Veteran attorneys have experienced countless changes in how they practice law over the course of their careers. On a day-to-day basis, it can be easy to forget that widespread use of the internet didn’t take off until the mid-1990s and many law firms didn’t implement computer networks until around that time or even later. The modern tools and systems now taken for granted weren’t even on the horizon when today’s middle-aged attorneys were in law school. In addition to the technology used in their own practices, lawyers have also witnessed remarkable changes in the field of court reporting. Among the greatest of these advancements is real-time transcription.
Real-time transcription is a method of record capture that allows the most skilled court reporters to deliver a transcript within just seconds of the words being spoken. Court reporters type the usual shorthand key combinations onto their steno machines and specialized computer software instantly translates the key codes to text which appears on the screen for all to see. Real-time transcription is also used in the broadcasting field, where it is known as captioning.
Delivering in real-time requires enormous skill and talent on the part of the reporter, and not all stenographers are qualified to handle it. But real-time transcription can be incredibly valuable to attorneys, as it can improve the quality of things like remote or videotaped depositions and provide instant trial transcripts which help cases progress more quickly. It allows for immediate annotations, advanced search capabilities, and the ability to quote directly from the record, which often reduces challenges or objections. Attorneys are well-served by understanding real-time capabilities and the court reporters qualified to provide it.
There are best practices that can be used to create a better record and get the most out of the real-time service. Following are eight tips for attorneys participating in a deposition with a real-time court reporter providing an instantaneous translation of the testimony.
Tip No. 1
Real-time reporters will bring an iPad or laptop to the deposition/hearing with preloaded software so the attorney doesn’t have to buy anything. The software available to court reporters on the open market offers the same features: search capabilities, stop the real-time scroll to allow for reading a portion of the text and go back to the real-time scroll. Attorneys may also quickly mark testimony by simply touching the screen or hitting the space bar, allowing for quick reference back to the marked testimony. Real-time software is user-friendly, so ask the court reporter before the start of the deposition or hearing how to accomplish these tasks.
Tip No. 2
Court reporters will hear new phrases, names or words they have not written before and might not have an English definition for their steno. When they hear unfamiliar word(s), they will type what they hear phonetically and later ask for the spelling of the name or unique phrase. If you see steno on your real-time screen, for example, STAEUGS (station), know that it will be edited before you receive the final transcript. If you believe that the reporter might be hearing a phrase wrong—for example, “intranet” as opposed to “internet” – you can point that out in the questioning or during a break. The court reporter will appreciate your assistance.
When there is reading from a document, the court reporter will ask for the document for finalizing the transcript. Reporters need the document to get the correct punctuation and ensure it is transcribed correctly. Often when people read something, they do it quickly without enunciating some of the little words because they know others are reading along. It is always a best practice when reading to speak clearly and read at the same speed as you talk.
Tip No. 4
If you use the LexisNexis product CaseMap or Thomson Reuter’s Case Notebook and you or your paralegal has marked the transcript during a real-time feed, the court reporter can export a PTF (portable transcript file) and email you the file. Your notes and marks will transfer to a subsequent rough draft and ultimately the final transcript.
Tip No. 5
After the deposition or hearing is over, the common practice is for the real-time court reporter to send a cleaned-up rough draft to you as a part of the real-time service. If you prefer real-time only, with no rough draft, make that clear to the reporter at the end of the deposition.
Tip No. 6
Real-time transcription is a very specialized skill, so understand that not all court reporters are able to provide it. If you wish to take a deposition with real-time service, let the court reporting firm you are contracting with know at the time of scheduling. Legal assistants and paralegals are not always sure how to request this service and might ask for LiveNote. LiveNote is proprietary software that requires specialized education on the part of the court reporter, so the pool of reporters able to provide Livenote is small. The nomenclature “real-time” or “real-time feed” tells the court reporting firm that the attorney will want the court reporter to bring a real-time screen (iPad or laptop with real-time software) to the deposition/hearing. If you know that the rough draft or transcript will need to be expedited, always add that to the request so that the court reporting firm knows to assign a reporter that doesn’t have a large backlog and can produce the transcript quickly.
Tip No. 7
If a list of witnesses, expert witnesses and/or a word glossary is available in a case (for example, IP litigation), provide the information to the court reporter in advance. The court reporter will spend time pre-deposition entering names and words into the stenographic dictionary and creating brief forms for a cleaner real-time feed and rough draft.
Tip No. 8
Real-time court reporters can often stream the transcript text off-site to a remote location(s). Some allow deposition participants, both local and remote, to not only watch the video of the witness but also read the real-time text on the same screen.
Utilizing real-time transcription allows attorneys to see a question and answer at a deposition and assess whether that question has all the important elements and the answer is clear. In addition to being able to view proceedings in real-time and getting transcripts quickly, they may be able to access instant messaging features, depending on the software. This can be exceptionally helpful with legal teams in multiple locations with some viewing the deposition remotely, allowing them to discreetly pose a new strategy or line of questioning to their colleagues based on what may have just taken place.
Technology has changed many aspects of the practice of law, and court reporting is no exception. Modern tools and highly-skilled, talented reporters make capabilities like real-time transcription possible, providing benefits to attorneys that weren’t even imaginable a few decades ago.