This is hands-down the most excited I’ve ever been to share an interview with readers here on PA.
Our guest today is Sandra (Sandi) Estevez. Sandi is a Certified Shorthand Reporter (CA), a Florida Professional Reporter, and former president of the Florida Court Reporters Association.
Now living in Miami, Florida, Sandi’s background spans an impressive 20 years in this industry — and she’s got an excellent portfolio of experience. Right now, she works as a General Manager and Director of Reporter Development for the southeastern region of US Legal Support — one of the largest and most widely known legal support companies in the country.
Full disclosure: Sandi and I know each other, and we’ve worked together since 2012! Sandi is one of the main influencers who got me to where I am today. Without her, I’d likely never have gotten started as a full-time proofreader, never realized how much I loved it, and never would have started teaching it to others … and neither PA nor Transcript Proofreading: Theory and Practice™ would exist.
Although I don’t do much proofreading for US Legal Support these days due to my new commitments teaching proofreading, PA has had the privilege of assisting Sandi in building a talented Quality Assurance (QA) team to ensure top quality to their clients.
When Sandi needs a new proofreader for the QA team, she always knows who to ask! We’re happy to send our top-performing program grads her way whenever she has a need.
By the way — check out Sandi’s mug on the US Legal Support homepage! I gotta say, I only wish I photographed that well, YEESH!
Sandi has been a great mentor, and it’s such a huge honor to feature her as an expert on my blog!
Let’s hop to it!
Sandi! We’re so thrilled to have you as a guest expert here on Proofread Anywhere. So tell us — how’d you get started in the court reporting industry?
After graduating college with a journalism degree, I considered becoming an attorney because I really enjoyed the criminal law classes I took as part of my political science minor. As I started looking into law school, I saw a commercial on T.V. one day for court reporters. The next day I went to the school to get more information on the program and ended up enrolling for the next semester. It was a perfect fit for me. My love of grammar and English partnering with my intrigue for the legal field.
Describe your role in the court reporting industry now and how it’s changed over the years.
Currently I am the Director of Reporter Development for the Southeast Region at U.S. Legal Support. I am also the General Manager of our Miami office, which is our regional headquarters. My role in the reporting industry has taken on many hats over the last 20 years.
I obtained my CA CSR back in 1995 and immediately went to work for the agency I had been interning with. A year later I started an independent court reporting firm, Sandra Holman Reporting Services. For the first 10 years I was an independent contractor reporter/agency owner. Besides being a working reporter, I assigned the book, handled production and billing and answered the phones.
After I sold my business in 2005, I was hired by the company that purchased my business to become their office manager, so I eventually stopped reporting and managed their offices in Fresno and Bakersfield.
In 2008 I joined U.S. Legal Support and also became active in the Florida Court Reporters Association where I have served on many committees and have held positions throughout the Board, including President. During my time as President of the FCRA I had the opportunity to attend Legislative Bootcamp in Washington, D.C. and eventually was part of a group of professionals that met with the Florida Supreme Court to discuss the need for mandatory certification for Florida court reporters. Those efforts are still ongoing today.
What’s your opinion on reporters using a proofreader for transcripts? Is it really necessary?
Our jobs as reporters are so important to the public. We are documenting facts and evidence that can change the course of someone’s life. Out of respect for the legal process and the role we play as reporters, everything that a court reporter produces should have “two sets of eyes” read it before it is provided to the client. The legal industry deserves and needs a good, polished, professional end product. When your transcript is up on a large screen in the courtroom in front of the judge and jury, you want that assurance that you provided a flawless product.
What is/are the most difficult/confusing issue(s) for court reporter and proofreaders to grasp?
I think, in general, it is hard for us all to write bad grammar. We are verbatim reporters and as tempting as it is to “clean up” witnesses, lawyers and judges, it is not in our job description. Write what you hear.
What has it been like to experience technology change over the course of your career?
The biggest advantage that reporters and proofreaders have today is the internet!! No more lugging those giant legal and medical reference books around.
When I started reporting, no one was really emailing anything yet. You received your job assignments via fax. We provided our clients with ASCII disks and they just threw them away because no one knew what to do with them or had any desire to view their transcripts on their computer. We’ve come a long way!
What are your thoughts on the latest uses of technology to aid in learning/improving/enhancing court reporting and proofreading?
I am excited to see the court reporting field continuing to embrace change. The world thrives and depends on technology. As technology evolves, it enables our industry to reach broader markets and work more efficiently.
Take, for instance, Realtime. It is not a new technology, but now that we’re streaming to iPads, the overall “public interest” has spiked. More reporters are working towards writing realtime and attorneys are appreciating the value of realtime now more than ever. The service hasn’t changed, but the perception of the service has changed by dressing it up with new technology, such as a tablet device.
As you know, proofreaders are now able to proofread and correct transcripts on an iPad using iAnnotate. They are able to make notes in the margin or provide the rule they are relying upon when making a correction. This is extremely helpful to the reporter, saving hours of research time a week.
Online courses for reporters, writing realtime, proofreading, and even test taking are a huge advantage. Not only does it save the student travel time, but it gives the “learner” the opportunity to study in a quiet environment at a time that works best with their schedule. Technology saves us all time and money!
How do you feel about the future of court reporting as a career? Is court reporting here to stay?
I think that court reporting is and will continue to be a fantastic career choice. We have been hearing for years that the average age of a court reporter in the United States is late 40s to early 50s. When those reporters retire from the industry, we will need the next generation to cover their work.
This is a great time to be a court-reporting student or recent graduate. There are plenty of job opportunities now and that will only increase as the years go on.
I am sure that court reporting will continue to evolve and change like all technology-based careers do, but I have no doubts that there will always be work available to professional, polished court reporters.
What are the top three qualities of an excellent proofreader?
(1) Knowledge/experience in reading legal proceedings with a keen eye for flushing out errors.
(2) Timeliness. Have the job completed on or before your deadline.
What advice would you give someone looking to get started as a proofreader for court reporters?
The best way to learn how to become a proofreader is to either take a proofreading course or find a very good reporter or current proofreader to show you the ropes. Just because someone is a good speller does not mean they will be a good proofreader. Practice makes perfect so read as many transcripts as you can and have your mentor or instructor proofread it after you to see what you missed. Consistency is key.
We are proud to have such a seasoned, exemplary authority in the court reporting industry give us a thumbs-up on what we’re doing here at Proofread Anywhere. We’re also excited to see what new changes in technology will bring to the court reporting profession as it continues to grow along with its demand. It’s such a privilege to be pioneering the first structured training program for transcript proofreaders.