As with many new businesses, the genesis of Realtime Reporting was someone wanting to do things better.
The court reporting company where Ellen Birch was vice president had grown significantly and she felt its handling of clients had become impersonal, so in 1998 she left and started Realtime. With offices in Babylon and Garden City, the company offers court reporting, and litigation support services including e-discovery and research. The Garden City office also offers conference rooms for client use.
"It's old-fashioned business the way it should be -- servicing clients," Birch said. "I develop relationships."
Realtime, which employs about 20 freelance court reporters, has been the preferred court reporter company of the Nassau County Bar Association since 2010. Giving back to the community is hard-wired into Realtime's operations. Through the company's Realtime Goodwill, 2.5 percent of earnings go to local charities.
How do you maintain quality control with a workforce of freelancers?
We devised a three-point quality control system. There are three pairs of eyes on every transcript before it's sent out. We also created a format that has to be followed by every one of our court reporters. But it's also knowing my reporters. Most of them have been working with me for as long as I am in business, and I know they care about the quality of their work.
You have said that what sets Realtime apart is personal service and relationships. Tell me about that.
I was contacted by a legal services company in the Caymans that wanted a court reporter in two days. So I had to find someone who was a seasoned reporter and willing to be there, possibly for a month. Once I found them, the Cayman Islands require police clearance. It took 100 phone calls. Literally as she was walking into the police department the company called and said they had decided to go with a recording device! I told her to go ahead and get the clearance anyway. I sent the company an email thanking them and moved on. The next day they called and said the judge had said they needed to use a court reporter. He insisted this was too important a case for recording. We've had conversations [with the company] since, and I know this is a relationship that will continue.
New York is one of several states that do not mandate licensing for court reporters. Where do you stand?
The New York State Court Reporter Association is actively working to make licensing mandatory [here]. I support that. Most of my court reporters are licensed. It's an objective measure.
Will technology eventually make human court reporters obsolete?
One court has done away with court reporters. But overall it's not happening. When you have a proceeding and you have lawyers yelling over each other, no electronic equipment can pick that all up. Technology can make the process more efficient, but the process really stays the same.
What do you wish more people knew about court reporting?
The perception of a court reporter is that they're a secretary. They should be respected more as professionals. They're taking down important testimony that affects lives.
NAME: Ellen Birch, president, Realtime Reporting Inc., Babylon
WHAT THEY DO: Court reporting and other litigation support services