A Closer Look at a Career as a Court Reporter
When you hear the word “courtroom,” most likely, you picture a distinguished judge, a jury, a client who is either guilty or not guilty, and lawyers opposing each other as best they can. Even when you catch a glimpse of reality TV shows like “Judge Judy” or drama shows like “Law & Order” when your parents watch, your eyes are most likely to be on the judge or the lawyers. Rarely would you think of an individual who is recording everything being said and transpiring in the courtroom, the court reporter, as part of the picture.
Court reporters may not be as noticeable as the judges or lawyers, but they are an integral part of the legal process in the justice system. If you are interested in a legal-focused career, a court reporter can be a fulfilling profession. Let’s get to know more about this below.
Court Reporters – What You Need to Know
A court reporter is considered as an official of the court, and the main duty is to record spoken communications at all court proceedings. These recordings, or transcripts as they are usually referred to, are serve as the records for all aspects of the trial. When a decision or verdict is made on trials, everything is recorded, and they are accessible for future reference should lawyers and their legal team want to research on similar cases. In some cases, judges or attorneys can also request court reporters to read back any items which were transcribed, typically when there are points of arguments or disputes or when they simply want something clarified or emphasized.
Most court reporters use a stenotype machine that mimics typed shorthand, allowing them to work at the similar fast rate of the verbal communication that typically transpires in the courtroom. Operating a stenotype efficiently requires formal training and a lot of hours of practice.
The more progressive courtrooms, on the other hand, have embraced technologies available for recording verbal correspondence, and the court reporters are then tasked to produce transcripts out of these recordings. While they don’t have to transcribe in real-time, they still work under very strict timelines to complete the transcripts.
According to PayScale.com, courtroom reporters can earn C$30,536 – C$53,107 a year with additional potential earnings for overtime work.
Since court reporters are court officials too, they are expected to conduct themselves in a highly professional manner, demonstrate tact and discretion, and remain unbiased and impartial. Court reporters also need to be detail-oriented and must possess a high degree of attentiveness, an excellent command of the English language (both verbal and written), and strong skills in multitasking. Courtrooms may have their own system in place when recording verbal communications, so it pays to have the strong capacity to learn new software and technology.
Technical school or vocational training designed specifically to a career as a court reporter is required. Aspiring courtroom reporters should expect to spend hours and hours learning to use a stenotype, as well as learning shorthand and transcription skills.
Each province might have their own requirements before you start working as a court reporter. In Ontario, for example, one has to undergo a testing and certification process to be a member of Court Reporters’ Association of Ontario. In Alberta, meanwhile, potential court reporters need to be a member of the Alberta Shorthand Reporters Association.
Pros and Cons
Like with any job, a career as a court reporter equals its own set of advantages and disadvantages. One common downside is the long hours that are associated with the job, where some may be required to work evenings and weekends, depending on the deadlines for the legal proceedings.
Operating a stenotype machine is a challenge in itself as well. As this equipment does not involve the QWERTY keyboard that we are all used to, some say that it’s similar to learning a new language.
An advantage of working as a court reporter though is the opportunity to meet a variety of people, and encountering a wide variation of legal cases. Some are also grateful for the travel opportunities that come with the job.