Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, April 21, 2017

Court reporting: How it works

Stenographic court reporters have been the silent witnesses responsible for creating an official record of the most important trials and moments of history.

They had front row seats at the historic Nuremberg trials, keeping a verbatim record of the Nazi war tribunals. More recently, they performed similar work during the Rwandan trials in Arusha, Tanzania, and provided real-time captioning on 9/11.

What separates a court reporter from a typist?

Court reporters are trained to input a specialized shorthand into a stenotype machine, which can be instantly converted into English text thanks to advancements in technology although court reporters continue to be an integral component of the legal system.

These professionals serve a variety of fields outside courtrooms and depositions, providing speech-to-text solutions for broadcast, educational, business, medical and community settings.

Here are some key facts:

-- There are generally two employment segments for a stenographic court reporter: freelance and official. Freelance reporters account for 72 percent of the market and include those who work as independent contractors and for court reporting agencies. Freelance reporters primarily take depositions and examinations under oath. Official reporters account for the remaining 28 percent of supply in the United States and are employed by the court systems.

-- Captioning, both on-site and remote, is a relatively small percentage of stenographic court reporting demand, yet captioners are bringing a heightened and updated view to the profession. There are currently fewer than 1,000 stenographic court reporters dedicated exclusively to captioning, but that number is expected to dramatically increase in the future.

-- There are approximately 32,000 stenographic court reporters working as court reporters in the United States. The opportunity for new stenographic court reporters is substantial over the next five years and beyond. The established, coming shortage of court reporters presents a one-time, substantial opportunity for those seeking a lucrative career with a secure future. Court reporting schools are usually quickly able to connect their graduates with jobs.

-- There are approximately 52 National Court Reporters Association-approved schools and about 100 total schools, according to the NCRA.

-- Court reporting is a profession that requires frequent and continuous practice to maintain a level of competency demanded in the marketplace, often measured in accuracy and words per minute). Some students drop out before they reach the skill set required to become a freelance or official court reporter.

-- Court reporter certification provides immediate verification of competency. Roughly half of states within the U.S., including Tennessee, require individuals to pass qualification exams before operating as stenographic court reporters.

-- The title “court reporter” is somewhat misleading, as only 28 percent of stenographic court reporters actually work inside a courtroom. Most operate on a freelance basis doing legal depositions or providing ADA-compliant captioning for medical transcriptions. Others work in educational settings or at business meetings.

-- Court reporting school directors report that in order for enrollment rates to increase, awareness levels must be elevated among potential students and their key influencers, namely parents and school counselors. In recent years, high school counselors generally favor traditional four-year colleges and universities over vocational or two-year programs, including court reporting.

-- Court reporting program directors indicate that competition for educational dollars is also directly impacting enrollment. Often, many majors/programs are competing for the same pool of financial resources, and collegiate administrators are inclined to distribute more funding to the concentrations that are likely to have higher placement rates and projected future earnings.

Source: Drucker Worldwide, National Court Reporters Association