The primary responsibility of a court reporter is to prepare word-for-word transcriptions for legal proceedings and public speaking events. They may also provide captioning for public events and television. Individuals who work for courts may also help judges and trial attorneys by maintaining official records and getting information from them. They may also transcribe for deaf people or people with hearing problems in meetings. Court reporters have an important role in legal proceedings as it is usually required to have a record of exactly what was said in meetings. Hence, they have the duty to maintain a complete, accurate, and secure legal record.
The job description of court reporters may include the following:
- Attend various events that require written transcripts.
- Report actions and gestures.
- Record dialogues and speeches with specific equipment.
- Review notes and ensure that names of speakers and technical terms have been recorded.
- Prepare transcripts for record.
- Correct transcripts for typographic errors.
- Provide copies of recordings and transcripts to the court and various parties involved.
Court reporters usually specialize in one method of recording, such as stenotype machines, steno masks, and digital recording.
- Stenotype machines are used to record dialogues as they are spoken. They create words through key combinations, which enable court reporters to keep pace with court proceedings. Court reporters that use stenotype machines are called stenographers.
- Steno masks, or covered microphones, enable court reporters to speak directly into them, recording dialogues and different actions. The recording is converted into a transcript through computerized software that the court reporter reviews for grammar and accuracy.
- Digital recording is used to create an audio transcript. Court reporters that use digital recorders, monitor and operate the recording equipment. They may also use the audio recording to produce a written transcript.
How to Become a Court Reporter
In order to become a court reporter, a candidate needs a post-secondary certificate in court reporting. Licensure to work in legal settings may also be required. Formal training may be received at community colleges or technical institutes. There are programs available for each type of transcription method.
Programs in digital recording and steno masks are usually six months long and lead to a certification. Programs in stenography may last about two to four years and usually lead to an associate’s degree. A court reporter associate’s degree prepares students for verbatim court reporting. It may cover areas such as machine shorthand transcription, court and legal procedures, legal and medical terminology, and computer-aided transcription. The coursework may include the following:
- Court transcription.
- English composition.
- Machine shorthand theory.
- Business mathematics.
- Speed building.
- Jury charge.
- Medical terminology.
- Business law.
- Court reporting internship.
The above-mentioned curriculum is typical for many colleges. However, please note that course names, course load, and specific curriculum may be different for each school and program.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary of court reporters was $61,660 in May 2020 and their annual mean salary was $66,710. The employment of court reporters is expected to grow by 9% from 2019 to 2029.