Opportunity Knocks -- Providing Daily Copy

Once I got a call asking if I'd like to be involved in a daily copy bench trial, which is a case presented in front of a judge instead of a 12-person jury for which the attorneys need transcripts of the proceedings by 8:00 p.m. that same night. No big deal. 

Not much was going at that moment, and I figured this chance might never come around again, so I said yes and started to brainstorm ways to make this thing happen.

My first inkling was to set up live transfer of work units through a file transfer program to a scopist for near-instant transcript output, but we went old-school and tried & true, agreeing
to rotate reporters in and out, edit on breaks, and put the transcript together at the end.

A dream team -- my two biggest steno mentors and I -- was eventually put together, strings of e-mails were sent, and dictionary entries made.  Snacks, oh yes; figuring out what healthy snacks to bring the day of was also discussed.  We met the night before for a practice run and to go over the plan for the next morning, including how to name our files for a seamless ASCII merge and the order in which we'd write. Lists of possible steno briefs were passed out, a master spelling key started, and everybody got their printer software set up at that time too.  So you've heard the phrase, "a watched pot doesn't boil?"  Yeah, that but with installing printer drivers.

After making sure that we could all hook up our equipment in order to put together these transcripts in time, all headed home to attempt to get a good night's sleep.  My brain hadn't quite gotten the message, though, and I instead spent the night and into the wee hours of the morning tossing and turning, thinking of all the things I needed to remember in the next day, and visions of job briefs danced through my head instead of fluffy sleep-bringing sheep.

The next morning, my loving husband baristaed me up a fair trade maple latte, a hearty breakfast, packed my lunch, and generally encouraged me, saying that everything was going to go well, which I already knew, but it was sure nice to hear again.

I arrived an hour before the start time to make sure I had all my equipment in place, figure out the seating chart once I knew who everybody was, and to speak to the team members present and make any final arrangements.

The reporter who was the first to write that day went from 8:30 to approximately 10:30, which is when I tagged in. I have to admit I almost chickened out after watching from the media room her having to read back three to four times and deal with wandering witnesses, tough acoustics, and interruptions; but what else is a mentor for, if not to encourage and remind the mentee that they've prepared for this and are ready?

A quote comes to mind:  "You'll always miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take."  I took the shot, by golly, it went in! I nailed three or four of my own read-backs and was able to politely interrupt when necessary to make sure what was said was written down into the official record. Thank goodness for key job briefs, which, if not for them, I would have been lost like in a Roadrunner/Wiley E. Coyote-style dust cloud.

I slept much better that next night, mostly from sheer exhaustion. I had a little bit later of a start time the second day, produced my portion of the transcript quickly, and was unexpectedly called on to write a second section of the proceedings in the last time slot, a stretch which was challenging but doable. If it were baseball, I was being asked to take the plate as the bases were loaded and sent the runners home.

The operation went really well, and we all took ownership of various parts of the process.  One person kind of coordinated the onsite efforts, as she had done many dailies before; while my other mentor was integral to scheduling and putting things together leading up to game day.

Where did I come in, you ask?  My niche was as the go-getter tech expert, as I was able to effectively troubleshoot some production issues relating to our different CAT systems, and a team player with a willingness to learn and be helpful & positive wherever I could.

Day 1 was a success, and by day 2, the material was more familiar, my writing was cleaner, and editing went smoothly, and we finished essentially on time.

One very helpful technique was having three sets of eyes looking over the final product at different points in the process to make sure we hadn't missed anything. Trading proofreading was effective, though there will always be those little differences in opinion on how to punctuate things that we'll never agree on no matter how many sources are cited.

Bleary-eyed but satisfied, we left the building those nights knowing that we'd done our best and produced quality transcripts that the attorneys would rely on for the next few days of trial.

Sometimes we are presented with opportunities, which don't knock twice, that are character-building and will test our fortitude, the figurative lemons of life experience.  The trick is to dream big, prepare, follow the recipe, add some sweetness, and if all goes according to plan, you'll come out with refreshing lemonade at the end. (Lemon bars would be a good choice too.)