Most people have an idea of what a court reporter is, but they may not understand what they actually do. Contrary to popular belief, this profession spans much further than the courtroom and involves more than just typing incredibly fast.
So, What Exactly is Court Reporting?
The basic definition is the use of a stenograph to record and transcribe verbal speech into written form for official transcripts and documents. Reporters aren’t just great typists (225 wpm great) that decided they wanted to work in a legal setting, they’re dedicated professionals who have gone through years of education, obtaining certification, associate’s or graduate degree.
There are schools designed solely for court reporters such as the College of Court Reporting in Hobart, IN. These institutions are committed to increasing the number of students at high-performing, authorized colleges and National Court Reporters Association certified programs, and producing highly skilled reporters. These programs are either in a brick-and-mortar location in various states throughout the country or in a virtual online classroom setting.
During school, students not only become proficient in the use of the stenograph machine by taking classes in the theory of writing and speed building, but also business law, legal and medical terminology, English grammar, and even anatomy classes. Because students learn more than just reporting and transcribing, there are opportunities in a variety of environments in addition to the legal arena. “Court Reporter” is a term widely used but a bit of a misnomer for several thousand reporters who never see the inside of a courtroom.
Court Reporters also work within reporting firms tasked with freelance depositions and arbitrations, sporting event press conferences, conventions, and meetings. There are trained court reporters who are also employed captioning TV programs and one-on-one captioning in schools and colleges for hard-of-hearing students. Court Reporters are also employed with the United Nations, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the International Monetary Fund, proving they’re not limited to the four walls of a courtroom as the title would suggest.
The State of the Profession
Although the demand for court reporters remains high, there is a deficit of qualified professionals across the nation with the education and skills necessary to produce accurate transcripts. With the low enrollment rate in schools, many courts and businesses are forced to use electronic/digital recording equipment and under-qualified professionals which lead to inefficiencies and inaccurate results.
Reporters are able to immediately clarify terms, mishearings or accents on site during the proceedings to ensure what is said is clear for the record. A digital recorder will only capture what is said and will have to be deciphered at a later time, if it’s captured at all.
Even though enrollment rates are low, anyone interested in court reporting should pursue their degree. It opens many doors like it has for our own Jim Connor who has had the opportunity to work on the 9/11 terrorist trials in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and with U.S. presidents, foreign dignitaries such as Nelson Mandela and Lech Walesa, senators, congresspersons, and athletes from around the world. This is a very rewarding career for a prospective student to pursue.