In the Spotlight

Stenograph’s featured person is leah willsdorf photo for the blog copy
Leah Willsdorf


Why did you decide to enter the court reporting profession?
I was one of the lucky ones who knew what I wanted to do when I was 15 years old. I used to watch the television show L.A. Law (remember Harry Hamlin and Corbin Bernsen?!), and I always wondered what the lady sitting beneath the judge was doing as she tapped away on a weird-looking machine. I asked my Secretarial Studies teacher in secondary school about it, and I ended up doing court reporting as my work experience placement (shadowing a trained reporter in her day-to-day duties). It was then that I began to dream of being a stenographer.

Upon finishing secondary school at 17, I undertook a university course for 2 years, graduating with an associate diploma in business (Court and Parliamentary Reporting). The course entailed learning the machine, as well as learning written and spoken English, law, economics, and organization (I’m still not quite sure what that last subject taught me!). We had 90 students on day 1 of the first year, and only 10 of us left on the last day of the second year.

After graduating, I started my career in the court system of South Australia, which meant a move from my hometown of Brisbane. After nearly 4 years, I came to England in 1995 on a 2-year working holiday. This month, March 2015, marks my 20th anniversary of being in London. I think it’s safe to say I’m on the world’s longest working holiday!

What is your favorite thing about being a court reporter?
There’s more than one, that’s for sure.

I love not only being in different venues all the time but also being in different countries. I love everything about London (obviously) and working here, but being based in the U.K. has the advantage of being on the doorstep to mainland Europe. Last year, I was lucky enough to work in Paris, Geneva, Gran Canaria, Antwerp, Rome, Copenhagen, Venice, and Frankfurt, just to name a few countries.

Another thing I love about court reporting is the number of things we constantly learn in our everyday lives as reporters. Whether it be about the inside of a plane’s cockpit, the molecular matrix of DNA, or the forensics behind a road traffic accident, it is all fascinating stuff to me and we, as reporters, have a front row seat to it all.

Were there any hurdles you had to overcome in your career?
I’m rather fortunate in that I haven’t had any major hurdles to overcome. However, one that springs to mind is the myriad of accents I’ve had to contend with when I moved here from the other side of the world. To me, Australia has only slightly differing accents, but here in Great Britain, the accents are diverse and have taken some getting used to. I still have to concentrate super hard with certain lingos.

What advice would you give to new court reporters?
One thing I’ve done all of the way through my career and still continue to this day is not to compete with anybody except myself. For example, I compete today with my untranslate rate of yesterday.

To new reporters, I would say strive to be able to write clean realtime, and also constantly work on your personal dictionary. I’m a great believer in the “you’re only as good as your dictionary” school of thought. A reporter’s vocabulary is always growing and so should your personal dictionary. Even with the advent of electronic and digital recording, I honestly believe that if you are a proficient realtime reporter, you will always have work.

Another thing I would say is to know your software and make it work for you. Brief It is my favorite thing EVER, and now that Version 16 is here, the Case Prep function is very, very exciting!

What was the strangest case you have worked on?
In Australia: I wouldn’t say it was a strange case as much as a strange experience in a work setting. We used to have to do circuit court around the State of South Australia. One such stint entailed going to an Aboriginal reserve in the Outback. We were going through the list of defendants and appearances in a makeshift courtroom, which was basically a tin shed. There was an ever so slight breeze, which felt like you were sitting in a sauna holding a hairdryer toward your face. Because it was excruciatingly hot, the decision was made to hold court outside underneath the only two or three trees that were next to each other, thereby providing some shade relief. So there we are, out under the trees when all of a sudden, I pipe up, “I’m sorry, your Honour, but could we stop, please?” I turned around to the presiding Magistrate and ineloquently whispered, “The dog is trying to do things to my leg!” Needless to say, the people who had now gathered around watching just roared with laughter, as did I and the Magistrate.

In England: I was doing a same-day transcript (with a scopist) of a public inquiry about the building of a bridge. The inquiry went on for a year and was held at a football club. It was a great job, tough at times, but all in all, I loved every minute of it. Perhaps not the minute when the ceiling fell in on me, though. I’d actually pointed out beforehand to the secretariat that water was dripping from the ceiling. “No problem, Leah. Just move out of its direct line and we’ll get it sorted in a break.” Fine, okay. I was going hell for leather in cross-examination of a traffic noise and audibility expert when all of a sudden, down came the ceiling. The room gasped. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t injured; I was just wet with bits of the roof sitting in my lap and in my hair. The questioning barrister said, “Leah, are you okay if I just finish this line of questioning before we take a quick break?” REALLY? Yeah, knock yourself out!

Ahhhh, the memories.

What is the highlight of your career so far?
In March of 2014, I was privileged and honored to attend a dinner where President Bill Clinton was the keynote speaker. To be from a little suburb on the other side of the world and then to be in an elaborate venue in the city of London taking down a Q & A session with the former President of the United States…well, that is going to take some beating, I assure you!

What do you like to do outside of court reporting?
I’m currently trying to learn French. Unfortunately, my Australian mouth/tongue/throat is struggling to get some of those very special French sounds!

A final word….
As seasoned reporters know only too well, this profession takes a lot of hard work, but I am constantly learning, and I love that. I find my career extremely rewarding (and I don’t just mean financially). After 23 years of tapping away on that little, weird-looking machine and producing transcripts, I still love what I do. I’ve met people from all walks of life, have made many good friends along the way, and I have gotten to travel to cover assignments. I think that 15-year-old girl made exactly the right decision! As I always say: I love what I do and do what I love.

In the Spotlight

Stenograph’s featured person isSally with Roscoe
Sally Booth-Bennett, RMR, CRR, CBC, CCP

While other people are enjoying their slumber during the early morning hours of the day, Sally Booth- Bennett is already awake and working! Every day, Sally begins writing the news at 6 a.m. Being up early doesn’t bother her, though. Clocking early hours gives her more opportunity during the day to spend time with her family and friends.

Sally’s news writing career consists mainly of broadcast news shows, but she also works on non-news shows, such as sports talk, documentaries, church services and more.  She loves a challenge and enjoys learning as she works. Captioning programs on PBS are a pleasure as they almost always provide a welcome change and an opportunity to learn something positive.

Sally’s CART/Captioning journey started 20 years ago when she was contacted by a deaf college student. The student was challenged with trying to follow the sign-language interpreter, watch the board, and take notes all at the same time. Sally stepped in and helped her by providing on-site CART for her biology and chemistry classes for her remaining three years.  After the student graduated, Sally used that realtime experience as a launching pad to take the test and achieve her CBC certification on the first try.

Since entering the field, Sally has enjoyed working with several companies providing captions in both the U.S.A. as well as Canada. When she realized that her Stentura® 8000 might be making her job harder, she switched to the Wave™ writer. “On a ‘good’ day before my Wave, I would be satisfied with 12 untranslates per hour. Now, I may have one or NONE! I knew it was the machine more than it was me making all those errors,” Sally explains. “No more old Stentura 8000 for me!”

It also wasn’t difficult for Sally to make the transition. She was able to use the Wave out of the box, because it was pretty much user ready! “I was amazed at how close to perfect it was right out of the box,” she says. “I was just as amazed at how quickly I was able to load the software and change the necessary settings in the software. Simple stuff, I know, but usually full of glitches where I’m concerned. Not this time!”

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, either! Sally’s daughter Brook graduated from Stark State College six years ago, on her 18th birthday, and has followed her mother’s “keystrokes”—Brook is a CART provider and captioner, traveling the country for on-site jobs as well as working from her home in Savannah, Georgia.

So why does Sally love what she does? Well, put the gratification of working with those in need aside. Ignore the rich content to which she is exposed. Don’t even pay attention to the fact that she can choose her own schedule. Sally loves what she does because there are no transcripts!

In the Spotlight

Anthony D. FrisoloneStenograph’s featured person is

Anthony D. Frisolone,

Make Your Life Easier!
Anthony Frisolone began his court reporting career in 1994 as a freelancer and later became an employee in the New York State court system, where he stayed for almost 10 years. In 2004, he became a federal official. During all his years in the field, he looked to Stenograph to provide him with the best writing machines for his job and continued that tradition when he learned about Case CATalyst in 2005.

A few years later in 2008, the economy slowed down, which meant Anthony’s busy work schedule decreased. Did that stop him? No! He spent his newly found free time learning more and more about Case CATalyst with a colleague who was a Case CATalyst Certified Training Agent. His friend suggested that he, too, become a Training Agent. “I’ve always been engaged in the education of reporters by taking on interns and by instructing at a local court reporting school, and it seemed like a good fit for me,” Anthony explains. “I saw an opportunity to work with freelance deposition reporters, other officials, CART reporters, and students. I love it.”

As Anthony continually hones his court reporting skills through all of Stenograph’s products, he is able to teach others how they, too, can make their lives easier as they work. “After attending a Case CATalyst intensive training seminar, I was hooked on learning more and teaching others,” he says.

The Beauty of Number Conversion
Anthony has used other court reporting programs in the past and fared well with them. He also was a regular user of Stenograph’s élan Mira and Diamante writers, because they increased his level of performance on a daily basis. But his world truly opened up when he tried Case CATalyst. “Originally, I tried to pass the realtime exam using my previous program. It wasn’t cutting it. When I changed to Case CATalyst, it really helped.” You may wonder how it helped Anthony. Well, his previous dictionary had 140,000 entries, most of which were group defines and misstrokes. When he was able to remove these pesky characters, it cut his dictionary in half. Further, garbage strokes cut out over the course of time, reducing the dictionary even more and allowed him to edit his transcripts faster.

Case CATalyst has also made Anthony’s life easier with its number conversion abilities. He has worked on cases where millions of dollars have been discussed, and Case CATalyst allows these numbers to translate effortlessly. He considers these changes his end game. At one point, he had one trainee with over 50 years of extensive court reporting history who had 80,000–90,000 number entries. During his downtime, this reporter used the dictionary filter and was able to get rid of those. “He got to his end game!” Anthony exclaimed proudly.

Numbers can be quite troublesome not only for new reporters, but also for reporters who have been doing this for many years. Anthony has experience training reporters of all ages, from 20 to 72. Teaching a new reporter how to use Case CATalyst’s numbers conversion is a piece of cake; however, teaching court reporting veterans is more challenging because those reporters have developed bad habits when writing numbers. In these cases, Anthony suggests they take out all of the numbers and put 0 through 10 in words or digits and delete everything else. Remember, he says, Case CATalyst’s number conversion is text based, not steno based. “If you write one million five hundred eight thousand dollars in digits or words or a combination, it will convert to $1,508,000. I demonstrate it, and it’s like ‘wow,’” he says.

The Importance of Training
Anthony often has clients who sign up solely for number conversion training. That is how important and time-consuming numbers can be when not used properly. He makes sure that a reporter can walk away from his training being able to use the program immediately. Recently, a court reporter trained with Anthony on a Saturday and on Monday, she posted on his Facebook page, “Thanks for the training, Anthony D. Frisolone! Scoping now and implementing some of the tricks we went over. These sessions are invaluable and highly recommended. Thank you for helping me invest in my career!” He is proud of messages like these and more so that he knows he made a difference in someone’s career.

Hey non-Stenograph vendors, take note! Anthony credits Stenograph’s training and education resources for paving the way for court reporters. “Stenograph’s training and education resources are outstanding. There’s nothing like it,” he says. Plus, he says, being a Training Agent gives him an advantage. As a working reporter, he gets rare glimpses of new items and programs, which he can then pass on to others.

Enhancing Lives with the Diamante
When Anthony switched to the Diamante, he felt a weight lifted off his shoulders. Literally! The weight of the Stentura and Mira compared to that of the Diamante was a noticeable change. “I can’t believe I lugged that stuff around! I had to travel to South Carolina for a three-day job with the writer, cables, and everything in one bag. As I walked what felt like miles through Newark, Dulles, and Charlotte airports and back again, my shoulders didn’t feel strained,” he says. And best of all? It all fit in the luggage compartment!

Standing Out with Case CATalyst
Case CATalyst is your friend. It provides colorful themes, and there’s a whole range of colors and sizes to see things the way you prefer. It is court reporter friendly because it can be personalized to a great extent.

Color is not the only customizable feature of Case CATalyst. The word index and mini transcripts also are enhanced to produce top documents. Although court transcripts all have to look alike, Anthony advises to take the time to shine as a reporter wherever you can. Personalize your documents and make them stand out. “They’ll remember you next time,” he says. “And it keeps transcript orders coming in.”

How can you make yourself unique? Even the little things, such as how you provide the documents, help the support staff at law firms. They truly appreciate a reporter’s promptness and flexibility. They remember their favorite court reporters, and adding these touches makes you more marketable. Other programs make you jump through hoops to be able to be so obliging, but in Case CATalyst, it’s a breeze. “I was just finalizing a rough draft for a deaf CART client who is a law student in Florida,” Anthony says. “Finish’em e-mails him a PDF at the end of class, and it’s great!”

Great for Students
Anthony teaches at a local reporting school and he passes on all his knowledge to his students. Nowadays, students have a wide range of options. They can do CART, court work, freelance depositions, arbitrations, meetings, and more. Not everyone is cut out for court work, he says. Court often involves people fighting over money or suspects being ushered in and out in handcuffs. Some court reporters love this kind of work and do it full time, whereas some CART providers work in schools and universities during the year and take freelance depositions during the summer.

The ability to do any of these things is enhanced by Case CATalyst. If a student is unsure whether they should use the program, Anthony offers a straightforward explanation of why they should take the plunge. “I would tell them that with Case CATalyst, you can go from having no software to working. I’ve taught it in on a Saturday and people have gone to work on Monday,” he says.

Anthony’s Favorite Case CATalyst Features

  1. Automatic indexing: We had a bench trial and in the course of a week, we marked over a hundred exhibits. Without automatic indexing, I’d still be working on that index.
  1. Finish’em: Print, make an ASCII, and make a PDF all in one shot, and e-mail it in one fell swoop.
  1. TrueStroke Drag/Drop: Input what keys are giving you a problem, and it analyzes your writing and makes corrections as you go. Even on those days when you come to work and can barely find the keyboard, your realtime looks amazing!
  1. Instant refresh with CaseViewNet: This is great for the judge and attorneys using iPads. I regularly work with a nearly deaf attorney. I give him my iPad, and he can walk around with it. He is a very good lip reader and along with the realtime, he can get a full picture of what he’s hearing.

Why Does Anthony Love the Diamante?

  1. Its quality: It has provided flawless service since day 1.
  2. Its weightlessness: It saves your back if you walk around New York and take subways.
  3. Its seamlessness: Combined with Case CATalyst, it makes life very easy.
  4. Its smoothness: When you see someone with a total Stenograph solution, you know everything will run smoothly and take stress out of the day.

Check out Anthony’s Facebook page:
Anthony D. Frisolone, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CBC, CRI, CSR

In the Spotlight

Stenograph’s featured person this month is
Nancy L. Bistany
Founder and Owner

Why did you decide to enter the court reporting profession?
When I was in high school, Stenograph provided shorthand machines to our Gregg shorthand teacher, who also happened to be my cheerleading coach.  She made all the cheerleaders take her machine shorthand class my junior year.  I took the class both junior and senior year.  At the end of that time, my teacher, Nancy Kirby, said she thought I was a natural and encouraged me to go to court reporting school, so I did.  A perfect example of the value of an excellent teacher pushing students to do their best.

What is your favorite thing about being a court reporter?
I enjoy the fact that as a freelancer for 37 years I would see different clients and hear different cases almost daily.  Now as a federal court reporter, I love the excitement of federal court and feel like I’m making a contribution to our criminal justice system.

Were there any hurdles you had to overcome in your career?
I would say there weren’t any hurdles, but the advent of the computer-aided transcription software and hardware created a new challenge for a seasoned reporter like myself.  Instead of fighting it like so many of my colleagues did back in the mid-‘80s, I decided to embrace it.  It was one of the best career decisions I ever made.

What advice would you give to new court reporters?
First and foremost, as a new reporter – learn to know what you don’t know.  Never assume you think you know a new term of art or phrase.  Take the time to look it up.  Be a perfectionist and have pride in your work product, and it will be noticed by the attorneys and judges.  If you have questions, do not be afraid to ask them.  I remember on my first patent deposition I had never heard the term “logo” before (mind you, this was 1977, and logos weren’t a big deal then as they are now).  I was 20 years old.  I asked the attorneys, and they were more than happy to explain it and spell it for me.

What was the strangest case you have worked on?
Not the strangest but saddest, so it’s forever in my mind.  A young man had committed suicide in a suburban jail cell, and his family filed a civil suit.  I had to take the depositions of his mother, wife, brother and sister.  That was in 1990, and it was like it was yesterday.  It was a very sad situation for all, and I have to admit I shed a few tears during the testimony.

What do you like to do outside of court reporting?
I enjoy cooking and gardening.  Those hobbies let me be creative because I really can’t in my job.  Oh, and wine tastings…I try not to miss those either.