(The following article was originally published in the Milwaukee Law Journal in 2002. Following are innovative changes in technology and process since the original publication.)

The introduction of computers to the court reporting industry in the mid-1970s opened the door to many new reporting products and services and is ultimately creating greater capacity for litigants. Computer-assisted transcription (CAT), the process of having a computer convert a reporter’s stenographic notes into English, was the advent of a technology that has shaped today’s world of wireline reporting. Like all other industries, court reporters are now part of the fast-paced and technologically advanced world of iPads, the Internet, etc. [1]

The following is a brief case scenario incorporating the many services currently available from the tech-savvy reporting firm in discovery or evidentiary depositions and in hearing or trial:

A week-long series of fact-witness statements begins after discovery papers are filed by all parties. Depository transcripts are produced in full-size and condensed paper (up to 16 pages per physical page) along with digital PDF versions [2] that have the evidence indexed and linked to each case within testimony for instant retrieval, and in ASCII files, in the many formats available, for searching through the text on the computer via case management or trial filing software.[3] A week later, the lawyer travels to a remote location to give evidence to a witness. In order for the remote reporter to accurately transcribe in real time (immediate live transcription of the spoken word, viewable on a computer screen), a word list containing the various unique terms from all previous statements in the case was emailed. Several opposition lawyers chose not to attend in person, instead choosing to receive the real-time ASCII feed, as well as video and audio via remote video conferencing., live on their desktop computers in their office via a standard Internet connection, making personal notes and chatting online with the co-counsel, raising objections as needed via video conferencing.[4] A lawyer was stranded in a remote location, but still attended the deposition via his iPhone. Upon completion of the deposition, the real-time transmission, essentially a draft ASCII file, is stored on the attorneys’ computers for use in preparing the next deposition (before the certified transcript is produced). The annotated version was emailed to staff or a colleague to draft a motion.[5] Video and audio were also stored online for immediate review.[6] A lawyer was on a flight at the time of the deposition and was viewing the real-time text stream on an iPad over the plane’s internet connection, which he was then able to annotate on the plane in preparation for the next deposition.

All along, reporter scheduling was handled by secure login to the reporting company’s online schedule manager, producing both electronic and paper confirmations.[7] The attorney used a secure Internet connection to view activity reports, download and view ASCII files, and exhibits., and verify the deposition schedule in the reporter’s network system 24/7. There were some last minute needs for information, deposition location, transcripts, and past deposition evidence, which the attorney was able to get on his iPad/iPhone using his mobile app. An exhibit believed to be contained in the banker’s large box went missing, but the smartphone app gave access to that exhibit and all the others in the case.

A series of three expert witness depositions is now scheduled, two in New York on Monday and Tuesday, and one Wednesday in Los Angeles. The first two days will occur with daily, real-time delivery, with the expert in Los Angeles (Wednesday’s witness) receiving both days of live testimony via streaming video/audio/text, plus an email of the ASCII draft at the end of each day to prepare for his statement.[8] Tuesday’s transcript requires additional delivery attention when the witness’s Wednesday email was down. The reporting firm made arrangements with a local company to receive, print and deliver the transcript within an hour. Two of the attorneys were unable to make the trip to Los Angeles, so they received a real-time broadcast at their respective offices, where they also viewed and participated in the deposition via remote video conference. Remote video conferencing was also used for the LA expert who needed to be deposited in his office, using a standard computer with a video camera and Internet connection.

Videotape services were requested for the three experts with picture-in-picture production so that the witness and the referenced documents could be viewed simultaneously. Subsequently, the video was synchronized with the ASCII text file, the exhibits were also linked to the text., and stored on DVD, portions of which will be used in a big-screen trial presentation for impeachment purposes.

All attorneys plan to receive a real-time transmission of transcripts and delivery of certified copies of daily transcripts at trial so that they have the necessary tools for witness preparation and prosecution when appropriate. All witnesses’ previous testimony and previously scanned evidentiary documents now reside with them in court on the attorneys’ computers. If they discover a missing transcript or evidence file, it can be retrieved immediately by connecting to the reporting company’s online access. One of the attorneys requested a portable video file that would be compatible with his trial filing app for her iPad.

Currently, at the forefront of all these technologies is real-time translation. As described above, this service has given attorneys tremendous assistance in immediately tracking testimony in large case affidavits or trials, or any complex litigation, where the litigation team needs to keep up with events as they occur (and make them available to the hearing impaired).[9] When compared to the costs of overnight express delivery or daily copy, actual time is actually less expensive. You still have the costs associated with a final certified transcript from the reporter, but you would also if you had ordered an expedited transcript; Furthermore, with realtime the approximate version is already available when the day’s procedure is completed. More capacity, saving time and less expensive – it’s worth it!

How does real time work? The Real-Time Court Reporter connects your computerized reporter via cable or wirelessly to your laptop containing software that translates the reporter’s keystrokes against a global dictionary of words written by the reporter in his shorthand theory.[10] As the reporter presses the shorthand keys, the computer quickly compares those strokes with the reporter’s dictionary and displays matches and “untranslated” (raw shorthand for which there is no match) on the computer screen. The same results are exported from the reporter’s computer to software (LiveNote, Summation, CaseViewNet) on the attorney’s computer for monitoring, annotating, problem coding, and digesting.

A real-time feed is not edited and will most likely contain some errors. It is not appropriate or permitted to be used for citing in court proceedings because it is not a certified transcript.

Complex technical cases require the reporter to prepare for real time by inserting the unique case terminology into their dictionaries so they can produce a more accurate real time broadcast. The more experienced and skilled the reporter, the more developed the dictionary, the more controlled the forum speakers will be, and the better the real-time results will be.

Be sure to ask for a reporter whose real-time skills you are already familiar with, or when traveling, ask for a certified real-time reporter who has been tested and certified by the National Association of Court Reporters. For more information on real-time and other reporting services, contact your local court reporting agency.

[1] It took several years for court reporters and the reporting technology industry to realize the benefits of using these new technologies. Today’s court reporter can barely exist without them.

[2] Linked (or hyperlinked) documents: Creates a connection to an external document that can be viewed instantly when clicked. Now the lawyer can view the transcript and see each attachment as it is mentioned in the text.

[3] PDF documents are now the dominant and most universal file format used by computer users around the world to view text and graphics, and have become the standard in the last 10 years.

[4] Remote video conferencing is all the rage in 2012: the ability to use video conferencing technology between portable computing devices (iPads, laptops, etc.) and standard video conferencing equipment (Polycom, Tandberg) over the Internet. Unlike Skype or Google Hangouts, reporting companies use products that are encrypted for added security and stability.

[5] Legal video and audio of depositions can be stored in the cloud for immediate review over the Internet.

[6] Products like TextMap, Summation, and LiveNote export a document containing the attorney’s work product (markups, annotations, etc.) that can be shared with team members.

[7] Tech-savvy reporting companies offer online portals to set up and track return scheduling, download and view transcripts and evidence, and access calendar and activity reports.

[8] Video and text streaming makes it possible to attend the deposition and view the text in real time live from anywhere with an Internet connection.

[9] The federal government’s ADA requirement that all television networks have closed captioning by 2006 has caused a loss of our real-time court reporter talent pool, creating a shortage. There is now competition between reporting companies and captioning companies for real-time writers. This shortage gave the federal government an incentive to pass legislation that recently approved financial grants for reporting/captioning training programs across the country. These schools are now offering scholarships to encourage more students to enter these programs so that the ADA’s closed captioning mandates can be met.

[10] It is now standard practice to receive a real-time transmission via wireless Bluetooth, as an alternative to a wired connection.

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