Setting the standards for videography: The National Court Reporters Association

The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) was founded in 1899 and was originally named the National Shorthand Reporters Association as a reflection of the predominant form of court reporting in use at the time. Today, the NCRA represents court reporters in a wide range of career paths and provides guidance on best practices within the profession. One of the most important elements of modern court reporting practice is the recording of video depositions. The standards set forth by the NCRA are designed specifically to provide a framework for court reporting firms to ensure the most accurate transcriptions of all types of recordings.

Specifications for video depositions

The NCRA has established 62 separate standards regarding the video recording of depositions. Many of these standards deal with the technical specifications of the equipment to be used:

  • Zoom ratios must maintain a focal length ratio of at least 10:1.
  • Fluid-head tripods are required.
  • Video cameras must have a minimum horizontal resolution of 350 lines.
  • Manual volume adjustment controls are required.
  • At least four microphones are required to meet NCRA standards; of these, one must be directed at the deponent and two are reserved for the direct examiner and the cross examiner in the deposition.

NCRA standards also provide guidance on how depositions should be recorded by videographers:

  • Video depositions should be carried out in accordance with the expressed rules, orders, and stipulations of the court.
  • The style to be used in recording the deposition should be communicated to all parties prior to the start of videography.
  • Any pans or zooms should be performed in a smooth and methodical fashion.
  • All cell phones should be turned off prior to the start of the deposition.
  • Videographers should listen to the questioning and testimony through headphones and should ensure that they can be heard when making announcements verbally.
  • If given permission, recordings may be interrupted by the videographer to ensure that the oath has been administered, to correct any acoustical or technical problems, or to change recording media in cases where this is required.

Videographers should include the following spoken information at the start of the deposition session.

  • The full name of the deponent and the name of the party requesting the deposition
  • The time and date
  • The address at which the deposition took place
  • The case number and the court involved
  • The identity of all persons present, including the business addresses, and names of the court reporter and the videographer
  • Indexing information to include any stops and starts in recording, on-the-record and off-the-record content, and the run time of each deposition session

This information is critical to ensure that depositions are recorded properly and that all events are depicted accurately in regard to the videography process.

By studying and maintaining the best practices recommended by the NCRA, videographers can deliver the highest quality depositions to ensure accurate reporting and evidence in the legal arena.


3 tips for cutting costs in your legal office

Reducing your overhead can boost your profitability without increasing your caseload. Here are three proven tips for lowering the cost of operating your legal practice.

  • Outsource your IT


Especially for smaller law offices, making the move to cloud storage and maintenance can significantly reduce the need for in-house IT expertise and can cut costs without sacrificing quality or reliability of service.

  • Optimize your supply chain


Office supplies and other necessary items can often be acquired from a number of local vendors. Periodic checks to ensure that you are receiving top-quality products at the lowest prices can give you leverage to negotiate lower prices with your current vendor or to move to a different vendor entirely.

  • Cut back on travel


Modern videoconferencing technology can provide nearly all of the benefits of face-to-face meetings and can often provide a convenient video record of the entire proceedings. By choosing these lower-cost options for depositions, team meetings, and other activities, your law firm can enjoy considerable savings over the cost of lodging and travel arrangements.

By reducing costs not directly related to your core legal activities, your firm can enjoy increased profitability and improved cash flow. These added financial resources can help your company stay competitive and relevant in the modern legal marketplace.

What is electronic court filing?

In September 1988, the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system was instituted as a way to provide access to public records through authorized computer terminals. At first, these terminals were only available for use in certain public libraries and in some office buildings. In 2001, PACER was made publicly accessible on the Internet as a fee-based search service. It currently is estimated to contain well over 500 million documents. PACER represents the first major use of electronic court filing in the U.S.

Simply put, electronic court filing is the transmission of relevant court documents over the Internet or through other electronic means. In the U.S. judicial system, the preferred format for those documents is determined by standards that govern the way in which documents are structured and the metadata information provided with the court records. PACER records are uploaded in XML-based formats to ensure maximum interoperability and compatibility across a wide range of operating systems and platforms.

Electronic court filing systems provide superior access to attorneys, legal personnel, and members of the public. As more states move to this technologically advanced data transmission method for lawyer-to-lawyer communications, court submissions, and storage of completed cases, the improved access will allow greater transparency for the judicial process.


How to look confident in a courtroom

The right attitude can help you achieve a greater degree of success in the legal field. Court reporters, paralegals, and other adjunct members of the legal profession should maintain a professional demeanor and should dress conservatively in keeping with the general decorum in the courtroom setting. Even when taking depositions at a remote location or assisting with duties in the legal office, presenting the right image can ensure that you are considered for positions of added responsibility and increased remuneration in your chosen industry.


How to work in the legal field without a law degree

Attorneys may be the superstars of the legal world. Their job would be much more difficult, however, without the help of paralegals and court reporters. Paralegals do much of the heavy lifting in terms of organizing evidence, managing cases, and preparing for the courtroom appearance. Court reporters create transcripts of depositions and other statements to allow attorneys to prepare for trial and to present evidence from those unable to appear in court in person. These legal professionals deliver the help attorneys need to succeed in the legal environment.


Is a court reporting career right for you?

As the top court reporting company in the U.S., Atkinson-Baker takes pride in employing the most competent and accurate court reporters in the industry. Achieving excellence in the field of court reporting requires expert training and experience in this vital field. Understanding the requirements necessary to become a court reporter can help in determining if this career path is a viable option for aspiring legal professionals.

Initial educational requirements

Court reporters typically achieve initial certification at a technical institute or in a community college setting. These training programs usually last two years or less and include courses in typing, grammar and spelling, legal terms and concepts, and courtroom procedures. Students also practice their transcription skills directly in conditions similar to those they will experience in the course of their careers. In most cases, a typing speed test may be required to ensure that these aspiring court reporters have the technical skills necessary to succeed in this demanding field.

Licensing and certification

Most states require court reporters who practice within their borders to be licensed or certified in the field. The major organizations responsible for licensing and certifying court reporters include the following:

  • The National Court Reporters Association offers a Registered Professional Reporter certification upon the completion of a three-part shorthand speed test and a written examination. This certification is accepted by 22 states and provides solid evidence for potential employers that the court reporter is well qualified to perform his or her duties.
  • For digital and voice court reporters, the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers offers Certified Electronic Transcriber and Certified Electronic Reporter qualifications after the successful completion of a skills test and a written test.
  • The National Verbatim Reporters Association also offers certification for voice court reporters.

Some states also offer certification and licensing examinations for court reporters. These qualifications often provide added opportunities in the job market and may be required by employers or state oversight agencies.

Where court reporters work

Most court reporters work on behalf of judicial institutions at the federal, state, or local level. These legal professionals typically perform their duties in the courtroom and are responsible for producing clear and accurate transcripts of all activities during the course of a trial or hearing. Other court reporters take depositions on behalf of legal firms or individual attorneys and may travel throughout the year to acquire these sworn statements from witnesses across the U.S. or even around the globe. Court reporters may also be called upon to produce transcripts of the votes, activities,and discussions held by various legislative bodies.

Other employment options

The skills necessary for success as a court reporter can also translate directly into other fields of endeavor. Court reporters can provide captioning services for television programs and may be employed to create similar captions for corporate presentations. The ability to take dictation quickly and accurately can also be useful in gaining employment as a personal assistant or administrative professional. In the academic environment, court reporting skills can be put to good use in helping those with hearing disabilities to understand and assimilate course materials.

Essential characteristics of successful court reporters

A few basic traits are necessary to achieve success in the court reporting field. Attention to detail is a critical attribute for court reporters; even a small transcription error can have a significant effect on the outcome of a case or the testimony of a witness.  A high degree of focus and concentration is also required to ensure that every word uttered in the courtroom is transcribed accurately. Court reporters must have excellent spelling, grammar, and comprehension skills to produce the best results for their clients and to ensure the integrity of courtroom proceedings.

Atkinson-Baker’s court reporters are highly trained and maintain all required qualifications to ensure that the transcripts they produce are accurate and that the turnaround time is fast. The right educational background and certifications can provide solid evidence of excellence for attorneys and other legal entities in need of court reporting services. By working with an established company to record depositions, hearings, and other legal proceedings, clients can ensure the most effective solutions for their court reporting needs.