Court Reporting

Accurately accounting legal events

If you take pride in attention-to-detail and accuracy and are known for having first-rate listening skills, court reporting could be the career you're meant for.

Court reporting is a job that demands perfection. These professionals must create word for word (verbatim) transcripts of legal proceedings, meetings, conversations and virtually any other situation that requires a written account of events. This may include what was said or even what actions were made or emotions expressed. Transcripts are used as legal proof of events in record-keeping and for correspondence.

Court reporting methods

  • Stenographic - A stenotype machine has a variety of keys that can be pressed in combination to make up words, phrases or sounds. The symbols are electronically translated and displayed as text in what's known as computer-aided transcription.
  • Real-time - In this form the stenotype machine is linked directly to a computer. The symbols are translated into text onscreen. Called CART (communications access real-time translation), this is used in several different ways. On television it displays closed-captioning for the hearing impaired but it's also used in courts, classrooms and meeting rooms.
  • Electronic - Audio equipment is used to record court proceedings. A reporter monitors the entire process while taking notes that will help identify speakers later. Digital or analog recording equipment can be used. These transcribers often prepare a written transcript afterwards.
  • Voice writing - A court reporter speaks into a microphone inside a hand-held mask, repeating what the judge, witnesses and attorneys say word for word, as well as speaking about their emotional reactions and physical gestures. The mask acts as a voice silencer, so no one can hear the court reporter speaking. Voice writing can also be real-time if a computer with speech recognition software is connected. Some court reporters use voice recognition software later on to transcribe, but some prefer to transcribe manually. This method can also be used for creating television captioning.

How long will it take?

The amount and level of schooling a court reporter must take varies by what type of reporting they wish to do. Voice writers can become trained in under a year at many vocational and technical schools or career colleges, while some electronic reporters and transcribers receive on-the-job training.

Stenotypists generally require up to three years of schooling to become sufficiently qualified. Court reporting training can come in the form of one or two year diploma or associate's degree programs, or four-year bachelor's degrees. The more comprehensive the schooling, the better opportunities a court reporter is likely to find after graduation.

If a court reporter is required to become licensed or certified they'll have to meet certain criteria that can include the quality of the education they received.

Skills and requirements

Court reporters are responsible for creating a complete legal record and keeping it secure. They help judges and attorneys organize and search for information within transcripts and make suggestions concerning courtroom administration and procedure.

Court reporters work in government (making transcripts of a variety of Federal, State and local proceedings) or any other industry that requires their services. They often provide closed-captioning and real-time translating services to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.

Traits that make for good court reporters:

  • Speed and accuracy
  • Listening skills
  • English language and grammar skills
  • Excellent vocabulary and use of punctuation
  • The ability to listen and speak simultaneously (voice writers - this must be done while identifying speakers and describing what's going on in a courtroom or deposition room)
  • Awareness of business practices and current events
  • The ability to correctly spell names of people, places and events
  • Knowledge of legal terminology
  • Skilled use of computer hardware and applications

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