Overview of a Court Reporter

Court reporters are known by many different professional titles. They are often called courtroom transcriptionists, stenotypists, real time court reporters, stenocaptioners, courtroom voice writers, and verbatim reporters. No matter what the title, all court reporters have a common goal, which is to generate full and precise records of every word that is verbalized during courtroom proceedings, trials, depositions, legal conventions, governmental proceedings, and other law-related activities that need to be documented.

The role of court reporters is essential to the legal profession, and those working in this field are highly respected. The most successful court reporters are fast and accurate typists, and they are able to type or repeat words verbally while at the same time continuing to listen to a legal proceeding. In addition, they need to have superior grammar and spelling skills. Also, they must have knowledge of the legal realm, be familiar with legal terminology, and be able to set up their court reporting equipment in various locations with little help from others.

The purpose of the transcripts that court reporters produce depends on the particular situation, but transcripts are primarily utilized as permanent legal records that can be used as official references. However, the work produced by court reporters is also used by deaf and hearing impaired individuals who need transcripts so they may follow courtroom or law-related proceedings.

There are three primary methods that court reporters use to generate transcripts. The website CityTownInfo.com - court reporters describes the three methods as: stenotyping, voice writing, and electronic reporting. Court reporter training programs are likely to provide the option of learning at least one, but sometimes all three methods, so that students are prepared to enter the court reporter workforce. Court reporter training allows court reporters to produce the work required or requested by an attorney, judge, courtroom, or other legal professional.

The working conditions for court reporters are generally comfortable, but the job requires the ability to sit for extended periods of time without frequent breaks. Additionally, because of the need for error-free work, court reporters are under constant pressure to concentrate and work even if they are tired.

The amount of training required to become a court reporter varies. Some skills can be learned on the job, but others require specific schooling. Voice writing typically involves the shortest formal training program and stenotypist training the longest. The National Court Reporters Association has approved many of the court reporter training programs currently available across the United States. Licensing, certification, testing, and other specific requirements for the court reporting profession vary by state.

The website LegalCareers.about.com states that the outlook for a court reporting career is excellent, with a projected growth of 25 percent over the next several years. The high demand for qualified and talented court reporters is due, in part, to the legally mandated need to provide word-for-word transcriptions of legal proceedings for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that court reporter job opportunities are most readily available to those who are certified and licensed by the state in which they live and/or work. The National Verbatim Reporters Association offers different types of certification to court reporters depending on the method of court reporting in which they specialize. Other organizations that offer certification are the National Court Reporters Association and the American Association of Electronic Reporters. Certification usually involves passing a written test and a skills test that evaluates speed and accuracy. The BLS lists the median annual salary for court reporters at approximately $49,710.

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