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Loving Mother and Aspiring Court Reporter: Leslie Keatley-Clark, Bryan U Graduate

leslieMy name is Leslie Keatley-Clark – I’m a graduate of the Court Reporting program at Bryan University and a single mom with an 11 year old daughter who is the light of my life. I live in Santa Clarita, California, born and raised on a ranch. I’m also a writer – I have one novel that’s available on amazon.com, and I’m currently working as a novelist and progressing towards becoming a court reporter.

I originally became interested in court reporting since I needed a job where I could be the sole bread-winner for my family. The work I’d done before in the corporate world was primarily administrative support and middle management. I was not making enough money to support a single income family. Court reporting had always been in the back of my mind since I’m a very fast typist. When I started researching court reporting careers, I discovered the salary potential and got very interested in finding a school to attend.

As I did research, the thing that fascinated me the most about court reporting is the incredible variety of jobs. I had no idea that there was such a thing as CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) reporting, which is where you attend classes with hard-of-hearing students and caption their classes. I also didn’t realize that many television captioners work from home and that you can caption online web casts. Additionally, there are opportunities as a deposition reporter or courtroom reporter. The variety of jobs amazed me!

When I first started school, I was highly considering deposition reporting because as a single mom, I can set my own schedule – I can work as much or as little as I want and still have great earning potential. Then, as I learned about CART, I thought how great that would be since I love attending classes. It would be like working as a professional student and making money! On the other hand, it could be intimidating since you’d be writing dense material on subjects like science or art. I’ve also thought about becoming a television captioner. After weighing all the options, I’ve decided the best fit for me would be deposition reporting.

When searching for schools to attend, I chose Bryan because of their reputation. The curriculum is very thorough and covered everything that you’d need to learn to be able to become certified as a court reporter. Also, I was really excited about being able to attend classes online. That just made my life so much easier. When I started this, my daughter was seven and I wanted to still be able to be there for her and pick her up from school and such. That was probably the most appealing aspect. When I first began the online program, my biggest challenge was that I had a terrible satellite internet connection. It was very hard for me to gain access to class. Other than this, going online was very convenient. It’s always a challenge to maintain your self-discipline and to put in the hours that you need to put in. And with myself, that ebbs and flows. I had periods where I was doing great and going above and beyond, and I had periods where I wasn’t. It’s important that you are confident in your ability to be self-disciplined enough to attend online and be successful.

In terms of the faculty and staff at Bryan, I was treated wonderfully by everyone within all of the departments, especially Admissions. I loved my instructors. I just adore them and they’ve been great. Their experience, their knowledge, their willingness to share everything about this profession – they’re such cheerleaders for this field. I feel like they’re personal friends now. A couple of the instructors that had a big impact on me would have to be a tie between Jocelyn Epperson and Carrie Ravenscroft. They’re the two teachers that I’ve had the most and for the longest amount of time in various speeds. With both of them, I felt like they believed in me more than I believed in myself. There were times when I was really questioning whether or not I could pass a test, and they knew. They just knew that I would pass the speed, and they would convince me of it, and sure enough, in a few weeks I would pass the speed!

The advice I’d like to offer to prospective students about the court reporting program is remember that there are more career options that just doing depositions or working as an official in court. There’s just such a wealth of choices. Also, don’t be afraid of people saying that the technology is going to replace you. Even if voice recognition comes into play more often in courts, they’re still going to need trained people to monitor those systems. They’re going to need people with expertise in depositions, court procedures, grammar, and punctuation. And that’s just focusing on one aspect of our career. There are still so many other areas that you can go into. As this career evolves, so will the people who fill those positions.

Now that I’ve completed the court reporting program, I’m focusing on passing the RPR (Registered Professional Reporter) exam through NCRA. Once I receive that, I’ll qualify to take the California CSR (Certified Shorthand Reporter) exam. Once I’ve passed the exams and I’m licensed in California as a CSR, I’ll be able to embark on my deposition reporting career.  In the interim, I’m planning to also do recorded transcription work, which is not the type of salary I’m hoping for, but it’s something that will get me by and keep me in the industry while I’m working on my certifications.

Overall, I was really impressed with the court reporting program and really enjoyed it. This program has impacted my perspective and it has opened my eyes as to what I can accomplish. Things that I wasn’t sure I could do – I learned I could do them! You truly can do anything that you set your mind to. It sounds cliché, but this experience taught me that it’s true.

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