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How will the court reporting labor market change with technological disruption?

Some say a shortage of court reporters looms. But technology, like that used by St. Petersburg court reporting agency CourtScribes, could help alleviate such a shortage.

The Wall Street Journal reported recently that, though the court reporting profession can be financially rewarding, it isn’t attracting enough young talent. Part of the problem, the Journal reported, is that potential workers don’t realize court reporting has become much more than sitting and taking courtroom stenography.

According to the Journal:

“Court reporters do more than just transcribe legal proceedings for courts or legislatures, said Nativa Wood, president of the National Court Reporters Association. They also caption broadcast television shows and public and school events for the hearing-impaired, as well as providing real-time transcripts for everything from business meetings to legal depositions.”

The Journal and other sources write that, depending upon the industry, court reporting can bring practitioners as much as $95,000 per year.

That’s an attractive salary. So why aren’t young people lining up to replace retiring court reporters? It’s true they may be put off by the moniker. But another factor could be an outdated image of court reporting as a stodgy profession.

That image will change, thanks to disruptive companies like St. Petersburg court reporting agency CourtScribes. In addition to traditional courtroom stenography, CourtScribes is using digital and cloud technology, courtroom videography, and cutting-edge audio recording to remake court reporting.

The St. Petersburg court reporting company’s process includes:

An experienced court reporter oversees recording equipment and takes simultaneous notes.  Digital annotations are time-linked to the recording so it’s a simple process to find and listen to actual testimony.

Each primary participant in the proceeding is given a discreet sound channel so that each voice is distinct, eliminating confusion caused by crosstalk. “This voice isolation feature permits a full and accurate transcription of exactly what was said — and who said it — because each channel can be listened to individually,” entrepreneur and professor Barry Unger writes in a white paper about the St. Petersburg court reporting company.

Because of the quality of the recordings, court reporters are less obtrusive than in more traditional court stenography. Unger writes, “The recording process captures all words exactly as spoken — then in transcription, the audio can be replayed as needed to verify verbatim accuracy.”

Lawyers or other interested parties can obtain copies of the digital recording as well as the transcript, and, “With digital annotations directly “hot-linked” to the audio, points of interest are located quickly and efficiently,” Unger writes.

Notes and audio files can be delivered over the Internet. Unger writes, “Both log notes and audio files are transmitted over the Internet, reducing or eliminating shipping costs and delivery delays. Storage and archiving are efficient and compact. When the audio and log notes are saved as computer files, there are no cassettes to store, nor files of reporters’ paper notes to maintain.”

According to Unger, the digital disruption represented by CourtScribes will democratize courtrooms and depositions by helping to drive down the cost of cutting-edge recording and reproduction.

Unger writes: “Court reporting agencies in Florida charge both parties ordering a Daily transcript as much as $10/page or about $2,500 a day or about $25,000 for a two-week trial to create official transcripts delivered the next morning. CourtScribes provides up to 50% off the Daily transcripts. The company charges ~$5/page or ~$1,250 a day or ~$12,500 for a two-week trial to create the Daily transcript for both sides (saving each side as much $12,500 on a two-week trial). Twenty of these trials a year would save as much as $250,000 for each side. CourtScribes is able to leverage its process and technology to provide live and on-demand video or audio recording to attorneys in the office at marginal cost. Attorneys not only benefit from a less expensive transcript but the video and/or audio recording provides them with a more accurate and complete record. The digital recording reveals the demeanor of a witness and whether, for instance, they were being sarcastic. In addition, the live video and/or audio feed can be watched by attorneys in the office, allowing the office team to monitor the proceedings and more effectively assist the attorneys in the courtroom.”

All of that makes the St. Petersburg court reporting agency part of a digital revolution that is reaching virtually every corner of the economy.

According to Unger: “The idea of legal audio and video recording has been around for decades, but only within the last few years has the technology and pricing caught up. Likewise as a co-founder of Kurzweil Computer Products, Inc., an early artificial intelligence and digital imaging company which then became Xerox Imaging Systems, I saw first-hand the enormous positive impact of what is now called digital photography, and how this new capability has both improved the quality of photography and equally importantly opened up active photography to a much bigger audience and to new uses.

Think for example how many of the countless unforeseen ways we now on a regular basis use the electronic cameras built into our phones to communicate with each other and facilitate our workflow, and even recording images like damage to our cars or receipts for expense reports or to identify items for purchase, or to make video calls around the world, and how integral video recording is becoming to law enforcement activities. This, of course, is the impact disruptive technologies can have. Looking at the already successful implementations of CourtScribes ’ technology and internet-based service, I can see an analogous type of phenomenon beginning to happen in the legal industry, where court reporting and videography will become a new standard, a “no-brainer” as it were, for the legal professional, and thus extend both the amount and uses of legal reporting, and its practicality and availability to a larger part of the public the legal industry serves.”

With such technological changes, the future of court reporting is bright and could be very attractive to young and tech-savvy workers.