Search This Blog

About Me

My photo
Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Small town paralegal in the city. Once ran a law office, now being run by one. Med mal defense litigation. I think it's growing on me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Good People to Know: Court Reporters

Last night I attended my monthly BCALP (Baldwin County Assoc. of Legal Professionals) meeting. We meet at a local restaurant one evening a month to eat, chat, and learn. We usually receive a 1/2 hour CLE credit for whichever topic we visit. As I am sure you can relate, sometimes we really learn something, other times I feel like using that 1/2 hour toward my CLEs would be cheating. When our meeting began last night, I felt sure that I would be setting aside that CLE certificate for the benefit of my conscience. However, I was pleasantly surprised.

Our guest speakers were from Freedom Court Reporting, which, if you are not familiar with them, is a very large court reporting service. In my neck of the woods they are known for their awesome free gifts and homemade chocolate chip cookies at conferences. Sadly, I have no real firsthand experience with Freedom because our office rarely hires court reporters. Even when we do, neither we nor our clients can really afford Freedom.

All that being said, I learned more about court reporting during this 1/2 hour CLE than I thought was possible. For instance, I learned that a "dirty ASCII" is a depo transcript straight from the scene, no editing. I learned that a witness can make changes to his or her testimony at any point, even at the end of the deposition. I also learned that the witness has the right to review his or her testimony. This makes sense, of course, and it's in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, but I rarely think about these things, since we do so few depositions. I learned that under the Federal Rules a deposition lasts up to seven hours, and that the court reporter is entitled to end it if it is growing over-long and pointless.

I also learned neat things about Freedom that are super impressive and super expensive. For instance, they have a real time feature which allows you to connect your laptop to their machine and download the transcript as it is being typed. You can even make notes as it is being entered. In addition, Freedom also has a captioned video deposition feature which scrolls the words across the screen as the deponent speaks.

But the reason I really like Freedom, though I've never used them, is their customer service. You can schedule a deposition online, and you have point-and-click access to any transcripts you've ever ordered through them, 24/7. The representatives last night called it a one-stop-shop. If you need to take a deposition from someone in another state, without leaving your state, done. If you need to find a conference room in an unfamiliar location, done. If you just have a question about general rules regarding depositions, call anytime. I have never spoken with an unfriendly Freedom representative.

I don't mean to tout Freedom. They are simply the only court reporting service I've had any contact with. Their services are above and beyond what I, so inexperienced, would expect from a third party service. The Boss has a deposition tomorrow, and all I can think about is how cool it would be if he could bring back a video depo with closed captioning. Or how easy it would be to set everything up through such a well established, big service.

But even though our small firm cannot yet enjoy the fancy extra services Freedom Court Reporting provides, I enjoyed last night's presentation on court reporting and depositions. I actually found myself interested in such a dry topic. While I do not yet know any court reporters, I believe I should get to know a few. At some point in the future, some time before our firm is big enough to benefit from all of Freedom's extra services, we'll still need the services of a local court reporter. At that point, it would behoove me to have a name in mind.


  1. It is great to know your court reporter. The one thing I would comment is a court reporter would never stop a deposition under the Federal Rules because of the seven-hour limit. It is up to the attorneys, usually the deponent's attorney, to stop the deposition at the seven-hour mark.

  2. Be careful what you wish for! I schedule depositions all the time and sometimes it's no easy feat. There are a few nationwide and we have a few local court reporters that offer those same services. In this economy, I rarely schedule video depositions anymore nevermind all that fancy stuff. Clients just do not want to pay for those extra services. As an insurance defense paralegal, the trend has been ultra low cost defense. Heck, we have enough trouble getting them to pay us!

  3. Thanks for the article, Melissa. My only comment would be that not ALL court reporters are dry and the field is far from boring. We get the best seat in the house when it comes to watching the legal process unfold; we are pretty integral to litigators because without us -- the third-party, neutral observers -- who could the judge and jury trust to produce a verbatim transcript if a case goes to trial?