Build a Family as You Build a Firm – By Judy Stevens

I was honored and humbled by the JCR Award I received earlier this year for leadership and team-building. I have to say, though, that I truly enjoy working with this amazing group of men and women, which makes leadership and team-building an easy task. They’re all bright individuals who are professionals and love what they do.

Firm owners often get bogged down with the bottom line, the total billed income or commissions or whatever other number they track. Those things are important, no one will deny that, but if you lose focus on the people who make it all work and who truly affect that bottom line, then you lose sight of their true value. Even when I was still reporting, I always knew I couldn’t be everywhere, and I had to count on them to be the face of our company in the deposition suite or the courtroom.

court reporting denverOur job as firm owners is to encourage, support, and mentor those who work under us. Our profession is changing almost daily with new software, new updates, and new technologies available to us. If we don’t encourage our reporters to continue their education, update their software, and pay for their support packages, we’re doing them a disservice. I’m sure some of you are thinking that they should want those things, should do them on their own, and should not have to be encouraged or persuaded. However, the truth is many are worried about the costs of those updates and support packages, and they try to stretch their income dollars as far as possible. It’s up to us to point out that advanced technology is our future — their future. Memberships in NCRA, their local associations, and various user groups are where they’ll meet others with the same goals and aspirations. If we need to be a champion for those things, a cheerleader of sorts, so be it.

I currently have some reporters on our staff who don’t all have the credentials they should have. They’re excellent writers and excellent reporters, but they don’t feel keeping their credentials and education up to date is important. I recently started monthly in-house trainings on Saturdays with breakout sessions for each of the various CAT programs they use. Again, some say that’s the reporter’s responsibility, not the fi rm owner’s. You may be right, but I believe that our staff will appreciate and take advantage of this way of advancing their knowledge of their CAT programs and their efficiency when working within them. Plus, when has a little camaraderie hurt anyone?

Work with your staff , invest in them, and make them feel better and accomplished at what they do. If they think you’re harassing them or picking apart their work when you proofread behind them on a job, then they may not be the reporters you want to work with and to represent you. Choose the ones who thank you for taking the time to help them. The reporters who want to grow and learn will make that effort fruitful and enjoyable for you to invest your time and energies on them.

Our group goes to events together, like painting parties and charity events and fundraisers. Again, that’s investing in the relationships and in each person. We work hard together during the week, so relaxing together just solidifies our relationships. When I began reporting, we all worked in the reporting firm’s office. We each had our own office, and we dictated our transcripts with our notes being pulled through a note puller. (My daughter jokingly says dinosaurs were still roaming the earth back then, but it wasn’t quite that long ago.)

stenographers denver

When you came across a medical term or an engineering acronym that you didn’t know, you didn’t Google it; you leaned back in your chair and called out to the person across the hall from you. Maybe those humble beginnings instilled a need in me for the camaraderie that I now so enjoy and find so important. On any given day, we have many reporters coming in and out of the office. They’re turning in exhibits, picking up exhibits, covering work in one of our conference rooms, or working here on their on-call day. We encourage them to come in and work here if they want to.

We do have a sense of family, and I’m extremely proud of that. When I read some of the letters that were written for this JCR nomination, I was truly humbled at how much they obviously appreciate the inclusiveness we encourage and the family atmosphere we’ve developed.

Reporters who don’t fit in your firm’s culture and don’t want your coaching or any deeper relationship from you than a paycheck will be weeded out naturally. Those court reporters will always exist and will come and go from your firm. Invest in the ones who absorb direction and seek improvement in their skills. Be a leader and be their boss, but also be their friend, their confidant when needed, and, whether they’re 22 or 62, be their biggest cheerleader.