It was the second annual National Court Reporting and Captioning Week earlier this month, celebrating the contributions of court reporters and captioners across North America. As such, I thought I would take this opportunity to share the story of how my career as a court reporter began, as well as some of the highlights so far.

I fell into court reporting quite by accident. I was considering a career in law, but at that time the job market for new lawyers was very difficult, and many were not getting employment. My aunt knew a court reporter and suggested I meet with her; at least it seemed like a related field. I had never heard of court reporting before – it certainly wasn’t something any guidance counsellor ever talked to me about. However, after meeting my aunt’s friend, I thought this might be a career I’d be interested in…and what a career it has been.

I started working in the courts in the early eighties, and probably one of the most interesting cases I reported was the Ernst Zundel trial (Zundel was a Holocaust denier and published literature on his views). It was a court room filled with tension, some rather bizarre testimony, and really served as a platform for Zundel’s views. Talk about a learning experience.

I then moved on to the freelance world and have never left. While reporting criminal trials in court was both interesting and at times revolting (how do people do those things to others?), my love of business and court reporting came together, and after a few short years I formed Neeson & Associates. I have been enthralled with the learning experiences – from having a front seat in front of major heads of businesses, listening to their business stories and experiences, to the building of a business that now employs over 25 people.

I was lucky enough to report both the investigation and Court of Appeal hearings with regard to Stephen Truscott. There, the importance of the record was never more punctuated: a man’s guilt or innocence hung to a large degree on the record of his trial and hearing before the Supreme Court of Canada decades before. To me, it truly brought home the importance of a verbatim transcript. A shoddy transcript could have affected the outcome. To me, every litigant or accused person before the court has a right to an accurate, verbatim record, because whether it’s your freedom or your reputation on the line, it’s important to you. All of that to say the direction the courts have moved – to digital recording – will surely spark these very issues in the future.

Court reporting for me remains as fascinating today as it did all those many years ago. Its gifts are many, but one of the most important areas is from a personal growth perspective – I am constantly expanding my views of life and very much understand how life is full of shades of grey – never black and white. And despite all the bad jokes at the expense of lawyers, my overall experience is this is not a fair representation of all the hard working people I am lucky enough to call clients.

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