When many people think of a career in the legal field, the first jobs they usually think of are a lawyer and judge. For people who are interested in a law career, there are many other job opportunities. One career that is often overlooked is the court reporter.
The role of a court reporter is to create word for word transcripts of conversations, legal proceedings, meetings and other situations that require a documented account that will serve as legal verification. The main responsibility of a court reporter is to keep a complete and accurate account of testimony so that it serves as a legally binding record. Court reporters will work at depositions, trials, assist judges and attorneys when searching for information in the official record, and provide translation services for the hearing impaired.
Types of Court Reporting
Stenography: A court reporter will use a stenotype machine to record speeches and testimony verbatim. The court reporter will press multiple keys at a time to record combinations or letters that represent phrase, words, and sounds. The symbols are recorded electronically and then translated after a legal session has concluded.
Communications Access Real-time Translation: This type of service involves the use of a stenotype machine that is connected to a computer which allows people to see what is being typed. When the reporter enters the symbols, they will appear as text on the computer screen.
Voice Writing: The court reporter will speak into a hand held mask with a microphone. The mask ensures that no other sounds interfere with what is being recorded during testimony. Voice writers record what is said by judges, witnesses, and attorneys. They also record gestures and reactions.
The duties of a Court Reporter normally include:
- Using machine shorthand to take down a complete a verbatim account of verbal evidence, witness testimony, and speeches given by the judge and attorneys.
- When requested, they will read back recorded passages in court
- Transcribing notes after a court session
- Checking the notes for accuracy
- Correcting spelling and grammar, vocabulary, adding missing words , and editing the text to create a final transcript
- Sending a copy of the transcribed document to the judge for approval before entering it in as the final legal record.
Your keyboard skills are very important. To be a court reporter, you will need a typing speed of at least 200 or more words a minute. You should have experience in written and machine shorthand. You should also have excellent spelling and grammar skills.
There are many court reporting educational institutions that offer court reporting degree programs. On average, it takes less than a year to become a voice writer, but electronic reporters learn their skills through on the job training. It takes about thirty-three months to become a stenotypist. A graduate from an accredited court reporting program will have a complete understanding on how to accurately record for a legal record.
The National Court Reporters Association grants the title of Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) to individuals who pass a four-part examination and take part in compulsory continuing education programs. Although voluntary, the title is acknowledged as a mark of distinction.
To be a court reporter, you must have the following personal strengths:
- Excellent listening skills
- Work rapidly and accurately
- Confident and patient
- Clear speaking voice
- Good concentration skills
- Meet rigid deadlines.
Court Reporters play a key role in the judicial process. If you have a passion for the law, a career as a court reporter may be just what you are looking for.