Being an early adopter of a new technology can be a lonely place. We recently talked with a court administrator whose court system was one of the first to install RevoText. Slowing cost increases, a simple installation, and having a predictable supply of court reporters to fill the unpredictable demands of court are cited as major benefits. Oh, and everyone loves the real time.
What was the problem you were trying to solve when you were looking at RevoText as a solution?
“My problem was pretty simple. The rules and statutes required me to use court reporters and I just couldn’t find reporters to work here. It’s something I know that NCRA has studied and verified the continual shortage that we were experiencing. I was stumped what to do about that.
“Another problem we have is that our need for capturing the record can be unpredictable. You might have a slow period and then get slammed and need three court reporters one day and have only 72 hours of notice. One of the things that was a big deal with RevoText is predictability. I’m able to know that I’ll have an available supply of court reporters to serve the needs of the court, which are inherently unpredictable. You don’t have to juggle resources and cross your fingers. It’s an enormous savings of time and stress.”
What do you think court systems should know about RevoText’s product that might not be obvious to the uninitiated?
“What I would emphasize is that the remote court reporter will give you the same level of quality that you’d get with the court reporter in the courtroom. There’s no drop-off whatsoever. The analogy I like to make is that if you go shopping in a grocery store and you look at a shelf and you see packages of Twinkies. If that Twinkie on the top shelf is a court reporter in your courtroom and that Twinkie on the bottom shelf is a remote court reporter, those two Twinkies are the exactly the same. The biggest difference for the court administrator is that you’re eliminating the major headache of ensuring that you always have a court reporter available.”
Talk about the installation and integration process. How’d it go? What kinds of surprises were there, either good or bad?
“I didn’t have any surprises of any kind. And the way RevoText operates, I don’t think anyone else will either. We had an existing system that had a lot of microphones and sound in our courtroom. It was pretty simple to piggy back off what was there. The integration was very, very simple. It wasn’t a complicated thing. We even had one crazy, old courthouse and we had zero problems there. In our newer courthouse, it was even simpler, a quick turn.
“Courtrooms are busy places, so getting access for contractors to do installations can be a significant obstacle. But the RevoText installation can take place over a weekend when the courtrooms are empty. For other types of upgrades, it takes a week. It was way easier than other installations I’ve gone through.”
What types of unexpected benefits have there been with RevoText engaged?
“I’m glad you brought that up. An unexpected benefit, not for the court administrator necessarily, but the judicial officer deals with dependency cases and you have to have written orders. What she loves is the real-time feed. She can spend a lot more time watching the demeanors of the parties and the attorneys, which is particularly important in these cases. She can observe a lot more of what’s going on in the court, stuff that you need to see with your eyes. She doesn’t have to do as much note-taking and taking under advisements. She can just watch and observe, which makes RevoText a very useful tool.
“Also, I’ve had a number of judges who come into town because of conflicts on cases, judges from other jurisdictions. There’s no training time with RevoText. The judge sits on the bench and away you go. There are no delays. It’s sit and forget. That’s the beatify of this product. These are key things. It’s no different than if the court reporter is actually sitting in the courtroom. Except that I haven’t had one RevoText reporter request an ergonomic chair.”
What type of concerns were there about RevoText going in? And how, if at all, have those concerns been addressed?
“I think the concerns I had going in, one maybe there wouldn’t be judicial acceptance. That didn’t happen. Another concern I had was that RevoText wasn’t in wide use in other court systems yet. I couldn’t call a buddy up the road and see it in use, but that won’t be a concern for others because now you can go see that it’s for real.
“There are some concerns with any new technology. Would it fail? We found out that it wouldn’t. If there are interruptions to the Internet connection, which there really aren’t, there’s redundancy built in and they just reboot the server before you ever know what happened. Within a few weeks, we realized this was a reliable system that we didn’t have to think twice about.
“That said, I did stumble upon a secret, which is to call the implementation a ‘pilot program.’ A pilot seems less daunting and you can just turn it off if it doesn’t meet your expectations, right? But the reality is that once RevoText was up and running, no one wanted to turn it off.”
Looking back at your decision to go with RevoText, have you learned anything since you’ve engaged with the system that would have made your decision to go with them more straight forward?
“Again, I think the only real trepidation internally was that so few court systems had real experience with RevoText when we were looking at it, but that’s no longer an issue for new adopters. The value of the real-time feed and the transcripts, I didn’t realize the judicial officers would value those so highly. I didn’t realize everything would be so simple for the user. I didn’t understand fully how simple it was going to be.”
What other types of products did you look at?
“We already had digital audio and we used that when reporters weren’t available. Anything mandated by statute, we would use reporters. We’re trying to maintain a hybrid model, but we still have the digital.
“The remote reporting is a fabulous. Compared to digital audio, it does everything that digital audio is capable of and then a whole lot more. The digital audio feed is available through RevoText should I want it. The quality is extremely good. They use high-quality cameras and the fidelity of the audio is awesome. It offers a (heck) of a lot more than regular digital audio. Unless you have really high-end digital audio, it won’t come close to what RevoText is offering.”
Talk to me about adjustments to the management of record-making function.
“There wasn’t anything to adjust to. It was straight forward. We were ordering transcripts right away and never had a problem. You just order the transcript and it appears.”
How about cost? How’s it related to what you’ve paid previously for making the record? And how did it compare with to your expectations going in?
“Overall, I think the costs are roughly comparable to using a staff reporter. That’s good from my perspective. One of the things you get worried about in a small area, if you don’t have a consistent supply of reporters, you can be held hostage when there is a shortage and you have to recruit court reporters from other areas. You have stability in your costs and your budgeting, which is helpful when you go to your funding bodies. Showing a predictable cost model is helpful. I slowed down a cost increase going forward. That’s what I promised them and that’s what I delivered. I eliminated the surprise factor.”
Who had influence over the decision to go with RevoText in your court system? What was important to them?
“Certainly we did a presentation among the bench. The way the statutes are written, we had to find someone to do the court reporting. Some judges weren’t persuaded that we had a court reporter shortage problem. My presiding judge, I told him this was worth looking at. I then found another judge who became a champion. It was a smart thing is to call it a pilot. It’s a lot less scary to call it a pilot. Again, the truth is it that was so (darn) good no one wanted to turn it off.”
Who was most skeptical? What’s been their reaction to RevoText?
“I had a couple of judges who felt it couldn’t be done. And certainly the court reporters weren’t that happy in the beginning. We made a promise to the existing court reporters that there was plenty of work and no one would lose their jobs. We kept that promise. Anyone who has seen the product likes it, even the reporters. Generally, people understand that the product produces. In fact, the court reporters ending up liking it as much as anyone because we were having to work them to death. Giving them a day or two out of court each week is really helpful.”