My mother had a rule that she drilled into me as a kid. “Don’t go to anyone’s home empty-handed!” she always told me, and it’s a rule I live by today, even when I’m working as a court reporter.
Now, I grant you that a law firm isn’t a home (although some lawyers would argue that they spend so much time at the office that they may as well call it “home”). Even so, I always bring some cookies or donuts to my depositions and hand them around. It starts the deposition off on a good note and helps to relax everyone.
Not everyone agrees with my sweet approach to depositions. As the owner of a court reporting firm serving some pretty serious clients in Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland, I tend to read articles on how to market my business more effectively.
Over the years, I’ve read several articles which mentioned how inappropriate (!) it is to bring cakes or cookies to depositions and how one will never be taken seriously if one comes bearing sweets. My experience tells a different tale.
Maybe it’s just my charming personality, but my donut contributions are something of a trademark for me. And they’ve always been well-received. Whenever I’ve come bearing donuts, as soon as the first attorney enters the room, they always ask, “Who brought the donuts?”
“I did”, I tell them proudly, “and please eat them fast before I eat them all!”
And they do.[Check out this recipe for decadent chocolate chip cookies I found online]
But my sneaky little secret is that the donuts and cookies are only partly for my attorneys and their clients at the deposition. I have a terrible sweet tooth and am a certified chocoholic. In fact, I’ve never been known to turn down peanut M&Ms or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. And my regular donut runs gave me a wonderful excuse to get to know the owners of the local Dunkin’ Donuts, and to watch their family grow up.
Being a good court reporter is not just about being good at taking down a transcript. It also involves observing people and sometimes reading body language and putting forth a neutral, calming, and non-judgmental presence in a situation where emotions often run high.
A flaky donut or a freshly-baked chocolate chip cookie may not be something they teach you when you train to become a certified court reporter, but they sure do help make your job easier!