A court reporter or court stenographer, also called stenotype operator, shorthand reporter, or law reporter, is a person whose occupation is to transcribe spoken or recorded speech into written form, using shorthand, machine shorthand or voice writing equipment to produce official transcripts of court hearings, depositions and other official proceedings. Court reporting companies primarily serve private law firms, local, state and federal government agencies, courts, trade associations, meeting planners and nonprofits.
In the United States
The court reporter in some states is required to be a notary public who is authorized to administer oaths to witnesses, and who certifies that his or her transcript of the proceedings is a verbatim account of what was said. Many states require a court reporter to hold a certification obtained through the National Court Reporters Association or the National Verbatim Reporters Association, although some require their own state-specific certification.
Skills and training
It typically takes anywhere from two to four years to learn the basic skills to become a stenotype court reporter. Applicants first learn to use the keyboard, which takes the least amount of time. The rest of the training involves attaining the speed with a high degree of accuracy. Training to learn the basic skills to become a voice writer reporter typically takes six to nine months. To become realtime proficient in voice writing takes a year to a year and a half. Candidates usually attend specialized certificate courses at private business schools, or sometimes associate's or bachelor's degree programs at accredited colleges or universities. Distance learning and online training courses are also available for both methods. After additional on-the-job training and experience, many court reporters then move on to real-time reporting.
Most states require that court reporters obtain a license via examination before being allowed to practice in that respective state. Examinations include writing speed tests at 180 wpm, 200 wpm and 225 wpm, and a written examination to demonstrate proficiency in English, grammar, medical terminology, legal terminology, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 30, court reporting procedure and ethics.
Professional Associations and Licensing Entities
There are three national court reporting associations in the United States: The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA), the National Verbatim Reporters Association (NVRA), and the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT). Both the NCRA and NVRA require a minimum speed of 225 words per minute to qualify for certification. AAERT requires 98 percent accuracy on transcripts, and both reporters and transcribers must pass both a written and practical examination. Depending on the court reporting method of choice, one tends to join either the NCRA, NVRA or AAERT.
The NCRA offers the title Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) to those who pass a four-part examination and participate in continuing education programs. The NVRA offers the title Certified Verbatim Reporter (CVR) to those who pass a four-part examination, including both a skills and written exam, and participate in continuing education programs.
A reporter may obtain additional certifications that demonstrate higher levels of competency such as Registered Merit Reporter (RMR), Certified Real-time Reporter (CRR), Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC), or Certificate of Merit (CM), Real-time Verbatim Reporter (RVR), Registered Broadcast Captioner (RBC), and Registered CART Provider (RCP). Both of these associations offer equivalent examinations to test reporters for speed and competency on their method of reporting.
Further certifications are granted by both associations to court reporters demonstrating skills as broadcast captioners and CART providers.
The Canadian Court Reporter John M. Weir (CVR) could do 350 words per minute during legal hearings. The AAERT is the electronic court reporting and transcribing industry's professional association in the United States, founded in 1994.
The AAERT offers electronic reporters and transcribers three certifications: certified electronic reporter (CER), certified electronic transcriber (CET), and certified electronic reporter and transcriber (CERT).
The International Alliance of Professional Reporters and Transcribers (IAPRT.org) is a member-based not-for-profit consortium engaged in the ongoing development of all methods of court reporting and transcription, and guiding public and private court reporting professionals worldwide toward the common goal of producing a verbatim and verifiable record. IAPRT offers on-line training and certification for members who participate in continuing education programs.
Required skills of a court reporter are excellent command of the language being spoken, attention to detail, and the ability to focus for long periods at a time. The most highly skilled court reporters can provide real-time transcription and have significant earning potential, with salaries up to six figures possible in some areas.
Salary and job outlook
In the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics continues to report a positive job outlook for stenographic court reporters. Median annual salary in 2010 was listed at $47,700 per year. The top 10 percent of court reporters earned more than $91,280. In May 2012, Forbes listed "stenographer/court reporter" as one of the best jobs that does not require a four-year degree. As of 2015, the median annual salary for a court reporter was $50,000. The actual amount can vary depending on whether the court reporter works in an in-court capacity as an "official" reporter or as a recorder of pre-trial discovery (depositions). Additionally, pay can vary based on whether the original and/or a copy of the transcript is ordered by any of the parties to the action. The growth rate of the profession is projected to be 2% to 3%, which is lower than the average of 7%..
As of 2012, Maryland employed the most court reporters, while New York has the highest average salary. Some states have experienced budget cuts in recent years that have reduced the number of state-funded court reporters. This has resulted in law firms hiring their own court reporters to ensure proceedings are recorded verbatim. The fees associated with this work and the issue of whether reporters can charge their own rates or whether they are set by statute are a subject of dispute.
Digital recordings allow judges to instantly play back or review any portion of the recording. A Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR) and a Certified Broadcast Captioner (CBC) offer the ability to show live transcription of the spoken record by captioning what is said to display it on a screen in real time.
Many court reporters work as freelance reporters or independent contractors outside the courtroom in depositions and other situations that require an official legal transcript, such as arbitration hearings or other formal proceedings. Court reporters also often provide real-time transcription for public events, religious services, webcasts, and educational services. Regardless of the method, stenographic, stenomask or digital, a transcript can be produced on an hourly, daily, expedited or standard turnaround.
One difference between voice writing court reporters and stenographic court reporters is the method of making the record. The goal of a stenographer is to stenograph verbatim what attorneys, witnesses, and others are saying in a proceeding. The goal of a voice writer is to dictate verbatim what attorneys, witnesses, and others are saying in a proceeding. Though the methods of taking down the record are different, the role and duty requirements of the court reporter are the same. These skills of court reporters are primarily measured through certification exams.
The training on a stenograph machine requires the person to pass writing speed tests of up to 225 words a minute on their machine in the United States, as set forth by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) in the United States. Only a small percentage of court reporting students per year are actually able to do this. The drop-out rate of stenographic court reporters is very high. The tedium of this type of job is believed to be the cause of this problem.
The training with voice writing equipment or stenomask requires the person to pass dictation speed tests of up to 225 words a minute in the United States, as set forth by the National Verbatim Reporters Association (NVRA). A voice writer dictates the proceedings into a stenomask connected to a computer, and using voice recognition software, voice writers are able to create realtime transcripts, which means that a transcript is being created on the spot by the voice writer. Many voice writers offer their services as CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) providers to deaf individuals or individuals with hearing deficiencies. In addition, voice writers now work as broadcast captioners.
Multi-channel, digital audio allows for isolated playback of channels during transcription. This allows transcribers to listen from different vantage points when playing back the audio. This multi-channel feature especially helps during moments of extraneous noise such as laughter, shouting, coughing and sneezing. The American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT) certifies reporters and transcribers. AAERT certified reporters monitor the recording continuously during a proceeding, and create an extensive set of log notes which are individually time-stamped. The time-stamps correspond with the location on the digital recording for instantaneous playback, either upon request during a proceeding or at a later time. The log notes provide any authorized person the opportunity to quickly search and identify any segment of the proceeding they wish to review. Some courts train clerks or other court personnel to operate the digital recording equipment. Courtroom monitors are responsible for listening to the recording through headphones while the proceeding occurs to ensure recording quality. The digital recording method is widely used in federal courts and administrative agencies throughout the United States, as well as court proceedings across the province of Ontario, Canada.
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- "SHORTHAND REPORTER (clerical) alternate titles: court reporter; stenographer". Dictionary of Occupational Titles. Retrieved 2011-03-15.
- About court reporting and transcription companies. "Court reporters, medical transcriptionists and related occupations." Retrieved May 1, 2012.
- "Court Reporters". bls.gov. 8 January 2014.
- "Best jobs that don't require a four-year degree" Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2012/05/17/the-best-jobs-that-dont-require-a-four-year-degree/
- Teraci, Richard (7 January 2017). "Court Reporting: A Profession of Keeping Records". Naegeli Deposition and Trial. Retrieved 27 March 2017.
- "California ranked second in the nation, only behind Maryland, for its employment of court reporters. It also ranked second, only behind New York, for its pay of court reporters, with an average yearly salary of $76,840 as of May 2012" http://courtreportingedu.org/California/%5B%5D
- “…Court reporters who provide transcripts of hearings have been eliminated for civil cases in many counties, making it more difficult for the losing party to appeal.” “…recession-driven cutbacks in California’s huge court system have produced long lines and short tempers at courthouses throughout the state. Civil cases are facing growing delays in getting to trial, and court closures have forced residents in some counties to drive several hours for an appearance.” COCRA http://cocra.org/category/reporter-layoffs/
- "Our team of Certified Compensation Professionals has analyzed survey data collected from thousands of HR departments at employers of all sizes and industries on Court Reporter salaries to construct a range which describes the distribution of salaries for people with the job title Court Reporter in Ontario, CA" http://www1.salary.com/CA/Ontario/Court-Reporter-salary.html/
- "Many court reporters work freelance and income varies according to the volume of work they undertake. As a freelance reporter, you can expect to earn an average flat rate fee of £120 – £180 per day. Real-time reporters working freelance can earn £300 a day." Redgoldfish. http://www.redgoldfish.co.uk/job-roles/301-court-reporter-job-role.aspx/
- "Registered Professional Reporter." National Court Reporters Association. Archived 2013-12-07 at the Wayback Machine
- "American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers". aaert.org.