timeline of this pandemic. But the reality is that we don’t know how long this necessary disruption in our society will last, and each day the projected timeline is being extended further and further into the future.

The time for emergency action is now. I am urging all litigators, litigation support firms, and court reporters to reach out to their State and Federal Courts and push to temporarily lift remote oath restrictions in states where these restrictions exist so that discovery can move forward remotely, and court reporters and deponents can also attend depositions from the safety of their homes without the need for travel.

Discovery in litigation can move forward in these uncertain times by utilizing secure videoconference and electronic exhibit sharing platforms, but only if the oath can be administered remotely as well. Otherwise, we can realistically expect a backup in our civil courts like nothing we have ever seen before.

About the Author:

Todd L. Persson has been serving the Cleveland legal community as a court reporter since 2002 and is a Co-Founder of Cleveland-based litigation support firm Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC. He has spoken on the future of court reporting and technology on the Stenographers World Radio national podcast, has had blogs featured nationally by the National Court Reporters Association and the American Translators Association, and has had articles published in the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Journal. To read Todd’s full bio, visit our Partners page. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.

CRP Blog Editors in Chief:

Grace Hilpert-Roach has been serving the Cleveland legal community as a court reporter since 1992 and is a Co-Founder of Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC. To read Grace’s full bio, visit our Partners Page. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

Christine Zarife Green has been serving the Cleveland legal community as a court reporter since 2008 and is a Co-Founder of Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC. To read Christine’s full bio, visit our Partners Page. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

 

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Since our inception in 2016 as a progressive, full-service litigation support firm, Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC has proudly called Cleveland’s historic Ohio City neighborhood home. Located just a mile west of the downtown business district, Ohio City has been expanding and redefining itself for decades as countless restaurants, bars, breweries, coffee shops, delis, and retail stores have opened and thrived. Even more recently, many professional offices have made the move from the traditional downtown neighborhoods to office buildings all throughout Market Square, making Ohio City the bustling Cleveland neighborhood it is today.

OUR NEIGHBORHOOD (IN PICTURES)

CRP’S GROWTH

As founders of CRP (Todd L. Persson, Grace Hilpert-Roach and Christine Zarife Green), we started with a vision for a new court reporting and litigation support firm with an operations philosophy like nothing else that existed in Cleveland, and the choice to office in Ohio City rather than Downtown was the first step to bring that philosophy to life. Basically, our mantra was: “Let’s look at what all the other guys are doing and do it different, more efficiently and secure, and in some cases the complete opposite.”

The success of our business model was apparent, as we saw exponential growth in our first year-and-a-half in not only our court reporting department, but also our subpoena and video divisions. And just as our proprietary paperless records retrieval system and department was starting in its beta phase (available to limited clients, full launch Fall 2018), and we were approaching our two-year anniversary in March 2018, we knew we had forever outgrown our first office and a completely new build-out was necessary.

THE UNITED BANK BUILDING

The historic United Bank Building sits on the southwest corner of Lorain Avenue and West 25th Street across from the Westside Market and the park at Market Square. It is anchored on street level by Crop Bistro & Bar and Penzeys Spices, and 9th floor penthouse and rooftop tenant Skylight Financial. Convenient $5 parking is accessible from West 26th Street behind the building.

When CRP outgrew its original office on the 4th floor, we sat down with the building architects and came up with a design of the complete gut and build-out for our new office that would reflect our minimalist philosophy, but still meet the company’s spatial and functional needs.

OUR OFFICE

CRP’s new headquarters consists of a spacious reception area, a large production room/kitchenette, and two Zoom videoconference-equipped conference rooms.

The large, main conference room seats 10 to 12 comfortably, and our smaller conference room seats 6, which can also function as a break-out room. All depositions or arbitrations held in our office will enjoy complimentary coffee bar, tea, water, soft drinks and snacks, as well as secure wifi and printer/copier support.

OUR PHILOSOPHY

Cleveland is a big law town. Litigation is one of our largest industries. Consequently, there is a very competitive litigation support market, with some court reporting and litigation support firms having been in operation for over 50 years. So to break into such a huge market, with the history and loyalties that have been in place for decades, we knew we had to offer something new, something recognizably different with a fresh and modern, progressive business philosophy.

We first researched existing platforms in the court reporting industry for scheduling, production, and delivery and found that nothing out there could provide the level of service or security we knew could separate us from the existing, somewhat tired pack that all use the same third-party vendors and offer the same services.

Knowing that we couldn’t just copy old business models and operations to be successful, we partnered with global leaders in cloud storage and data security to help us create simpler, more functional and secure processes that in turn makes the overall experience of working with Cleveland Reporting Partners something like nothing else seen before in the litigation support industry.

We have Business Associate Agreements in place with some tech giants of the world that allowed us to create industry-specific interfaces and lines of communications using their ultra-modern, user-friendly platforms, giving our clients the peace of mind that none of their clients’ confidential information or case data will ever be compromised or intercepted in delivery or at rest, or in the continuum of our own work product prior to delivery.

All that said, and aside from our industry-leading 7 calendar-day regular delivery, the most recognizable difference our clients rave about is CRP’s customer service. Litigation is a 24/7 industry. Work on our clients’ cases doesn’t stop at 5:00 pm on weekdays, and it certainly doesn’t stop on weekends. Contact with CRP and the specific reporter on your case is also 24/7 by phone or email. And that can make all the difference in the deadline-driven and unpredictable world of complex civil litigation.

As we have settled in to our new offices, we take pride every day knowing that our clients’ needs are met securely, with considerable care and thoughtfulness. At CRP, we don’t just provide our clients a list of finite services to choose from. Instead, our philosophy is to determine what challenges our clients are facing in any aspect of their cases and create efficient, innovative solutions.

We look forward to seeing you out in the field, Cleveland; or if you want a break from downtown for an all-day dep, we’d be happy to host in Ohio City!

CRP Co-Founders:

Todd L. Persson

Grace Hilpert-Roach

Christine Zarife Green

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UPDATE – 1/15/17

Since this article was first published, I have been informed by Thomson Reuters RealLegal technical support that their developers are aware of this issue, and they will have the issue resolved by first or second quarter of 2018. In the meantime, lawyers and law firms with a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud Suite, which includes Adobe Acrobat DC Pro, can use the fixes described in this article to regain full PDF deposition transcript functionality.

It’s probably safe to say all of us who spend most of our days working on a PC have a love/hate relationship with automatic updates. Just last weekend, Windows 10 hijacked my laptop with updates for about a half hour, and one of the apps I use almost every day, Adobe Acrobat DC Pro, was updated to Version 2018.009.20044.

Normally, after getting over the annoying loss of use of my laptop during extended updates, I am confident that my machine is in tip-top shape and even more secure. However, after this last round, I noticed something very different in my Adobe viewer after producing deposition transcripts.

TRANSCRIPT PRODUCTION SOFTWARE

Court reporters use court reporting specific software on their individual laptops to create transcripts of the depositions or trials they report. However, the end-users (attorneys) rarely ever see this stripped-down version of the transcript. Instead, court reporters will send a simple .txt file to their court reporting/litigation support firm who then create the final, highly-functional transcripts end-users actually see using a separate transcript production software.

Professional transcript production software, such as Thomson Reuters RealLegal, will create the incredibly click-searchable and hyperlinked e-transcripts (.ptx, .ptz), as well as the bookmarked and hyperlinked PDFs most attorneys rely on for their trial preparation and organization. But there’s a catch: While these transcript production software providers have complete control of their own proprietary transcript viewers, they have no control over the changes Adobe may be making to the way in which PDFs are viewed when Adobe updates or rolls out the latest version of its own software.

PDF PRINTERS

Most software that produces text documents will have a PDF printer written into its code, and sometimes when Adobe updates its own software, all aspects of the PDFs created in the native software may not be completely readable by the newest version of the Adobe viewer. It may take a little time for the developers of the native software to update their own PDF printers to once again become completely compatible with the Adobe updates.

THE EFFECTS YOU MAY SEE USING ACROBAT DC PRO

If you use a paid version of Adobe, including Acrobat DC Pro, the update to version 2018.009.20044 may affect the viewing of bookmarks included in the PDF transcripts you receive from your court reporters, including the word index and hyperlinks to exhibits. When you open the bookmarks to the left of the body of the transcript, it will appear that the click-searchable word index is incomplete, and you may see links to only a few exhibits. However, this is not a corruption in the PDF file itself; rather, the new viewer in Acrobat 2018 is simply not recognizing the complete bookmarks or all the hyperlinks.

2 SIMPLE WAYS TO REGAIN FULL TRANSCRIPT FUNCTIONALITY

After speaking extensively to tech support at Thomson Reuters RealLegal, I learned there are two very easy fixes to this issue until their own developers can catch up with the changes Adobe has made to its Version 2018 PDF viewer.

1. DOWNLOAD ADOBE READER 11.0.10

Adobe has made it increasingly difficult to download earlier versions of Acrobat, but it is still possible. If you are an Acrobat DC Pro user, to regain full PDF transcript functionality, you can download Adobe Reader 11.0.10.

After visiting the link above, select Windows Server 2008 from the drop down box in Step 1 above. Then select English as your language in Step 2. Finally, select Reader 11.0.10 English for Windows in Step 3. Make sure the boxes in the Optional Offers are unchecked, and select Download Now.

Once Acrobat Reader 11.0.10 is installed on your PC, do not make this your default for viewing PDFs. Rather, if you use a paid version of Adobe, you will probably want to keep that version as your default PDF viewer and use this older version for the sole purpose of viewing PDF transcripts from your court reporter to enjoy the benefits of click-searchable bookmarks and hyperlinks in those files.

After Adobe Reader 11.0.10 is installed on your PC, right-click on any PDF transcript file on your PC you wish to view, select open with, and then select Adobe Reader 11.0.10. All bookmarks and hyperlinks will now be viewable and functioning as they did prior to the DC Pro update.

2. WORK SOLELY IN E-TRANSCRIPTS

A second way to combat the effects of the Adobe update to Version 2018 and still enjoy all the transcript functionality you depend on is to ditch PDFs altogether and work solely in e-transcripts (.ptx, .ptz).

As a working court reporter and firm owner, I often have to research prior transcripts in a case for an upcoming realtime deposition, or when I am reporting a case other reporters have been on prior to familiarize myself with the content, vocabulary, and proper names for that particular case. In every instance where I need to review prior transcripts, I always go straight to the e-transcripts.

E-transcripts were designed and created specifically for the litigation support industry, and they are simply cleaner and less clumsy than PDFs. An issue I have always had with PDFs of any sort is a lot of their functionality is based on a double-click. As we all know, if you don’t double-click fast enough, what ends up happening is the words you were trying to click on become highlighted and lose their functionality, and you end up having to click out of it and try again. With e-transcripts, every function is performed with a single click.

Now, there was a time not too long ago when you would have to pay extra for an e-tran, but in today’s litigation support world there are many court reporting firms that will offer them as standard with your transcript order. Even if you do not use a case management software like Westlaw’s Case Notebook, you can still get all the functionality that you were getting out of your PDFs by downloading the free E-Transcript Bundle Viewer and start working solely with e-transcripts. If you are unfamiliar with e-transcripts, ask your preferred court reporting firm to walk you through all their functions and benefits, and you may never go back to PDFs again!

PDFs ARE EMBEDDED IN E-TRANSCRIPT FILES

Yet another great thing about e-transcripts is if you do need to work with a PDF, or if you need to print a condensed or full size PDF for filing, the PDFs are already embedded in the e-transcript (.ptx) files. So not only do you have superior and cleaner file functionality with the click-searchable index and hyperlinked exhibits with an e-transcript, but you also have the full size and condensed PDFs of the transcript all in one compact file.

To extract PDFs out of an e-transcript, simply go to file and then print, then select transcript, then select full size or condensed. Next, a printer pop-up box will appear, and simply select Adobe PDF as your printer and save the PDF to your PC.

E-TRANSCRIPTS ARE DIGITALLY SIGNED AND ENCRYPTED

Data security is so important in today’s society, and electronic documents in litigation are no exception. Simply put, e-transcripts are the most secure transcript files. The e-transcripts you receive from your court reporter will be encrypted with a digital signature footprint to protect against corruption and/or wrongdoing by a malicious user. Learn more about digitally signed transcripts here.

THE GOOD NEWS

As I said earlier, it is just my personal preference to use e-transcripts over PDFs for all the reasons stated above. However, if you prefer PDFs and you are not using a paid version of Adobe, the good news is the update to Version 2018 will probably not affect you at all, and you can simply carry on with your life as you were.

However, if you are affected by Adobe’s latest update to Version 2018 with regard to transcript functionality, the solutions above can get you back to enjoying all the time-saving functions professionally-produced transcripts offer. And as always, if you have any questions regarding transcript files of any type, contact your local court reporting firm, and they should be happy to assist you in any way they can.

Viewer downloads:

E-Transcript Bundle Viewer

Adobe Reader 11.0.10

Related articles:

Getting the Most out of E-Transcripts Without a Westlaw Subscription

Digital Signatures: Protecting the Data Integrity of Electronic Transcripts

You may also like:

Court Reporters v. Digital Recording and Voice Recognition: A Comprehensive Breakdown

About the Author:

Todd L. Persson has been serving the Cleveland legal community as a court reporter since 2002 and is a Co-Founder of Cleveland-based litigation support firm Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC. He has spoken on the future of court reporting and technology on the Stenographers World Radio national podcast, has had blogs featured nationally by the National Court Reporters Association and the American Translators Association, and has contributed content to the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Journal. To read Todd’s full bio, visit our Partners page. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.

CRP Blog Editors in Chief:

Grace Hilpert-Roach has been serving the Cleveland legal community as a court reporter since 1992 and is a Co-Founder of Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC. To read Grace’s full bio, visit our Partners Page. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

Christine Zarife Green has been serving the Cleveland legal community as a court reporter since 2008 and is a Co-Founder of Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC. To read Christine’s full bio, visit our Partners Page. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

 

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There is a tremendous difference between spoken and written language. Humans had been communicating with each other for thousands of years before someone, somewhere (most likely Mesopotamia) decided to create the first logographic form of communication. From this very beginning of ancient “writing,” the shortcomings of written communication when it comes to capturing linguistic and phonological content emerged.

Having studied philosophy and English in college before attending court reporting school, I can tell you that every written language since, including modernity, has encountered the same difficulty in translating and conveying all meaning from speech to text; and because humans have a much longer history of communicating with sounds, gestures, expression and body language than communicating with writing, we are simply better at it. Sure, written English expression has gotten better over millennia with the implementation of stylistic tactics, such as the use of italics to indicate inflection, punctuation to express emotion, and even more recently using hundreds of emoticons in the expression of more complex emotions such as fear and grief, but writing alone still falls incredibly short in the conveyance of all meaning when compared to spoken language.

We can see some of these linguistic difficulties emerge in the legal world when it comes to trial presentation and juror engagement. Communicating effectively to a jury in a civil trial is tricky business. Having reported many jury voir dire over my career as a court reporter, from what I have seen and overheard while not on the record is that a good majority of potential jurors do not even want to be there and are just waiting to be excused. Furthermore, to the average person, the subject matter of most civil litigation is probably pretty dry when compared to the drama of criminal trials (no offense to civil trial attorneys who may be reading this). So the big question: How do you, as a civil litigator, hold the attention of and actually get through to a jury when it comes to presenting discovery testimony at trial?

DO WORDS ALONE FULLY ENGAGE OR HAVE AN IMPACT ON A JURY? 

I am not a litigator. However, as a court reporter with 15 years of experience, I could certainly be considered a professional observer. Not only am I capturing every word being spoken and who is speaking those words, but my experience in depositions and trials has trained me to recognize body language, inflection, context, diction, emotion, sarcasm, and other linguistic cues that resolve ambiguity and result in effective pragmatic communication beyond just the words themselves. But here’s the catch: While I can easily recognize all these stylistic nuances of spoken English that can have a great impact on meaning, none of them are reflected in the written transcripts that I produce, nor am I ethically permitted to indicate any linguistics in a transcript beyond the words themselves. And when it comes to trial presentation and juror engagement, these auditory, visual and physical aspects of human conversation that don’t show up in transcripts can oftentimes speak louder than words and drastically affect the meaning of any given passage of discovery testimony that is presented to a jury.

A TRIAL IS LIKE AN ACCELERATED MARKETING CAMPAIGN

Being the “professional observer” that I am, it also didn’t take me long to realize that a trial in the American justice system is akin to a marketing campaign. The idealist in me would like to believe it is only the facts and truths that will determine the outcome of a criminal or civil jury trial, but in reality it is the presentation of all that evidence that will carry the most weight. Just as the tools professional marketers use to reach and persuade their target audiences have changed over decades with advancing technology and the way in which humans interact with their environments, the tools used by litigators to effectively present a case to a jury have evolved significantly.

As an attorney, your case is the product you are selling. Jury voir dire is the act of selecting the best possible target audience for your product. Because the parties in any jury trial have all the same evidence at their disposal, the products that both sides are trying to sell to the same audience are made up of the same fundamental components, just put together and presented in different manners. Thus, it is crucial to use the most effective tools possible in your trial presentation that will create the necessary juror engagement, understanding and empathy that will ultimately lead to the sale of your product to that jury.

TRANSCRIPTS ARE NOT EFFECTIVE TRIAL PRESENTATION TOOLS

Now, the transcripts you receive from your court reporter are one of the best and most vital tools for trial preparation, but as I have seen firsthand in jury trials I have reported, they are not very effective tools for modern-day trial presentation (unless your goal is to quickly disengage your jury and/or put them to sleep). Transcripts produced by reputable court reporters will allow you to easily and quickly search through thousands of pages of testimony, annotate within the body of the transcripts to come back to later or share with co-counsel, and have all the deposition exhibits embedded in those files with hyperlinks for instant review. However, transcripts only capture words; without inflection, without emotion, and with little or no context.

So when you, as a litigator, need to present deposition testimony to a jury because you have a witness who will be unavailable at the time of trial, or you need to impeach a witness who is live on the stand in court with his or her previous deposition testimony, how do you best present that testimony to a jury and keep them engaged without compromising any of the linguistics and meaning that simply don’t come across in written transcripts alone?

THE USE OF VIDEO DEPOSITIONS TO CAPTURE THE LINGUISTICS THAT GET LOST IN A TRANSCRIPT

As stated above, all the aspects of linguistics involved in human communication include a wide variety of complexities that go far beyond just the actual words in a transcript. Thus, transcripts of testimony are best left to attorneys and triers of fact in any given case for review, and deposition testimony presented to a jury will be most effective with the use of video testimony captured by certified legal video specialists. While the loss of inflection, emotion, diction and other linguistics involved in testimony with the use of transcripts may not matter to those presenting or reviewing a case, it could make all the difference to a jury.

In this article, I will discuss some principles of linguistics using a few examples from pop culture and how those examples then apply to real-life situations in courtrooms across America. I will then discuss how to avoid the pitfalls in loss of meaning and context of deposition testimony by adding video to your discovery depositions for eventual use in your trial presentation. Finally, I will discuss how court reporters, legal videographers, and trial technicians work fluidly together to produce the most effective tools available when you need to incorporate discovery testimony into your trial presentation.

SEINFELD – A LESSON IN THE IMPORTANCE OF INFLECTION  

Seinfeld is widely considered to be one of the most successful and original sitcoms of all time, and the running gag over its nine seasons is that it was a show about nothing. However, what I think the show was really about is all the everyday social peculiarities we come across in American life, especially when it comes to the subtleties and nuances in language and conversation that can greatly affect meaning and lead to hilarious or unfortunate situations and misunderstandings.

One of the linguistic oddities we come across in daily conversation is the effortless use of inflection when we speak, changing the meaning of each sentence we utter depending on which word in each sentence we choose to inflect. Inflection is completely lost in a written transcript, and the loss of that inflection can change the meaning of testimony in many ways. A classic example of inflection changing the meaning of even a very small sentence can be found in Seinfeld, Season 6, Episode 8, “The Mom and Pop Store.”

In this episode, title character Jerry is unsure if he was purposefully not invited to a party at dentist Tim Whatley’s apartment overlooking the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, or if his invitation simply got lost in the mail. Jerry asks friend Elaine to find out if he was invited by asking Tim whether he wants Jerry to bring anything to the party.

When Elaine reports back to Jerry the next day, she says that Tim’s response was, “Why would Jerry bring anything?”

Jerry then comes back with a great question in linguistics. He says to Elaine, “But let me ask you this: Did he say, ‘Why would Jerry bring anything?’ or ‘Why would Jerry bring anything?’ Did he emphasize Jerry or bring?”

Elaine’s response is, “I think he emphasized would.”

Although taken from an absurdist sitcom, this is a great lesson in how three different inflections can change meaning three different ways in even a five-word sentence: “Why would Jerry bring anything?” If Jerry was inflected, it would mean that he was probably not invited. If bring was inflected, it most likely means that Jerry was invited, but Tim is not expecting him to bring anything to the party. If would was inflected, it becomes a little more unclear or ambiguous as to whether Jerry was actually invited. And therein lies the punchline when Elaine says that would was the word Tim emphasized. Jerry is still uncertain if he’s invited to the party based solely on Tim’s choice of inflection. Spoiler Alert: Jerry crashes the party, inadvertently destroys a four-story Woody Woodpecker parade balloon, and is publicly accused of being a troublemaker by Tim Whatley.

As you can see from this lesson in linguistics from Seinfeld, humans are very efficient speakers, and we oftentimes use inflection in our speech in lieu of more words to get our full meaning across, leaving it to our listeners to infer more meaning based on the words we choose to inflect.

INFLECTION IN TESTIMONY

The fact that we as humans are naturally efficient speakers, using inflection in addition to words to express ourselves and relying on the inferences of our audience to convey our complete meaning does not bode well in the world of litigation if written transcripts are the only form of presenting discovery testimony to a jury at trial. The downside to being efficient speakers is that we are also very ambiguous communicators, and ambiguity is a nightmare in litigation. In fact, some of the most clever and astute speakers will use less words and will rely more heavily on auditory and physical linguistics to convey meaning, demanding more inference on the part of their listeners to get their entire meaning across.

Now imagine how many inflections are used by a witness in the thousands of sentences uttered in a deposition that can resolve ambiguity or completely change the meaning of answers when you go back and read a court reporter’s transcript. The words are all there, but is all intended meaning preserved?

AVOID LOSS OF INTENDED MEANING FROM INFLECTION BY ADDING VIDEO TO DEPOSITIONS

By including legal videography in addition to a court reporter to capture testimony in a deposition, you are investing in your future trial presentation and will be certain that no meaning caused by inflection is lost when presenting that testimony to a jury at trial. However, if your trial presentation strategy is solely reading to a jury from a previous deposition transcript, in whole or in part, you run the risk of the following when it comes to inflection:

  1. Ask any court reporter, and they will tell you; when humans read aloud, we tend to read very quickly and in monotone. No inflection will be conveyed in any passage of testimony where inflection may have been present, which could have a drastic effect on the way in which the jury receives that testimony.
  2. When reading discovery testimony to a jury, you run the risk of inadvertently inserting inflection that was not the intended inflection of the witness, which can, again, drastically affect the way in which that testimony is received by the jury.
  3. By not capturing discovery testimony with video, inflection is essentially fair game when reading transcripts to a jury. Perhaps opposing counsel will read a passage of your key expert’s deposition testimony at trial, but will insert inflection where he or she pleases to change meaning in favor of their case.
  4. When reading discovery testimony to a jury with no natural inflection, you run the risk of putting your jury to sleep.

Inflection is a natural and significant part of human communication in the conveyance of meaning and, therefore, should be captured and preserved for future presentation of testimony to a jury.

MY COUSIN VINNY – A LESSON IN THE IMPORTANCE OF EMOTION, BODY LANGUAGE, AND CONTEXT

In the 1992 courtroom comedy My Cousin Vinny, two young men find themselves accused of first degree murder in the deep South in a classic case of mistaken identity and happenstance. Their only hope for escaping a death sentence is a rough-around-the-edges little tough guy and attorney from Brooklyn, Vinny Gambini, who is the cousin of Billy Gambini, one of the accused.

Upon his arrest, Billy is under the impression he and his friend were arrested for accidentally stealing a can of tuna from the Sac-of-Suds convenience store in rural Alabama, but during his interrogation with Sheriff Farley, the gravity of the situation comes to light.

Billy is completely apologetic to Sherriff Farley in his interrogation, and he explains the situation of accidentally placing the can of tuna in his jacket pocket before leaving the Sac-of-Suds without paying for it. The Sheriff listens intently, then calmly asks, “At what point did you shoot the clerk?” With a sincere look of shock on his face and shoulders shrugged, Billy replies, “I shot the clerk. I shot the clerk?” Sherriff Farley says again, “Yes, at what point did you shoot the clerk?” Again, befuddled Billy says with even more disbelief and emotion, “I shot the clerk?”

It is at this point that Billy realizes they were not arrested for stealing a can of tuna, but rather for murdering the Sac-of-Suds clerk. It is obvious to the audience that Billy is taken aback by this during the interrogation and clearly had no idea the clerk had even been shot, just by seeing his facial and body language and with the emotion in which he says, “I shot the clerk?”

Now, here is where it gets interesting and to the point of loss of linguistic meaning with written transcripts. While on the stand on direct examination during the murder trial of Billy and his friend, Prosecutor Jim Trotter asks Sheriff Farley if he had gotten a confession from Billy the day of their arrest. Sherriff Farley replies that he did, and then after putting on his reading glasses reads from what appears to be a transcript of the interrogation.

He testifies to the jury with a straight face and no emotion: “I asked him at what point did he shoot the clerk. He said, ‘I shot the clerk. I shot the clerk.’” The jury gasps, and it appears that the boys are doomed. Spoiler alert: After a ridiculous trial, some hilarious word pronunciation by Joe Pesci, a ruthless judge, and theatrical courtroom wardrobes and antics, the case is eventually dismissed by the prosecution due to the testimony of Vinny’s girlfriend, who conveniently knows way too much about positraction, slip differential, and the colors offered by GM on all their mid ‘60s makes and models. It’s a true case of mistaken identity and coincidence, and the boys are set free.

EMOTION IN TESTIMONY

When humans speak, we alter the meaning of what we are saying by showing emotion, facial expression, and body language that give more context to our intentions. As we can see from the My Cousin Vinny example above, when emotion and body language is removed from a response (in this case during interrogation), meaning can be completely lost or altered. Had the jury in the movie been shown a video of the interrogation, they would have easily seen and believed Billy’s complete shock to the accusation that he had shot the Sac-of-Suds clerk. However, when the jury was simply read to from a passage of his interrogation transcript with no emotion or context, it reads like a confession and becomes extremely damning evidence.

YES, NO, I DON’T KNOW, I DON’T RECALL

During deposition testimony, linguistics such as inflection and the meaning of the actual words themselves will resolve most instances of ambiguity eventually in longer, descriptive responses. However, it is in the hundreds of short responses where emotion, facial and body language, tone and context will alter meaning the most.

Short responses like “yes,” “no,” “I don’t know,” “I don’t recall,” and “I can’t remember” will pepper a deposition transcript of any length, and if you are gauging by words alone, every instance of these responses will look the same and have the exact same meaning as any other instance. But when you add the linguistic layers of emotion, facial and body language, tone and context on top of these very frequently used phrases, meaning can be altered on many levels.

Some examples are:

  1. The witness is screaming “yes” or “no.”
  2. The witness has a wry smile on his or her face while answering “yes” or “no.”
  3. The witness answers “yes” or “no,” but softly, with their head down, avoiding eye contact.
  4. The witness looks to his or her attorney before answering “yes” or “no.”
  5. The witness takes a very long pause to a seemingly simple question before answering “yes” or “no.”
  6. The witness cuts off counsel’s question before answering “yes” or “no” with contemptuous tone and/or expression.
  7. The witness cuts off counsel’s question before answering “I don’t know” or “I can’t recall.” Could they have possibly taken the time to search their memory without even hearing the entire question?
  8. The witness answers “I don’t recall” one after another to a quick series of counsel’s questions with obviously no thought involved.
  9. The witness answers “I don’t recall” or “I can’t remember” while sighing and rolling his or her eyes.

I could go on with examples where emotional linguistics really hijack meaning in short responses, but I think you probably get the point.

AVOID LOSS OF INTENDED MEANING FROM EMOTION BY ADDING VIDEO TO DEPOSITIONS

Now, during live testimony on the stand at trial, a jury will witness all the emotion, facial expression, body language, and elapsed time that may accompany responses, and will take those into account along with the actual words in determining the weight they will give to the evidence or in determining the credibility of the witness. But when previous deposition testimony is simply read to a jury, all emotional linguistics is lost.

By adding video to your discovery or trial depositions, you will be sure that all intended meaning from emotion and body language, facial expression and tone will be preserved for the jury, and the witness’s true and complete meaning and character will be conveyed.

Now that we have seen some aspects of linguistics that support the consideration of adding video to your discovery depositions, let’s look at some social aspects that will make it clear that adding video in addition to a court reporter in capturing and preserving testimony is probably a good idea.

IT’S CALLED YOUTUBE, NOT YOUTEXT

If you think back to the infancy of the Internet, you may remember it wasn’t a very engaging place to spend your time, and the process probably left you entirely more frustrated and exhausted than anything resembling satisfaction. It was mostly text, and if there were images of any kind, they appeared on your screen very slowly, from top to bottom, with laughable clarity. The young Internet was mostly a place for research, and was more frequently associated with term papers and boredom than recreation and fun.

Fast-forward a couple decades, incredible advancements in media players, processors, and the way we effortlessly connect, the modern recreational Internet we recognize today took shape. It’s fascinating to think how something so “new” could have the enormous impact it has had in almost every aspect of our lives. Frankly, to think the Internet’s influence over us today doesn’t cross over into the world of litigation and juror engagement is a monumental underestimation of its power and grasp, its ability to forever alter how we interact with our environments.

THE POWER OF VIDEO  

YouTube is now one of the most profitable arms of Google and one of the most popular and influential websites that exist today. Now, imagine that advancements in media players and processors never happened, and the Internet was still mostly text. Would there be a billion-dollar site called YouText, where you would upload descriptions of events you witnessed? Would there be 150 million hits on your uploaded written description of some unfortunate cat wearing a cape jumping on a trampoline? Of course not.

YouTube is the giant it is because of the simple concept that humans react to and interact with that which most resembles reality. We are visual creatures. We are auditory creatures. Generally speaking, we are creatures that would rather be shown than rely on any part of our imagination. This is not because we are lazy or unimaginative. It’s in our DNA. It’s in our history. At the beginning of this article, I pointed out that written communication is relatively new to us. If there is a way to explain and show us something by enticing and inspiring our innate ancestral visual and auditory facilities rather than forcing us to use our imaginations to mimic reality, it will hold our attention and have an immediate impact on us.

THE YOUTUBE EFFECT

Today’s jurors live in the same world we all do, and they have been influenced by technology in their daily lives just like the rest of us. They have expectations of immediate gratification and simplification the likes we have never seen. Just like the average person, they expect to be influenced and entertained by mimicked reality. This is The YouTube Effect, and it is not going anywhere. Its effects will probably increase. The mantra is simple: Show me, or I’m not interested.

The YouTube Effect is on display every day in courtrooms across America. It’s as simple as this: show the jury testimony with video clips, they are engaged. Read to them passages of testimony, they are disengaged. It’s almost like the old saying “I’ll believe it when I see it.” The origins of this idiom are unclear. Some believe it dates back to the Chinese philosopher Xunzi, who was a Confucian, with the quote “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember.” However, other origins also point to the 1960s American “learning through experience” educational movement.

Regardless of its origins, it is clear The YouTube Effect is an extension of this philosophy, and its presence in American courtrooms is real. Read to a jury, they will forget. Show the jury, they will remember.

INSTANT GRATIFICATION AND IMPEACHMENT

We live in a society of the now and crave and expect information immediately. This totality of immediacy has gotten so prevalent in our culture that events and stories are shared across social media seemingly before they even happen in real life. Twitter journalism has shown us that generally we are more concerned with learning of a news story as soon as possible (regardless of the accuracy of the content) than with waiting for a complete, fact-checked story that may take longer to reach us.

Remember, potential jurors live in the same immediate information-crazed society we all do, and they will expect the same from your trial presentation. When impeaching a witness on the stand with his or her previous deposition testimony, don’t make your jury wait. Give it to them immediately. By using video in addition to a court reporter in your discovery depositions, and then by working with experienced and talented trial technicians during your trial presentation, the impact of inconsistent testimony on your jury can be immediate and incredibly powerful.

Your trial technician will use the tools provided to them by a court reporter and videographer to prepare short video clips of deposition testimony that can then be pulled up and played for your jury immediately should the witness’s testimony conflict with his or her testimony in discovery. You may have an idea where their testimony might differ at trial based on errata sheets or simply hunches, and you can prepare for your trial examination closely with your trial technician so that all clips of previous testimony are ready to go should you need them. Without this superior preparedness, you may be left fumbling around with transcripts trying to locate a witness’s previous testimony to make your case for impeachment. But guess what: the longer it takes to present previous testimony to your jury to impeach a witness, the less impact it will have. If you instead are immediately pulling up clips of testimony from deposition captured by video that contradict what the jury just heard from the witness on the stand, it will resonate with your jury immediately, and you can be sure that your argument will be heard and received with little doubt.

THE ONE-TWO-THREE LITIGATION SUPPORT PUNCH

Now that we have explored the complex linguistic and social reasoning for incorporating video into discovery for use in your eventual trial down the road, let’s take a look at how the Big Three arms of litigation support work fluidly together to ensure your trial presentation is the most impactful and effective as it can be.

LITIGATION SUPPORT ARM NUMBER 1 – COURT REPORTERS

Your court reporter will provide you with the necessary foundation to create the most effective tools for your trial presentation. That necessary foundation is the actual written transcript. Your court reporter will capture spoken testimony and preserve linguistic word meaning in your discovery depositions and will create a highly functional, click-searchable transcript. Now, to learn how court reporters actually do this, I’d invite you to check out my previous article that explains all the sophisticated equipment, software, and training involved in court reporting technology. But for the purposes of this article, just know that the written transcript is the necessary first step in the creation of state-of-the-art trial presentation tools.

LITIGATION SUPPORT ARM NUMBER 2 – LEGAL VIDEOGRAPHERS       

Just as with court reporters, you will be working with videographers during the discovery phase of your cases. While court reporters are capturing all the words of testimony, videographers will be capturing all the other linguistic components of testimony discussed earlier that may be just as important as the words themselves when it comes to juror engagement and how that testimony will be received by a jury. The Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS) certification is granted by the National Court Reporters Association after a videographer passes a CLVS exam that will indicate the videographer’s mastery of their craft and a complete understanding of all the Rules of Civil Procedure and ethics that apply to video depositions.

After a video deposition is complete, the videographer will obtain a .txt transcript file from the court reporter and will sync the transcript to their video files. Why is this so important? By syncing the click-searchable transcript to the video files, you are now able to quickly and effortlessly search through the synced file to eventually create short video clips of testimony that you will then use in your trial presentation. Without syncing the transcript to the video files, the process of finding the segments you want to use at trial would take an eternity, especially in cases where you have hundreds of hours of video to go through. It is for this reason why I consider the transcript the foundation. Without it, the process of editing video clips becomes incredibly tedious and can seem like an insurmountable task. With the transcript synced, however, the process of creating video clips is effortless and efficient.

LITIGATION SUPPORT ARM NUMBER 3 – TRIAL TECHNICIANS

Your trial technician will be working with you from the end of discovery to verdict, and will be with you in court during your trial presentation. By obtaining all the synced video files from the court reporter and videographer, he or she will then create the video clips to possibly play for the jury at your direction. They will be with you during preparation of examination outlines, and you will work together to ensure you create all the clips of previous testimony that you will need to show the jury in the event your witness on the stand contradicts their previous testimony. With diligent preparation and by working with talented trial technicians, this will happen seamlessly, and the jury will be shown contradictory testimony almost immediately after the witness on the stand has completed their answer to counsel’s question. This is by far the most powerful tool available for witness impeachment, and the jury will be impressed with your preparedness and immediacy.

By working with all of the Big Three arms of litigation support, you can take at least some control over the unpredictable nature of litigation and juror engagement and have some peace of mind in knowing that of all the things that can go wrong at trial, effectively getting through to your jury will not be one of them.

RECOGNIZING THE EVOLVING NATURE OF A JURY

A trial in America is cluttered with so many variables beyond a litigator’s control, it is no wonder the vast majority of cases filed never see the inside of a courtroom. Trials are huge gambles, for sure. You may have complete confidence that your argument is airtight, all your evidence is solid in foundation and without spoliation, all your witnesses are properly prepped, and your cross-examination strategy is foolproof. But you are your own worst critic. It doesn’t matter what you believe. All that matters is how the jury receives your argument, how the jury sees your case. However, by understanding a modern-day jury, you can take control of this one unpredictable aspect of litigation.

A jury is a collection of our peers. They live in present-day society and are influenced by the changing dynamics of society year after year. Jurors will react to your trial presentation in the same way they interact with their environments at home and in their daily lives when they realize they are the target of marketing. Being seated on a jury will be like nothing they have ever experienced, and it is so important to transform this new, unfamiliar environment into something familiar. When you incorporate video into your discovery depositions for future use in your trial presentation, you will be using tools jurors are familiar with in daily life when they know they are being subject to influence. By recognizing that your jury is prone to The YouTube Effect and will also recognize and react to complex linguistics beyond actual words, you can take some uncertainty out of the unpredictable nature of juror engagement.

WILL THE JURY RECEIVE THIS EVIDENCE?

Bottom line, a question to ask yourself before trial is: “Will the jury receive this evidence?” However, as we saw from the Seinfeld example earlier, this question can be asked two different ways depending on inflection. “Will the jury receive this evidence?” or “Will the jury receive this evidence?” The manner in which you ask yourself this question can alter your trial strategy and ultimately impact your success in effective communication to your jury.

By asking yourself the question with the inflection on receive, you are going into your trial with the assumption that the way in which you present evidence to a jury is just as important as the content of the evidence itself. And in today’s litigation environment, well, this just may be the case.

Related Articles:

7 Benefits of MP4 Video Deposition Streaming

Court Reporters v. Digital Recording and Voice Recognition: A Comprehensive Breakdown

About the Author:

Todd L. Persson has been serving the Cleveland legal community as a court reporter since 2002 and is a Co-Founder of Cleveland-based litigation support firm Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC. He has spoken on the future of court reporting and technology on the Stenographers World Radio national podcast, has had blogs featured nationally by the National Court Reporters Association and the American Translators Association, and has contributed content to the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Journal. To read Todd’s full bio, visit our Partners page. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.

CRP Blog Editors in Chief:

Grace Hilpert-Roach has been serving the Cleveland legal community as a court reporter since 1992 and is a Co-Founder of Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC. To read Grace’s full bio, visit our Partners Page. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

Christine Zarife Green has been serving the Cleveland legal community as a court reporter since 2008 and is a Co-Founder of Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC. To read Christine’s full bio, visit our Partners Page. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

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“On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”

– Chuck Palahniuk

Not a day goes by I don’t read some sort of labor force doomsday article with a headline warning of technology, AI, and machines we can’t even begin to understand taking over every profession known to man; from folding laundry to performing complex radiographic studies and brain surgery. However, when you get past the scary headlines and read the content, most of these articles point out that while the technology may be there in theory and under extremely controlled laboratory settings, it is nowhere near the level of sophistication needed to perform these jobs in the real world, and would perhaps just cause an increase (ironically) in the production of incompetent automated consumer-complaint chatbots.

Having said that, and being a late Gen-Xer, I grew up with rapid technology growth and recognize when a newly introduced technology is beneficial for all, and conversely, when a new technology is simply a bunch of bells and whistles that does nothing more than complicate something that already exists. I also understand that when a truly innovative technology emerges, it will create far more jobs than it will eliminate, and sometimes it will create entire industries. For example, the refrigerator sent many ice and milk deliverymen to the unemployment lines, but created an entire frozen food industry, frozen and refrigerated trucking industry, not to mention the countless jobs in the design and production of millions of refrigerators. Granted this is a very old example, but this same principle can be applied to just about every technology that advances us; and technologies that do not spawn economic, workforce and industry growth that once seemed cutting-edge will end up in the graveyard beside the tombstones of LaserDisk and MySpace. A balanced human reaction to technology is to adapt to the game-changers, but to temporarily marvel, be amused by and then subsequently learn from the ones that failed more often than worked.

TECHNOLOGY IN THE LEGAL WORLD

Like all industries, the legal industry is being confronted every day with threats of technologies that will replace human beings, and if you read enough articles on LinkedIn, you may even be led to believe that lawyers will be completely replaced by AI in the next few years. But this is obviously not true.

Last month I attended an all-day seminar put on by the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association regarding AI and other technologies that are rapidly seeping into the daily operations of mid-sized to gigantic law firms all around the world. The emergence of very basic and simple AI doing the work of entry-level associates in the categorization and organization of millions of pages of discovery documents was discussed, and a very refreshing, optimistic view of this technology’s place in the practice of law was the resounding takeaway. Using AI technology to relieve humans of the mundane tasks of sorting and organizing, and instead spending that crucial first few years as an associate actually practicing law will only produce more prepared and experienced, enthusiastic lawyers.

TECHNOLOGY HAS BEEN THREATENING COURT REPORTERS FOR DECADES

The litigation support industry, especially the court reporting industry, has been challenged by emerging technologies since the advent of the tape-recorder. Over the last two decades, Courts of Common Pleas across America have experimented with replacing human court reporters with digital recording equipment to the detriment of not only due process and expediency in appeals, but also to the detriment of the record itself. In fact, many of these courts who have tried the digital recording route have now brought back the human court reporters after quickly realizing that bringing in digital recording equipment as a substitute for a highly skilled court reporter was a giant step backwards in courtroom technology. So why did this happen in the first place? There are two main causes: flawed budgetary studies and misunderstood technology.

Obviously, replacing human court reporters with digital recording equipment would significantly loosen the budgetary constraints placed on countless communities across the country. The problem is, digital recording equipment can’t do what court reporters do. Replacing court reporters with recording equipment is analogous to a community replacing all human police officers with simple cameras on every street corner. Sure, this would improve your budget, but what you’d be left with is a lawless, fearful and anxious community. And this is obviously not an apples-to-apples substitution. No one would ever think or suggest that an army of cameras can do the job of a human police force. Perhaps this replacement seems so ridiculous because the general public understands the importance of human police officers, the complexities of their jobs, and realizes that a camera could in no way replace them in keeping our communities safe and lawful.

However, the same thing can’t be said for court reporters. We are a relatively small society of professionals, and with the exception of some of our friends and family, most of the general public and even our legislators don’t really understand what it is we do or how we do it. In fact, even Hollywood still portrays us in modern movies as a simple person sitting in front of a mechanical machine with an endless roll of paper cascading onto the cinematic courtroom floor. We live in a largely pop culture world, so this is how the general public understands our profession. And if this was actually the case, I would agree; isn’t there a better way to do this?

But in reality, court reporters use extremely sophisticated technology. Even so, not a month goes by where I don’t have a witness in a deposition at a break ask me, “Why don’t you just record this?” My answer is always, “Recordings can’t make a transcript.” And they always then say, “What about voice recognition? Why don’t you use that?” To that I simply say that technology like that doesn’t exist yet to even begin to compete with what we do. The fact of the matter is, our profession and the skill and technology behind it is grossly misunderstood.

In this article, I will attempt to explain in great detail the technology and training of a modern-day court reporter. Then I will provide an extremely comprehensive breakdown of how digital recording and voice recognition technologies as they exist today stack up against our current technology (if at all). Finally, I will end with some thoughts on technology in general that will hopefully give a more optimistic prognosis for our future as working humans, and how we should all react to emerging technologies that begin to enter and threaten whatever industry it is we make our living.

COURT REPORTING TECHNOLOGY

First, let’s set the record straight. Court reporters do not dictate from paper notes and then use simple word processing to create a transcript. We do not use paper in any way. We do not use purely mechanical devices. Instead, the technology we do use is incredibly sophisticated, creating an immediate readable record at a 99-percent accuracy rate or above, capturing complex testimony at rates of 225 words per minute and higher.

To put that in perspective: An extremely proficient typist on a traditional QWERTY keyboard will max out at about 110 words per minute; the average human speaks at about 180 words per minute; when you add multiple speakers at once, spoken words per minute can exceed 300 in lightning fast bursts. Because of this, a person trying to capture the spoken word using a traditional QWERTY keyboard will start to fall behind after about the first 10 seconds of a deposition or trial. Conversely, court reporters capture every word as it is being spoken, including punctuation and speaker identification, over sometimes mind-numbing increments of eight hours or more, never falling behind. So how do we do this?

MACHINE SHORTHAND

The first six months of a court reporter’s training is spent learning a new language. We call this language machine shorthand, or simply “steno.” As stated above, a traditional QWERTY keyboard can’t capture the spoken word without falling behind almost immediately. To handle the speeds of human speech and conversation, the court reporting machine and machine shorthand were born.

Our modern-day machines are extremely complex computers with hypersensitive keyboards consisting of 22 blank keys and a long blank number bar. The spoken English language is then broken down into combinations of sounds and phrases that the court reporter will capture using keystrokes consisting of thousands of combinations of these blank keys.

The six months spent learning this new language consists of learning keystroke combinations that correspond to sounds of spoken English, and memorizing thousands of keystroke combinations that represent frequently used phrasing in the English language, as well as thousands of brief keystrokes used for commonly used words and complicated medical and industry terms. Our left hand is responsible for capturing the beginning consonant sounds of a word or syllable. Our right hand is responsible for capturing the ending consonant sounds of a word or syllable. Our thumbs are responsible for the middle vowel sounds of any word or syllable. So unlike the QWERTY keyboard, where one letter is typed at a time to form a word, on our machines we type the whole word or phrase at once in a split second. This is very analogous to playing single notes versus chords on a piano keyboard. In addition, we learn keystroke combinations used for all punctuation and speaker identification.

EAR-HAND COORDINATION

After the new language of machine shorthand is learned by the court reporter in training, the entirety of the next couple years in school will be spent building speed. True speed-building is achieved when the court reporter takes his or her mind out of the process and learns to let their ears communicate directly with their hands. When the conscious mind of the court reporter gets involved and becomes hyper-focused on the words being spoken, he or she will quickly fall behind. Instead, we use the capacity of our conscious minds to survey what is happening in the room, constantly scanning with our eyes to pick up not only who is speaking at any given time, but to pick up on any body language around the room that would indicate someone else is about to speak at the same time as somebody else. So we need to be ready to use some of that brain capacity for retention until the simultaneous speaking is finished, and then we can go back to letting all the words go directly from ear to hand.

Now, this doesn’t mean that we are not listening to the words being spoken. In the court reporting profession, there is a big difference between listening and hearing. We are definitely listening and understanding. However, we are not focusing on each individual word. Rather, what we are “hearing” goes directly from ear to hand with no thought involved. It is this crucial balance of listening and direct ear-to-hand hearing that enables the court reporter to remain calm and collected, and to not rattle or fall behind when conversation becomes stacked or highly contentious.

COMPUTER-AIDED TRANSCRIPTION (CAT) SOFTWARE  

Learning the language of machine shorthand and mastering that language on our court reporting machines is only half of the technology we use in producing incredibly accurate and immediate transcripts. The second half of court reporting technology is computer-aided transcription (CAT) software. Like our machines themselves, CAT software is extremely sophisticated, very expensive, and requires separate training for a court reporter to truly become comfortable with and proficient in all its functions and capabilities.

CAT software is run on a laptop, and that laptop will be communicating with our court reporting machines either wirelessly or through USB, and will be translating the keystrokes of machine shorthand into written English on the laptop screen in real time. But it’s not just a bunch of words showing up on the screen in little or no format, like a Word document. CAT software translates into an immediate transcript format with specific spacing, line numbers, timestamping, margins, and automatic punctuation at the ends of questions and answers.

What is actually happening here is the court reporter is instantaneously translating spoken English into machine shorthand in the form of quick keystrokes on the court reporting machine, and then the CAT software is translating those complicated keystrokes of machine shorthand into written English on a screen. There is virtually no delay in the time someone speaks and when the written words show up on the screen. These two levels of translation happen that fast and incredibly accurately.

REALTIME FEEDS

Another capability of CAT software is sending out feeds of the realtime transcript to other devices wirelessly and even remotely. The court reporter will connect his or her laptop to a private, secure wifi router, and any attorney or judge can then receive the realtime feed on their own tablet or laptop using a free downloadable app that is compatible with the court reporter’s CAT software.

This immediate feed of the court reporter’s transcript can also be sent around the world by setting up a remote login for any attorney in a location other than the venue of the proceeding to view the transcript in real time. The court reporter will set this up, and their CAT software will send the feed to the remote hosting cloud server for anyone given login access to follow along with the deposition or trial.

I could go on in further detail of all the functions of CAT software, but we now have a basic understanding of the very sophisticated and complex technologies court reporters use in capturing the spoken word and creating transcripts. More detailed functions will be explained as we delve into the exercise of comparing court reporting technology to both digital recording and voice recognition, the two technologies that have posed the greatest threat to the court reporting profession.

But just how credible are these threats?

COURT REPORTERS V. DIGITAL RECORDING  

To begin the analysis of court reporting versus digital recording technologies, it will be helpful to first introduce a table to provide a quick overview of what each are capable of with respect to making a record of a deposition or trial:

Now, the table above is fairly self-explanatory, and it is quite obvious from a cursory glance that court reporting technology is vastly superior to digital recording. But when we delve further into the analysis, the shortcomings of digital recording become so apparent it is a wonder how such a limited technology could ever have been seen as a threat to court reporters in the first place.

A DIGITAL RECORDING HAS ZERO FILTERS

Unless courtrooms and conference rooms where depositions are held suddenly become professional recording studios with separate equalizers for each microphone and a talented technician running the soundboard at all times, any mic in the room will pick up any sound with absolutely no discrimination or filtration, and all this sound becomes part of the official record.

Because of this, in the table above, digital recording receives a “sort of” rating with respect to capturing testimony at 99% and above accuracy. Instead of a clear answer to a very important passage of testimony, what you may end up with on a record made by digital recording is a cough, a rustling of papers, or any number of extraneous sounds that mics will pick up indiscriminately.

Court reporters, on the other hand, hear in three dimensions and have the ability to filter sounds. We deal with all sorts of noises during any proceeding that shouldn’t be part of the record in a very simple way: We don’t even hear them. An experienced court reporter has perfected their ear-hand coordination in such a way that the only thing getting through to their hands are the sounds of spoken language. There have been times when I’ve been in a deposition and the questioning attorney has requested to go off the record for a minute because there were very loud sirens happening outside on the street, and until he said anything about it, I hadn’t even noticed them and was having no trouble at all taking down the testimony. As for a cough or a rustling of papers, we don’t even notice those types of noises, and they never interfere with the record.

Courts that have brought in recording equipment to replace human court reporters quickly recognized the problem of lack of filters on recording equipment, and during a high-profile criminal trial or extremely complex and drawn-out civil case will bring in a human reporter to be the official record. There is simply too much at stake in many cases on any given day in courtrooms across the country to risk crucial testimony being lost due to faulty equipment or a garbled or unintelligible recording.

MULTIPLE SPEAKERS 

Dealing with multiple speakers talking at once is one of the biggest challenges for court reporters, and it is something we really don’t encounter until our first job after school. All multi-voice Q&A testing in school, although dictated at very high speeds, is one voice at a time. However, having learned ear-hand coordination in school, we deal with multiple speakers at once by having one voice go directly from ear to hand, and we use retention techniques to handle the other voices, separating them out in our heads until all the testimony has been captured. Speaking at the same time is part of human conversation and happens at every deposition and every trial, so being able to handle multiple speakers at once is crucial to making a clear and accurate record.

In the same way that recording devices can’t filter and differentiate between a cough and a human voice, they also can’t separate out multiple voices at once. When more than one person is speaking simultaneously and the proceeding is being digitally recorded, what you get for a record is a cacophonous mess of human voices; completely stacked and unintelligible.

SPEAKER IDENTIFICATION 

Even when all participants are speaking one at a time, another crucial aspect of a record is the identification of who exactly is speaking. Now, unless each speaker clearly identifies themselves before they start speaking, a digital recording has no way to perform speaker identification.

Court reporters, however, are trained in speaker identification, and have multiple keystrokes that will immediately identify any number of speakers before they speak. It is one of the first things we learn how to do once we learn machine shorthand, and whenever a record is made by a human court reporter, there will be no question as to who is saying what.

CREATING A WRITTEN TRANSCRIPT

Court reporters produce written transcripts. It’s what we do. We produce an immediate realtime transcript as it is happening (think closed-captioning), and we can produce a final, edited and proofread, certified transcript the same day or next day after a proceeding is completed, depending on the length of the proceeding.

A digital recording does not make a transcript. Ever. In fact, when an attorney wants a transcript from a trial that was digitally recorded, they will obtain the digital file from the court and then give it to an independent court reporting firm like us to transcribe it. And because of the usually poor quality of recorded testimony, we charge a premium for this service, and the transcript is most oftentimes riddled with inaudible and unintelligible passages which would not otherwise be there had a live reporter taken down the proceeding in the first place.

I think it must be said here, too, that when I say we produce transcripts, don’t think of a huge stack of paper. Hard copy transcripts are rarely ever ordered in today’s world. What we do produce are click-searchable, indexed, highly functional digital files with hyperlinks to digital exhibits. Again, a digital recording cannot do any of this.

HUMAN FACTORS

The rest of the above table deals with some duties of court reporters that a digital recorder obviously can’t do, like marking exhibits, immediately reading back, and swearing witnesses. These ancillary job functions are just as important as any other in preserving a complete record of a deposition or trial, and without a human there, they simply can’t be done.

It is now very clear that court reporting technology versus digital recording technology is no contest in the creation, production and preservation of an official record of a deposition or trial.

Next up is voice recognition technology. Is this a credible threat?

COURT REPORTERS V. VOICE RECOGNITION

Again, as you can see from just a cursory review of the above table, voice recognition technology stacks up just as poorly to existing court reporting technology as digital recording does. But before I get into the details of the table, let’s discuss two glaring problems with voice recognition that I believe make it highly unlikely it will have a significant role in creating records of depositions or trials at any time in the near future.

THE INHERENT FLAW

The biggest problem with voice recognition technology is that at its most fundamental level, it relies on digital recording and microphones to make it work. All the same difficulties digital recording ran into due to lack of filters will inevitably show up in the exact same way with voice recognition. Extraneous noises will interfere. Multiple speakers at once will create an unreadable transcript. Speakers will not be identified unless they state who they are before they speak. No matter how sophisticated and accurate the voice recognition technology becomes, this inherent flaw will probably always be there.

VOICE RECOGNITION DEVELOPMENT IS A BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY

Of all the arguments against voice recognition in the court reporting world, perhaps one of the most important is the one I’ve never really heard anyone talk about. The developers of voice recognition technology are the tech giants of the world. Microsoft, Google, IBM, Apple, Facebook; they all have billions invested in its research and development. Therefore, to get any kind of return on this enormous investment, the reach they have in mind is focused on personal, single-user applications that do not come close to meeting the needs of the relatively miniscule court reporting industry.

We have all seen and most likely used what they have come up with so far, and for the applications it is used in presently it is helpful, but so far from perfect. Most of us have used speech to text to send a text or an email, and sometimes the results are laughable. But in this very informal application, it serves its purpose of hands-free written communication. We have all gotten used to deciphering the mistakes voice recognition makes by using the context of the overall message and even from past experiences where we have seen the same errors. But I invite you to try something. Take out your phone, or if you use Dragon software on your computer, proceed to use the speech to text app you have, but this time have two people talk at the same time and have another person coughing. Check the results of the written record you have. Now extrapolate that over an eight-hour deposition, and you were probably better off recording the deposition with a 40-year-old microphone and a RadioShack tape-recorder and giving that tape to a court reporter to transcribe.

Again, the billions of dollars in R&D being spent on voice recognition presently is mostly for single-user, personal applications. To create a voice recognition software specifically for the court reporting industry that could handle multiple speakers at once, filter extraneous noises, identify speakers before they speak, punctuate without the speaker speaking his or her punctuation, and producing an immediate transcript in the proper format would require billions more in R&D for an industry that wouldn’t even come close to generating the necessary return on investment. Even if the software license was $1,000,000 per court reporter or court to use this software, it would not be worth it for the tech giants to develop this software. Now, over time, and building upon the research and development of others, the technology will improve. But to say it’s even close to being a competent substitute for court reporting technology as it exists today is simply not true.

CREATING A TRANSCRIPT AND HUMAN FACTORS 

Just like digital recording technology, voice recognition technology cannot produce a transcript at the same level of accuracy, expediency and formatting that human court reporters can. In addition, voice recognition is not able to on its own swear witnesses, mark exhibits, or stop a proceeding due to a soft-spoken witness. In many of the same ways digital recording does, voice recognition falls incredibly short in matching the expertise and advanced technology currently used by human court reporters.

THE FUTURE OF THE COURT REPORTING PROFESSION

As courts across the country continue to bring back human court reporters in lieu of experimental digital recording equipment, the future of our industry is bright. Not to mention the fact that in the world of civil litigation, deposition and discovery, which is probably the most lucrative of all the fields a court reporter can work in, human court reporters have never been replaced.

However, due to many of the misconceptions about our field mentioned at the beginning of this article, enrollment is down in court reporting programs all over the country, and in many instances schools and programs have been eliminated completely. With an aging population of currently working court reporters, there will be a shortage of court reporters within the next five years in every city in the United States to meet the needs of the steady or increasing industry of civil litigation. Will this create a crisis in due process and cause a monumental roadblock in the already congested civil dockets of our State Courts? That obviously has yet to be seen. But one thing is certain; court reporters perform an absolutely vital role in our justice system, and as our numbers dwindle and are not replaced by new reporters, the justice system we rely upon and recognize now will not exist.

“ON A LONG ENOUGH TIMELINE, THE SURVIVAL RATE FOR EVERYONE DROPS TO ZERO” 

I chose this quote to open this article to demonstrate that I am not just writing this with a bias toward the field in which I work. Given enough time and human progress, everything will be different and unrecognizable. In 100 or 200 or 300 years from now, probably none of the jobs that exist today will exist as they do now, including court reporters.

This quote is very nihilistic in its “nothing really matters” sentiment, but a little nihilism in the world can keep us grounded and focused on the now. There is an entire industry of prediction that is more often than not wrong, and is ultimately responsible for doomsday headlines we scroll through every day. Technology and AI are a very hot topic right now. But unlike any other time in history, we are being bombarded with articles written about theoretical technology with headlines that read as if the technology is already there.

If a technology is threatening your industry, do some research. Is this technology real or theoretical? Does the new technology do your job better than you do, or is it taking a step backwards? Does this new technology improve upon what you do and will it actually help you do your job better?

I guess a good rule of thumb is to keep your eye on technologies in your industry. If they don’t improve upon what it is you do now, dismiss them. If they can improve what you do and make your life easier, implement them. If they threaten to take the place of what you do, do something about it. Adapt and keep up.

As far as the court reporting industry is concerned, on this timeline in the year 2018 and into the foreseeable future, we are the undisputed champions of the capture and preservation of the record in the legal world. Sure, we suffer the blows of theoretical punches year after year, but theoretical punches don’t hurt us or knock us down. They only make us adapt and become even more prepared for the real punches that will inevitably come our way.

Related Articles:

What You Should Expect From Your Court Reporter

HTTPS and Litigation Support: Protecting Sensitive Data In Transit

About the Author:

Todd L. Persson has been serving the Cleveland legal community as a court reporter since 2002 and is a Co-Founder of Cleveland-based litigation support firm Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC. He has spoken on the future of court reporting and technology on the Stenographers World Radio national podcast, has had blogs featured nationally by the National Court Reporters Association and the American Translators Association, and has contributed articles to the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Journal. To read Todd’s full bio, visit our Partners page. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.

CRP Blog Editors in Chief:

Grace Hilpert-Roach has been serving the Cleveland legal community as a court reporter since 1992 and is a Co-Founder of Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC. To read Grace’s full bio, visit our Partners Page. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

Christine Zarife Green has been serving the Cleveland legal community as a court reporter since 2008 and is a Co-Founder of Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC. To read Christine’s full bio, visit our Partners Page. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

 

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When you are working with court reporting firms and have ordered a transcript after a deposition, it is obviously important to you and your clients that the testimony is captured completely and accurately. Without a motion or a stipulation among counsel, you only get one shot per witness in discovery, so that transcript better be nothing short of near perfect. However, there are two other significant factors to consider when hiring court reporters: What is the standard delivery time, and what file types are you receiving with your standard order?

Now, standard delivery times and file types vary from firm to firm, and this can significantly affect the total cost to you, depending on when you need the transcript and what transcript formats you find most beneficial. In this article, I will discuss the benefits of the 7 calendar day standard delivery and the Exhibit Bundled PDF Transcript, along with a brief video at the end that highlights the functionality of exhibit bundled transcripts.

4 Benefits of the 7 Calendar Day Standard Delivery

As a court reporter with 15 years of experience, the most common standard delivery time I have seen in the industry is “8 to 10 days.” But wait; even that is a little misleading, because usually that means business days. So more often than not, if the firm you are working with operates on an 8 to 10 day standard delivery schedule, you are not seeing that transcript for two weeks; and if you need it any sooner than that, you will start to pay expedited rates.

However, there are other options out there. Some court reporters and firms actually do operate on a 7 calendar day standard delivery schedule. I personally have been working within this structure for the past 12 years, and there are several obvious benefits.

You have your transcript in a week

When discovery moves into the deposition phase, depos are often scheduled in bunches and quite frequently close in time to one another. Knowing that you will have your transcripts within one week of taking your depositions without starting to pay expedited rates is a great benefit to you and your clients. This short turnaround allows you to review transcripts before the next depos in the case, which is particularly helpful when you reach the expert deposition phase of discovery. Finding dates where all counsel in a case are available to attend depositions can be tricky enough. Having to wait around for transcripts should not delay or complicate the deposition scheduling process even further.

Keep everybody organized

7 calendar days means exactly that. If you take a deposition on a Monday, you have your transcript the next Monday; take the depo on Tuesday, you have your transcript the next Tuesday…and so on. When working with reporters who work on a 7 calendar day standard delivery schedule, there’s no need to open up a calendar and count business days around weekends and holidays to figure out exactly when you will be receiving your transcripts, making scheduling for everybody much simpler and more organized. This is also beneficial for the reporter, as he or she always knows exactly when their transcripts are due.

Cut down on expedited costs

As stated earlier, depositions are often scheduled in bunches, and review of previous transcripts prior to subsequent depositions is extremely helpful and may cause you to alter your deposition outline. If you are working with reporters and firms operating on an 8 to 10 business day delivery schedule, you will be paying an expedited page rate if you want your transcripts for review prior to depositions scheduled the next week. These extra costs can be avoided by working with reporters who operate on the more efficient 7 calendar day delivery schedule, allowing you to be more prepared for your next depositions without expedited charges.

Streamline the entire discovery process

Discovery in complex litigation doesn’t have to be unnecessarily drawn out due to litigation support. If you are taking many video depositions in a complex case and ordering transcript synced videos, court reporting firms that operate on the 7 calendar day delivery schedule for transcripts will most likely apply this schedule to all the litigation support services they offer, including delivery of digital or hard copy videos and transcript synced videos. So if you’re looking for a more streamlined and organized discovery process, inquire about standard delivery times and seek out litigation support who operate on a more efficient standard delivery schedule.

The Exhibit Bundled PDF Transcript

Along with standard delivery times, another important factor in choosing your litigation support is what file types you will be receiving with your standard transcript order, and what (if any) formats you may be paying extra for. Being a big fan of organization and efficiency personally, my favorite transcript file type to produce is the exhibit bundled PDF (or PTZ if you prefer e-transcripts). The bundled transcript allows you to have your deposition exhibits and the transcript all in one super file with hyperlinks to pull up exhibits every time they are mentioned in the body of the transcript. Not only does this make your transcript review process more efficient, but it cuts down on downloads and subsequent cataloging within your case management system. If you are using a case management software that supports PTZ files, the software will automatically separate out the exhibits from the transcripts and place them in the appropriate folders within that system.

To see the benefits of the Exhibit Bundled PDF Transcript, watch the brief video below:

Conclusion

There are many choices for litigation support in the City of Cleveland, all over the State of Ohio, and nationwide. When it comes to court reporting, reputable firms will most always produce extremely complete and accurate transcripts. However, the levels of efficiency and emphasis on organization will vary greatly from firm to firm. Working with litigation support who value efficiency, expediency, functionality of their products, and organization will in turn make your entire discovery process more streamlined and manageable in all your cases.

Cleveland Reporting Partners has always worked on a 7 calendar day regular delivery schedule and offers a wide variety of transcript formats (including exhibit bundled PDFs) as standard with any transcript order. Visit our court reporting and legal video pages to learn more.

Related Articles:

What You Should Expect From Your Court Reporter

Getting the Most Out of E-Transcripts Without a Westlaw Subscription

You May Also Like:

7 Benefits of MP4 Video Deposition Streaming Capability

HTTPS and Litigation Support: Protecting Sensitive Data In Transit

About the Author:

Todd L. Persson has been serving the Cleveland legal community as a court reporter since 2002 and is a Co-Founder of Cleveland-based litigation support firm Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC. He has spoken on the future of court reporting and technology on the Stenographers World Radio national podcast, has had blogs featured nationally by the National Court Reporters Association and the American Translators Association, and has contributed articles to the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Journal. To read Todd’s full bio, visit our Partners page. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.

CRP Blog Editors in Chief:

Grace Hilpert-Roach has been serving the Cleveland legal community as a court reporter since 1992 and is a Co-Founder of Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC. To read Grace’s full bio, visit our Partners Page. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

Christine Zarife Green has been serving the Cleveland legal community as a court reporter since 2008 and is a Co-Founder of Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC. To read Christine’s full bio, visit our Partners Page. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

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By now we are all probably aware of Senate Joint Resolution 34 (H.Res.230) in which the House voted to repeal the broadband privacy regulations introduced in 2016 that prohibited Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from selling private browser activity to the highest bidder, or to anyone whatsoever. What’s done is done, so no sense spending any amount of time trying to figure out the rationale behind this or even getting into any kind of political debate. However, there are steps we can take to combat this loss of privacy, and it all starts with how we behave online. There are some simple ways we can safeguard our online activity which will make the Internet more secure and private moving forward.

The battle for our privacy is fought on two fronts: the user (you), and the business owners who operate websites to promote their businesses, products, and services. Both have a responsibility toward the goal of making the Internet a more secure place. However, since this article is being written from the perspective of a small business owner, I will take you through what we do on our end to protect the privacy of our browsing population, and particularly how this relates to the litigation support industry where sensitive data is shared daily between us and our clients.

 

GENERAL BACKGROUND

 

To start, and before we get to the litigation support industry, we must understand a few general properties of web browsing, site security, encryption, and the way in which data is passed on from a browser to a website and what happens to that data once it is there.

HTTP v. HTTPS

By now anyone who is frequently online should know that sites displaying a padlock are considered safe and verified, and sites without it are not. But what is really going on here, and what does this really mean?

There are two main protocols in which data is communicated between a user and a website. The first is HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP), in which data is sent in plain text without any sort of encryption. The second is HTTPS, or HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure with SSL (Secure Socket Layer), or the more preferred TLS (Transport Layer Security).

Since data is sent in plain text via the HTTP protocol, it can be more easily intercepted and compromised by people seeking to steal your data, and even by ISPs, who are now in the business of collecting as much unprotected data as it can to be sold to third-party vendors to do with as they wish. Furthermore, with HTTP, not only does your ISP know which sites you are visiting, but they also can easily collect any personal information you may be entering onto any forms on those websites. Thus, I think we all have learned by now to never enter financial information of any kind onto a form within a website with an HTTP URL.

Conversely, the HTTPS protocol offers a layer of protection by encrypting any personal data you may enter onto a website, greatly reducing the possibility of interception. So while your ISP may know which websites you are visiting, they do not know the content of what you are entering on an HTTPS secure site. Because of this, it is absolutely mandatory to have an HTTPS certificate in place before any business begins to offer any sort of online payment for products or services.

HTTPS ONLY PROTECTS DATA IN TRANSIT

Now, it must be stressed that while HTTPS encryption does protect data in transit, it does not in any way prevent a site from being hacked, nor does it protect data at rest. Reputable ISPs are not in the business of hacking. Rather, they may take advantage of the unsecured data that is transmitted. HTTPS will protect against your ISP collecting data you may enter onto a secure site. However, it will not prevent a sophisticated hacker from getting at any data at rest on any site, secure or unsecure. Thus, as a small business owner, even with an HTTPS certificate, it is good practice to eliminate any personal client data entered onto your forms as soon as you extract the necessary information, leaving nothing on your site of any worth to a hacker; that is, unless you are a larger company with the resources in place beyond a simple HTTPS certificate to prevent or deter malicious attacks. As a company, we do this by purging log files, e-mails, and form data from our site once it is acquired.

HOW IS AN HTTPS CERTIFICATE OBTAINED?

Most web hosting providers will offer both secured and unsecured servers and will charge extra for the HTTPS server. However, there are a few other things your site will need before you can get on the HTTPS server. In other words, you can’t just call up your hosting provider and say please put me on your secure server, here’s some extra money.

Here is where having a modern, professionally built website will benefit you, your business, and your clients. You will need a web server that will support SSL or TLS encryption. You will also need an IP address so that certificate issuers can validate your certificate. Finally, you will need to have a good working relationship with your webmaster, as even when a certificate can be issued, there may be some problems on your site that your webmaster will need to sort out with your hosting provider to ensure access to the secure server. This could be as simple as a certain font that is preventing your site from receiving the padlock in your URL. This is tricky business, sometimes a mystery, so it’s best to leave it to the tech professionals to set you up correctly.

Once you receive your HTTPS certificate, you are sending out the very positive message to your clients, or anyone else visiting your website, that you take data security very seriously. And this should be one of the goals of every small business owner who encourages clients to enter data onto forms on their websites, especially in light of the recent acts of Congress.

 

HTTPS AND LITIGATION SUPPORT

 

Now that we understand some basics about secure browsing and data in transit, let’s see how this pertains to the litigation support industry, where sensitive data is shared online between our clients and us daily. Most litigation support firms will have several forms on their websites where clients can schedule services, submit subpoena information, or request some form of login permission for access to a third-party client repository host. This is where the HTTPS comes into play.

When our clients are filling out online scheduling forms, they are entering personal data such as email addresses, phone numbers, witness information, physical locations, etc. Now, without HTTPS encryption, this information is easily intercepted in plain text by any number of individuals, including ISPs who are now free to use this information in any way they please.

Another common form on litigation support websites is the subpoena form. Now, this form asks for even more information than a scheduling form, including contents of a duces tecum, which may or may not contain highly sensitive data, as well as personal information of opposing counsel, the company or person being subpoenaed, and other data that really should be protected with encryption.

Yet another form offered on most litigation support websites is a form to request login permission to a third-party client repository host. This form will require much of the same information as an online scheduling form and should be encrypted.

ONLINE CLIENT REPOSITORIES

Most litigation support firms will offer online client repositories, and with few exceptions, these repositories are hosted by third parties. Many, but not all, third-party repository hosts will be HTTPS secure, but should also have extremely high levels of security to comply with HIPAA or other regulations for the sharing of files online. Most every litigation support firm will boast HIPAA compliance in the use of these repositories, and rightly so. We pay these vendors to be in compliance and ensure that our clients’ data and files are virtually untouchable by malicious attacks.

But here’s the curious thing. While most all litigation support companies offer this level of security on the back end in delivery of the final product, it’s the front end that oftentimes is left completely unsecured and vulnerable. In other words, many litigation support companies will have extremely secure third-party repositories but zero protection on their own sites in the form of HTTPS certification. To ensure client privacy and protection on both the front and back end, it may be a good idea for all litigation support companies who house forms on their websites to obtain HTTPS certification, sending the clear message that data security on all levels is taken very seriously.

CLEVELAND REPORTING PARTNERS’ HTTPS CERTIFICATE

Data security in all aspects of our business, from scheduling to production, to digitally signing all our transcripts, has always been a top priority of CRP. If you are reading this article, you are on our site right now. If you are on a mobile device, to view our security certificate (or the certificate or lack thereof of any website you visit) simply click on the three little dots in the upper right corner of the URL bar and select the “info” icon.

The first message you will see is; “Your connection to this site is private.” If you then click on “details,” you will see the following message: “Your connection to clereporting.com is encrypted using a modern cipher suite. The connection uses TLS 1.2. The connection is encrypted and authenticated using AES_128_GCM and uses ECDHE_RSA as the key exchange mechanism.”

In laymen’s terms: Any data in transit on our site is secure, encrypted, and not intercepted by an ISP or others. Furthermore, the HTTPS certificate is reissued regularly and only lasts for a few months until it is reissued. Certificate issuers do not just issue HTTPS to a domain forever. They will check back every few months to ensure nothing has changed on the website that could cause the certification to become invalid.

Conversely, if you perform the same exercise above for any HTTP website you are visiting, you will see the very self-explanatory message; “Your connection to this site is not private,” with no further details. Now, this should cause you to pause and maybe think twice before entering any personal or client information onto any form that is housed on an HTTP website.

CLEVELAND REPORTING PARTNERS AND DATA AT REST

But what about data at rest? Remember earlier, HTTPS does not protect data at rest on any website against sophisticated hackers or malicious attack. To protect data at rest, we simply eliminate it. It is the practice of Cleveland Reporting Partners to purge any data entered onto our online forms after we have extracted what we need to conduct business. It’s that simple. This includes the website logs, and any other personal copies of that data.

WHAT CAN YOU DO AS AN INDIVIDUAL TO PROTECT YOUR DATA?

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the battle for online privacy is fought by both the individual users and by the companies operating websites. We have already covered what companies can do to protect data in transit with HTTPS certification, but what can your everyday user do to protect themselves?

The simple answer is VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks. VPNs are added layers of security on the individual user end to basically mask browsing activity from an ISP. Here is a link to some simple ways to create your own VPNs and the benefits they offer. Some are free and take only a few minutes to set up, and others will be a monthly charge, depending on how secure you want to get.

 

CONCLUSION

 

We can all do our part to make the Internet a safer place and to protect our privacy. If you’re a business that encourages clients to share information with you using online forms, it’s a good idea to get your website secured with HTTPS and a site certificate from a trusted certificate authority. If you’re an individual user, use a VPN, or try to limit the information you enter onto forms housed on websites that use the vulnerable HTTP protocol.

Now, when it comes to litigation support, be cognizant of the levels of security the companies you work with have put into place to protect not only your private data but the data of your clients. A good place to start to gauge the level of importance the companies you work with place on front-end data security is to simply look up at the URL of their website: Does their domain start with “https”?

HELPFUL LINKS

What Level of SSL or TLS is Required by HIPAA?

VPN Comparisons 2017

How to Set Up A VPN in 10 Minutes For Free (And Why You Urgently Need One)

You may also like:

Digital Signatures: Protecting the Data Integrity of Electronic Transcripts.

7 Benefits of MP4 Video Deposition Streaming Capability.

About the Author:

Todd L. Persson has been serving the Cleveland legal community as a court reporter since 2002 and is a Co-Founder of Cleveland-based litigation support firm Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC. He has spoken on the future of court reporting and technology on the Stenographers World Radio national podcast, has had blogs featured nationally by the National Court Reporters Association and the American Translators Association, and has contributed content to the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Journal. To read Todd’s full bio, visit our Partners page. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.

CRP Blog Editors in Chief:

Grace Hilpert-Roach has been serving the Cleveland legal community as a court reporter since 1992 and is a Co-Founder of Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC. To read Grace’s full bio, visit our Partners Page. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

Christine Zarife Green has been serving the Cleveland legal community as a court reporter since 2008 and is a Co-Founder of Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC. To read Christine’s full bio, visit our Partners Page. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

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It is 2017, and we live in a streaming-dominated world. We stream our entertainment and our news. We often stream out of boredom while waiting in lines, sitting in the airport or on a plane, or just about any other place where we find ourselves in an unavoidable state of static inertia with nothing but time to kill and a device in our hands. Thus, it may be time to expect secure streaming capabilities from your litigation support for all your video depositions.

Is it time we ditch the DVD format when it comes to video depositions? Well, not completely. There are still instances where you will need your DVDs, such as when you are in a trial playback at a venue with limited or no wifi access or technology to support streaming. But you can come pretty close to eliminating these relics completely by working with litigation support and court reporting firms who offer video streaming as part of their client repository.

Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC created its business model from the perspective of a litigator, and we imagined what tools we would want or expect from the litigation support we would work with. Video deposition streaming was very high on that list, as many of us at CRP do not  even have DVD/CD-ROM drives on our laptops, and we are frequently using tablets which obviously do not have this hardware. Because of this, when we created our online client office and repository, CRP Direct, video streaming capability was a must.

7 Benefits of Video Deposition Streaming

1. It’s Secure

Our cloud storage partner and host of CRP Direct is incredibly secure with 256-bit AES encryption, which is the level of security used by the Federal Government for Top Secret files and beyond the level of encryption required by HIPAA. All your videos are password protected with passwords that you create and can change at any time. Simply let us know who in your practice will need access, and CRP will make sure access is granted with separate passwords for all members of your team.

2. It’s Immediate

Log in to CRP Direct and start watching. It’s that simple. No waiting, no downloading, no hassle. Easily and quickly navigate through the entire file using your touchscreen or click and drag with a mouse on the play bar. Of course, if you need to download onto your computer or thumb drive, just click “download.”

3. It’s Ultra-Responsive

Whether you’re using a smartphone, tablet, PC or Mac, accessing and streaming all your video depositions in CRP Direct is effortless and ultra-responsive. No more searching for all your DVDs in a matter where there have been many video depositions taken. They are all right in front of you on any of your screens and ready for viewing. Easily jump from one deposition to the next without the hassle and bulk of hard copy DVDs.

4. It’s Convenient

No longer are you bound by the memory constraints of the device you are using. Lengthy video depositions can be many, many gigs in file size, so without streaming capability, viewing your video depositions on tablets and smartphones would not be possible. Let CRP worry about file sizes and memory space, and you can focus on your work product freely on any of your favorite devices.

5. It’s Time-Saving

All members of your team will have immediate access to all video depositions in a case, even if you are all over the country. No more waiting for DVD copies to be made or ordered and sent around the country in the mail. You can all stream simultaneously no matter where you are, anytime, on any device.

6. It’s High Quality

For streaming capability to work in CRP Direct, our cloud storage partner requires files of MP4 quality or greater. Does this mean that you will pay extra for the higher quality video files? Absolutely not. Cleveland Reporting Partners is proud to offer as standard MP4 files with your electronic file order.

7. It Will Streamline Your Workload

Imagine having the freedom to annotate in a transcript file or have a Word document open while working on a depo summary without having to click in and out of tabs on your desktop or laptop and having your video deps seamlessly streaming on a tablet next to your computer. Or imagine not having to pack or worry about misplacing physical DVDs when working on a large case out of town. All your videos will be at your fingertips whenever you want them, on whatever device you choose to work on. These and other conveniences are possible when working with litigation support who offer video streaming capabilities.

Again, there may be times when you must have a DVD copy of any video deposition, and we know this. CRP is happy to provide DVDs for any video depositions ordered. At the end of every job, our CLVS videographers will always ask you what formats you require. However, when you work with Cleveland Reporting Partners, we encourage taking advantage of the video streaming capabilities we have put into place for your convenience and ease. Our clients know that if they ever have any questions or concerns, tech support is a simple phone call or email away.

In another article, we discuss 9 attributes of exceptional court reporters.

You may also like: Digital Signatures: Protecting the Data Integrity of Electronic Transcripts.

About the Author:

Todd L. Persson has been serving the Cleveland legal community as a court reporter since 2002 and is a Co-Founder of Cleveland-based litigation support firm Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC. He has spoken on the future of court reporting and technology on the Stenographers World Radio national podcast, has had blogs featured nationally by the National Court Reporters Association and the American Translators Association, and has contributed articles to the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Journal. To read Todd’s full bio, visit our Partners page. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.

CRP Blog Editors in Chief:

Grace Hilpert-Roach has been serving the Cleveland legal community as a court reporter since 1992 and is a Co-Founder of Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC. To read Grace’s full bio, visit our Partners Page. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

Christine Zarife Green has been serving the Cleveland legal community as a court reporter since 2008 and is a Co-Founder of Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC. To read Christine’s full bio, visit our Partners Page. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

Keep Up to Date...
Receive an email update when we post about legal technology, court reporting, legal video and other tips for attorneys, paralegals and legal secretaries.