It is way too easy to treat court reporting in depositions like an afterthought. For an aspect of the legal process that is as important as producing litigation transcripts and providing the official record, it is way too easy to forget just how crucial and underrated the skillset of a court reporter.
A great stenographer may make it look effortless, but rest assured, it is a difficult undertaking and there are 3 ways to perfect court reporting in depositions and hearings to ensure you have a clear, accurate record.
1. Spit it out!
Speak clearly. It is very easy to let nerves and that anxious energy take over a deposition and motor-mouths run amuck. Speaking too fast, mumbling, and using excessive filler words like “um” and “uh” is a great way to get interrupted by your court reporter for clarification, thus interrupting the flow of the deposition. Get it right the first time, and have everyone speak clearly and at a reasonable pace.
Get it on the record. The official transcript is a written account of what is said. If you want to voice an objection, then voice it. Don’t gesture, cough, or mouth your objection. Speak it loud and clear. You object, so let the record show it. With that in mind, it’s important to narrate important movements and visuals. The record can’t see what is not said. It is your job to narrate what’s happening in that room, “I am pointing at X.” You’ll be glad you did when you review those litigation transcripts later.
2. Didn’t Your Mother Teach You Not To Interrupt?
For accurate court reporting in any setting, it is crucial to allow others to speak uninterrupted. It is very tempting to interject with, “yes” or “uh-huh” while you’re processing the information being given. It’s also tempting to make them feel comfortable, by vocally reassuring as they talk as not to feel on the spot or alone. This, however, muddies the clarity of the official litigation transcripts. Summon the spirit of the best interviewers of all time and keep your mouth shut, even if that means wallowing in the spaces between words as your deponent searches for the perfect phrasing. Like the best actors in television, refrain from overlapping your lines. Clarity is the goal.
As stated above, clarity is the goal of court reporting in every case. Transcribing verbatim. Therefore, assist the path to clarity by avoiding or clarifying tricky grammatical traps like “too” vs. “two”. Speak precisely, and wherever there’s a possibility for confusion, explain it; spell out unusual names or common names with unusual spelling.
3. Prep The Court Reporter Prior
Context is very important to understanding what someone is saying. Why is it that we can have a conversation with a colleague next to a jackhammer, miss 80% of the words they spoke but still know what they said, but that guy who calls and just starts rambling into your ear before you find your bearings is somehow unintelligible under the murmur of the office and fluorescent hum? The answer is context.
Prepping the court reporter with names of individuals and technical terms likely to come up during the deposition beforehand will allow them to pick out those words and names that would otherwise be marked indiscernible in a flurry of fast speach and interjections.
It is too tempting to think of the stenographer as a tape recorder, an inanimate fixture. But, the truth is, they are an asset to your case. The court recorder is creating your official record. It’s in your best interest to provide them all of the assistance you can to ensure the record is accurate.