Imagine you are on a New York street in the wee hours of the morning. As you walk by an alley, you see a man stabbing a woman and grabbing the purse she's clutching. She's near death from the many blows he's delivered. Do you scream, "Stop"? Do you yell for others to help? Do you attempt to fight off the attacker to save the woman before it's too late? Do you walk by and do nothing? Surely you would offer some kind of aid.
Why when you see people causing the death of our profession would you stay mute and do nothing to help?
Electronic recording has already taken over many of our courtrooms nationwide, and we are now seeing that freelance agencies are following suit. Court reporting agencies are soliciting electronic reporters with the promise of an fun and easy job with no legal experience necessary. Filling the seats that court reporters with educations and experience used to fill with people armed with nothing more than a tape recorder is the death of our future.
I am seeing an abundance of firm advertisements that offer gifts and rebates to attorneys that seemginly violate our Code of Ethics. These expensive gifts are either being funded by the working reporter or by the parties to the litigation. Instead of judgments ending up in the hands of injured litigants who need their judgments for living expenses, medical bills, and lost salaries, funds are being gobbled up in litigation expenses by firms who are basically stealing from the poor to entice the rich to utilize their services; it's a warped version of Robin Hood. Furthermore, these type of bribery to get business is shortsighted. If it's fair for one reporter, it's fair for all, and the end result of these gifting practices is a revolving door of clientele that is loyal only until they have a free gift in their hand; then it's on to the next reporter's offering. Such gifting programs stab at the heart of the integrity of our profession.
I'm screaming. I think it's time to fight. I need help.
It is time to educate attorneys on the difference between ER and stenographic reporters. Since many stenographic firms are utilizing both methods, attorneys may not even notice the absence of a machine underneath a conference table. Explain the dangers to your clients and ask them to notice their depositions "by stenographic means." Tell them how electronic recording affects the quality of the transcripts they receive. Explain about the dangers of their record being gone forever should the recording be lost or damaged.
Use your marketing skills. Design a leaflet that you can insert in with your transcripts that advertises the superiority of stenographic reporters. Utilize them to market your services and educate your clients on the importance of certification and membership with our professional organizations. If you come up with something clever along these lines, share your ideas with your colleagues. (Please see my post, entitled, "Army of One.")
Whether it be false advertising, unethical gifting practices, or contracting, any infraction eats away at our reputation as reporters. Don't turn away. These are your jobs, and part of your job is to protect against the appearance of impropriety. We already serve as guardians of the record. Why not take this a step further and be good stewards of the profession on a higher level? If someone in your area is violating the ethical code, who does that hurt? I suggest it hurts your pocketbook, it hurts your fellow reporters, and it damages the reputation of court reporters everywhere.
NCRA has come to the aid of many reporters in the past on a national level with battles on the topic of ER, and the recent PAO 45 is a step in the right direction, but I say we take our fight to the street level. One person might have a fighting chance against an attacker, but two people have an even better chance, three, four, five...