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An Open Letter to All Court Reporters

By: Deborah Smolinske

Hello. My name is Scopist. I am that otherwise nameless, faceless person who labors in obscurity to help you, Madam or Sir Court Reporter, produce the best possible transcript all the time, every time.

I know that when you hand off that transcript to me, you are literally entrusting me with your very livelihood. And I know that my profession would not exist if it were not for your profession. We stand in this endeavor side by side, equally talented, equally determined, and equally professional.

I am so honored that you are willing to put your trust in me. It makes me want to do everything in my power to earn and keep that trust. I would sooner cut off my own fingers than give you cause to regret that trust.

So I will listen to every word of audio if you ask me to -- and sometimes even if you don’t -- so that I can fill in the words that your tired and overworked fingers missed or inadvertently mangled. I will agonize with you over every period, comma, dash, and semicolon. I will cast my investigative net far and wide to pin down that elusive case cite Ms. Too-Full-of-Herself Attorney rattled off so carelessly that the only clearly discernable word is “Smith.” I will use every reference at my disposal to figure out that obscure medical term that the witness mangled beyond all recognition, even as he said it 50 times in 50 different ways. I will delve through every arcane text I can find to unearth the correct spelling and capitalization of that esoteric technical term that only a handful of human beings has ever spoken out loud.

And so that I may continue to meet your needs as efficiently, effectively, and excellently as possible, I will spend a goodly proportion of my free time gathering and filing away odd bits of information which might someday be useful to us both. I will continuously hone my skills with my editing software, and I will actively strive to stay up to date on other pertinent technology advances and innovations. I will subscribe and contribute to newsgroups, Facebook pages, and other information exchanges so that I can keep abreast of the latest in resources and techniques.

I know you expect the very best from me, and I demand nothing less of myself. Know that no matter how bad things get when you’re in the room struggling to take everything down, even if, for no reason you can discern, you suddenly start writing as if you’re wearing mittens, or you experience technical difficulties, or the judge is a jerk, the attorney is an idiot, the witness is an arrogant piece of work, I will be there for you. I will always have your back. I don’t care that 99.99% of the world doesn’t know that I exist and doesn’t understand what my job title means; I only care that you know.

So treat me with decency and respect, recognize that the rates I have set are a reflection of the level of skill and expertise I bring to the table, pay them without resentment or argument, let me know to my face if you have an issue with my work product, and you will have a willing and contented working partner, one who will always go the extra mile for you and never let you down, until one or the other of us retires or the Zombie Apocalypse occurs, whichever comes first.

And together we will enrich both our working lives and sleep sound every night in the knowledge that we are fortunate enough to work in this exciting, frustrating, dynamic, challenging, fascinating, important field. Our legal system is one of the most valuable aspects of our society. And without us and our mutual skills and talents, there would be no permanent record of some of the most important moments in human history.

We are the textbook definition of symbiosis. Let us continue to encourage and support each other with grace and dignity, because sometimes we are the only ones who will!