A court reporter, also known as a stenographer or stenotype reporter, is the person responsible for transcribing verbatim, and as a legal record, words shared between attorneys, witnesses, jurors and judges during legal proceedings. The legal record captured by court reporters is an irreplaceable set of documents which is considered evidence and is used to settle disputes, create laws, and establish reports used in future court decisions and disputes. As an officer of the court, the court reporter is a neutral and unbiased participant whose role is to record and protect the official legal record for the courts, corporations and individuals.
Day in the Life of a Court Reporter
A court reporter career is very interesting and offers a great deal of variety. No two days are ever the same. Court reporters spend much of their time working in courtrooms and attorneys' offices. They use specialized equipment to take down and transcribe spoken words into text in real time (stenographic reporting) or as voice recordings that must be converted to written text later on (electronic reporting).
Some court reporting jobs involve doing work for attorneys, recording the testimony given in depositions, taking control of evidence and finally preparing the legal transcript that may ultimately be presented in trial. Some court reporters work for a federal, state, county or municipal court system. In a court setting, they may work for a particular judge or cover a number of courtrooms in a pool of reporters. Other court reporting jobs involve transcribing board meetings for corporations, public statements at government proceedings, and speeches or presentations by professionals, religious leaders or entertainers.
There are many different types of proceedings, events and other court reporting jobs which require that a written transcript be produced:
- Court hearings
- Sworn proceedings
- Spoken or recorded speeches
- Independent medical examinations
- Congressional hearings
- Grand jury proceedings
Court reporters may also use voice recording devices to record their own summaries of proceedings in real time. Following the events, court reporters use special software programs or speech-to-text computer programs to convert their transcripts into the official record.
Not all court reporting jobs are in the legal sector, however; some court reporters caption television broadcasts and other programming, while others provide captioning services to hearing-impaired students and other clients.
Important Characteristics for Court Reporters
Successful court reporters need to concentrate for long periods of time and must have strong listening skills (to capture every word spoken, while tuning out distractions). Their work can be very demanding and stressful if their proceeding requires an immediate delivery of the legal transcript or the case they are working on is heartbreaking. It is important to maintain a professional demeanor and high ethical standards.
Court reporters are detail-oriented and have a good command of grammar, vocabulary and punctuation. Good dexterity is necessary to help them become proficient at keyboarding. They must also be comfortable with computer software systems and other technical tools in order to do their job well.
Typical Steps for Becoming a Court Reporter
- Learn about your state's licensing requirements. Every state has its own court reporter licensing requirements and may establish the level of education required. For example, some states require court reporters to become notaries public, while others require an individual to achieve designation as a Certified Court Reporter (CCR) or Certified Shorthand Reporter (CSR). If you think you might work in a different state, be sure to understand that state's requirements, too.
- Enroll in a court reporting school or technical training programs recognized by the licensing board of that state. It may take one to four years to complete a program, depending on the kind of reporting you plan to do.
- Earn one or more certifications. While not required in all states, achieving certification gives court reporters an edge when seeking employment and career advancement. Aside from providing more court reporting career information, the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) also bestows the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR), an entry-level designation, upon individuals who pass an exam and complete required continuing education programs.
Court reporters may also earn other, more specialized certifications, such as:
- Registered Diplomate Reporter (RDR)
- Registered Merit Reporter (RMR)
- Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR)
- Federal Certified Realtime Reporter (FCRR)
- Certified Broadcast Captioner (CBC)
- Certified CART Provider (CCP); for reporters who caption media programming or provide services to the hearing impaired.
For voice writers, the National Verbatim Reporters Association (NVRA) offers three national certifications as a substitute for state licensing in states where court reporting via the voice method is used:
- Certified Verbatim Reporter (CVR)
- Certificate of Merit (CM)
- Real-Time Verbatim Reporter (RVR)
The American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT) offers voluntary certification for electronic court reporters. The three certifications offered by the AAERT are:
- Certified Electronic Court Reporter (CER)
- Certified Electronic Court Transcriber (CET)
- Certified Electronic Court Reporter and Transcriber (CERT)
Through work experience and continuing education, a court reporter may eventually move into a management, administrative or consulting position, or become a teacher in their field.
- Court Reporters, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/court-reporters.htm
- Summary Report for Court Reporters, O*NET OnLine, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/23-2091.00