A Career in Court Reporting

Court reporting involves taking notes on all that happens during legal proceedings and other occasions in which an accurate written transcription is required. This involves directly typing what is said or making a recording and later providing a written record. In this article I will lay out the details of a career in court reporting.

The field of law is robust. Many different cases and related judicial activity transpires in courts at the federal, state and local levels. While the lawyers are presenting their cases, the judges are maintaining order, and juries are weighing the evidence, there is another important player that acts in the background, but is integral to the judicial system. That background player is, of course, the court reporter.

The court reporter takes detailed notes on all that transpires in the courtroom. These are often official records and will be public record, accessible to involved parties as well as those who would like to better understand the details of a particular case. The court reporter ensures that there is a direct relation to what is said and what can later be found in the written transcripts.

The courtroom is a common environment for court reporters, but there are other settings in which court reporters work as well. They may also act as Internet information reporters in which they record and transcribe dialogue during seminars, sales meetings, and press conferences. This dialogue is instantly shared with all parties at their varying locations via computer. Other work environments court reporters work in include churches, sporting events and at television stations.

As they are official documents, accuracy is important. Court reporters need to be able to type extremely fast and accurately. To be able to keep up, they utilize a stenotype machine allowing the stenotypist to push several buttons simultaneously which represent words or phrases. This information is then translated by Computer Aided Transcription (CAT).

In other instances, court reporters initially use a recording devices for what is said, later playing it back and typing up what transpired. Some court reporters utilize a mask which blocks out any audio output from being heard by others in the courtroom, while still being recorded into the device.

To become a court reporter, attention to detail and grammar is a must. If you are working in the courtroom, you must be familiar with legal lingo. It is also expected that you will behave in an ethical manner. If you are working a free-lance court reporter, you will need to keep abreast of the terminology particular the field you are working in. To ensure accuracy, you must be able to be able to maintain a high degree of attention for long periods of time.

It usually takes two years of training and education before becoming a proficient with real-time voice recording. Almost all colleges and technical schools offer programs in court reporting. For web-based work, on-the-job training may be offered. The standard speed at which court reporters are expected to type is 225 words per minute, as advised by the National Court Reporters Association. There are state and federal licensees that one may obtain which test the court reporter on tasks of speed, accuracy and knowledge.

The work environment often consists of courtrooms where original transcription takes place. This is a formal setting and the court reporter is expected to follow all procedures that are standard in that setting. The court reporter may later write and edit related documents preparing them for the various departments they will be sent to. This can be done in an office outside of the courtroom. Court reporters may also work in offices of attorneys. With the rise of web-based free-lance court reporting, working out of the home is also becoming a possibility.

Court reporters often spend long periods of time sitting down and typing and they may develop stiff backs and experience carpal-tunnel effects. Adaptive devices and, when possible, breaks and stretching can help to lessen this impact. As it is a fast-paced job, stress can also be an issue.

Court reporters typically work a 9-5 Monday through Friday schedule, though sometimes they work after hours. Free-lancers may work odd hours including nights and weekends.

The median wage for court reporters in 1998 was $49,710. These wages vary according to factors such as how long you have been employed, what your level of licensure is and which branch of court reporting you work in. Most court reporters are salaried, though free-lancers are often paid by the job.

The job outlook is excellent for court reporters. This is particularly true for those with certification. Demand for court reporters is expected to grow faster than average, at 18% between 2008 and 2018. There will be a continuing need for court reporters in the courtroom setting. There will also be a growing demand for television and real-time web broadcasting as well as translation services for the deaf and hard of hearing. The excellent outlook is partially because fewer people are entering the profession.