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TechCon responds to NCRA members' thirst for technology training

December 21, 2011

From iPads to interactive realtime, technology is changing constantly. Court reporting professionals need to stay up-to-date on these advances — as if their profession depended on it.

The reason to gain more knowledge and, ultimately, more power from technology becomes apparent. At the rate that technology changes every month — or even daily — reporters need to keep an eye on new technologies that can be offered or adopted to work in their favor. TechCon, to be held February 24-26, will bring industry leaders to talk about the latest in legal technology.

The event, held February 24-26, will be the first gathering to bring together court reporters, Certified Legal Video Specialists, trial presentation professionals, lawyers, and legal technology professionals in the country. Professionals will not only learn from each other but also about new technologies and applications. TechCon will include numerous workshops and special programs, including the CLVS seminar, the Trial Presentation Workshop, and the Realtime Systems Administrator Workshop.

Jim Woitalla, RDR, CRI, notes why technology is so important to court reporters. "The trend in every business is to add more layers of technology and to use it to provide more value and efficiency. Our clients are adopting technologies that they expect us to interface with. It's our job, if we want to be relevant and continue providing services, to stay current on what's happening out in the field and anticipate what the next step is."

Kevin Hunt, RMR, CRR, has an interesting take on its importance: "If we want to consider ourselves a profession, look at what other professionals do with keeping up with their technology. Do you think that architects don't know how to use CAD programs? Brain surgeons don't know how to use the latest in robotic operation technology? Lawyers don't know how to use Lexis/Nexis? You look at the 'tools' of any profession, and the best in that profession utilize the tools at their command to their utmost." Hunt adds that reporting may be one of the last professions where you can "hide" your technological shortcomings, because the transcript ultimately is what clients judge court reporters by. "If we want to prolong our profession's relevance, the provision of realtime and the use of all of the tools in our bag in efficiently producing the transcript are our best guardians in ensuring that we continue to be the Keeper of the Record."

Woitalla, who will speak on interactive realtime at TechCon, doesn't mince words when talking about the fate of hard copy transcripts. "They're on their way out, and digital files are on their next wave in. Hard copies, while being portable and highlightable, still take up physical room and are not easily shared within a firm. Digital/electronic files are easily passed between litigation team members and experts, and with the next round of markup programs, you can get the equivalent of a highlighted hard copy in soft copy format." Interactive realtime, Woitalla adds, is an invaluable service reporters can provide to clients and can save time by being more efficient. "You can get clients for life by offering realtime services, either locally in the same conference room or courtroom, or streaming to their experts or associates and support staff who aren't physically present."

To take it a step further, Woitalla says to be on the lookout for iPads and tablets to be the next "gotta have" items for attorneys, which will make transcripts more portable and realtime more usable. Ron Cook, CCR, RMR, CRR, CBC, who also plans to speak at TechCon, says tablets are becoming more prevalent, and attorneys are more likely to have them in hand at depositions and other proceedings. In fact, using this technology might lead to more business opportunities for court reporting professionals. Cook adds, "If we have the capability of providing realtime to their iPads, they will be more inclined to request realtime than if we have to try (oftentimes unsuccessfully) to hook up their laptops." Cook continues, "As we should recognize by now, realtime is our future, and we need to take advantage of whatever tools are at our disposal to stay on the cutting edge of technology."

When it comes to new technologies, the apps available on smart phones and tablets have been growing every day. And the ability to connect with clients and colleagues is stronger than ever, thanks to a variety of social networking sites. Kathryn Thomas, RMR, CCP, makes a strong case for using them as a tool for business. "Online social networking is not a fad, it's not a trend, and it's not something only young people do. You have access to a worldwide network of colleagues, experts, clients, and friends to consult, and you don't have to wait for a convention to meet them." Thomas will talk more about social networking and why it's so important for court reporters at TechCon.

For more information about TechCon or to register for the event, visit http://www.ncra.org/techcon.