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Exclusive Interview: Chuck Cady of Top Cleveland Court Reporters, Cady Reporting

Credit: Golden Press Releases

Chuck Cady has been the primary owner and operator of Cady Reporting since 1981. The Cleveland-based firm is a family business that has been a major part of cases across all areas of practice, big and small. Because of their longevity and dedication to customer service, Cady Reporting has become a staple of not only the Cleveland legal scene, but the Ohio legal scene.

Interviewology: What intrigued you about the field of court reporting?

Chuck Cady: Getting a ringside seat to what fascinates so many people– the goings-on of court cases.  You get a slice of so many aspects of life and education.

I: How long have you been with Cady Reporting?

CC: I began with its prior iterations in September of 1981.

I: Is there a specific aspect of business that you would say your firm does better than others?

CC: Like so many services, it can become easy to be commoditized.  I think the best way to stand out and that we stand out is being pleasant to work with and making people feel that we’ll happily go the extra mile to take care of their needs.

Credit: NNRC

I: What led you running your own firm, as opposed to working with another?

CC: Our buyout took place in January of 1999, and at that time I had been with the firm for 18 years, so it seemed like a natural transition.

I: How does acting as a court reporter for a specific field of law—say, criminal—vary from working in a different field—say, maritime law? 

CC: Because we deal in terminology in creating a written record, knowing the terms in a specific field is vital to making sure the transcript properly reflects the intended meaning.  And for the information to flow well to the fingers of a court reporter, it has to flow through the brain smoothly, with little or no hesitation.

Since you specifically asked about maritime law, one of my favorite examples of requiring familiarity with terminology is knowing the term fo’c’sle, pronounced “fokesul,” which is a shortened form of “forecastle,” a superstructure at or immediately aft of the bow of a vessel, used as a shelter for stores, machinery, etc., or as quarters for sailors.  That one can throw you for a loop, especially spoken with a thick Canadian accent. And that is a very big part of our challenge, understanding not just the terms spoken but many times with an accent involved.

Credit: Times Square Chronicles

I: Since you first became a certified court reporter, how has the field changed in regards to technology and culture?

CC: It has changed very much so.   In the past we needed our steno machine, paper, a Dictaphone, and a typewriter.  As with pretty much every field now, it required computerization, along with the necessary software for creating the transcript, as well as allowing attorneys to use a real-time feed if they choose, either in person or streamed remotely.  And our firm, like most others, couldn’t operate without a dedicated IT person for security and know-how.

I: You’ve referred to the firm as a family business. Do you think that connection has a direct influence on your quality of service? 

CC: Yes, it absolutely does.  Our name is on the door.  We need to back that up.

Credit: National Court Reporting Firms

I: What are some aspects about court reporting you think people misinterpret?

CC: That it’s an easy job merely because we’re sitting there quietly doing our job, (or, at least, we should be),  and, therefore, the pay doesn’t seem commensurate with the job skill. This couldn’t be further from the truth.  The completion rate in reporting schools is around 7%, and I feel one of the reasons is because people underestimate the skill involved.  They have no idea all the gears whirring away in the court reporter’s brain and sometimes their stomach as they strive to deal with a fast-speaking expert witness with a heavy accent, or just a very fast deposition where people are not aware of making a good record.

A pianist has the opportunity to practice his or her piece many times before a performance.  Imagine a pianist having to play the notes in front of an audience as the notes are streamed across their eyes, never having seen them before.  The court reporter has to do the very same thing with words streamed into their ears and transferred to their fingers and keyboard at a very high rate of speed, and no one tells us what they’re about to say before they say it.

I: What do you think it takes to be a good court reporter?

CC: Besides having the requisite skill level, it takes good attention to detail, which requires a high level of caring about the transcripts that you produce.  It also takes good people skills and discretion to know how to conduct yourself in a way as to do your job well without being intrusive.  Most reporters I know are total perfectionists; they fret over whether they should use a comma or a semicolon. As a sort of bottom line, I have yet to find a situation that doesn’t fall into one of the two basic vital categories for success: professionalism and communication.

Legal

Exclusive Interview: Elder Law Attorney and Advocate, Mark Shalloway

Mark Shalloway is an Elder Law Attorney based out of West Palm Beach, Florida. His practice, Shalloway & Shalloway P.A. has been changing the lives of the elder and special needs communities in his areas for many years, but his work has had a national effect.

Mark G. Shalloway

As one of the first certified Elder Law Attorneys in the United States, Mark Shalloway is a vocal advocate for proper care of our more vulnerable populations, and has served on a number of elder care committees and boards as both a member and chairman. He works to protect, but also educate the public on how to properly prepare themselves and their families for these more difficult aspects of life.

Interviewology: Tell us a bit about your journey into the legal field.

Mark G. Shalloway: My journey would begin being the son of an attorney. Some of my earliest memories are sitting in a chair at Dad’s office, playing with equipment. Funny thing is, I thought Dad said he was in “lost school,” not law school.

I was never pressured or even encouraged to go into law, but I found it fascinating. As I got older, I found an appreciation of lawyers. They’re the brunt of many jokes, but they help with such a wide spectrum of important topics. I found a compelling calling to be a part of a profession that Dad was a part of, but one that is also so diverse.

What I do day to day is very different from others. My field is different from real estate, criminal defense, tax law, or any number of other fields. There are people with law degrees who hold a political office, or work in a corporation. My journey into law recognized that latitude. I liked that. As a young guy, I didn’t know what path I would take, but I wanted an area where I could chart my path.

I: What inspired you to specifically take on the field of elder law?

MS: I had attended a continuing legal education class. One day in particular, there were a group of panelists looking for people who wanted to serve as advocates for elder communities and homes. I wanted to be civically and socially engaged in my community, so this caught my attention and I got involved.

That experience spun off into folks facing a need to pay for care in those facilities. They weren’t then, but now nursing homes are priced at $10,000. Most of us in middle class cannot afford that. Elder care lawyers look into these problems to find ways to benefit others. That is the heart and soul of elder law.

There were not a lot of books or guides for elder law when I started, and no board certification. Lawyers came together across the country in the early 90s and built this legal field. Compared to others, elder law is a young field. I have the privilege of serving in the charter class of board certified elder attorneys.

The field grew from traditional wills and trusts, to death and tax planning. People come to me looking to help secure life for family after they are gone. Elder law shifted to incapacitation. It turned into, “What happens when I get sick, not die?” So, they have to look into estate planning documents. This deals with diseases like Alzheimer’s or stroke.

We repurposed these documents to help people at home in assisted living places. The middle-class people struggle paying for this added monthly cost—$3,000 to $10,000 a month—for dressing, bathing, helping. Since these people need an aid and not a doctor, it isn’t covered, and we have to look into how Medicaid can benefit these people. We had to learn how to full disclosure shelter these assets with elder law. We can’t shelter every asset, but with planning we can work something out so they can qualify for Medicaid and nursing home care and not be broke.

I: Was it always the plan to create your own firm?

MS: I would say I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I learned that with one of my first jobs. I was working at a commercial litigation firm, and I treasured that experience, but it was too stifling. Not only was it the wrong field of law, banking, but it was far too rigid. My undergraduate work was theater, so I wanted to shape and grow my law firm with the creative vision that I had. I would need to be partners in a firm where I could really influence others with personality and culture.

I: How did you come about forming Shalloway & Shalloway with your father?

MS: When I had my experience with that first firm, I reached out to Dad and said “Look, I love where I’m at, but I would either prefer my own firm or to find a firm and become partners. Dad, are you interested in forming Shalloway & Shalloway, P.A.?”

Dad worked as an attorney when specialization was rare. In his time, it was much more common to be a general practitioner. He would work in real estate one day, then criminality, then divorce. I started in late 80s, so specialization was starting to catch on. I didn’t know how specialized that would get, and we started together. Early on it was more diverse—I was doing more estate planning and he was more generalized—and as I quickly grew into more elder law, he scaled back anything that was diverse and we focused on elder/special needs law.

I: You’ve worked with a number of elder law committees and boards as a member and chairman. What is the main goal of these organizations?

MS: Each of these organizations fall in different domains. Some are professional bars that help with professional legal development. The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA)—which I believe influenced me with ethical development, growth, and practice capacity—is made up of lawyers across the country that helped mature the field. I became the chairman in 2008, and I did a lot of travel working in different aspects of the field. I provided assistance to the group and the congress. It gave me a fascinating perspective on the federal level, and I was able to see how other states were working.

At same time, was I had local clients. I was working at Stetson, teaching elder law. In a little over 15 years, they have built up a master’s degree and elder law program for that school, and host nationally reputed special needs conference annually. This has had a profound influence on the special needs practice for clients under 65. We most recently extended to veterans’ benefits advocacy to educate the JAG (Judge Advocate General’s) corps.

Community service and engagement are constituencies we serve and understand, because they need long term care. We get involved in multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s communities to gain insight in order to better serve them. We learn and listen to what they go through, and teach what they need so we can advocate better for legislatures and congresses.

 

 

I: What are some misconceptions about elder law that you face in your career?

MS: Elder law is thought to be mostly wills and trusts work. I laugh when others say they are elder lawyers, but are specifically traditional, because elder law focuses on more than long term care planning. People not fluent in the field think it’s a new term for estate planning, but it’s nothing of the sort. It’s recognized by the bar, and it has national certifications and state certifications. There is a real distinction. It is more than a marketing word for wills and trusts, or estate planning.

Elder law is unique in that we define work by the client, not the subject. Divorce and real estate are both subjects, but elder law covers 13 different areas— from guardianship, living wills, and public benefits like Medicaid. We use wills and trusts, but we also use long term care facilities and taxes. I’ve tagged briefly number of subjects that fall under the umbrella. People don’t realize that the field covers over 12 areas.

Florida is known as retirement state, but we ironically only have a little more 100 certified elder law attorneys among the 100,000 attorneys in total. This is not the case for most other specialty areas. I find it ironic, given the amount of retirees.

I: How did you develop these free seminars you host on estate planning, and a number of other topics?

MS: It was organic in that it was out of need and awareness. Part of the reality of legal profession is that I am not organized as a non-profit, so getting law out helps, but education is more important. Speaking is done in many different venues. We speak a few times a month to create education and awareness. This creates an easy forum for someone who does not regularly work with lawyers.

There is intimidation and fear with booking with lawyer. If referred by someone else, that is a helpful resource, but if they need an elder law attorney, there is a lot of worry and fear. What we have found is that by offering the workshop, people can sit in audience anonymously, and the seminar serves as a  free, low-key sample consultation. They can sit in room, hear a lawyer speak, and understand personality. They are exposed to the subject matter and can understand if it will help. If it’s not right fit, they just leave. If they want more, they can follow up. You can go on internet, read articles, but you can learn much more if you show up to a seminar. If that’s all you need, you leave, but if you want more it’s easy to continue.

I: What does being ranked as one of the top elder law attorneys in the Palm Beach area mean to you?

MS: I work hard to try to establish what I call “objective credentials.” How does one measure what makes a good lawyer in the mind of client or referral source? I could stand on roof and say I’m good, but as a resource how does someone establish what makes a good lawyer? One standard of measure is bar certification. You have to maintain certification so knowledge is updated. Another is various reviews, where they give you a rating, or superlawyers, where other lawyers who have worked with you can give reviews. It is humbling. Reputation is easily damaged if you’re careless. I know I’ve got to earn it. It means the world to me. It comes from values my parents raised me on.

I: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

MS: Easily the gratitude that I am blessed to receive when I am able to help family or individual who is going through most difficult season of life. When families reach out they are middle, not rich, some are pro-bono, but most are middle class. The middle class fall through the cracks because they don’t fit the requirements for benefits, and they are not very rich. They work hard—they could be teachers, or doctors, or journalists, or other good, hard working people who have saved and are facing Alzheimer’s, stroke, Parkinson’s, or have a spouse or child with special needs. They can face these diseases for years—for the rest of their lives—and that can impoverish you. If we can do Medicaid planning, that can help.

We get thank you letters, and cookies, and pictures. I don’t know where else we could make a livelihood and still make such a positive impact. I love coming into work and making a difference— to shelter the asset so that a person in a home can pay for a private room, or duty aid, or have a van and wheelchair lift. To me, that is not wicked debauchery and self-indulgence, it’s being a human being. If you can have joy and the lift take you wherever you want, you can’t do if you’re paying $10,000 at nursing home. But if Medicaid and savings can do that for you, it gives you a little sunshine. That stuff gets us this gratitude.