Steno Raises $3.5M To Revolutionize Court Reporting

Steno
5 min readAug 28, 2020

Lawyers rely on court reporters to accurately transcribe what is said by people involved in litigation. This most often happens in a deposition, which is where an attorney has the opportunity to ask questions of somebody under penalty of perjury. It’s like cross-examining someone in court but without a judge or jury present. The deposition transcript can be used as evidence later in the case.

Court Reporting is as Old as the Legal System — and Hasn’t Changed Much

The first stenography machine was created in the 1870s by Miles Bartholomew, the “Father of the Stenograph.” Thankfully, technology has progressed since then but the court reporting industry, for the most part, has not.

The first stenography machine
The first stenography machine

Most court reporters are independent contractors that rely on agencies to connect them with lawyers who need their services, and most agencies are small businesses run by court reporters turned entrepreneurs. The industry is highly fragmented and reporters often complain about things like being micromanaged and not being paid accurately or on time.

Steno Was Founded to Revolutionize the Court Reporting Industry

We started Steno in January 2019 with a simple goal: to revolutionize the court reporting industry by constantly innovating and bringing a hospitality mindset to everything we do. When we interact with our lawyer clients, we go beyond just being another service provider and actively try to be an extension of their office by finding solutions to whatever issues they may have. When we interact with court reporters, we treat them with respect, we pay them on time and accurately, and we give them the freedom to their job without looking over their shoulders every step of the way. And, internally, we rely on technology to automate many of the steps in our own workflow to ensure they are accomplished as quickly and accurately as possible.

A Steno transcript
A Steno transcript

Unlike every other agency in the space, we also offer two unique products: DisbursePay and Depos From a Distance™ designed to meet the specific needs of attorneys.

With DisbursePay, attorneys can defer paying us until their case resolves, on a non-recourse basis, so we don’t get paid unless they do. This is a big deal for most plaintiffs’ lawyers, who work at small firms and constantly balance their available cash against their need to work up their cases. Now they can focus on the case rather than the cost.

Depos From a Distance™ is our videoconferencing platform that was built specifically for fully remote depositions. Sure, attorneys could try Zoom, Webex, or some other videoconferencing tool, but none of these off-the-shelf products were built specifically for remote depositions. They don’t have the ability to seamlessly handle exhibits and other functions necessary to truly recreate an in-person deposition remotely. Depos From a Distance™ was built with input from plaintiff and defense lawyers so that it emulates a traditional deposition experience as closely as possible. With Depos From a Distance™, lawyers can continue to safely and effectively take depositions in a Covid-19 environment without fumbling through outdated technology.

Steno’s remote deposition platform, Depos from a Distance
Depos From a Distance™

For example, in 2018, a fire started in California that burned over thousands of acres of land, killed people, and destroyed hundreds of homes and other structures. Homeowners who lost their homes in the fire filed lawsuits to try to hold the responsible party accountable. These lawsuits, which seek enormous damages and are very important for the plaintiffs, were put on hold when Covid-19 struck because the attorneys could no longer take in-person depositions. The parties could not begin taking remote depositions because the existing videoconferencing technologies (Zoom and Webex) required software to be installed on employees’ computers, which violated the defendant’s IT policy. The plaintiffs’ lawyers contacted Steno to create a solution, which led to the initial version of Depos From a Distance™. Importantly, Depos From a Distance™ was built on a completely web-based platform so no software needs to be installed on machines for people to participate. Steno worked with lawyers from both sides, implemented technology changes according to their feedback, and launched Depos From a Distance™, which allowed the parties to begin taking remote depositions in the case. They are now back on track and are gearing up for trial.

Today, both of these products (DisbursePay and Depos From a Distance™) are available to lawyers in California and Nevada. They will be available to attorneys in other states soon as Steno continues to scale.

Increasing Access to Justice As We Scale

Our products promote access to justice by removing barriers that prevent some lawyers from being able to take fully remote depositions, and by freeing up cash flow for plaintiffs’ lawyers thereby allowing them to take on additional clients who otherwise would be turned away. In the coming years, we will expand our efforts to provide access to justice by scaling across the country and making our services available to all lawyers who want it, regardless of where they practice. We also will continue to innovate and find even more ways to streamline the litigation process.

We could not do any of this without the support of our investors and clients. We have been fortunate to raise nearly $5 million in funding from a diverse group of industry leaders, including a $3.5 million seed round led by First Round Capital, as recently featured in TechCrunch. Our clients, like Panish, Shea & Boyle, JML Law, and Simon Law Group, have been instrumental in our success. We are extremely grateful for all of our investors’ and clients’ support.

To learn more about Steno, visit our website, or follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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Steno

Revolutionizing legal support services. Experience our new remote deposition platform and non-recourse payment option. www.steno.com