The American legal system is very complex, and it takes a lot of talented professionals to keep things running smoothly — or at least, as smoothly as is possible. Here’s a closer look at a lesser-known type of professional that our courtrooms and legal procedures wouldn’t be able to survive without. We’re talking about court reporters, also known as court stenographers or just stenographers.
What is a court reporter?
A lot of things are said in court. And for our legal system to be fair, we need to know precisely what was said, down to the last word. The job of recording everything said over the course of a legal proceeding is a task that falls to the court reporter.
Court reporters make use of specialized machines and extensive training in order to rapidly and accurately record speech from lawyers, judges, witnesses, and others who speak up in the courtroom. It’s a transcription job, but one that requires everything to be done in real time. Even when fast-talking attorneys interrupt each other and make transcribing what they’re saying very difficult, it’s all written down.
The specialized machine that a stenographer uses is called a stenotype. It’s sort of like a fancy typewriter, and it allows stenographers to use a special type of shorthand to quickly key in words and phrases without actually having to press a key for each individual letter of each word. Of course, even with this technological help, a court reporter still needs to be lightning fast as he or she puts all the necessary information into the stenotype. The transcription must be complete and accurate, because it’s the official record of what happened in the courtroom. Judges can order (and others can ask) that the record be read back to clarify key points.
Should you consider a career as a court reporter?
Court reporters have extremely important jobs, and as a result, they make good livings. Court reporters usually earn more than $50,000 per year. It’s well-earned, of course — court reporters are highly trained and have to show up to work each day ready to put their skills to the test. And court reporting jobs aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. While we do have the technology that it takes to handle limited transcription work, that technology is far from perfect. It’s hard for a machine or computer program to handle things like interruptions and cross-talk.
The quick decision-making that a court reporter needs in order to designate cross-talk and catch the most important statements is something that machines just can’t handle yet. And a computer program would need to be highly accurate to be trusted with something as important as recording speech in a court of law. Right now, there is no such program, which is part of why court reporting makes for such an attractive career.
How to become a court reporter
Becoming a court reporter isn’t easy, of course. According to Fort Lauderdale court reporters, you have to be dedicated and talented in order to make it in court reporting. Aspiring court reporters should start by seeking out training and degree programs. From there, depending on where you live and what kind of court you want to work in, you may find that you have to pass tests or earn certifications in order to become a court reporter.
But if you make it, you’ll enjoy a rewarding career in a role that is absolutely essential in our legal system. You’ll be a part of the system that allows us to give all Americans legal rights inside and outside of the courtroom.