I’ve blogged before about what court reporters look for in a good proofreader, but with this interview I wanted to go a little bit deeper.
I’ve already talked to the proofreader’s boss. Now I want to talk to the court reporter’s boss — the attorney!
Melody Mahusay is a construction litigation attorney in Florida and, although she’s not practicing currently, she’s still actively licensed to do so. In addition to being an attorney, she’s also a new student in the course Transcript Proofreading: Theory and Practice™, so I was curious to learn more about Melody’s personal experience with court reporters and what piqued her interest in proofreading.
bombarded her with questions interviewed her.
Let’s dive in!
Hi, Melody! Tell us about you and your background as an attorney.
I started my legal practice in 1995 and worked up until 2004. I did commercial litigation, which is an area of law in which the attorney represents different businesses in all kinds of disputes. For example, if Walmart had a dispute with one of its suppliers, we would represent one side or the other in that dispute. During the course of my practice, I took countless depositions and attended multiple court hearings almost every week. I was also involved with many full-length trials. Because of that, I worked with many court reporters.
So you’ve worked with court reporters a lot! Awesome. Tell us about your experience with court reporters. What makes a great court reporter? What makes a not-so-great court reporter?
I have worked with court reporters all over the place, both in person and over the phone. A great court reporter is one who shows up on time, does great work and almost fades into the background. I was very blessed to work with lots of wonderful court reporters over the years. The best ones did real-time reporting and had super fast turn-around times with transcripts. They are quite professional so I don’t have any stories about bad reporters. A couple of times super early in my practice, when I was still learning, a court reporter also saved my back side on procedural stuff that they see all the time. Guess I got lucky!
How does proofreading tie into your experience with court reporters and their transcripts? Is proofreading just kind of important, or is it always necessary?
Proofreading is a critical component of the practice of law in general because of all the reading and writing that we do. With respect to transcripts, both lawyers and judges spend an extraordinary amount of time reading them. It is irritating and distracting when there are errors. They interrupt the flow and are disruptive to comprehension and retention. In addition, what is in those transcripts is there to stay. If there is an error now, there will be one 20 years from now when someone comes back to look at it. Yikes!
What kinds of things could happen if a transcript comes to you riddled with errors?
If a transcript ever came back to me with lots of errors, particularly if it happened more than once, I would have not hired that reporter again. Court reporters charge quite a bit for their work, and they should because they work hard. If their output is sloppy, they aren’t worth the money. Repeated multiple errors in transcripts could also ultimately make me look like an idiot in front of my clients, other lawyers and the court. If I care so little about the court reporter’s work, I’m probably pretty sloppy with everything else too.
So you’ve taken a break from your work as an attorney. What are you doing now with your legal knowledge?
I have been retired from the practice of law for 11 years. During that time, I totally changed it up and did direct sales for 10 of those years. Over the last year, I didn’t do any type of work outside the home. Instead, I have been caring full time for my three kids and trying to be a good wife! Over the last few weeks though, I started thinking about doing something new. I didn’t want to work outside the home and my family didn’t want me to do that either. I literally stumbled upon the transcript proofreading course in a totally random Pinterest search. I have always been the one to whom people bring their reports, papers, brochures and bulletins to proofread. Because this particular niche in proofreading deals directly with legal matters, it is within my area of expertise so I don’t have as many words to look up on Google!
In addition, I have started the proofreading course and have been impressed with the quality of the course materials, the breadth of topics covered, and with Caitlin. I’m looking forward to see how the next few months unfold!
We think it’s awesome to have another attorney join our proofreader community (yes, we’ve got a few!). Melody’s extensive litigation background — especially in the area of construction — bodes well for her future as a proofreader. She’s also a highly valued member of our Facebook group — which means we also have fewer words to look up on Google 😉
LOOOOOOVED this interview! Melody, you inspired me so much here. I’m a veterinarian and I love so much that you used the word “retire”. I’m going to start saying that instead of “I’m no longer practicing” because I’m SO done with Veterinary Medicine. ? Anyway, I’m so happy to see someone “like me” who has chosen another career path in order to do what’s best for their family. I have found that it takes courage and a thick skin to walk away from a professional career but it is so worth it. Thanks for sharing!
Of course! I think I heard somebody else say it so I grabbed it from them. I get being “done” with it. People often ask me if I want to go back and at least at this point, I can’t see it. I won’t say never — I’m too old to do that anymore — but I will say that it’s unlikely. Congratulations on following your heart! You go, girl.
Melody – Wouldn’t your background as an attorney afford you opportunities with higher pay and the same flexibility? Please accept my apologies if this is too personal of a question. My question is more selfish in nature since I’m in the middle of the course and new the to the field; so I’m trying to get an understanding of the opportunity.
No worries, Amy. Yes – I could do some other things at a higher level of pay. There is an abundance of contract work available for attorneys. One of the reasons I left the practice of law though was that I was never finished and the stakes were always very high. The stress level was commensurate with the higher level of pay. Too, I was a litigator and the hours were very long even when I cut back toward the end of my practice. As a practical matter too, I have been out of the practice for 10 years plus. It would take a very significant investment of time, energy, and money for me to get back up to a level where I would feel comfortable having someone paying me $200.00 per hour for my representation. Hope that helps a bit.
Thank you so much for your answer. I’m so grateful for what you bring!! I realized after asking my question, it might have come off rude. I’m sorry for that and grateful for your openness.
I didn’t think your question was rude at all. It was a good question!
Hi Melody, it’s good to hear your insight. I am in my second year of practice as a lawyer and like you, have always been known to be a great proofreader and one that everyone comes to for help. I also was an editor of the law journal at my law school and a TA for a legal writing professor, so I think I have some pretty good proofreading experience outside of my current day to day work.
Like most recent law school grads, I’m pretty much drowning in my student debt right now and trying to figure out ways to help myself. I was thinking taking on remote part-time proofreading jobs that I could do after my regular work hours might be right up my alley but I didn’t know if it would be worth exploring this possibility. Do you have any insight or advice you could offer?
Congratulations on your recent graduation! That’s exciting. I think the answer to your question is probably more complex than what I can tell you in a short reply here. I would recommend that you assess your energy level. When I was first starting up the practice of law, I was mentally spent by the end of the day so doing something related to the practice wouldn’t have been a good answer for me for extra cash at the time. I would have needed a break from it. If you love it and want to pour it on, certainly you would have a leg up on the lingo in transcript proofreading. You might also find you learn quite a bit on techniques and strategies from seeing what other, more experienced lawyers do in depos and hearings. Don’t mean to sound like a lawyer here, but it depends. 🙂
Thanks for still keeping me in the loop with your emails. I am not on Facebook and don’t see what is posted there. I hope to be able to start the course in August, if there are openings.
Hi, Cindy! The course is self-paced and will be here for you whenever you are ready. 😀
How do I sign up for this course?
Julie, you can click here to sign up for the free intro course. Hope that helps! 🙂
Really enjoyed reading about the courageous women who left their 9-5 to stay home with their family. The competition is getting stiff out there ladies and gents! 🙂 with this caliber of proofreaders. Thank you for sharing about your legal journey and where it has taken you because it will help others.
Bit late saying this, but as a former court reporter for 14 years and now seeing a former attorney register for Caitlyn’s class is a testimony to the value she is offering. Experienced people as well as newbies need to prove we know what we know and what better way than Caitlyn’s class.
Thanks for the article/interview. As a now non-practicing Atty myself, considering this career opportunity as a means to have income and flexibility for my family’s needs, I’m very interested to receive more detail and data about there being adequate work and earnings potential. Do you have any insight or statistics yet about the industry’s need for transcript proofreaders, and the range that proofreaders charge for such work? Is it based on page, word count, time spent? Can you guide me to any resources beyond Caitlyn’s course materials?
Hi Chanda! I’ve been proofreading for just over a year now. From what I have encountered, there is more work to be read than proofreaders to read it! My clients are from all over the US, and I have about five who keep me very busy. In fact, I just had to let go of two. One of my reporters told me that there was a shortage of reporters in her courthouse, so she was getting called in for more work. This meant she’d be sending me more work since she wouldn’t have the time to proofread some of it herself anymore. This is common in the US right now.
Proofreaders generally charge by the page, and many reserve the right to charge extra for messier work that takes them more time to proofread.
I don’t know of any other course which teaches transcript proofreading. I don’t think there is one; however, you can buy the grammar books online.
Hope this helps!
I thought you might be more comfortable about how much work is available if you hear from more people. I completed the course August 2015, and now in August 2016, I know there is plenty of work out there.
When you consider that a reporter is physically spending the hours writing, then he/she might scope his/her own notes, fill in, research, and verify everything, they know they cannot be accurate then for the final proofing. Those who hire a scopist vary whether they feel the need for the additional expense of a separate proofreader. In my experience, the best reporters who are really working a lot are happy to pay for something they do not have time for if they want a life.
Each time I find myself with less work than I want or need it is because I stopped seeking new clients. Sure I have three or four whom I consider my bread and butter, but it seems they end up with cancellations or a few days off all at the same time, so it is always best to be on the “list of excellent proofreadersI can call as needed” of several good reporters. When you are able turn down jobs occasionally because you are too busy, you are probably earning what you desire.
I won’t get rich doing this, but I am earning a decent wage and paying my bills. At the same time I have the freedom to say “no” when I want to plan time for myself.
I highly recommend proofreading for court reporters if you are self-disciplined, hard-working, flexible and reliable. It is up to each of us to make the most of our skills, and this course showed me how to do that.
I hope this helps. Good luck.
I have just now received three replies to my inquiry, and just wanted to say thank you to those that already replied, as well as to throw that may yet reply. I really appreciate the time and thought that you all contributed. 🙂
Ugh! How embarrassing – please excuse that typo above! Typing on my phone…
Chanda – I can only tell you about my own personal experience. I have slowly built up my clientele, and don’t have an overabundance of work. For me, that is by design. My husband owns his own business and I have responsibilities there, I have three children in three different schools, I teach piano lessons, voice lessons, and I proofread. With all that going on, I have not attacked marketing. If I went after it, I could tear it up, and so could you. We are lawyers; we are wired that way. You are not going to make as much money as you did practicing law, particularly if you were in private practice. You will be able to make money. How much is going to be related to hard hard you work to get your name out there and ultimately, of course, the quality of your work. Hope that helps.
I am so happy your interview was shared with us. I have been a licensed attorney for 14 years–the first 10 as a litigator and the last 4 as a compliance professional. With the birth of my first child, I am eager to have more flexibility and pay off these student loans! I was initially concerned about the ability to replace my income with proofreading but it dawned on me that I can use proofreading to lower my expenses (become debt-free) and live more on my terms.
I’m so motivated now! I plan to “retire” soon with my new skill.
You are welcome! I hope things are going well for you.
Looks like everyone was an attorney. What if you are just someone who used to do medical transcription or is just a good fast typist?
Many of our students are not attorneys. Prior legal experience is not a requirement for success in the course. Your familiarity with medical terminology is definitely helpful!
As a librarian with an MLIS, it’s reassuring to see other professionals with advanced degrees who are moving into this career path. It’s definitely helping me make the decision about taking a PA course. If I could earn a full-time income with this work it would be a dream come true for me. Thanks for sharing this interview!
So glad you enjoyed it, Jill! 🙂
How is Melody doing now, a year later in 2017?
Arrrggghhh!! I just wrote a long reply for you and it got nuked. Technology!!
In a nutshell, what I was saying is that I’m doing very well. My main job is as a piano/voice teacher and accompanist so the bulk of my time and marketing efforts are focused there. As naturally follows, the bulk of my income comes from that.
Even so, working only a few hours per week, my average income from proofreading for three reporters is about $500.00 per month. Some weeks I have lots of transcripts and some weeks I only have one or two. The average though, is about $500.00 per week.
There are proofreaders out there who have much busier reporters than I do and who do this full time. They make way more than I do doing it. It’s nice that this is flexible and fills the needs the individual proofreaders have.
Hope that helps.
Oops!! Proofreaders sometimes need a proofreader. $500.00 per MONTH. Not per week. Yikes.
I am a practicing RN and I just completed a MSN in acute care nurse practitioner. Right now I am reviewing for my advanced licencing boards, but plan on taking the transcript course after. Why? Well, like others, my job is very high stress and I am burnt out trying to work overtime to earn extra money to pay off those pesky student loans. In addition, this past year has shown me I need to diversify. In the past 16 months, I have had a hypertensive crisis and knee pain that together prevented me from working a total of 22 weeks of that time. If only I could have worked this side hustle!! I have been involved with legal nurse consulting, but this just seems like a nice change of pace. As my parents age, I welcome the opportunity to have the flexibility that proofing can afford that will allow me to have the time to assist them.
Proofreading is a great option for people who need flexibility in their schedules. Good luck on your upcoming boards! 🙂
I am a retired Medical Technologist and Electronics Engineer. Are there good proofreading contracts for scientific materials?
I loved the interview! You are a true inspiration!
I am sorry to bother you with such a silly question, but I’ve just finished editing studies (MA level), and I’m struggling because people look down on me as I’m not a native speaker of English. Some people believe I will never be able to do proofreading as well as native speakers do. Any tips on how to overcome this issue?
Thank you so much in advance,
Diana , Iam interested to get the response to your concerns too!
I loved what you said. I'm an attorney and became disabled. Do you think I need to take the first course for regular proofreading or can I go to the transcript class? I didn't know there was a Transcript Class when I enrolled in the first class. I'm having difficulty making myself work on it because it seems too easy.
Please give me an answer so I can get motivated.
You do not need one course in order to complete the other.
From a non-legal point of view, I think this is a great insight from the lawyer's point of view, and to learn some lawyers like yourself have standards. Personally speaking on a different aspect than court reporters, I taught myself paralegal work some years ago due to necessity at that time, and somehow life's journey took me to prepare multiple cases (for myself) for many different types of law- i.e. real estate, labor, appeals, bankruptcy. I found law very interesting but the majority of lawyers I met and/or hired seemed to have lost their passion and prepared very substandard cases (much like some of the court reporters papers you described) or even worse these lawyers didn't follow law or rules at all. So because of this -to make a long story short I always ended up preparing the case documents that my lawyer would use in court. It was flattering to a point but disturbing too because if I didn't study the law around my cases, I would have been at a severe disadvantage. I find it very refreshing to read about a lawyer that cares about quality and high standards. P.S. I love Pinterest too- so many issues/art to learn from/express yourself.