I think we all start this career with an idea that we sit behind a machine and diligently take down the spoken word and very competently transcribe that into the perfect record. There’s no question it’s a difficult job. To accomplish this task, we spend years with our focus on speed building, learning new briefs and, of course, perfecting our punctuation skills.
However, as deposition reporters and new CSRs (Certified Shorthand Reporters) what we seem to give little attention to is our personal interactions with our clients, or potential clients, on the job. Most of us are too timid to market ourselves as we would like. I’ve always personally struggled with marketing on the job. As an officer of the court, it does not seem to be appropriate in the deposition setting.
We all can, however, engage attorneys in a manner that will demonstrate our professionalism and competence. We can use our personalities and our can-do attitude to differentiate ourselves from others.
When reporters enter the deposition room, the goal should be to give the client/attorneys a sense of confidence that the reporter is not only very pleasant to work with but that a quality transcript will be delivered to them in the end. When reporters walk in that room, put a big smile on your face and focus on the people in the room and providing the service they require.
An important tool here is wardrobe. Use it! Feel good about how you look. I suggest an investment in a few power suits and dress shoes. They can be inexpensive and basic. Sandals are never appropriate, and sleeveless shirts should only be worn under a blazer. As for the men, ties are a must.
Always arrive 20 to 30 minutes early and have your cell phone in the silence mode. If possible, set up at the end of the table. Of course always carry an extension cord for the hard-to-reach outlets. Try to stay away from the coffee/water setup. That can be a noisy spot during the deposition.
As the parties enter, confidently introduce yourself with a handshake and a look in the eye. I suggest the reporter stays standing until completely set up and has introduced him or herself to all and have cards and/or information from all those in attendance. At that point the reporter would sit down to signal that he/she is ready to go on the record. If you sit down before that, you may have that rushed attorney commanding you to swear the witness. That may fluster you and frustrate him/her when you are not ready.
Make friendly conversation and try to fit in. You are just as important as any person in that room. Act like it! Stay away from anything controversial like religion or politics. Obviously you need to avoid conversations about the case. In those instances it’s wise to excuse yourself. No matter what you overhear, never repeat it. Forget you heard it.
When reading back, do it with a loud and strong voice. If you need to slow a witness down or have something repeated, do it confidently. If you are timid in your request, they’ll think you are unsure of yourself and perhaps not able to do the job. Remember, it’s your job to make the record. Be in control and do not hesitate to protect the record.
When marking exhibits, stay organized. Keep track of the numbers on a pad and make sure to physically tag or number each exhibit. Avoid the dilemma of figuring out which piece of paper on the table is your exhibit. Keep the group organized. The parties will truly appreciate it.