Once upon a time, three amigos went to court reporting school. Although the standards were high, along with the failure rate on the state and national licensing examinations, they all managed to graduate and become licensed Certified Shorthand Reporters. Originally, the three amigos headed off in the same direction for training at independently owned court reporting shops, where they underwent rigorous training by the agency owners who were more seasoned senior licensed Certified Shorthand Reporters, men and women who could teach them well and underscore their sacred duties as keepers of the verbatim record.
In their early years, the three amigos, each at different shops, would meet for quarterly drinks and exchange stories about their experiences — long days and long nights spent perfecting the art of making deposition and court transcripts. They learned the value of making a well-punctuated, readable record that could be cited in briefs and used to impeach witnesses, transcripts that were used by Appellate Courts in deciding important cases that affected public policy and all the freedoms afforded Americans under the Constitution, transcripts inherent to making ground-breaking case-law. Their owner mentors made sure they were trained well and understood the importance and value of their duties as court reporters in making and preserving the records of proceedings.
Over time, each of the three amigos chose different career paths within their field.
The first amigo headed of to state court to become an official reporter so she could have benefits and enjoy entering the same courtroom every day, working for the same wonderful judge. The second amigo headed off to an agency that was very tech-savvy, which afforded him the opportunity to report more high-profile matters and travel internationally. And the third amigo decided to start her own court reporting agency in the big city. For a time, the three amigos enjoyed their respective court reporting careers until one day they noticed that the industry’s landscape had begun to change.
The official court reporter amigo served her judge and the litigants of her courtroom for many years, making a valuable record to all who entered that courtroom, when one day, a pinheaded, penny-pinching administrator came along and said, “Thank you for your service, but in an effort to save money, we’ve decided to replace you with an electronic recording device.” After she left, the first amigo was sad to learn that there were many complaints about the quality of the transcripts produced by a digital recording device and transcribed by nonreporters who made transcripts that were nonsensical and often unintelligible, putting the outcome of litigants’ cases at risk.
The second amigo working at the tech-savvy firm was rewarded for his dedication, receiving amazing reporting opportunities until one day, a corporate type backed by venture capital money showed up to inform him and his peers that the firm was under new ownership. Then they brought in lots of nonreporter managers and oodles of eager salespeople who knew nothing about what court reporters did. Over time, the overzealous salespeople — who bought clients with gift cards, corporate apartments and other gimmicks — ran out gobbling up tons of contracted work and began to quietly cut the fees that the talented reporters received so they could line their own pockets, as the salespeople’s salaries began to eclipse the hard-working reporters’ wages. The second amigo became very unhappy because there was no longer a working court reporter at the helm of his agency to advocate for the reporters after the big, bad corporation took over.
The third amigo fared well for a time running her own agency until, over time, she noticed some of her clients disappearing. Since she had been devoted to her clients’ needs, sacrificing a great deal of her personal life, her loyal clients had no problem sharing the truth of why they had gone away. They sadly informed the third amigo that they were now forced through contracts with insurance companies and corporations to work with conglomerate reporting agencies, complaining they no longer received the same personal service the third amigo’s highly specialized staff had provided them. The third amigo was saddened by this because many clients had become her friends until the national contractors came along and poisoned her beloved profession, undermining the reporters’ value in favor of gimmicky salespeople.
As a wave of change swept over the industry, reporters began to sour, fleeing to professional forums to throw daggers from both sides of the aisle — pro and con — and the professional congeniality that once existed quickly eroded and then disappeared all together. This pleased the national companies. Seeing the professionals at war with each other meant they were safe to carry on under the radar, slashing reporter’s wages in favor of lining schmaltzy salesmen’s pocketbooks, adulterating good business practices and stomping out ethics without backlash from those SECOND IN LINE to the greatest damage to the profession. . .THE FIRST BEING THE SACRED RECORD upon which major cases were decided, as lives, livelihoods, public policy and vital case-law all hung in the balance, cases that hinged on the words in transcripts.
Years later, the three amigos — exhausted and downtrodden, horrified by watching their craft slowly extinguished, replaced by electronic recording devices run by bean counters who had no regard for the record, the litigants or a legal system that relied on the written word — came to the realization that it was simply too late. And the only ones who lived happily ever after were fat cat CEOs, pinhead bean counters and greedy salesmen who counted the cash at the expense of a legal system that began spending more money on mistrials and retrials because there was no longer a readable, usable verbatim record.