Court Reporter Career

Court reporters transcribe verbatim court proceedings, meeting minutes, speeches, and other important details that must be documented. Court reporters prepare written transcripts for court records. They play a vital role in court, business, and other settings where word-for-word records must be kept. They must be accurate and detail-oriented. Additionally, court reporters frequently assist judges and trial attorneys in various ways, which includes locating legal documents and providing other services. More court reporters are now providing closed-captioning and translating services for individuals with hearing problems.

There are numerous court reporting procedures. The stenographic method is the most used one. Stenotypists use a stenotype machine to document every statement uttered during official proceedings, typically in legal and court settings. Court reporters can press multiple keys representing entire phrases, sounds, and words simultaneously on this device. Once electronically recorded, symbols and phrases are translated and appear as text through a process known as computer-aided transcription (CAT). Court reporters assigned real-time reporting duties use stenotype machines linked directly to computers that relay real-time captioning. After reporters type in words or symbols, words appear instantly on television or computer screens.

Electronic reporting is another common reporting procedure utilized by court reporters. Electronic reporting incorporates the use of specialized audio technology to keep court records. Court reporters are responsible for monitoring this process, keeping notes to identify witnesses, and reviewing the recording to ensure it's understandable and clear. The audio technology integrated within this equipment can include analog recording or digital technology. Court reporters or electronic transcribers are often responsible for providing written transcripts of court and business proceedings.

Some court reporters use an uncommon court reporting procedure known as voice writing. Those utilizing this method speak into a portable mask with a microphone known as a voice silencer. As reporters speak into the recorder, the voice silencer prevents others within the courtroom from hearing them. Voice writers must record everything spoken by lawyers, judges, and witnesses. Additionally, they're responsible for documenting body language and emotional responses. Once recordings are finished, written transcripts are compiled by voice writers.

In addition to transcribing duties, court reporters have several other responsibilities. Stenographic reporters and voice writers are responsible for developing and maintaining a digital dictionary of frequently used words and phrases, so voice files and keystrokes can be easily translated into text. Court reporters can customize digital dictionaries with entire phrases commonly used in court or business proceedings.

Following court proceedings, stenographic court reporters review completed translations for grammatical errors. Court reporters are also responsible for identifying locations and proper names. Electronic court reporters are responsible for ensuring transcribed records are easy to understand. Additionally, court reporters prepare and copy written transcripts and then relay them to lawyers, judges, court parties, and members of the public requesting them.

Although most court reporters are employed in courtrooms, many work in other settings. For example, webcasters and Internet information reporters record business meetings, press conferences, training conferences, and product unveiling ceremonies and transmit transcripts to others through computers. As participants at meetings, seminars, or conferences speak into telephones or microphones, words are displayed simultaneously on computer screens. Additionally, court reporters are employed by numerous government agencies. They're responsible for documenting government meetings, seminars, and official proceedings. Court reporters also work for Congress and municipal and state government agencies. Television studios and cable companies employ broadcast captioners. These court reporting specialists are responsible for providing captions of live television shows, sporting events, and emergency broadcasts for people with hearing problems.

Court reporters keep word-for-word records of court proceedings. As a result, they must be accurate, detail-oriented, and work quickly. Most court reporters record 200 words per minute.

Attorneys filing appeals with appellate courts rely on court transcripts to support their claims. Judges frequently refer to court transcripts when explaining their opinions. The judicial system would not function efficiently without court transcripts.

Court reporters are also responsible for recording pretrial proceedings, police interrogations, and depositions. Court reporters are frequently assigned to record everything spoken at public meetings. Most court reporters, about 90 percent, utilize computer aided transcription (CAT) devices to keep records.

Education and Training
Required training for court reporter positions depends on specialty. It typically takes 2 or more years of training to become an effective real-time voice writer and just under a year to develop novice skills. Electronic transcribers typically complete on-the-job training. Real-time stenographic court reporters usually train for 3 years. Several accredited vocational schools and colleges offer stenographic court reporter training programs. The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) recognizes more than 60 training programs, and most schools sponsoring these programs offer stenotype computer-aided transcription and real-time reporting courses. NCRA accredited training programs mandate that students demonstrate they're capable of recording at least 225 words a minute before graduating. The same requirement applies to court reporters employed by federal government agencies.

Electronic court reporters responsible for operating audio-capture equipment typically complete on-the-job training. They're required to read multiple training manuals, discuss manual content with trainers, and observe experienced electronic transcribers in action. Electronic transcribers employed in courtrooms typically complete training with vendors that manufacture and distribute audio-capture technology. Reporters working for private companies usually receive on-the-job training.

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Special Skills and Qualifications
Court reporters must work quickly and accurately, possess exceptional listening skills, and be well-versed in English vocabulary, punctuation, and grammar. Additionally, court reporters should work effectively under pressure and have the ability to concentrate for hours at a time. They must also remain current with business procedures and current events and be able to spell names, events, and locations correctly. Those employed in courtrooms must understand legal jargon, court etiquette, and appellate and criminal court procedures. Since most court reporting is conducted with computerized equipment, court reporters must have computer skills. Voice writers must be able to listen and talk at the same time and do so quietly and swiftly.

Salary and Benefits
Court reporters work for courtrooms and other organizations, and some provide freelance services. Court reporters earn salaries ranging from $35,000 to 65,000 a year. Those employed by courts typically receive benefits. As court reporters acquire experience and improve skills, they usually receive salary increases. It's not uncommon for court reporters with 5 or more years of work experience to make more than $55,000 a year.

Working Conditions
Court reporters typically work 40 hours per week, but it's not uncommon for them to work overtime to meet deadlines.

Court reporters are employed wherever word-for-word transcripts must be kept, including courtrooms, government proceedings, public meetings, and business meetings.

Job Outlook
Job prospects for court reporters is expected to be good through the near future, but voice activated transcription technology enhancements could limit projected growth. Talented court reporters can become medical or legal transcriptionists.

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