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What is a Court Reporter

legal.booksThere are many professions that simply do not get the spotlight that they deserve. We know that we need talented doctors, dentists, and teachers. But there are other professionals who have amazing skills in essential positions. A court reporting career showcases those with those amazing skills.

Along with the more celebrated lawyers and paralegals, court reporters are the lifeblood of the legal discovery and depositions business. The role of a court reporter is essential to the legal process. It is quite amazing that it isn’t marketed enough to young adults when choosing their career path. This article should shed a light on the basics of court reporting and the court reporter career outlook. And maybe this will inspire and locate the talent to pursue this career, or encourage another excellent fit.


What is a Court Reporter

A court reporter, sometimes known as a stenographer or shorthand reporter, transcribes the spoken word/testimony at court hearings, depositions, trials, arbitrations, or other official proceedings. While there are several types of tools and technology used to make the record, the primary method today is a steno machine, a word processor with a modified 22-button keyboard, upon which words are “written” phonetically.

A certified court reporter must be able to write at, minimally, a 95% accuracy rate at 225 words per minute. This is no simple task. Higher level certifications require rates of up to 260 words per minute. Elite court reporters even offer a service known as “realtime”, where their record is streamed, obviously in real time to laptops and tablets in the room.

Often court reporters take work outside the courtroom. One of the most common gigs is captioning services for radio and TV broadcasts for the hearing-impaired. Court reporters working in closed captioning often also provide realtime captioning for corporate events, live concerts, sporting events, and conventions.


Why are Court Reporters Important

Court reporters are an integral part of the legal process. They are responsible for preparing and recording verbatim the transcripts of proceedings to be used by the litigants, the attorneys, and the judges. Court reporters also serve the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities by providing realtime captions for live television programs, as well as one-on-one personalized services in educational and public environments.


How Long is the Court Reporting Program

Typically, a court reporting school is a two or three year program. It can take up to three to five years to complete the court reporter training. It is highly dependent on the amount of effort put into developing the skill set to become a reporter.

Check out the list of certified schools and programs on file with the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) to find the right fit for you!




Is Certification Required

In some states, certification is required. The most recognized certifications are those offered through the NCRA. The entry-level Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) requires passing a skills test with 95% accuracy at 225 words per minute. There is also the advanced Registered Merit Reporter (RMR) certification, which requires 95% accuracy at 260 words per minute. A higher standard and accreditation. According to the NCRA, the highest level of certification available is the Registered Diplomate Reporter (RDR). The Diplomate Reporter differentiates the advanced, veteran reporters as the elite in the profession.


What Personality Traits Should Court Reporters Possess

  • Since the primary responsibility is to record the spoken word as quickly and as accurately as possible, it’s important to have a passion for words and strong language skills.
  • One must practice discipline, have a strong work ethic, and a quest for knowledge.
  • Court reporting requires a high level of technical performance, so an interest in technology is a plus.
  • If you’re a procrastinator, then court reporting is probably not the direction for you. Great court reporters thrive under time and deadline pressures.
  • It is necessary that reporters must be exceptional listeners. It also helps to be able to concentrate for long periods of time. Accuracy and attention to detail are also important traits.


How Much Can a Court Reporter Make

Just as anything else in life, what you get out of something depends on what sort of effort you put into it! Court reporting is no different. Salaries can range depending on one’s situation. Many reporters work as independent contractors at their own pace, taking jobs to match their lifestyle. Other reporters work in fulltime positions within the court system. It is about choosing what is best for you.

As of April 2019, the average annual salary for a court reporter was $56,000+. Reporters who have invested in continuing education, advanced certification, and cutting-edge technology typically earn $100,000+.


What Types of Court Reporters are There

It is important to remember that there are different types of jobs for those who master the skills required to become a court reporter.

freelance court reporter is an independent contractor, or one who works for one or more court reporting agencies. Their work primarily consists of recording testimony taken in the discovery phase of a case (depositions), as well as meetings, arbitrations, and hearings.

An official court reporter is typically hired by a court system and works inside the courtroom. These reporters are generally full-time employees of the court and work regular hours.


What is the Court Reporting Career Outlook

In a word: Strong!

There is a critical shortage of stenographic reporters across the nation. In 2013, the NCRA commissioned a report on the impact of the shortage in the industry. The Court Reporting Industry Outlook Report, concluded that the demand for court reporters would exceed the supply within five years (2018).

Nationwide an additional 5,500 stenographic reporters would be needed to fill the void. The profession fell drastically short on meeting demand and many stenographic schools closed. This resulted in fewer enrollees, and fewer professionals entering the field. These numbers also didn’t consider the number that have and will continue to retire.

Due to the necessity of court reporters in legal proceedings, it’s a profession that is at its prime to enter. Larger metropolitan areas are in desperate need for new professionals. Agencies will often move you to locations with more jobs than you could ever hope to cover. The areas that are seeing the greatest demand for new reporters are California, Texas, Illinois, New York, and Washington, D.C.

There has long been speculation that technology will take over the court reporter’s job. Many courts and court reporting agencies are implementing new technology, such as digital reporters, to fill the deficit of stenographic reporters.

The problem though, is that these new technologies are unable to provide many elite services that experienced stenographic reporters deliver, such as real-time. Stenographic reporters are, and will be, an essential piece in the legal landscape. The profession is here to stay and joining now can provide you with a fascinating career for the rest of your life.

So what are you waiting for. Sign up for a class now.