Real-time court reporting is a profession in which stenographer’s shorthand is instantly converted into English. Technological advances have allowed for a remarkable speeding-up of the translation process and for more options of distributing the achieved transcripts.
Real-time court reporting is just one variation of court reporting. Others include stenographic, voice writing, and electronic. Real-time court reporting can be seen as an outgrowth or extension of stenographic. A little background in stenographic court reporting would be helpful here.
Stenographic Court Reporting
Stenographers use machines called stenographs in order to translate the language of the courtroom or other professional settings. As language often occurs at a very rapid pace which is faster than the fingers can move, an innovative variation on the traditional keyboard was needed that allowed for an accurate and speedy rendering of oration. The stenograph emerged for just this reason. The original stenograph was invented by Karl Drais in 1830. However, the direct ancestor to today’s stenograph was invented by Ward Ireland around 1913.
This machine works to speed up the translation process by including fewer keys (22) and allowing for multiple keys to be pressed at once, something the traditional keyboard does not allow for. This greatly speeds up the process, allowing for a simultaneous translation, albeit in another language, the language of stenography.
The Advent of Real-Time
This is where real-time comes in. Previously, stenographers would have to go back and translate their abbreviated language back to English, a painstaking and time-consuming process. Real-time transcription became available when advances in the realm of computing allowed for such technology. Now, stenography machines, of which court reporters are already well-versed in, are able to be hooked up to a computer. Using technology know as computer-aided transcription (CAT), real-time reporter’s stenographic shorthand is instantly translated to English. This has made the profession of court reporting into a much more efficient and less time-consuming process.
There are other advantages that the computer and real-time transcription allows for as well. As text is practically instantaneously translated, this information can become available, distributed among judges and lawyers right away. This could happen during breaks in a trail. The transcripts can be shared via email. Lawyers and judges are able to search for particular phrases and terms that have recently been used. The text can also be instantly displayed as well. These possibilities and many more are enabled through CAT and other computer technology. Now that over 90 percent of court reporters use a computer in their work, these possibilities are being further explored and developed.
The Life of a Real-Time Court Reporter
Real-time court reporters often work in courtrooms, but may work in other settings in which business is conducted. They may also work for a broadcast companies providing real-time captioning. Additional captioning services which may or may not involve television programming are needed for the deaf and hard-of-hearing as well.
Even though CAT and related technologies greatly speed up the translation process, great typing speed and attention to detail is still required. This can be even more important for real-time reporters as their words may be instantly displayed, not allowing for editing that might otherwise take place. To be a real-time court reporter, it is necessary to have a good vocabulary and follow proper grammatical rules. Great abilities of attention are also required.
The job involves a good deal of sitting down remaining in a similar position while typing. This can cause soreness of the neck and back or carpel tunnel symptoms. Proper alignment and posture as well as stretching are essential for long-term success and health. Hours are typically fairly standard and occur during daytimes and weekdays, particularly in the courtroom. If working in other settings such as captioning, varying hours such as nights and weekends are possible.
Education and Training
Real-Time court reporters are expected to attain a certain degree of education and training before entering the field. Programs in Real-Time court reporting are offered by colleges and technical schools. The duration of the program varies depending on which branch of court reporting you choose to enter. These programs take anywhere from 2 to 4 years to complete. There are a variety of certifications that court reporters can attain. A fairly standard one that is offered by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) is the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR). The NCRA also offers a certification that is particularly applicable to Real-time court reporters known as the Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR). Attaining certification can help one’s chances with landing a good job and for future advancement.
Salary and Job Outlook
In 2008, court reporters made an average of $49,710. This salary can very depending on what particular field and company or court you work for as well as your level of certification. The employment outlook for court reporters is excellent. The profession of court reporting is expected to see an 18 percent increase from 2008-2018. There is a particular demand for real-time broadcast captioning.