By Monette Benoit
Copyright 2007 by Monette Benoit, All Rights Reserved.
I would like to begin a conversation. I will compile replies and share them in a future article. Versions of this conversation float on various forums and message boards. I hope only to expand on that conversation as we explore facts and opinions.
Our work is historical; our professionals are spectacular in commitment to task. This is a wonderful time to master our path – together with new goals, new conversations.
We are witnessing changes within our profession. Changes are occurring because of opportunities and technology. Large and small companies are expanding, shifting, even folding areas. Some have long-term contracts; others fill requests. Many are affected by changes and technology – and perhaps by our own actions during a national shortage of qualified people?
Let’s talk facts. Litigation was narrowed by tort reform. Many companies now bid jobs by lowest page rate. ER, electronic recording, is replacing some official reporters in courtrooms. Caption companies have laid off experienced captioners.
Students in schools are vocal on forums about expectations on the basis of what was shared when they entered school. Students who entered training due to specific marketing to earn a high income from home “in two years” are not happy. Meanwhile, some near graduation will work for less to gain experience.
Experienced court reporters who want to caption or provide CART have expectations for what they will do and when. Both experienced reporters and high-speed students contact me – and others I know – saying, “I do this work because I’m able to make demands, pick and choose, and I do this for my pleasure. I have to earn a decent living and have good hours. I’m the breadwinner.”
I wrote a friend on NCRA committees to get a reality check if she sees differences in tone and expectations: “Some are leaving the profession. Frankly, it has gotten slow, and due to contracting – call it what you want – underbidding, firms are losing clients. Many want to hop on the CART/captioning bandwagon without training.”
One respected leader wrote, “I know new captioners who won’t work weekends or nights, want prime shows or only want hockey. Normally, with hockey you only write the score and play approaching the score. Who wouldn’t want that?”
That day I also received this note: “A teacher finally shared it the first night. He told them it’s not easy. It’s not all glory. Initially you won’t make gobs of money. Equipment’s costly. You need to join professional associations to remain involved. Don’t expect to immediately work in PJs. You need to master words, grammar and punctuation. That night several dropped. How’d that happen, Monette?”
I’ve noticed a shift in requests for my CART and captioning services, national and state written knowledge test textbook, workbooks, CATapult CDs, tutoring, consulting services. Initial e-mails may be tart. When I return a tutoring request, I may hear, “If you don’t help me, I’m leaving the field.”
One person phoned for tutoring and yelled at me. I listened. I’ve learned, “The upset is never the upset.” (Landmark Education after Captain Kevin Drue Donnelly, my youngest brother’s death, August 2000. Thank you, Diane Emery, CMRS.)
As I listened, the upset person finally focused on her upset and expectations – what she had been told (interpreted) she could expect and what she is able to do now. As a court reporter and instructor, I calmly guide what I believe is realistic and perhaps unrealistic, based on what is shared. The person reaching out often feels their future is at stake. To not share would be a disservice, I believe.
Another unique factor to a person’s path is motivation. When I speak to reporters and students at state and national seminars, I ask the group why they were attracted to this profession. My opinion is that people attracted solely for money will struggle and many will burn out. If you ask a person or group what motivated them to enter this field, often the answer is multi-faceted to include independence, job security, income, and learning within multiple venues.
Even organizations are not immune. My office receives calls from national groups and organizations with one question, “What are your rates? E-mail them.” I’m talking large companies, huge organizations who tell me “we’re too busy to share details until you send rates.”
As I finished this article, I returned a call to a national company regarding services. Their representative said (kid you not), “Send us all your rates. I’m to take them to my supervisor. If she approves, then we talk availability, specifics.”
I asked, “Are you phoning the country to get low rates?”
She replied, “Yes.”
Softly I shared I would not send all our rates to have an opportunity to service a job request, details not included yet. I ended the call, “I know there are qualified people out there; I’m sure someone will take good care of you.” Leslie, the company representative, was stunned. Monette, I, went back to work.
Reporters now work from home with little social interaction as in days of old when we drove to a courthouse, office, interacting with people every day. Forums have created niches of reporting, judicial, freelance, captioning, CART, students and instructors.
Students and reporters who enroll in a curriculum where there is possibly a 90 percent failure rate and required testing pass-rates of 95 percent or higher must know this marker is different from other schooling, careers.
Our profession, I believe, is honored to have students and working professionals dedicated to fulfilling and expanding their goals and their dreams.
Finishing this article I drove to a job on I-35 and saw an office supply truck. In cursive pink letters on both sides, the black truck carried their marketing slogan: “If we can’t get it, you don’t need it.” Do you think their tone and expectations are changing? I do.
Monette Benoit may be reached at: Tutoring@CRRbooks.com
About the Author:
Monette Benoit, B.B.A., CCR, CRI, CPE, is a JCR Contributing Editor for the National Court Reporters Association, NCRA.
She is the author of multiple books to include the NCRA Written Knowledge Test and state RPR, RDR, CSR ‘Written Knowledge Exam’ Textbook, Workbook, a companion Study Guide, ‘The CRRT WKT’ CD Software Program, ‘Advanced SAT, LSAT, GRE, Real-Time Vocabulary Workbook’ and ‘CATapult’ Dictionary CD Software Program series.
Books, CDs, private tutoring, mentoring services and articles may be referenced http://www.crrbooks.com/
Monette is an experienced consultant, instructor, real-time court reporter, tutor, CART provider, coach, columnist.
She teaches, tutors and coaches home-study students, college students, court reporters and professionals.
Monette speaks to groups at state, national and international conventions about motivation, technology, expanding skills and Deaf, Oral Deaf, Hard of Hearing.
Monette Benoit, B.B.A., Certified Court Reporter, Certified Reporting Instructor, Certified Program Evaluator, Paralegal, may be reached at: http://www.crrbooks.com/, http://www.catapultdix.com/ and http://www.artcs.com/