Even in these modern, high-tech times, court reporters remain a significant part of legal proceedings to ensure that all statements are recorded accurately. There are plenty of advancements in reporting technology, but having the highly-trained human talent to review transcripts at any time of the process is crucial.
Regardless of where you are located in the United States, whether you’re in Phoenix, New York or Houston, court reporters are still a highly respected and important element of major courthouse activities. If this is the career path you wish to take, there are certain skills and qualifications that you must pass.
What Does a Court Reporter Do?
The role of a court reporter is generally to document all statements or actions made, verbatim, during a deposition or court proceeding. They are commonly referred to as “guardians of the record” because they function objectively and impartially. The document produced is important to the legal process, as it will serve as a reference to any verbal exchanges, statements, or promises made.
By combining their listening and recording skills with the technology that’s available today, judges, lawyers, and litigators gain access to every single word that was blurted out, to the benefit all parties involved. In addition, these documents also provide a reference for those who have hearing problems.
The duties of a court reporter include attending hearings, deposition and any other legal events where written transcripts are needed, using handwriting equipment, stenography machine, audio and video recorders, microphones, and more. Part of the duty is also to take note of the speaker’s actions, gestures and identification and asking them to repeat words or provide clarification for any testimony that might be ambiguous or inaudible.
Other tasks include providing real-time translation in public forums or classes for the benefit of those who have trouble hearing. All transcripts are recorded word-for-word.
Take note that court reporters are not limited to working inside the courtroom alone. Others can work in government functions, offer business support services, or become a freelancer. Many of them work in legislative offices, though others who freelance are hired on a per-project basis.
What are the Qualifications?
There is no specific university degree to become a court reporter, though there are colleges and technical institutes that offer a range of training programs for such and then provide an associate’s degree or certification upon completion. Such training could range from 2 years to 5 years, depending on the type of course taken. Having finished these programs can immediately quality one of entry-level court reporter positions. Some states will require applications to pass licensing tests or typing speed exams, too.
Basic skills necessary would be proficiency in phonetics and English grammar, legal terminology, and legal procedures. Typing speed and accuracy are also important, as well as knowledge of how to use different types of recording machines, such as steno masks or stenotype equipment.
Career Paths You Can Take
While the term “court reporter” indicates that you will be working inside the courthouse setting, this isn’t always the case. Some of the career paths you can take given your training being a freelancer, a legislative reporting, hearing reporting, transcript editing, and official court reporting.
Freelance court reporters are hired by individuals, companies, unions, lawyers and more to provide an accurate, complete, and secure record of arbitrations, pretrial depositions, negotiations, business sessions, stockholders’ meetings, and more.
2. Legislative Reporting
Legislative court reporters are present during state or Congress hearings around the U.S. They are responsible for recording all words spoken and actions made during these.
3. Hearing Reporting
The purpose of hearing court reporters is to use verbatim equipment and methods to record, store or retrieve pretrial and trial activities. They might also be asked to provide captions on pre-recorded or live broadcasts to the benefit of those who are deaf or are hard of hearing.
4. Transcript Editing
A transcript editor functions are a proofreader who has the ability to compare the shorthand notes to the finished version. By scoping the document, you can help identify incorrect translations and other errors so that an accurate record is produced.
5. Official Court Reporting
This job requires being in a legal proceeding and converting spoken word into readable text. The role is important to provide an accurate and complete record of all activities. The documents produced may also be read in real-time or displayed on a screen when the litigators or the judge asks a read-back or clarification.
A court reporter typically earns around $45,000 per year, though it can be higher depending on where you work or who your clients are. Income also varies depending on the location, so a court reporter in Phoenix may be earning differently from someone who provides the same services near Washington D.C. Other factors that can affect salary include certifications, training, and other special skills and technological proficiencies.