What’s in the Area: Celebrate Fall Near First Choice Reporting Locations

Visiting one of First Choice Reporting’s beautiful Florida locations this fall? If so, you will be pleased by full bounty, and perfect weather, the harvest season brings to the many diverse areas of our sunny state. Add some of these delightful activities and events to your itinerary to help relax after a long day in a trial, hearing or deposition.

The Daytona Blues Festival: October 7 to 9, 2016

Enjoy live music along the scenic riverfront at Jackie Robinson Ballpark, located in downtown Daytona Beach. With two stages to keep the tunes flowing all day, this well-run festival for blues lovers includes nationally known and emerging artists. On Saturday, October 8 you can sample craft beers from more than 20 breweries, including 8 homegrown Florida labels, while you get down with musicians like Willie Green and the Delgado Brothers.

South Beach Seafood Festival: October 20 to 22, 2016

It’s stone-crab season in Miami! Don’t miss the chance to sample this Florida seafood specialty while they’re fresh and prepared by some of the city’s best restaurants. The main event during the weeklong seafood celebration is on Saturday, October 22. Taste dishes from 17 vendors like Joe’s Stone Crabs, Toro Toro, Drunken Dragon, Poseidon, and more served right on the beautiful sand with a glass of wine or a cold cocktail. It doesn’t get more quintessentially Miami than this.

The Jacksonville Sea & Sky Spectacular: November 5 and 6, 2016

If you are in Florida’s northern city in early November, don’t miss this fantastic display of exciting air acts and military demonstrations. All the action takes places right along Jacksonville’s main beachfront, with dynamic over-the-ocean and water-based feats from the famous United States Navy Blue Angels and other military and civilian flight teams. The weekend also features live entertainment, a kids’ zone, and a street festival showcasing aircraft and military vehicles and simulators.

The St. Pete Ribfest: November 11 to 13, 2016

St. Petersburg has something for everyone this fall. From the St. Pete Food and Wine Festival to annual Beach Chalk Walk in nearby Clearwater, this is one of our favorite times of year to have out-of-town guests see us put our best foot forward. But among all the fresh seafood, wine, and art, meat lovers can find a festival of their own. At Ribfest, a three-day charity fundraiser featuring live music from nationally touring bands and family-friendly activities, you’ll sample some of the best barbecue around. Held along the waterfront in downtown’s Vinoy Park, this year’s event will showcase the flavors of ribbers from Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey, Illinois, and, of course, Florida.






Court Reporting Excitement at the 2016 NCRA Convention

Last month marked one of the court reporting field’s biggest annual events: The National Court Reporters Association Convention and Expo. This year’s installment took place at the Hilton Chicago from August 4 to 7 and was full of industry happenings, professional development, some healthy competition, and a whole lot of collegial fun.

First Choice Reporting was well represented among the 1,000 attendees at the event, and our reporters were eager to share the latest trends and topics with the rest of the FCR team in Florida upon their return.

Always a highlight of the long weekend, the NCRA speed contests drew particular attention this year, with a record number of participants competing in the National Realtime Contest. Fifty talented reporters tested their skill in this vital evolution of modern stenography, but Dee Boenau, RDR, CRR, CRC, of Sarasota, won the title (for the second time!). In the Realtime Contest’s two legs, literary at 200 wpm and testimony at 225 wpm, Boenau managed only four and seven errors, respectively. That’s a 99.489 percent accuracy rate!

In the National Speed Contest, more than 40 reporters tackled the three legs of the competition:   literary at 220 wpm, legal opinion at 230 wpm, and testimony at 280 wpm. Jeffrey Weigl, RMR, CRR, CRC, from Edmonton, Canada, won top honors, with just six errors in the literary, 26 in the legal section, and 20 errors in the Q&A.

At the Annual Business Meeting, 2015-2016 NCRA president Steve Zinone passed a symbolic gavel to 2016-2017 president Tiva Wood, RDR, CMRS. Wood was officially sworn into office at the special Premier Session of the convention, along with the NCRA’s other 2016-2017 Board of Directors members. Attendees then heard her deliver her first address as the association’s new president.

The reporters, captioners, students, and other professionals at the Premier Session also enjoyed an entertaining presentation by speaker and humorist John Wagner, who spoke on the topic of getting out of your comfort zone. At the core of his message was the notion that if we can conquer the stress and fear that sometimes cause us to avoid change, we can make great strides professionally and personally.

Another educational workshop, “Terminate Transcript Turmoil,” led by Anissa Nierenberger, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI, was insightful for its practical tips on refining and improving the transcript editing process. Nierenberger shared how taking action to make small, proactive changes now can pay off big in the future. It was a good reminder to reflect on the quality of your work as you are doing it—a little mindfulness goes a long way.


How You Can Benefit from Meditation

Do you ever find yourself wishing you could shake off the workday and momentarily forget the major transcription project pending on your to-do list? Though everyone has a different daily grind, requiring varying levels of travel and high-pressure assignments, at First Choice Reporting we can all agree that this industry is an intense profession that demands extreme focus for long periods of time no matter the scenario.

That combination is a recipe for mental and physical burnout. But there may be a simple cure in one of today’s trendiest health and wellness trends: meditation.

The practice of meditation revolves around techniques for transforming the mind. It teaches you how to develop your concentration and focus while fostering a sense of clarity and emotional positivity.

In theory, during meditation you enter a state free from mental agitation and work on understanding the patterns and habits of your own mind. A meditative session should leave you feeling restored and peaceful.

So when it’s 11 p.m. and you can’t clear the running train of dialogue from today’s deposition from your mind long enough to sleep, when a particularly grueling schedule has you feeling low on energy and easily distracted by emails and social media, if you just feel you don’t take enough time to sit and rest, meditation could do a world of good.

Want to get started? Try some of the great websites and apps designed specifically to help new practitioners learn the basics of meditating.

The web-based OMG I Can Meditate! provides short, free guided meditations along with helpful tips and tricks for getting into the meditative groove. If you find it’s really working for you, you can sign up for a subscription to get full access to the site’s longer, themed meditation series.

The New York Times recommends Calm, a free app catering to meditation newbies. In addition to its guided and unguided sessions aimed at stress reduction and relaxing, Calm also features 25 soothing sounds you can use merely as sleep aids or to calm down in between assignments. Users can upgrade to more programs and features via in-app subscription plans.


Tech Update: Good News for Creating Secure Passwords

How many password-protected devices do you use on any given day? Now, how many applications do you log into on each of those devices? The number is a little scary, right? The password dilemma is one we’re reminded of daily, but in the court reporting world maintaining strong passwords is essential for keeping client information secure.

The current conventional wisdom for choosing a hacker-resistant password revolves around using a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, special characters, and numbers as well as creating different codes for each separate application you use. (It’s

no wonder our heads are spinning with variations of addresses, favorite vacation destinations, children’s birthdates and other manufactured memory triggers.)

But recent news from the tech world is that passphrases may be the new, safer way to protect our information.

What’s a passphrase? Passphrases are longer and easier to remember, typically consisting of a short sentence that is 16 to 64 letters in length. Tech experts advise people to think of whimsical phrases or pet peeves as a good source of inspiration, such as deathtotheserialcomma or IllneverforgetthatHawaiiansunset.

Why are they better? As an article in The Washington Post reported, “A series of studies from Carnegie Mellon University confirmed that passphrases are just as good at online security because hacking programs are thrown off by length nearly as easily as randomness. To a computer, poetry or simple sentences can be just as hard to crack. Even better: People are less likely to forget them.”

So say goodbye to wonky words jumbled with $, #, and ! and start thinking of your new daily mantra: Iwillrememberthispassword.



Friendly Tips for New Court Reporters

Think of how far you have come professionally since your first deposition. What invaluable tips and tricks did others share with you? And what lessons have you learned first-hand along the way to fine-tune the expert craft you practice today?

As the court reporting industry bands together to recruit new talent to its ranks across the country, we at First Choice Reporting are reminded of our own early days out in the field. In honor of all the newcomers to this important profession, we present a list of friendly tips for conquering nerves, feeling at ease in the courtroom, and delivering the best possible service.

Always arrive early. Don’t start out on a stressful note by rushing or showing up late, especially as you familiarize yourself with the local court systems and law firms you will return to over and over. Give yourself plenty of time to get your equipment set up and talk with the other people present before a proceeding begins.

Introduce yourself. You are a critical member of the team at any assignment. Shake hands with the attorneys and other professionals in the room and let them know who you are.

Plan ahead for a time to eat. On busy days, you might find yourself breezing past lunchtime with no window to grab a snack in sight. As you prepare for your day, identify breaks in your schedule when you can fuel up. Keep a stash of energy-sustaining foods like almonds, trail mix, fresh fruit, and KIND bars in your car, bag, or the office for those emergency situations when you don’t have time for a full meal.

Do not be afraid to speak up. It can be intimidating to assert yourself during what can often be intense proceedings, and in general, court reporters try to make as few interruptions as possible. But you were hired to preserve the record as accurately as possible, and with that task comes the occasional need to ask the parties at hand to follow your instructions so you can capture every word. Ask attorneys or witnesses who mumble, rush, or talk over others to speak up, and speak one at a time. Be polite but firm.

Get clarity on transcript confidentiality. When it comes to transcripts that are confidential, every jurisdiction handles things differently and uses distinct language. Be sure to clarify if the entire transcript should be marked confidential. It is better to ask and get things right than risk a guess that might be wrong.

Ditto for exhibits. When a proceeding has finished, it’s tempting to quickly head for the door. But it’s important to stay behind, and delay the exit of other parties, until you are certain you have all exhibits in hand. Make sure to ask are there any special instructions regarding the exhibits. Many firms use online exhibit management systems that eliminate the need for this due diligence, but if you are working solo or not sure yet of the client’s arrangement with your firm, take the time to go through these steps.

First Choice Reporting prides itself on the professionalism, poise, and capability of our team of talented court reporters. We wish the best to all new entrants to the field as they strive to establish similar standards of excellence for themselves in their practice.


Prevent Repetitive Stress Injuries Before They Occur

When life is hectic, our physical well-being often takes a backseat—especially when it comes to job-related wellness. But any court reporter who has experienced the stiffness, numbness, or tingling of carpal tunnel will agree that taking a few simple steps to prevent the repetitive strain injuries that most commonly plague our profession is well worth the time and effort.

Repetitive strain injuries are a group of conditions that involve pain felt in the muscles, nerves and tendons caused by repetitive movement and overuse. Some of the most common among court reporters—whose very job by definition involves repetitive stenographic strokes during extended periods of otherwise inactive sitting—include carpal tunnel syndrome, upper limb disorder, computer vision syndrome, tendonitis, golfer’s elbow (epicondylitis), and neck and back pain.

 How to Recognize a Repetitive Strain Injury

The reason that these work-related issues, which generally affect the upper part of the body like the forearms, elbows, wrists, hands, neck, and shoulders, often sneak up on us is because the symptoms usually develop gradually and begin with very mild aches or pains. It’s easy to chalk them up to the weather or just an extra intense day of depositions.

But left untreated, the mild tenderness, tingling, or cramping in your muscles or joints while you’re hitting the keys can snowball into severe aches, stiffness, numbness, swelling and throbbing and even nerve damage that persists for months at a time.

Easy Ways to Prevent Injury

These conditions arise from repetitive strain, incorrect posture, stress, and poor workplace ergonomics. For court reporters, only some of these factors are within our control, but the ones that are can be addressed by instituting several simple habits while on assignment.

  • Engage in a gentle warm-up. Think of yourself like an athlete and prep those tiny muscles before you start stroking away. Establish a routine of gentle motions and stretches, like the wrist and hand exercises found here.
  • Make healthy nutrition choices. Staying hydrated is essential to keeping the body and mind in peak performance form. Drinking plenty of water and eating lots of fruits and vegetables help keep your tendons and ligaments flexible and strong. If possible, avoid consuming large amounts of caffeine throughout the day—it saps the body of hydration and provides only temporary energy boosts.
  • Practice proper posture. When you take your seat and get into position to begin reporting, take a moment to assess your form. Your arms should be at a 90-degree angle, with your feet flat on the floor and your back straight and upright against the back of the chair. Periodically throughout a session, try to remind yourself to stop slouching or hunching. Shrug your shoulders and gently stretch your neck side to side to relieve tension, then reassume proper position to continue on.
  • Take advantage of all break opportunities. Court reporters don’t always enjoy the same flexibility to take short breaks that other desk-bound workers do, but when you do have a few free minutes, make sure to stand up and walk around. Get the circulation moving and step away from your desk to give your whole body a rest from those repetitive motions.


How to Save Time, Money, and Energy on Depositions

At First Choice Reporting, we are intimately familiar with the energy and resources that our legal partners devote to depositions on a routine basis. As South Florida’s premier court reporting zfirm, it is our mission to evolve our services as best we can to help make that process simpler, more affordable, and more efficient for our clients—in addition to providing our first-rate court reporters, captioners, and videographers. Luckily, with the advanced technology available today, saving time, money, and energy on depositions is easier than ever before.

 Eliminate Travel Time and Expenses with FirstConnect Live

The days of making whirlwind trips just to depose a far-flung witness are over. First Choice Reporting now offers our clients a sophisticated, simple videoconferencing service that reduces travel time and expenses and enables virtual proceedings with people around the world. FirstConnect Live uses a webcam and a secure Internet connection to allow multiple parties to appear before one another and interact regardless of their location. This means you can take live testimony from witnesses, conduct interviews, and host depositions all without stepping foot outside your office. Read more about the benefits of this incredible service.

Remove Out-of-Town Facilities Coordination from Your To-Do List

When a deposition does require court reporting and video recording services in an unfamiliar area, don’t leave the quality of service or state of the facilities in your temporary location up to chance. The First Choice Reporting team can take on the coordination of your off-site needs.

In addition to our 12 offices and more than 150 locations with conference room facilities across Florida, First Choice Reporting operates one of the best affiliate networks in the industry. Through our verified and trusted partners, we provide seamless, one-stop shopping for court reporting and video service needs anywhere in the U.S. and internationally. Take a look at the National Affiliate Network map on our website to see our partners in each location across the country.

Or, if it turns out that physical travel is not a requirement for your team for a particular deposition, First Choice can coordinate court reporters, video crews, and conference facilities in any location and connect to you from one of our convenient local offices.

Streamline the Entire Depo Process with Live Deposition

Sometimes deposing a witness is the simplest aspect of running a deposition–it’s all the accompanying tasks, like scheduling calls and meetings, finding a way to share exhibits, searching transcripts, and coordinating with other parties that take so much time and energy. Live Deposition enhances First Choice’s already convenient real-time court reporting services by combining them with a simple, easy-to-use broadcast system. The secure, web-based platform provides access to a live deposition from remote locations, saving time and costly travel expenses.

First Choice’s in-demand tool enables multiple parties to attend the same real-time deposition from anywhere and from any device with Internet access—no software downloads required. Plus, with highly functional features such as the ability to upload exhibits directly using document sharing or Dropbox and collaborative tools like private group chat, keyword search, and interactive streaming transcripts, Live Deposition can boost your legal team’s overall productivity. Read more about how this tool improves efficiency and saves time here.


FCR’s Rick Levy Receives Special FCRA Award

At the 2016 installment of the annual Florida Court Reporters Association Convention, First Choice Reporting’s talented and hardworking employees took center stage more than once. (Read more about the various FCRA honors earned by the FCR team.) This June, the FCRA bestowed its most prestigious award, the Emily Mann Distinguished Service Award, on First Choice Reporting’s very own firm owner and VP of the South Florida market, Rick Levy, RPR, FPR.

The Emily Mann Distinguished Service Award recognizes an individual who both possesses exceptional qualifications and experience in the field of shorthand reporting and continues to contribute to the welfare of FCRA in a meritorious manner. Recipients must be nominated for the award and have to meet certain service requirements in order to be formally considered. Each nominee must have fulfilled two of the following roles:

  • Actively participated on an FCRA committee and/or served on the board of directions for the state association.
  • Contributed to the court reporting profession by teaching, editing publications, or working in some way to advance the field of shorthand reporting.
  • Published important books, papers, or other written material dealing with the profession.
  • Contributed BAPR-approved continuing education seminars for the state association for members.
  • Worked with the Bar, the media, judicial groups, and/or educational institutions to aid in the advancement of the profession.

Rick, who currently serves on the board of directors for the National Court Reporters Association, has served on the FCRA board in every position, including president. He is an extremely active presence in the Florida court reporting profession, regularly mentoring, encouraging, and sponsoring court reporting students and giving presentations at court reporting schools, bar association meetings, and to law school students.

His tireless service is not unlike the award’s namesake, Emily L. Mann. The longtime FCRA member invested more than 40 years in educating court reporting students. She was also the author of several court reporting textbooks and frequently presented at NCRA events.

“To be selected by one’s own peers to be awarded my state association’s highest award is the ultimate honor and one I will cherish forever,” Rick said.

In addition to serving as an NCRA director, he has also been a member of NCRA’s Nominating and Elections committees, the Freelance Community of Interest, the New Markets Task Force, and he was chair of the Firm Owners Executive Conference.

First Choice Reporting is proud to call Rick one of our own leaders and talented court reporting professionals. Get to know him a little better in this Q&A previously published on our blog.



Congratulations to Our Reporters on FCRA Honors

At First Choice Reporting, our people are our priority, which makes it especially wonderful when we are able to share news of the many achievements and industry accolades our reporters receive.

This was a big year for First Choice reporters in connection with the Florida Court Reporters Association. The long-standing organization, which was founded in 1961 to advance the art of shorthand verbatim reporting and maintain the integrity of the court reporting profession that serves the public and judicial system of the State of Florida, recently held its annual convention over the weekend of June 17 to 19 at the Hilton hotel in Clearwater Beach.

First Choice congratulates Rosa Naccarato, RPR, FPR, who, as the 2015-2016 FCRA president, organized a successful and enriching 2016 convention. The weekend focused on instruction, continuing education, and professional development, featuring presentations on cyber security and reporting on Capitol Hill; software trainings for Case CATalyst Version 17, Eclipse, and ProCAT; a friendly real-time competition; and a very happy happy hour. In fact, First Choice’s own Laura Landerman, RPR, RMR, CRR, FPR, took home first place in the real-time speed contest!

The convention was also the setting for the installation of FCRA’s new officers for the 2016-2017 term. First Choice Reporting’s North Florida Market VP, Christy Bradshaw, RPR, FPR, was sworn in as the new president, and Cathy Carpenter, FPR, from our Tampa market, was installed as an FCRA director.

In addition to the official events involving officers and directors, the FCRA also announced the recipients of its much-lauded awards and accolades. First Choice Reporting is so proud of our VP of the South Florida market, Rick Levy, RPR, FPR, who was this year’s winner of the Emily Mann Distinguished Service Award. The FCRA bestows this award upon a person who “possesses exceptional qualifications and experience in the field of shorthand reporting while contributing in a meritorious manner to the welfare of FCRA.” Read more about Rick and this wonderful honor here.


Tech Update: Live Deposition Makes Improvements with Recent Upgrades

First Choice Reporting is always on the lookout for the latest tech news and information about updates to make our firm—and the court reporting field as a whole—more agile and technologically advanced.

Last year we introduced the Live Deposition tool to our already convenient real-time court reporting services. It’s a secure, web-based platform that provides access to a live deposition from remote locations, saving time and costly travel expenses. Our clients have been enjoying the flexibility of this service since then.

Now Live Deposition has announced a series of upgrades to its popular remote litigation event software, called RemoteRealtime. This easy-to-use product enables legal professionals to attend live litigation events, such as depositions, trials, hearings, mediations, and arbitrations, from anywhere in the world. Here are some of the basics about how the changes will enhance this component of the Live Depo experience.

  • Simplified email invitations for attendees
  • Revamped real-time transcript
  • Sharper, more easily legible appearance
  • Ability to rename shared exhibit files
  • Ability to download exhibits from within the online platform
  • Improvements to the time and time zone handling
  • Formatting issue fixes and souped-up capabilities for the StenoDirectPlus Plugin
  • Faster intra-transcript navigation within the mobile app
  • Ability to share, stamp and submit exhibits from mobile devices
  • New private group chat feature within the mobile app

Live Deposition’s manager of technical support, Philip Bell, says the upgrades make RemoteRealtime more powerful than ever: “Not only does this update include improved formatting and viewing capabilities for real-time text, there have also been a number of enhancements made to our newest feature, Electronic Exhibits. As more attorneys catch on to the benefits of digitally displaying exhibit documentation to their clients or other parties that are located in other states or even other countries, they will greatly appreciate some of the newer tools we have made available in this update.”

For details about the updates and instructions on how to implement them on your personal devices, read more here.

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