Job shadowing Teresa Forbes

Today, I got to job shadow Teresa Forbes for the second time. She’s a realtime court reporter who has worked for many many years. The first time I heard of her was actually the very first day I also saw a steno machine demonstration and tried out one for the first time. It was at the Open House in March of 2009 at my court reporting school. I had called ahead of time for the 5 pm slot, and when I got there, I sat in a room to wait for the demonstration to start. I remember sitting there with other potential students and reading through the information package that they gave us. In this info package was also articles about successful court reporters, and in the featured article was Teresa Forbes. (This was the exact article I read. ) Who would have known that one day I’d get to job shadow her?  

It seems that the world is small, but in fact, the steno community really is indeed that small. Every network counts and anything you say and do has an impact on you in this field whether you know it or not.  Since that initial encounter on print, I’ve seen her at various events and job shadowing experiences.  I had spoken to her a few times and made small talk too.  I remember one time when I passed by the room she was working in and said hi and she complimented me on my attire that day. 🙂 She’s one of the most respected realtime reporters in Toronto and has her RMR, CRR, and CSR.

The first time I shadowed Teresa (2 weeks ago), it was for 2 days on a case involving a vehicle accident. The case was pretty interesting, and the speakers spoke quickly which really kept my fingers moving. There were around 8-10 people in the room. I remember that there was a certain point after the lunch break where it felt like I was writing on a cloud. Those of you who steno probably know what I mean– your sitting position, height of the chair, desk, and steno machine all factor into the comfortableness. On some days, you’ll feel tired more quickly because you’re not positioned well and on other days, you feel like you could write forever. This was one of those days. It just felt like my fingers were exactly doing what I wanted them to do without thinking; the words were just flowing. Writing on a cloud — so amazing 🙂 Unfortunately, the second day was a longer day and I was unable to return to my “cloud state”. I enjoyed the speed challenge though.

Fast forward to today’s examination for discovery. The case was only for one day, and although it was originally scheduled from 10 am to 2 pm, the lawyer e-mailed the reporting agency to push the case to start at 1 pm instead (this meant I got to sleep in this morning. Yay!). We only ended up sitting for 40 minutes. Shortest examination for discovery I’ve ever been in! Haha, so funny. This also meant that I was able to chat a bit with Teresa after the case. Since the case was so short and because the lawyers spoke so slowly, not a lot of pages were recorded.  Teresa had 23 pages; I had 18, so I dropped a little bit. After the case was done, Teresa looked her transcript over, made a couple of notes on it, and then sent it immediately to her proofreader who would wrap up the transcript. It would be sent to the agency and then to the clients who ordered it. Both sides ordered it today. 🙂  Other than Teresa and I, there were only 3 other people in the room.  This was not only the case where they spoke the slowest, but also the one with the fewest people.  It was quite refreshing because all of the other cases I’ve been on have had at least 4 people.  I remember the very first time that I had shadowed a court reporter, the whole room was full — at least 10 people.  I was intimidated to say the least!  Since the lawyer, counsel, and witness were all quite slow in speech today, I got to work on my accuracy more than to try to keep up with what they were saying.  This is not to say that I don’t usually focus on accuracy, but the pace was very comfortable and I was really able to get in every single word.  I’ve noticed that people usually don’t speak this slow, so it was quite nice.

Once Teresa had sent in her transcript to her proofreader and he/she had confirmed receipt of it, I asked her a few questions and we chatted about steno in general.  It worked out that the case ended early so the transcript was short and so that we could chat without worrying about the traffic that would greet us during rush hour.  I asked Teresa what theory she learned when studying to be a court reporter and she said she attended a school called RETS, and that there wasn’t a specific theory that she could remember.  Since she’s been in the industry for so many years, she said she’s also picked up certain briefs and phrases from students that have shadowed her, like Phoenix Theory and others.  That was cool to know.  Teresa said that the goal to succeed is just to practice.  “Practice lots.  As much as you can,” was her answer when I asked her approximately how much she practiced.  She advised to slow down your writing so that you can improve your accuracy.  There is no point in practicing to a fast dictation if your fingers are flying all over the place.  When you slow down your writing, then you will slowly be able to write the words automatically when you hear them.  That is the key to it all.  When she was telling me this, I agreed.  I actually know this already.  I have witnessed myself passing speed tests consistently whenever I have used my Speed Plus books, which are my steno books that cater exclusively towards accuracy building.  Teresa said that it is “a skill that needs to be honed” and I wholeheartedly nodded and agreed.  There is no substitute for practicing and getting better at this.  She also said that sometimes practicing to the news or TV sitcoms help because when you listen to the fast speech, it helps your brain make sense of it all.  I, again, agree.  In fact, I’ve been probably having too much of this kind of speed practice and neglecting my accuracy practice.  I know this and I’m guilty of it (Darn you, Youtube!).  Also, she said to practice to a variety of different material so that you can increase your vocabulary.  Again, this is not a surprise.  I’ve heard other reporters and students recommend this as well.  She asked me what speed I was at, and after hearing that I was at 160 wpm, she said that it’s just a matter of practicing for me until I got to the magical number.  She commented that if a student can get to 120 wpm, then that student has already shown that he or she understand the concepts well enough to be able to continue to build speed.  All that matters afterwards is practice.

Finally, I asked her a few questions about court reporting in general.  She said that she sometimes gets read backs.  If there’s a name or term that she doesn’t know how to stroke, she writes it quickly on her notebook that she keeps to the left side of her during a pause so that she can ask the witness during a break or after the case.  I did indeed see her scribble down a few things during the case and then asking the witness for names and spellings afterwards.  I asked her, what happens if it’s a name or term that you don’t know how to pronounce?  How would you even ask it in that case?  She said that if that happened, she would actually ask the witness to come to her computer screen to confirm the spelling of it.

Before we left, Teresa showed me how to Power Define words.  This is possible by choosing the realtime commands translation dictionary on Case CAT and then whenever you steno /TKEF/TKEF on your machine, the Power Define window would pop up and then you would be able to define any word and have it apply to the entire transcript.  Teresa said she uses this function all the time and it saves her a lot of editing time.  This would be useful for defining names and company names.  Today, we had “LSG” come up a lot and instead of stroking this in three strokes, a Power Define would do the trick with just one stroke.  Also, Shift + F8 is used to edit the last untranslate.  While stenoing today, I’ve been curious as to what stroke/macro can be used so that you can edit straight from your steno machine.  I should find this out so that I can actually attempt to edit my transcript while stenoing at the same time at my next job shadowing experience.

And that’s it!  Looking forward to more job shadowing.  I’m actually craving it right now. I really like to see what the case is going to be about since everyday is different and the people are different.  I wish today’s case was longer than 40 minutes, but it was also neat to see that short sittings exist.  Until my next post, have a great night! 🙂

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