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I was talked into taking a doctor deposition that I did not want. I was told by the agency that the hiring attorney spoke very quickly, and not to stop her. I didn't want to take the job, but the agency was panicked, so I agreed. She said to bring a recording device, and make absolutely sure not to ask the attorney to repeat anything, or to slow her down. This was at the hiring attorney's request.
Well, fast-forward to the deposition. During the job, the attorney was speaking so fast that I was dropping entire sentences. I began to panic, because I was instructed not to stop her. Any experienced reporter knows that sometimes, our audio can fail or be distorted, so frankly, I was worried.
A different agency told me not to stop attorneys on the admonitions or on the stipulations because you can piece it together later. I had a job recently where the attorney was speaking so fast, that you literally could not tell one word from the other. And opposing counsel was giving me sideways glances like, "I know you're not getting this." And I wasn't. I've been trained not to stop the attorneys during the admonitions.
I've heard horror stories about attorneys' reactions to court reporters slowing them down. What is the best approach to slowing down a fast-speaking attorney? Do you take a break and do it, or do you confront them right there?
Have you seen this article? It addresses this topic a bit.
Good article. It's not what's happening out there in reality. Unfortunately, the majority of attorneys don't really care. I think a lot of reporters have learned to write faster by writing shorter and shorter, more briefs. But sometimes they speak so fast we cannot understand some of the words they are saying. Maybe we should start giving them transcripts with more missing words we were not able to write!
And though I have not been asked to "not interrupt" certain attorneys, I would not take a job where I was instructed to do that. Let someone else cover it. It's just awful to sit there and get run over because they are talking 270 to 300 WPM and we have spend three times a long editing the job from our audio.
I always try to be as polite and professional as I can when interrupting, but also firm in my request.
So true, Kerry.
I write short, but even still, sometimes I can't keep up! I miss the good old days where I would produce a transcript that I barely had to edit because it was so clean!
Christine, great article with some amazing insights.
Sheree, what happened on your doctor depo? Were you able to just rely on your audio and put the transcript back together?
I would refuse to take a depo where the attorney is adamant about NOT being interrupted. That's just impractical. Maybe after getting enough crappy transcripts back, she'd get it.
I'm sorry for the delay. I just saw this question today.
I was barely able to piece the doctor depo together. I had to replay the audio over and over again to try to figure out what she was saying. It was one of the worst jobs I've ever been on. I truly believe that some attorneys actually have speech impediments that they cannot control.
This doctor job was a nightmare that will never be repeated. I will never allow something like that to happen again. It was just atrocious!
To give you your answer: There is no easy answer. I'd try to do it at a break. On the record if it's ridiculous.
After suffering through two horrendously fast/awful depos this past year where I was incredibly stressed out - and the attorneys and/or parties didn't care at all - I have renewed my efforts to stop them on the record every time it gets out of hand. During one depo I told the attorneys and their clients I would not be able to certify the transcript if all five people in the room continued to talk (yell and scream) at the same time.
If there's lots of crosstalk, I say: "One at a time." Then read the last thing I have.
So fast you can't understand them? During proceedings, just ask them to repeat the word you didn't understand unless you know you can clarify with them later. "excuse me. 238?" Say "excuse me" rather than "I'm sorry" even though it's ingrained in most of us. It's not our fault.
If the agency tells you not to stop them, do not agree to do it. If they're desperate, tell them you can take the deposition but you will stop them if you're not getting the record. Refuse to take this particular attorney again ever. I know other reporters have most likely done so.
The agencies need to tell the law firms that they cannot do this. It doesn't matter if they have a recording. A California reporter could lose their license if someone brings it the Board's attention and their transcript doesn't match their stenographic notes. A member of the California Court Reporters board said exactly this at a recent seminar.
If you are typing from a recording, you should change your certificate page to say something about "transcribing from an audio record and stenographic means" rather than being taken down stenographically.
When attorneys at depos brag about how fast they speak, I tell them about a great comment a reporter posted on Facebook. If I write 200 words per minute and you talk 300 words per minute, tell me what 100 words PER MINUTE you want me to drop.
You transcript oesn't match your notes? You mean match the audio?
I love the comment the reporter said. I'll have to use that one.
Me too. I've already memorized it!
Attorneys who know they speak fast, for the agency to know this and to then instruct that the reporter not interrupt the attorney is an ABSURD request/instruction. I would not take a job under these circumstances for any amount of money. It's just not worth the extra time and frustration. We have a very PRECISE job to do, and we all try to do the best we can to get the best record we can. If any attorney has a problem with that and complain, I'm more than happy to not go back, and I'm sure, in every case, I DON'T WANT to go back anyway. And shame on the agencies that don't back the reporter up in this situation. This is one of my PET PEEVES. The DFW article is absolutely right: WE ARE NOT MACHINES. If they don't want to be interrupted, they should speak at an intelligible speed and enunciate every single word clearly. Otherwise, bring a tape recorder, and you won't be interrupted.
Oh, as to the attorney who commented, "I know you're not getting this," I would be honest and say: "I'm not, but I was given instruction not to interrupt. The record will have [unintelligible] at all instances where I couldn't understand or hear something."
Bring a tape recorder, right, and then let them try and make a transcript from that! And nine times out of ten, if the reporter can't make out a word, it won't be clear later from the audio either.