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The Role of A Court Reporter

published February 16, 2013

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
Published By
( 109 votes, average: 4.2 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.
After vocational school, and typing speed using machine shorthand, anyone can acquire a state certification in court reporting. With this certification, you can have a rewarding career in freelance or official reporting, making more money than many college graduates. Although court reporting requires hard work, concentration, familiarity with new technology, and attention to detail, it is also exciting to be a critical player in litigation. Of all the careers in law without the need for a college degree, court reporting usually involves the most face-to-face contact with the people and witnesses who are the subject of suits.
The Role of A Court Reporter

The Right Stuff

Court reporters should have communication and computer skills as well as the requisite training and state and national certifications. They should have above-average English-language skills and knowledge of legal, medical, engineering, business, and medical terminology. The technological applications of court reporting and litigation support software require knowledge of computer operations. Through training at a vocational school or junior college, court reporters learn how to operate their equipment, and type at least 175 words of dictation per minute, preferably in excess of 225 words. A high school diploma may also be required. State certification and national certification requirements of the National Court Reporters Association must be met for most employment. Other personal characteristics that will ensure success as a court reporter are an ability to be well organized and to work hard, attention to detail, and effective communications with people.

What Court Reporters Do
  • Court reporters record testimony taken in depositions and at other official proceedings. These recordings are accurate, word-for-word records. Records are also made with video cameras. Regardless of the type of recording used, an audiotape recorder is generally a backup of the proceeding. Reporters don't have to work strictly in courtrooms. Graduates have gone to closed-captioned TV transcription work or freelance work.
  • Court reporters must acquire training in the use of machine shorthand, in order to reach typing speeds of 225 words per minute. Machine short-hand involves the use of a very small keyboard, with the keys of the machine encoded to represent syllables, words, and even entire phrases. Because there are fewer keys involved, it is possible to type much faster.
  • Although deposition testimony is most common among freelance court reporters, other forms of testimony are also taken by official court reporters for the government, including trials and other hearings. Many types of court proceedings may be transcribed, if requested by an attorney. This includes trials comprised of direct and cross-examinations, opening and closing statements, judicial opinions, jury instructions, and the judgment or sentence by the court. Any hearing before a judge may be transcribed. Generally, attorneys request a court reporter when they want to preserve the record for an appeal relating to any matter that comes before the Court.
  • Court reporters also perform other functions besides just transcribing proceedings or testimony. They may be asked to read portions of the transcript during a deposition or trial, or may have to ask speakers to clarify inaudible statements or provide the proper spelling of names.
  • Machine shorthand is not always used. Court reporters also take notes of proceedings by shorthand or other stenographic means. They may type recorded telephone conversations or other materials or dictate material into recording machines.

What the Job Is Really Like

As a court reporter, you should arrive at least 30 minutes prior to any proceeding you transcribe. You must make sure to be well rested and fed before beginning your job as many attorneys prefer to work through breaks and lunch, leaving the court reporter without personal breaks. You must swear in all witnesses and confirm that the usual stipulations between the parties, the case style, if a trial date is set, and whether or not the deposition was taken pursuant to agreement or subpoena.

You should take care to transcribe every word spoken in case you are asked to read a prior question or testimony. You should also take care to get the correct spelling of names and ask witnesses who are inaudible to repeat themselves, only if necessary. Many times, two people will speak at once, inadvertently or in the heat of an argument that could border on a brawl. You should not stop transcribing at any time unless each opposing counsel agrees to go off the record. The examination of witnesses could take all day, and could even go into the evening if all the parties agree to extend the hours beyond 5:00 P.M. At the end of the testimony, witnesses should be asked whether they want to read and sign the original or waive that right. If this right is waived, the original will stand without the deponent being given a chance to proofread his or her answers.

After the transcribing is complete, you should prepare the transcript and all other options requested by an attorney. This may be done at the office or in the convenience of your own home, depending on your job. Scrupulous attention to detail is required by proofreaders of the transcript. If an attorney requests a rush job, you may have to work all night in order to finalize the transcript. You may need to prepare a condensed transcript that usually has four pages, or an index that refers to the location of terms by line and page number. Time stamping will allow you to synchronize transcripts with video-recorded testimony. After the transcript and all final options are prepared, you are ready to make copies and bind the transcripts before mailing them out.

Getting In and Moving Up

If you want to be a court reporter you must gain admittance to and complete the requirements of a vocational school or two-year college in court reporting. The quicker you increase your typing speed, the sooner you can graduate. Once you have completed this training you must pass the certification requirements promulgated by the state in which you live. It is also beneficial to your employment potential to gain certification from the National Court Reporters Association. Employers will expect you to be well dressed-conservatively, of course-punctual, and proficient in your transcribing and proofreading. If an attorney wants a job rushed, you should be able to complete the job within whatever time parameters are designated. Official court reporters work eight-to-five shifts with extra time sometimes required for transcribing in the evenings.

Professional Connection

Contact the proper authorities in the state in which you wish to work to find out about the requirements for court reporting applicable to you. Local colleges and vocational schools that offer court reporting degrees may also be of help. In addition to your local court reporters' association, begin by contacting:

A Few Key Points to Remember
  • The harder you work, the higher your income will be.
  • You may be able to acquire a temporary certification in your state to begin working before you receive your state certification.
  • The faster you type, with the fewest errors, the more opportunities will be available to you.
  • Certification from the National Court Reporters Association will greatly increase your marketability.
  • An ability to handle difficult lawyers amicably, attention to detail and an ability to complete tasks on time are critical.
  • Court reporters earn more on rush jobs and according to the number of attorneys who order transcripts.

Alternative Summary

Harrison is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and several companies in the legal employment space that collectively gets thousands of attorneys jobs each year. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. Harrison is widely considered the most successful recruiter in the United States and personally places multiple attorneys most weeks. His articles on legal search and placement are read by attorneys, law students and others millions of times per year.

More about Harrison

About LawCrossing

LawCrossing has received tens of thousands of attorneys jobs and has been the leading legal job board in the United States for almost two decades. LawCrossing helps attorneys dramatically improve their careers by locating every legal job opening in the market. Unlike other job sites, LawCrossing consolidates every job in the legal market and posts jobs regardless of whether or not an employer is paying. LawCrossing takes your legal career seriously and understands the legal profession. For more information, please visit

published February 16, 2013

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
( 109 votes, average: 4.2 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.