When I was in college, I learned the technical skill of writing machine shorthand. While machine shorthand is technically the skill you need to be a court reporter, there are many other skills a court reporter needs. Some lessons can only be learned by experience, particularly when it comes to customer service and client relationships.
Recently an attorney arrived at our scheduled deposition and thanked me for being at the conference room early, making sure the room was open and all ready to go. He then proceeded to tell me of an unfortunate set of circumstances that had happened to him recently. After telling me the story, the attorney asked me, if I were the court reporter in the situation, what would I do. Here is the story he told me:
What Would You Do?
The attorney arrives at a deposition with his very good client and a court reporter. The conference room they will use is furnished by the court reporter’s firm. Upon arrival, the conference room is occupied by other parties who refuse to leave.
The attorney, embarrassed this is happening in front of his client, turns to the court reporter to see what she is going to do. Her firm arranged the location so he assumes she will take part in finding a new room. She simply shrugs her shoulders. The attorney asks the court reporter to find someone to talk to so they can get another room ASAP. The reporter leaves to do that, comes back in 10 minutes and says there is another room available, she just has to get the keys and have someone open it up. The reporter leaves again.
In the meantime, the attorney and his client, while waiting, notice an elderly man with a walker and an oxygen tank making his way up a set of stairs, very slowly and arduously. About halfway up, he falls down the stairs. He picks himself up and goes to an office nearby to fill out an incident report. He then comes back out and proceeds to start his long process of going up the stairs again, with his walker and oxygen tank. As the attorney and his client continue to watch, the man finally makes it up the stairs, goes down the hall, and proceeds to open up the door to the conference room with a set of keys – the same conference room for which the reporter was fetching keys.
The reporter finally returns with someone to open up a different conference room and the deposition commences after a 45-minute wait. The attorney is frustrated that it took so long to get a room so they can begin the deposition.
What I Would Do
When this attorney told me this story, he asked me what I would do if I were the reporter.
I said I would immediately get on the phone to my office to enlist help in finding a room that we could use as soon as possible. As a court reporter, I want to provide excellent customer service for my attorney client. If the room arrangements were made by my firm, it is reasonable to expect that, in the event a room was unexpectedly not available, I would do everything possible to procure an alternative location. My firm has staff available during business hours who can immediately begin to resolve the situation.
I also would make sure my office knows what happened at this conference room location so they can be aware of it when they are scheduling any other depositions in that location. If this situation were to happen again, I would want to come prepared with the knowledge of what is our nearest alternative space and how we can access the space quickly.
Reporters should always be looking for ways to make clients’ lives easier and certainly not cost them time and money or embarrassment in front of their clients. While we can’t anticipate every problem that may occur, we can work as quickly as possible to rectify the situation or find an alternative.