Making a Realtime Record
By Judy Brentano
In the publication Making the Record, a valuable guide to taking a deposition (available from the National Court Reporters Association, 703-556 6272), pointers were given on how to make a decent, usable record in a deposition. Some of the how-to’s were just plain logic coupled with good manners, most of which are less and less apparent in today’s world of high-tech speed, societal stress, garbled words, fad jargon and, as the bench and bar have labeled it, “loss of civility.”
Now that you can take a deposition in realtime, how the record is made becomes more critical to the quality and usability of the end result. You can no longer allow a free-for-all to take place if you want excellent transcript results. You are making the record. The realtime reporter is preserving it, but instantaneously.
A few simple rules
Let’s look at a few simple “Rules for Making a Realtime Record.”
First, it is very important to consider that if you have never used realtime translation in your depositions, you should not plan to show up, load some software and have it working immediately. After you have purchased your litigation-support software, it is wise to make an appointment with the realtime reporter’s office to have your software loaded and tested. Conduct a short training session for yourself and your staff in advance of taking the deposition and become familiar with the many functions of the realtime software.
Upon scheduling a realtime reporter, be sure the room where the deposition will be held is available to the reporter at least a half-hour or more before the scheduled start so that setting up, cabling and hookups for the realtime can be accomplished. Also advise as to how many attorneys in the case plan to hook up their computers to the realtime feed.
To ensure accurate realtime translation of the testimony, it is paramount that a glossary of the case is provided to the realtime reporter. This allows for advance dictionary preparation specific to your case so that technical terms, proper names, acronyms, etc., will translate correctly. Include a list of all attorneys, their law firm names and a list of all witnesses connected to the case. Copies of word concordances from previous depositions, pleadings and filings are excellent sources of information for the reporter.
Make it a point to speak one at a time
The realtime reporter, besides making a verbatim record, has the additional mental task of processing the words for instant translation, while at the same time writing at challenging speeds. Having to retain two people talking over one another may affect the quality of the realtime record. Remember, “What can’t be heard or understood because of overlapping speech can’t be reported.” Do not constantly interrupt each other.
Spell out proper names; clarify acronyms; state figures in full
A new witness to the case may testify to terms that were not in the previous glossary, so it is important for the attorney to clarify spellings so the record is clear and accurate. The letters m and n, b and d, f and s, p and t are easily confused. You can eliminate a potential misunderstanding by using a name to clarify, such as M as in Mary, N as in Nancy, etc.
Numbers stated without dollars, cents or percentages could be a cause for confusion. For example, thirty two oh four could be $32.04 or 3,204 or 30,204. Remember, the record will only be as clear and concise as you make it.
Going off the record is not the decision of the realtime reporter
When one attorney says, “Let’s go off the record,” it is imperative that there is a consensus that, indeed, the reporter will stop writing. If one attorney says no, it is the duty of the reporter to continue writing. Remember, the reporter is the neutral party in the deposition just as she or he is in a courtroom proceeding.
Take your time
A few other considerations will make your record-making process go more smoothly and accurately. If you are deposing a foreign witness, if you or others in the room cannot understand a word, phrase or sentence stated by the witness, the realtime reporter probably cannot either. Though you may gather the gist of it, it is the duty of the reporter to get it verbatim for your record. The reporter has to understand, then capture the words for the record. Making the Record states, “The process may take a fraction of a second longer than understanding the thought, so you should avoid crowding the answer with your next question.”
When giving cites or reading verbatim from a record or report, it is imperative that you do so clearly and concisely. Open the material with the word “quote” and reflect its completion with the word “unquote.” There is a tendency to race through the reading of a document. First, slow down. Second, speak clearly. Third, provide a copy of the cited material to the reporter to assist in reflecting the quoted material in the record as read.
The myth of long costly depositions
I have heard it stated far too often that depositions are expensive and reporters charge too much. The cost of the deposition is directly related to how long it is in time, the number of pages taken and the technical services provided. First and foremost, the reporter has absolutely no control over the length of the deposition you are taking. You do.
Second, just a decade ago, a deposition was taken, transcribed and was available in one form – typed and bound copy. Today there are digital data, ASCII disks, condensed transcripts, word concordances, litigation realtime support, e-transcript,e-binders, online archiving and retrieval, videoconferencing with realtime, and tomorrow, who knows. Attendant is the cost of technology and manpower to provide them.
You control the record. The reporter can control the quality of the realtime output and the efficiency with which the record is disseminated to you and the parties. Following these few guidelines might even make it a more pleasant experience.
In conclusion, a careful regard for making a realtime record should be a part of your case-winning strategy.
Judith H. Brentano, RPR, is a past president of the National Court Reporters Association and chaired its Realtime Certification Committee.