David Feldman and the Development of the CAT System in Court Reporting
by Randy Stein, Vice President of Business Development & Deposition Technology
David Feldman Worldwide Court Reporting
March 15, 2017
CAT: Computer Aided Transcription. CAT systems are computer equipment and programs that perform three main functions: First, they translate the court reporter’s notes into English. These notes are in an electronic format. Secondly, they provide an editing system that is highly specialized for court reporting and allows the roughly translated text to be put into a full final transcript form. This step is called “scoping”. Finally, the CAT System prints the transcript in the format required by the legal profession with proper spacing, numbered lines, and a box. Early CAT Systems were based on a mainframe or minicomputer. CAT Systems came into wide use in the late 1980s with the rise of the personal computer.
This is where the story begins.
In the early 1960s David Feldman became a court reporter. In 1970s David became president of one of his early companies, Manhattan Reporting. Back then, law firms had their local court reporter, who they liked and trusted, listed on a card in their rolodex. When a deposition needed to be scheduled they would contact Manhattan Reporting to see if a reporter was available. In the early days of Manhattan Reporting, David Feldman began to actively visit and solicit business from attorneys he would meet at depositions, through referrals, or just showing up in hopes of meeting the litigation partner at a law firm. This was not a usual practice in the industry but as David often says, ‘it was either that or starve”. David began to build his business to become “the best court reporting company anywhere”. He was always looking for that distinctive edge and differentiation that would improve and increase his opportunity in the court reporting industry.
In the early days of court reporting, reporters learned a special shorthand that recorded what was said and then later translated into common English. They would then manually type up the transcript on a typewriter. If additional copies were needed these would also be typed, bound, and delivered. The development and inclusion of the copy machine changed the laborious work of creating copies of a transcript. Though in the early days they were hard to find as there was not the plethora of companies who offered printing and copying as there is today and those that were available were expensive. Other than shorthand, some court reporters also used a recording device called a “facemask” into which they would parrot what was being said at the deposition and later type up into a transcript. This kind of transcription reporting is still in use today.
Many companies such as IBM and Xerox began developing computer technologies for use in business. Development of language translation software assisted in taking away the need for manual translation by creating an interactive process between humans and machine. The computer aided transcription (CAT), developed in the 1950s, was improved upon over the next 25 years. In addition, as the software and technology developed for specific use, the arbitrary nature of writing styles and translations gave way to a universal language and dictionary.
So, in the early 1980s, Manhattan Reporting invested in a court reporting machine developed by a company called Baron which utilized CAT software. This was “a keyboard and editing system specifically designed for court reporters.” The early Baron system “offered very fast, efficient translation and was easy to learn.”1 Suddenly David was introducing a whole new concept, language, and way of court reporting to the practice of law. “There was a lot of resistance” David told me. “Attorneys just didn’t understand what it was and what it could do. You must remember that a minicomputer would require a lot of room, investment, and infrastructure at a law firm. There was no such thing as an IT department. The whole concept and idea of using such technology was foreign and new to them.”
As luck would have it, in 1984, David was invited to be the guest speaker on current deposition technologies at a law conference in Chicago. After the lecture, he was approached by the project manager for Penn Central Railroad who was overseeing an upcoming bankruptcy case that would become one of largest such cases to date. He told David they anticipated a year of depositions in NYC and Washington, DC with the need to deliver multiple copies (as many as 18+) of the transcripts quickly and efficiently to all parties. After a discussion and a demonstration of the Baron CAT System, the project manager was convinced that David had the expertise and current technology to manage all the needs in this case. Manhattan Reporting was awarded the contract…and well, the rest is history.
David saw a second opportunity in the mid 1990s and was the first company in New York to offer Livenote Software. Livenote offers a realtime technology which “instantly translates a court reporter’s stenographic notes into English and flashes the English onto a computer monitor or large projection screen.” 2 Realtime technology changed court reporting and case management forever and set the bar for 21st Century.
In 2002 David and his two children, Sheril and Michael, founded David Feldman Worldwide. Following in their father’s footsteps, they manage the day to day of the Feldman legacy of court reporting and deposition technology. They have expanded the company internationally and are implementing the latest in deposition technologies: the cloud based collaborative case management technology Opus 2 Magnum, advances in voice recognition technologies, and internet realtime video/text streaming to name just a few. These days, David spends his time sharing his experience and knowledge through writing and public speaking. As David stated “The face of court reporting is constantly reshaping and improving. I am proud of the company and all that my children have accomplished. I am constantly amazed by the advances in our industry. It is exciting to watch and know I was there when it started.”
1. Computer Aided Transcription, Mark J Golden, CAE
READ MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR, RANDY STEIN, HERE