Before investing the time, effort and funds into any long term career it is important to have a good grasp of the field and the profession you would like to venture into.
If you find yourself curious about what life would be like as a court reporter, here are some important facts to understanding the profession.
The law requires that every spoken word in a courtroom be documented for further use. This makes the job of a court reporter in demand in all major cities. As a court reporter, your job will have you responsible for producing word-for-word transcripts of anything spoken in a legal setting. This could mean a courtroom, legislature, meeting, or correspondence. You will find yourself working with judges, lawyers, clients and other legal staff in law offices, public buildings, or government agencies on a daily basis. Many court reporters work freelance, and your hours will depend on the location and the demands of the assignment you have been hired for.
To do the job, a court reporter uses a special stenograph machine with 22 keys. A computer program connected to the stenograph machine converts the text into a document for use. The information is printed out in condensed form and then kept for future reference. Often the text will be formatted into a book form to stand as the official record of the proceedings of the trail if there should be an appeal.
As the transcriptions provide a factual record of everything that is said during a court proceeding, it is crucial that the reporter is 100% accurate. A court reporter must have the ability to keep track of information even during distracting circumstances. They must also be able to distance themselves from the case and focus solely on the task at hand. This is especially important during cases that can be particularly emotional or even disturbing to listen to. A successful court reporter will also have excellent organization and listening skills, and exemplary spelling and grammar. They will have to sit and focus for long periods of time during court cases, and an excellent command of the English language is a must.
There are a variety of specialized schools offering legal programs, some of which can be taken online. Students will learn how to efficiently use a stenograph machine and the legal terminology and practice needed to document court proceedings. While you are completeing your program, it would be beneficial to gain some experience through volunteer work and job shadowing. Try inquiring at City Hall if you can speak with any court reporters who can give you some career advice.
Once you enter the field as a court reporter, you will usually spend your first few years working in various legal aspects, such as assisting in other legal settings before you are experience enough to take full responsibility as the transcriber. The job does not just end in the courtroom, however. There may also be tasks to complete before or after each court session, depending on the type of case. Typically you may be asked to produce copies of the transcription records to be used by judges, attorneys and other individuals involved in a particular case. In some cases, you may be asked to use your skills for inquiries or depositions.