Court Reporter Career, Job, Degrees and Training Information

What Does a Court Reporter Do?

Court reporters responsible for creating verbatim transcripts of conversations, speeches, meetings, legal proceedings and other important events that must be recorded. Written transcripts of is spoken in different settings are often required for records, correspondence or legal proof, and court reporters are trained to provide these written accounts. Court reporters play a very important role not only in judicial settings, but also at any meeting where verbal correspondence between two people or a conversation between multiple parties must be preserved as a written transcript. Court reporters must ensure an accurate, complete and secure legal record. Many court reporters also assist trial attorneys and judges in a many ways, such as searching for legal information or making recommendations to attorneys and judges with respect to courtroom procedure and administration. Today, court reporters are increasingly required to provide real-time translating and closed-captioning services to the deaf and hearing impaired.

Stenography Court Reporting

There are a variety of court reporting methods. The most common method is called stenographic Employing a stenotype machine, stenotypists record all statements made in official proceedings — usually in a court room setting or other legal proceedings. The stenotype machine enable court reporters to press multiple keys at once in order to record combinations of letters that represent words, sounds, or entire phrases. Once electronically recorded, these symbols are translated and displayed as text via a refined process called computer-aided transcription (CAT). When a court reporter is responsible for real-time reporting, the stenotype machine is directly linked to computers in order to provide real-time captioning. As the court reporter types in specific symbols, the corresponding words instantly appear as text on a computer monitor or television screen.

Electronic Court Reporting

Another common court reporting method employed by court reporters is called electronic reporting. This reporting method uses specialized audio equipment in order to record court proceedings. The court reporter is required to monitor the process, take notes to identify speakers, and listens to the recording to make sure is clear and easy to understand. The audio equipment used in this method may include digital equipment or even analog tape recorders. Electronic transcribers and/or reporters are often tasked with the responsbility of producing a written transcript of the recorded proceeding.

Voice Writing

Voice writing is another, while not as common, method of court reporting. The voice-writing method requires that a court reporter speaks into a voice silencer'a hand-held mask that contains a microphone. As the court reporter verbally repeats the testimony into the audio recorder. The mask prevents the court reporter from being heard by other individuals during testimony. Voice writers are required to record everything that is said by witnesses, judges, attorneys, and other parties involved in a proceeding, including emotional reactions and gestures. After the verbal recordings are completed, written recordings of the verbal recording is made.

Court Reporter Responsibilities

Court reporters are responsible for a number of duties in addition to simply transcribing events. Both before and after transcribing events voice-writing or stenographic reporters have to create and maintain a computer dictionary that they use in order to translate their voice files or keystroke into written text. Court reporters may customize their computer dictionary with entire words, parts of words or terminology that is uniquely specific to the program, proceeding, or an event they are going to transcribe.

After proceedings have been documented, stenographic court reporters are responsible for editing the computer-generated translation of the recording to ensure correct grammar. All court reporters are required to provide accurate identification of proper names and places. Electronic court reporters have to make sure that the record they create or testimony that take is completely discernible. Court reporters often prepare written transcripts, make copies of the transcripts, and then provide information from the transcript directly to courts, attorneys, judicial parties, and the public upon request.

Even though many court reports work in courtrooms, not all do. Many court reporters work outside of the courtroom. Court reporters, referred to as Internet information reporters or webcasters, record press conferences, sales meetings, product introductions, and training seminars and instantly transmit the recording to all parties involved via computers. As individuals involved in the conference, meeting or seminar speak into either a microphone or telephone, the words appear on all of the participants' computer monitors at the same time. Court reporters also work for various government agencies. They are tasked with the responsibility of capturing the proceedings, meetings and conferences taking place in government agencies at all levels. You'll find court reporters working with the U.S. Congress as well as several different local and State governing bodies. Still other court reporters, known as broadcast captioners, specialize in producing captions of live television programms for the hearing impaired. These reporters work for private cable stations or television networks, captioning emergency broadcasts, news, sporting events, or other broadcast programming.

Court reporters record the details and every 'official' spoken word during a trial. Reporters must work quickly, never missing a word. Court reporters usually record 200 words a minute.

People appealing court decisions use court records to support their appeal. Lawyers base their arguments to appellate courts from previous trial records. Judges may also rely on these records when writing opinions. Court records are essential to maintain an effective judicial system.

Court reporters also record depositions, interrogations, and all pretrial proceedings. For example, reporters often attend public meetings and take notes. 90 percent of court reporters use computer aided transcription technology (CAT) to complete their work.

Educational and Training Requirements

Training to become a court reporter varies depending on the type of reporting chosen. It can take up to 2 years to become proficient at real-time voice writing and less than a year to become a novice voice writer. Electronic transcribers and reporters usually learn their reporting skills on the job. The average amount of time required to become a real-time stenographic court reporter is 3 years. Training to become a stenographic court reporter is offered at several postsendary vocational schools and accredited colleges. The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) has certified over 60 court reporter training programs, most of which provide courses in real-time reporting and stenotype computer-aided transcription. NCRA-certified court reporter training programs require that students can capture a minimum of 225 words per minute. This is also a minimum requirement for Federal Government employment as well.

Electronic court reporters who are required to use audio-capture technology usually learn their court reporting skills while on the job. Students are required to read several technical manuals, review the manuals with their trainers, and observe skilled electronic transcribers perform required court reporting procedures. Court electronic transcribers usually receive initial technical training from a vendor when they receive audio-capture technology/equipment from the vendor. In a private company or organization, hands-on training for reporters is not uncommon.

Special Skills and Qualifications

In addition to possessing both accuracy and speed, court reporters are required to have excellent hearing and listening skills, excellent English grammar, vocabulary, and last but not least punctuation skills. Court reporters should also have the ability to work well under time limitations and deadline pressures and the capacity to concentrate for extended periods. Court reporters must be aware of current events and business practices, as well as the ability to correctly spell names of place, people, and events — which are likely to be mentioned in a court proceeding or televised broadcast. For court reporters who work exclusively in courtrooms, an advanced knowledge of both legal terminology as well as criminal and appellate procedure is imperative. Since recording court proceedings requires the use of speech recognition equipment or computerized stenography, court reporters have to be familiar computer hardware and software applications. Voice writers must develop the ablity speak and listen simultaneously and very quickly and quietly.

Working Conditions

Court reporters usually work 40 hour weeks, but may have to work extra hours to meet deadlines.

Court reporters work wherever official proceedings need to be documented. Examples include town halls, businesses, or courtrooms.

Salary and Benefits

Court reporters can work for a court or perform freelance work, or both. They earn between $35,000-65,000 a year while those working for companies or courts are usually provided benefits. As a reporter's skills improve, he or she can earn pay increases. For example, after 5 years of experience, a reporter can earn $50,000 or more annually.

Job Outlook for Court Reporters

Future job opportunities look good for court reporters. However, technological advances, such as voice activated transcription equipment, might eventually decrease demand for court reporter jobs. Skilled court reporters can also work as a legal or medical transcriptionist.

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