Everything you need to know about court reporters: who they are, how they work, how much they earn and more

by Emily on June 11, 2018

in Articles

A law reporter or a court reporter transcribes spoken words in written form. They have the responsibility of producing the official transcripts of court hearings and official proceedings. Court reporters do not use a standard QWERTY keyboard. They have special phonetic keyboards or stenograph machines that have only 22 keys. The stress on the phonetic nature of words instead of spellings makes the transcription process faster and more efficient. Local, state and federal law agencies need court reporting services from time to time. In fact, non-governmental organizations, non-profits, trade associations and private law firms require court reporter services from time to time. There are some private litigation support firms in the US, who support the demand for stenotype operators round the year.

Who are court reporters? What do they regularly do?

In the simplest words, they create verbatim reports in written format from the day’s proceedings in a court or other legal processes in private firms. However, here’s a detailed list of responsibilities the reporters cum stenographers take on a daily basis –

  • Court stenographers attend the depositions, proceedings, and hearings for creating verbatim reports.
  • They can record proceedings with stenography equipment, video recorders, audio recorders and covered microphones.
    Stenotype operators report on the speaker’s speech, action, gestures, and identification.
  • They have the responsibility to playback all recordings upon request from the judge or presiding authority.
  • They have the right to ask speakers to clarify inaudible parts of their statement or speech.
  • They can mediate witness oaths in the courtroom.
  • Court reporters also provide copies of recording to the parties involved.
  • They revise the transcripts and provide real-time translation in public forums and classes for the hearing impaired.

In some of the states, the court reporter requires being a notary public. They can administer oaths in the courthouse, and they should also be able to certify that their transcript is a verbatim account of the proceedings. National Verbatim Reporters Association and National Court Reporters Association are the two organizations that provide certifications to the court reporters in the US. Several states have their certification requirements from state-level associations.

In all modern courthouses, the judges can revisit the older parts of the proceedings by replaying the recording of the sessions. The court reporter can show the transcription of the spoken record simultaneously on a digital screen. The court reporters often offer similar services during public events, webcasts, religious events and other arbitration hearings. They often find more work at TV stations for providing close captioning of live telecasts. A court reporter or a stenographer transcribes what the attorneys or witnesses say in the proceeding.

How to choose your team of law reporters or stenotype operator?

During a court deposition, you need a deft team of lawyers, but that is not enough. You will also need the support of professional reporters and real-time reporters to help you with the verbatim transcriptions in various settings. The transcript synced audios are important instruments of settlement discussions during corporate proceedings or during court trials. Several courts and higher authorities prefer an audio transcript over written transcripts since the authenticity of audio is more than a person reading out a written “note.”

The team you choose to cover your deposition or trial should offer all-inclusive services for you. This, of course, includes court reporters and smart case management aid, irrespective of your deposition type or trial premise. Always double-check the reputation and reviews of the team you want to work with before you commission their services. To know more about the ideal team that offers court reporters and litigation support services visit https://naegeliusa.com/denver-colorado/ today!

What makes the professional court reporters stand apart from the rest of the stenotype operator population?

The NCRA or the National Court Reporters Association provides certification training for court reporters. Anyone can apply to NCRA, but the application fee varies depending on the person’s current profession. Over the years, the US organization has extended its support to the court reporter population by holding workshops, online seminars, real-time contests, annual conventions and creating web forums. Court reporters, who have certifications from such an association or organization often gain preference in the candidate selection process in certain states. You can opt for three of the most relevant certifications from the NCRA –

  1. The Registered Professional Reporter or RPR certification
  2. Registered Merit Reporter or RMR certification
  3. Registered Diplomate Reporter or RDR

The RDR is the highest order of certification the NCRA currently offers. However, there are seven other certification programs this association offers. Interestingly, there are several steno contests that similar associations hold. These speed contests and real-time transcription contests do hold importance in a court reporter’s resume. You must remember that NCRA is not an accreditation agency, but they have established the minimum standards necessary for a court reporting school to offer stenographer certifications. This list of schools includes two Canadian institutes as well – the Canadian Centre for Verbatim Studies and Northern Alabama Institute of Technology.

Who can become an NCRA certified stenograph reporter?

There are several blogs, resources, and accounts on the web that state that anyone can become a court reporter without a four year’s worth of college education. While it is true that anyone can master the skills with enough training, it is also true that they will need about two to four years of training to become a steno reporter. Picking up the basic skills of voice to type transcription takes about 6 to 9 months, but to become efficient enough for live legal transcription it takes between one to one and a half years. Most successful candidates come from private certification schools, business schools or from bachelor’s programs at registered universities and colleges. A significant percentage of the reporters then go for hands-on training before moving to real legal reporting. For example – the state of California requires the court reporters to pass a two-level examination. In 2016, the qualification percentages for the two parts were 47.1% and 63.2% respectively.

What are the job prospects of court stenographers?

As of 2017, the media pay for a court reporter is about $55,120 per year. By the end of 2016, there were about 19,600 job positions for courtroom reporters in the US, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Majority of the legal support teams look for stenographers with a minimum shorthand typing speed of 225 words with 97% accuracy. Machine shorthand is something you will learn during the training process, but while applying for a certification course, you must ensure that your regular typing speed is more than 60 words per minute. Although the job of a court reporter or a verbatim reporter seems easy from a distance, you need to understand that they are responsible for helping the legal system of the city, state, and nation. Therefore, their training, job experience, and professional skill set hold a significant position in the field.

Over the last few years, the job demand has increased by at least 3%. The demand should increase by another 3% between 2016 and 2026 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, USA. This can be a direct effect of the growth of the elderly population in the country. More people will require the help of communication access real-time translation (CART) providers. These are professionals, who work with deaf people or hard of hearing elderly population in legal, medical, entrepreneurial and even personal settings. They might use different kinds of equipment for the different purposes.

How has the job responsibility of a court reporter changed over the years?

Earlier, the responsibility of court steno was to write down the speech and conversations in the court of law word for word. The burden of verbatim transcription became lesser than before with the advent of stenography machines that functioned somewhat like phonetic typewriters. These steno machines are still prevalent today in various corners of the US and a number of organizations still offer speed certification tests for stenographers, who use these tools. Today, the work of a court stenographer has become a lot easier with the advent of digital technology. Reporters from reputed organizations offer digital recording services as per the need of the courthouse or the legal team. They can also use steno masks and recorders for verbatim transcription.

In the end, the courts still rely on the court reporting process for keeping a track of all legal proceedings. By the end of the 19th century, people gave up their quills and pens to adopt the new (albeit slightly strange) stenotype machine. As of the late 1940s, people moved from a more direct and more efficient voice to type contraption. Text to speech now as an accuracy of over 97% with at least 180 to 200 words per minute speed of real-time. As a result, all clients prefer video conferencing and direct voice to text transcription over bare bones law reporting. So definitely ensure that your legal support and court reporting team offers voice recording or speech-to-text transcription services before you hire them.

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