"When I get a realtime case, most of the time, I have no idea what it is over. I get no information on the case ahead of time."
This scenario can sometimes be quite the dilemma when being asked to provide realtime in a litigation setting. There are ways to sometimes research the type of work that a particular attorney or law firm generally covers, and/or sometimes you can find your witness on LinkedIn and get a head start that way. Sometimes, if it's a corporate representative, there is an "Exhibit A" attached to the notice, where it outlines the documents that the witness is to bring to the deposition. Oftentimes, that document can give you quite the eye into the lawsuit itself and possibly give you a basis to do a little further research. If it's a federal case, one option is to purchase a PACER account so that you have access to some of the motions and other things that have been previously filed in that case.
Being able to do a bit of research to try and find out what you might be getting yourself into is really smart!
I do know official court reporters who, at one time, at least, had access to and would look up the entire case file in the state system for an upcoming trial and pore through the information, making briefs for every word and phrase they could get their hands on. I never thought it was a good idea to actually do that, however. Making sure job-specific names are in my job dictionary phonetically with the correct spellings, sure; and making sure there isn't any terminology that will slip through the already-present entries of my personal dictionary, of course, is always wise. But making specific briefs for every name and term that may or may not ever come up? Hmmm, that can take a lot of brain power, and dare I say, for me, some of that brain power is being reserved for the concentration it takes for my basic realtime writing. For me, it also possibly ties up some of my obvious throw-away brief strokes that I might very well decide, on the job, that I really wished I would be able to use for something else that keeps coming up repeatedly!
I'm not saying it's always a bad idea, but think twice about how much prep you are doing in the way of briefs, and here's why:
If your dictionary and your writing are solid as to the basics, then the rest of it is, arguably, something you can adapt to in the heat of the moment. Are you going to get those technical words to come up the first time you write them if you've been given no prep or any hint at subject matter ahead of time? Um, maybe not, but if you have solid writing in every other way, then the only thing you're having to focus on in this RT proceeding are the new-to-you technical words. So the first time, it maybe comes up untranned. Or maybe the first time, it comes up tranned but in more than one stroke. But the second time it comes up, it's already in your dictionary, and in one stroke, and you're good to go. Next.
Generally speaking, the attorneys know what the technical words of their case are. If you stumble the first time you hear something and get it from there on out, the attorneys are going to have a usable, quality realtime transcript. If one of those hundreds of names from that court file comes up and you have it in your job dictionary written out, it's not a big deal to get it to tran phonetically when they first say it. If they repeatedly start to mention that name, however, then you know that it's one you are going to want to come up with a one-stroke brief for and get it defined on the fly ASAP -- yay, brain reserve power and common throw-away brief strokes saved for the actual and needed one-strokers!
Can you write a forced space, a delete space, a hyphen, a slash, a forced cap, a colon? Can you fingerspell and stitch words and acronyms? If your basic dictionary and writing style is solid, it doesn't matter whether it's tobacco or a field you've never heard of before. A solid basic dictionary and solid writing style have *everything* to do with being able to provide a solid basic RT product. The rest is where the additional skill comes in, where you get good at adapting to the stuff you're thrown into. It's when you're still fixing the basics of your writing along with that technical jargon at the same time that it becomes "impossible" to continue to thrive.
If you feel you can do commercial lit, for instance, but can't do other types of writing because your personal dictionary isn't built for it, then that just means in certain circumstances, you can skate; it doesn't mean you have solid realtime writing nailed down yet.
Allow me to state the obvious: The basics of your realtime writing are what you bring to the table for every single realtime job you write; the technical aspects of the job are going to vary every time.
Being able to prepare for a technical realtime proceeding and/or being able to adapt on the fly are advanced realtime techniques that can be enhanced in your skill set over time, for sure. They are not to be discounted whatsoever! The fact of the matter is, sometimes you're in a little deeper than at other times, whether it's because of lack of prep or really difficult technical matter or other circumstances. But the power of solid realtime writing will help you get through every single one of those situations that much easier and that much cleaner.
How solid is your basic realtime writing? If you have some work to do but don't really know where to start or are at a place where you're stuck, email me and let's talk!