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President's Message -- Spring 2023 -- The Changing Landscape

20 Apr 2023 1:27 PM | Christopher Reho (Administrator)

What comes to mind when you read the title of my first President’s Message?  Artificial intelligence and digital recorders replacing stenographers? 

Have you heard the news that the Stenograph MaxScribe product can now realtime?  MaxScribe is Stenograph’s artificial intelligence software.  This is the advertisement taken directly from Stenograph’s website:

MAXScribe is a new product from Stenograph which is designed for the digital court reporting and legal transcription industry. It combines multi-channel or single-channel audio with our industry-leading knowledge of editing tools specialized for efficient editing and transcript creation, increasing the number of pages that can be produced per hour by up to 50%.

Unlike the competition, it is the only software that provides multi-channel recording, annotation, Phoenix ASR engine, and advanced editing features within a single application, providing the complete solution for digital reporters, transcribers, and agencies from recording to production. By using MAXScribe, certified digital reporters can double their earnings and certified transcribers can increase their efficiency by up to 50%.

Multi-channel recording, annotations, realtime streaming, editing and layout, combined with the integration with Stenograph’s CaseViewNet®, RealTeam™, and YesLaw® make MAXScribe a true end-to-end solution for digital reporters. 

AutoScript is another such software by VoiceScript.  From their website they tout: “Advanced legal speech recognition online platform and powerful desktop editing tool leveraging the latest breakthroughs in AI technologies to produce high-quality transcripts.”

Sindie Bragg, VCRA Director, spoke at VCRA’s MAR Ed Day on March 18, 2023, about AutoScript.  She personally tested out this product against a digital recording from one of her proceedings in federal court.  She said, “It’s pretty accurate.”

Now, after reading about MAXScribe and AutoScript, I want to share this article by a company called Calloquy.  I am only publishing a portion of it here and have permission to do so:  Alex Murdaugh Transcript Snafu Gives New Regard for (Human) Court Reporters’ Reliability by Calloquy, Feb 28, 2023.

In a trial evocative of a Shakespearean tragedy, when Circuit Court Judge Clifton B. Newman, presiding over the murder trial of Alex Murdaugh, sought to ascertain the “why” of how a prior day’s trial transcript was, as Defense Attorney Dick Harpootlian described it, a “deficit product” and “not of much use,” the wherefore was astonishingly simple: a human court reporter did not produce it.

The transcript, riddled with incorrect testimony or omissions from the day’s testimony and replaced with designations of “inaudible,” was produced by a company using a digital recorder and not a licensed court reporter. South Carolina court reporter and Grand Strand Young Professional of the Year, Lauren A. Balogh, RPR, said with regard to the Murdaugh snafu, “This is truly another example of why digital reporting should not have a place in the courtroom. The importance of using an NCRA [National Court Reporters Association] certified court reporter is critical in order to maintain the integrity and accuracy of a transcript.”

The NCRA maintains a partial list of other such digital failures available here (https://www.thejcr.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/Failure-Doc-Edited_February_11_2023.pdf). Link to video:  https://www.thejcr.com/2023/02/13/digital-failure-noted-in-major-south-carolina-trial/

There are two common elements to these two articles:  Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR).  Our CAT softwares--ProCat, DigitalCat, Eclipse, Case Catalyst--all use AI when providing instant brief suggestions, for instance.  The latest version of Eclipse is touting it can fill in the words a stenographer drops.  A couple of my colleagues have said they’ve tried it out and it’s not accurate, but it exists and will improve by learning as you use it, according to the software vendors.

The court reporting landscape is changing rapidly.  AI has been here for some time, but now reporting schools that only used to offer steno programs are now offering digital recording programs.  Software companies that used to only provide steno products are now providing digital recording products. 

I dare you to Google what is digital court reporting to see what pops up - what the normal consumer will find on the web.  It’s not just one or two companies offering digital services; it is many!  It is everywhere we turn.

We can’t deny there is a shortage of stenographers and voice writers.  There are firms across the United States who have no choice but to turn to digital recording to cover their calendars.  What does that mean for our profession?  It means our competition, digital recording, is in demand, is 100x stronger than it was only a few years ago.  I wholeheartedly believe stenography and voice writing is in high demand as well.  Will we be replaced?  I do not believe so. 

However, when a client (an attorney) decides who to hire, a digital recorder or a stenographer or a voice writer, what is their decision based on?  That is a question each of us needs to answer based on where we live.  It may be based on price.  It may be based on “no choice” because that’s the only offering.  It may be based on a personal relationship or personal preference from personal experience.

Please ask yourself: What sets me above my competition?  If you’re a stenographer, your fellow stenographers are your competitors, but so are your fellow voice writers and digital recorders. 

You have heard me say this before if you know me well:  Realtime will set you apart from the rest.  I know many areas of Virginia do not use real time, but are you writing as a real-time reporter?  I believe this will set you apart.  It will also help you produce your transcripts faster, giving you more time to do the things you love to do.

Don’t wait to become a better voice writer or a better real-time stenographer.  Start now.  Start today.  Practice briefs every day and improve your skills.  I know from experience that that consistent, daily, “focused” practice will produce results.  You can become a real-time voice writer or stenographer if you start today and consistently work on your skills.  You must set yourself apart or you will get lost in the changing landscape within which we live.  

Let me end this article by taking a few moments to outline the goals I am hoping to lead the Board of VCRA to accomplish this year.  After our survey goes out and I hear from you, our membership, what you feel is important for VCRA to focus on, these goals may be tweaked:

  1. Promoting stenography and voice writing by: (i) Contacting high schools and promoting A to Z or Project Steno program, as well as the “Intro to Voice Writing” program that’s currently being created by NVRA; (ii) getting creative with social media, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.
  2. Educating the legal profession about the pitfalls of digital reporting and AI.
  3. Offering mini legislative bootcamps for our members to learn the importance of being involved with their legislators.
  4. Offering seminars to improve your stenography or voice writing skills.

Michele E. Eddy, CCR, RPR, CRR, CRI, Certified Realtime Systems Administrator

VCRA President

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