The stenographic industry is at a critical crossroad. We are about to enter a new decade, one which will most certainly be filled with innovative replacement competitors. We can no longer run from the future, my friends, for the future has arrived. The key to our industry’s survival is to present a united front; one comprised of progressive cohesion. Rather than complainers, we seek campaigners. Replace complacency with competency. Choose conversation over controversy. Build connections and eliminate consternation.

As I read through the endless social media posts, the passion and tension are palpable. Stenographers are frustrated, anxious, scared, and they’re looking for answers. Some are working on an exit strategy, but many are searching for a solution. The technological tectonic plates have shifted, and the shock wave can be felt across the nation. We are responding the only way we know how, through an uprising.

As we go through the stages of grief, we find ourselves asking, how did this happen? Although it feels like it happened overnight, I can assure you, a Trojan horse they are not. The invasive replacement methods selected a market, saturated it, then moved on to their next hospitable host. Florida, my residential state, has proven fertile grounds for a pilot program as we have zero certification requirements and a state association that is powerless to competitors. Think your state will be able to withstand the tsunami heading its way? Think again.

Rather than complain, we seek campaigners. The best advocates for our profession are those actively working in the field every day. As troops on the ground, you can effectively take action immediately. Each job presents an opportunity to advocate for your profession. Something as simple as a laptop sticker displaying your pride for stenography goes a long way.

Replace complacency with competency. I recently attended the annual CalDRA convention and had the pleasure of listening to this year’s keynote speaker, Jade King. “Be Extraordinary” was this year’s theme, and Jade King exemplifies the meaning of extraordinary. Jade is proficient with her software and has built a comprehensive dictionary that allows her to caption worldwide events flawlessly. She has set an extraordinary bar for herself and is a powerful female leader in our industry. At the end of her speech, Jade said something that struck home with me. She said – and I’m paraphrasing – to create a bound transcript of proceedings in ten days is magical, but it’s also replaceable. If you want to be magical AND irreplaceable, realtime is key. Show the world how extraordinary we are.

Choose conversation over controversy. I’m about to open Pandora’s Box, so if this makes you uncomfortable, please stop reading. It’s time to have “the conversation”, the conversation about rates. And if you are reading this screaming, “anti-trust, anti-trust,” it’s falling on deaf ears. Exactly who is enforcing the issue of anti-trust? The discussion about rates has always been a highly-controversial topic, and it’s time to Stop the Insanity (said in my best Susan Powter voice).

In the spring of 2017, I conducted an extensive research project and took a deep dive into nationwide rates. I randomly called one firm in each of the 50 states, told them who I was, and asked the taboo question solely about appearance fees. Guess what? Not one firm owner balked. In fact, the majority took it a step further and shared their entire line of products and pricing structure. I took copious notes and applied them to a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet told the story. Folks, we offer the same products and services nationwide, but the market is largely dictated by the big-box nationals. Firm owners confessed that in order to remain competitive, they set their rates accordingly.

The time has come to have the conversation. And the truth of the matter is, reporters WANT to have the conversation, as clearly evidenced by my project. What’s holding us back? Oh, yes, big-box nationals exclaiming, “anti-trust, anti-trust!” I’m issuing a challenge to reporters across this nation to step up and demand that your state association offer a seminar, webinar, and/or conference session to discuss products and rates by geographic regions. By avoiding this topic for the last several decades, we have acquiesced to the insurance companies and not actively participated in a free market. WWASD, What Would Adam Smith Do?

Build connections and eliminate consternation. In today’s technological world, connecting with random people on social media platforms is easy. Those who amass the most connections wins! However, are we really connecting? My experience with social media has been that it promotes a breeding ground for opinionated keyboard warriors. Consternation rules the day.

Folks, leverage the benefits of social media effectively. Learn your connections’ likes and dislikes, achievements, hobbies, and interests. Find common ground so the next time you work together or meet socially, you have an effective way to cultivate that connection. It takes time, effort, and diligent nurturing to build deeper connections. At the end of the day, even with all the technological advances, we are all conducting our lives H2H, human to human. We must never lose that real-life connection if we are to survive. It costs nothing to take an active interest in those around you.

The stenographic industry is at a crossroad. Technology affords us the opportunity to work smarter, network faster, and be more transient. By utilizing the above suggestions, we can demonstrate to the legal profession that technology increases the value of the human element rather than replacing it.