What is a Notary and When Do I Need One?

 

A notary public is a person appointed by a state government, whose primary role is to serve the public as an impartial witness when important documents are signed.   Notaries help deter fraud and verify the authenticity of important documents.  The notary also makes sure that the signers are entering into agreements knowingly and willingly. When you see a notary’s seal on a document, it means a notary public verified that the transaction is authentic and properly executed.

But when do you need a notary?   Any time you have a document that could potentially need to be upheld in court, it is a good idea to have it notarized.  Some of the most common documents that should be notarized are the following:

Sworn Statement

Quitclaim Deed

Application for Duplicate or Paperless Title

Power of Attorney

Bill of Sale

Rental/Lease Agreements

Parental Consent for Travel

Medical release forms

Wills/Trusts

Advanced directives

Executorships

Custody and guardianship agreements

Articles of incorporation

Vendor contracts

Commercial leases

Employment contracts

Loan agreements

These are just a few of the documents a notary can sign.  If you need a document witnessed by a notary, make sure to bring a valid form of photo ID (driver’s license, State issued ID, Passport, etc.) and the unsigned documents.  In most cases, the notary will need to witness your signature.  Unsure whether you need a notary?  Call or email our office.

 

 

Happy Independence Day!

Since tomorrow is Independence Day, we are taking a break from our normal genre of topics to bring you a little history lesson in honor of our great Nation. Why do we celebrate Independence Day?

The short answer is that on July 4, 1776, the 13 colonies claimed their independence from England, an event which eventually led to the formation of the United States.  But here is how that happened.

 

In the summer of 1776, the colonies had convened a Continental Congress in Philadelphia. In a June 7 session, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia presented a resolution with the famous words: “Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”  These words were the impetus for the drafting of a formal Declaration of Independence.

 

Later, a Committee of Five was appointed to draft a statement presenting to the world the colonies’ case for independence.  Members included John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Robert R. Livingston of New York, and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. The task of drafting the actual document fell on Jefferson.

The Continental Congress reconvened on July 1, 1776.  Discussions of Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence resulted in some minor changes, but the spirit of the document was unchanged. The process of revision lasted until late afternoon of July 4, when the Declaration was officially adopted. Of the 13 colonies, nine voted in favor of the Declaration. Two colonies, Pennsylvania and South Carolina, voted “no”.  Delaware was undecided and New York abstained.

 

Today, the original copy of the Declaration is housed in the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and July 4 has been designated a national holiday to commemorate the day the United States became a free and independent nation.

 

Select Court Reporters is proud to celebrate our Independence.  Have a safe and happy holiday!

 

 

 

Tips Your Court Reporter Wants You to Know:

 

If a court reporter could hand you a list of do’s and don’ts, these are probably the top five.

 

Provide Introductory Information

Share all the important information with court reporters such as attorney names, proper names, spelling of unusual terms, and technical terminology ahead of time to get a faster turn around and a better overall transcript.

Leave Time for Markings

Pause for just a moment or two when marking exhibits. As skilled as court reporters are, they cannot mark exhibits and type at the same time.  A brief pause after demonstrating exhibits allows time for your court reporter to transcribe and mark exhibits.

Take a Break

Court reporters are typing as fast as you are talking.  They can’t move around the courtroom or grab a sip of water while someone else speaks.  Providing short breaks throughout a long day is beneficial to ensuring an accurate record.

Stop Arguing

While arguing your point, please refrain from actually arguing.  Heated discussions where parties talk over one another or interrupt are almost impossible to capture accurately.

Location is important

Real estate agents will promote “location, location, location.”  But location matters in the deposition room as well. If possible, seat the court reporter near the witnesses so that they can accurately hear everything that is said.

What to Look for When Hiring a Court Reporter

Hiring a good court reporter is crucial to ensuring that you get the most accurate service.  There are a lot of agencies out there, so what are some things to look for when choosing which service is right for you.

Experience

If you’re working on complex litigation, a knowledgeable, experienced court reporter is invaluable. A reputable court reporting service should have years of experience.  When choosing a court reporting company, it’s a good idea to make sure they’ve been in business in your state for at least 10 years to ensure that they are familiar with your state’s court reporting regulations and requirements.  Also, look for someone who has experience in both the courtroom and deposition settings.

Availability

It’s important to hire a court reporter that has a flexible schedule and is available when you need them.  Do they offer a guaranteed turnaround time for transcripts?  Having someone who puts the needs of your firm as a high priority and responds promptly is imperative.

Certifications 

Look for a court reporter who is certified by professional organizations.  At a minimum, your court reporter should hold either state or national certification.  Ask about what continuing education the court reporter has taken or what current memberships they hold.

Technology

The best court reporting services companies offer their clients access to advanced technology solutions  including: teleconferencing, E-transcripts and video conferencing solutions.  These types of advanced technology solutions allow you to hold an important client meeting or deposition with attendees that are out of state or simply can’t appear in person. Court reporting services that offer state of the art technology will also save your firm time, money, and stress.

Effective Communication

The bottom line is you want to hire a court reporting agency you can trust.  Look for someone who is responsive to your inquiries in a timely manner.  Good communication also means keeping you up to date on timelines and turnaround for important documents.  An agency that offers online scheduling and online ordering of transcripts is time saving.  Most of all, choose someone that is willing to customize their services to meet your needs.

 

 

Court Reporter vs Stenographer: What’s the Difference?

As Juliet famously said, “what’s in a name?” When it comes to choosing between a court reporter and a stenographer, there is a lot in a name. We often hear the terms used interchangeably, when in fact there are differences. Both court reporters and stenographers produce verbatim transcriptions of legal proceedings, be it in court, for a deposition, or during a business meeting. However, the terms are different. A court reporter is always a stenographer, but a stenographer isn’t always a court reporter. Let’s look at the differences.
The first difference is in the level of education. A court reporter requires 2-4 years of formal schooling. They must also pass an official exam and become licensed or certified, depending on the state. A stenographer is only required to have six months of training. Court reporters must complete continued education courses to receive certifications and thus, often have a higher understanding of court procedures and processes.
Another difference is duties performed. A court reporter has specific certifications and in general, have more responsibilities than stenographers in the courtroom. The extra education and license required for court reporters means that they are able to perform other duties beyond transcription in court. They might offer closed-caption services for hearing-impaired individuals, notary services, or perform other administrative tasks. Some court reporters will often do legal research, assist attorneys or judges, and administer oaths to witnesses in court.
Despite these differences, many people still use the terms interchangeably. However, if you need more than just basic transcription, hiring a certified court reporter is the best bet.

Legal Research Tips

A positive legal outcome depends on a well-researched case.  But how do you make sure your research is both efficient and effective?  Here are a few tips:

  • “Just the facts, ma’am”.  Know the facts of your case and define what you need before you dig.  Knowing how your research will be used in court is also important.  What is the desired outcome?
  • Don’t rely on one source.  Yes, it’s important to use legal resources such as Westlaw and NexisLexis.  However, Google Scholar and other free search options might provide valuable information as well.
  • Digging up the dirt.  Social Media can provide valuable insight into an individual’s personal life, activities and interests.  It may provide key ideas or avenues to further investigate.
  • Use what you have.  If you find a helpful case, use that as a springboard to other helpful cases.  Search using that case as the key terms, to find similar cases or other cases that used it as a reference.
  • Think outside of the box.  Just because you find a similar case with an undesired outcome, you could use facts from that case to argue how your case differs.  “Unlike the Jones case….”  and list why previous cases aren’t indicative of the outcome in the current case.
  • Don’t be dated.  Generally, more current cases are best. However, if you find a less recent case, don’t be afraid to reference it, just make sure it wasn’t overturned elsewhere.
  • Check the dictionary.  This sounds strange, but consulting a legal dictionary can give you key terms to help narrow your search using online resources.
  • Where are you?   Make sure that your research covers the correct jurisdiction. Federal and State Laws can vary so make sure your research is relevant to the court system where the case will be argued.

These are just a few tips to save time and make your legal research more efficient and effective.  Every case is different and sometimes good research requires using several resources, so it’s good to keep your research tool box full of ideas and even unconventional methods.

Identity Security: Staying Safe on Vacation.

It’s that time of year when many of us are planning vacations with our family and friends.  Whether traveling within the US or abroad there are a few things to keep in mind to help safeguard your identity and protect yourself from needless stress.

One key way to safeguard yourself is to remove all non-essential information from your purse or wallet.  Only carry the IDs and credit/debit cards you will need for the trip.  Also, never carry your social security card with you.  Once you have determined which cards and information are necessary, make copies of this information and store it where someone you trust can access it should your purse or wallet get stolen.  Consider keeping your cards in an RFID sleeve or wallet.

Also, make sure to contact your credit card companies and banking institutions prior to your trip to inform them of your itinerary.  This will ensure you don’t have declines when you use your card and also will alert them to any charges made in other areas.

Watch out for pickpockets.  If you carry a purse or messenger bag, make sure it is a cross-body type and strap it across your torso. Men might consider carrying their wallets in a front pocket.

Also remember to halt your mail service at home.  You can do this online or by sending a small “hold mail” request to the post office. Even unsolicited credit card offers can be stolen from a mailbox and used to get cards in your name.

Use secure Internet connections.  Using public WI-FI in hotels or other places  is sometimes unavoidable, but it is not a good idea to use these connections to do any financial activities.  If you must use public computers, using incognito mode is always a better option.  Remember to log out when you are done.  Adding a VPN ( Virtual Private Network) to your phones and laptops is important as well.  This ensures an extra layer of encryption.

When using ATM’s, it’s always safer to use one that is inside a bank lobby or other well monitored location.  If you must use an ATM or credit card machine at a less secure location, check your balances regularly for any suspicious activity.

Lastly, keep your phone secured.  Most smartphones have options to remotely factory reset your phone, it’s important to make sure these options are turned on.  Using a password or fingerprint to secure your phone is important as well. It also helps to turn off the automated password fills for sensitive information like banking apps.

These are just a few ideas to help you enjoy a safe and secure vacation.

 

How to Help Your Court Reporter Ensure an Accurate Record

Accurate court records are imperative.  Court reporters are responsible for making sure testimony is recorded exactly as it occurs in court.  But how can lawyers help make sure that happens?   One important way is to make sure what is being said in a courtroom can easily be understood and recorded.  Here are several tips on how to help:

  • Offer spellings of names and important or unusual terms.
  • Remind witnesses to wait until the entire question has been asked before answering.
  • Ask witnesses to speak clearly on all answers. Remind them that head nodding or statements like “uh huh” are not clearly understood.
  • Verbally describe any gestures made in court.  If the witness points to a piece of evidence, state what was gestured to for the record.
  • Avoid overlapping discussions or talking over witness’ answers.
  • Verbally describe body language and non-verbal answers.  For example, if a witness states  “It was about this big” and gestures, state “Let the record show that the witness indicated about two feet.”
  • Remind interpreters to speak in first person.
  • If the case might involve the use of acronyms or specific terminology, prepare a glossary of terms for your reporter in advance.  Most reporters have a broad general knowledge of terms, but specific chemicals or scientific terms might not be readily known.  Acronyms used in a specific industry could be confusing.
  • Be aware of the numbers. If a witness answers a monetary amount, for example with “Around one twenty”, ask them to clarify, is it $1.20? $120?
  • What time is it? Don’t forget to clarify AM and PM when asking for time of day.
  • Exhibit A.  Using visual exhibits are often very important but can’t be accurately recorded into the written record without a clear description of what is being displayed.

These are just a few of the ways you can ensure accurate record keeping.  It’s important to also remember that a court reporter’s job is to record everything.  If you don’t want something on the record, clearly state that it should be kept off the record.

Why should I hire a court reporter when digital reporting seems so much cheaper?

Why should I hire a court reporter when digital reporting seems so much cheaper?

 

My grandmother used to say, “you get what you pay for”.  This is true in almost any situation.  You can sometimes cut corners and end up saving money.   But when it comes down to a critical verdict in a trial, do you want to take chances?

 So what is digital reporting?  It is sometimes called electronic reporting and is basically an audio recording of the proceedings.   A digital reporter shows up with audio equipment and presses “record”.  Sounds reasonable, except there are many things that can go wrong with digital recording.  Probably the most obvious is mechanical failure.   If the recorder stops, the individual failed to hit “record” or other technical glitches, like battery failure, it could mean part or all of the record is lost.

Another significant concern is quality of the record.  Background noise might interfere with the  recording making it garbled when playing back.  If this happens, the transcript will simply read “inaudible”.  Having an actual court reporter taking real time records prevents this.  If something is unclear, the court reporter can ask the person to speak up or repeat what was said.  Court reporters are experienced at tuning out background noise or sidebar conversations.

Most of us have some sort of virtual assistant to help us in the home (SIRI, Alexa etc).  How often have you asked Alexa a question only to have her misinterpret what you’ve said?   The same is true for transcriptionists who are typing from audio recordings and not actually present in the courtroom.   There is a big difference between finding $5 in the dryer after doing a load of laundry and actual money laundering! It’s important to be sure what you hear is accurate.  A court reporter is able to ask for clarity at the exact moment of testimony if needed.

One of the final advantages of having a court reporter taking minute by minute records is that those records can be read back if the court so requests.  Court reporters have years of training as well as a clear understanding of legal proceedings and terminology.  Investing in professionals rather than trusting important proceedings to an inanimate device, just makes prudent sense.

Must Haves for Every Attorney: Practice Management Software

This week we are starting a series of must-haves for every attorney but what separate this list from the many others is that it will be solely focused on actionable and practical must haves as opposed to the standard subjective material. Similar to any other profession, there is a list of must haves for attorneys. We are going to continue the series with touching on a tool that has been deemed a necessity over time: practice management software.

Practice Management Software:  

The stereotypical visual of an office being swamped in papers filling every nook and cranny is typically used to depict the lifestyle of an attorney. Now whether or not this stereotype holds true to your office, there is always room for improvement! Improvement can mean many things for many different people however there is an overwhelming consensus on the need for optimized organizational practices when it comes to practice management.

Similar to any landscape, there is plenty of competition when it comes to platforms that offer cloud based organization tools. Clio, CosmoLex and Practice Panther are among the highest rated options. From legal practice management to client intake and client relationship management, these platforms offer an incredible variety of methods for organizing your practice. No matter the size of the firm, organization will always be a key in ensuring the success of a growing practice.

At first, it can seem a little overwhelming integrating a new platform into your daily routine as an attorney. But the initial lift of transferring everything to one of these platforms increases your efficiency exponentially in the long run. Before you decide whether or not this is something you’re interested in, take a moment to analyze your current workflow. Use this time to discern what works for you and what doesn’t then remain conscious of these factors when selecting a platform.

Now you can say your last goodbyes to offices drowning in paper work and endless walls of filing cabinets!

 Select Court Reporters You Can Count On!  Covering all of Central Florida including but not limited to Orlando, Orange County, Florida, Kissimmee, Osceola County, Sanford, Seminole County, Florida, Winter Garden, Ocoee, Winter Springs, Oviedo, Winter Park, Altamonte Springs, Lake Mary, Longwood and all of Central Florida.