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What It's Like To Be a Court Reporter

published July 31, 2013

By Author - LawCrossing
Published By
( 180 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.
Court reporters were once known as the "silent men" in the courtroom as they tapped the keys on their stenotype machines to take down absolutely everything that was said in court during a proceeding. Today, these "silent men" are more likely to be women, as almost 90 percent of all court reporters are women. Furthermore, court reporters now use computers to help them handle their courtroom duties.

As a court reporter, you could be front and center at a highly publicized and controversial trial like the O. J. Simpson case or the Oklahoma City bombing, taking down everything said in court by witnesses, lawyers, judges, and other participants. In cases like these, you will be recording history. More likely, you will find yourself involved in lawsuits against everyone from doctors and embezzlers to ordinary citizens.

Court reporters do not just work in the courtroom; they also record testimony taken under oath, known as depositions, in law offices and conference rooms. Most work a standard 37- to 40-hour week; however, during lengthy trials or other complicated proceedings, they often work much longer hours and must be on hand before and after the court is actually in session and while the jury deliberates. While most court reporters work in the legal proceedings arena, new areas have opened up, such as the captioning of live TV programs for individuals with hearing impairments.

Court Reporter

Charyse is a certified state reporter (CSR) and a registered professional reporter (RPR), which is con-ferred by the National Court Reporters Association and recognized as a mark of distinction in her profession.

Describe a typical day at work.

I check the docket, which is a calendar that has all of the hearings and trials scheduled for a particular day. If there is a trial scheduled, I get the court file and enter all the unfamiliar terms into my computer dictionary. I also get a copy of the witness and exhibit lists from the attorneys so that I have the correct spellings of all names that will be used during the trial. I have a work area in the courtroom where I sit at my machine and report every word spoken.

What special skills do you need to be a good court reporter?

(1) Be a good listener because you have to take down every spoken word. (2) Have good manual dexterity because you need skill in using your hands. (3) Possess an excellent grasp of English grammar because you must punctuate what people say in the transcript.

What do you like most about your job?

I like learning so much about so many different things. While reporting civil and criminal cases, I have gained knowledge in some very technical subjects.

Do you think you are suited to the job?

I think I am suited for the job because I work well with people, and I also work well alone. I work with judges, attorneys, and court personnel in the courtroom and have to work alone to prepare transcripts.

Describe your work environment.

I work in an office, where I prepare transcripts on a computer, and in the courtroom, where I take down court proceedings. The courtroom has a judge's bench, jury box, witness stand, and counsel tables.

How do you see court reporting changing in the next five years?

I see the courts keeping up with technology and eliminating paper transcripts. All transcripts will be filed on diskette or transmitted via the Internet. I also see all court participants viewing the testimony on a computer screen at the same time the words are being spoken. This is currently being done in a few courthouses.

What are some other career opportunities?

The newest opportunity is captioning for news broadcasts and other TV programs.

To become a court reporter, you must first go through intensive training, which includes taking classes in medical terminology, legal terminology, business law, and English. You must also take classes in which you learn the keyboard and how to write words and phrases on the stenotype machine. It takes a very disciplined student practicing up to eight hours a day on the machine to obtain the 225 words per minute required to report a witness's sworn testimony.

You also must take computer classes. The court reporting field has advanced considerably in the last 20 years, and today, all transcripts are produced using computer technology.

After you have finished your courses, you must take a certification examination. The requirements differ from state to state, but most of them include a written exam and transcribing some dictated material. There are also national exams and speed contests for the most skilled reporters.

There is a feeling of accomplishment from taking down every word a witness speaks and producing a

transcript. Court early as the fourth century B.C., people were trying to develop abbreviated writing that could keep up with the speed of speech. Over the years, many shorthand systems were developed. While they were faster than longhand writing, all were difficult to learn because they had so many symbols. Pitman was the first to make a scientific analysis of the sounds used in speech and designed his own system of shorthand based on sound. His brother brought the system to the United States in 1852. Today, it remains one of the two dominant systems used throughout the world by stenographers.

It was an American court reporter and a stenographer, Ward Stone in Ireland, who invented the first short-hand machine, the stenotype, in 1910.

Today, this machine is commonly used in reporting and can be operated at speeds of more than 250 words a minute. Before the recent invention of computer-aided transcription, court reporters translated the shorthand symbols printed by the machine into words. Today, the stenotype can be plugged into a computer, providing virtually instant access to the text of courtroom proceedings. This is referred to as real-time technology.

You and a career as a court reporter

Leading court reporting educators say prospective court reporters should be intelligent and interested in a broad range of subjects, including medicine, business, communications, and technology as well as law. They also need to be computer literate and possess above-average language skills. Because of the nature of court reporting, having the following personality traits is important:
  1. You must be assertive enough to interrupt a proceeding to ask for clarification if a term or phrase goes by without your understanding it.
  2. You must be impartial and accurately record what is said, not what you believe is true.
  3. You must have patience and be a perfectionist.
  4. You must have good interpersonal skills, as you will work closely with judges and other court officials.
  5. You must be disciplined and motivated, as you will need to be able to meet deadlines, work well under pressure, and concentrate for long periods of time.
Do you have the qualities needed for a successful court reporting career? If so, this might be the right career for you.

Find out more about becoming a court reporter

The National Court Reporters Association was established in 1899 as the National Shorthand Reporters Association, a professional association for the court reporting industry. NCRA'S current membership of 35,000 includes captioners and both official and freelance court reporters, who are responsible for making accurate transcripts of court proceedings, federal and state legislative proceedings, depositions, business and union conventions, and other events that require a verbatim record of what takes place.

For more information about court reporting or about NCRA, call or write: National Court Reporters Association 8224 Old Courthouse Road Vienna, VA 22182-3808 703-556-6272

published July 31, 2013

By Author - LawCrossing
( 180 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.