Are you a good listener? Are you able to multi-task with the best of them? Is it natural for you to pay close attention to detail to ensure that everything is correct? If you said yes to each of these questions, then a career as a legal transcriptionist just may be the perfect fit! As a legal transcriptionist you will spend much of your time transcribing the audio files of a legal proceeding into an organized, written report. Although you can begin your career as a legal transcriptionist with only your high school diploma, you will need to gain relevant experience or further your education before you can pursue additional employment options. It is common for legal proceedings and business meetings to be audio recorded in order to accurately capture what occurs. A legal transcriptionist then takes this audio file, listens to it, and creates a written report for the parties. Typically, a legal transcriptionist will work for a legal service agency or for a law firm. As a legal transcriptionist you may also be expected to store audio files or to appropriately distribute them to the media, clients, or other sources. Online research shows that this career path is growing faster than the average, so now would be a great time to enter the work force in this capacity. If you want to begin your training look into any of the court reporting colleges below.
In order to be able to work as a legal transcriptionist you must have obtained your high school diploma. It is common for individuals who are pursuing this career path to be provided with on the job training through their employer. However, it is important to note that this career field is rapidly growing, making competition for jobs fierce. Therefore, some level of post-secondary education is definitely a wise choice! You may want to consider taking classes that will teach you about composition and grammar, legal terminology, dictation, and court reporting.
If you think you may want to work as a court reporter you will also need to earn a passing score on a state licensing examination. While you may not think of the educational requirements as being a necessity, the courses will be designed to help you become a more accurate typist, to have impeccable spelling skills, and to understand legal terminology. Most community colleges and vocational schools offer programs for aspiring court reporters and legal transcriptionists. Take a few minutes and look through the schools shown on the site. If you see any that appeal to you, request that they send you a free information packet that will detail their educational offerings. With your training to work as a legal transcriptionist you can also seek work as a court reporter. If you do not have luck finding employment in either of these positions, try your hand as a legal secretary.
Are you looking for a career that is going to be stable? One that is going to be needed no matter what? This is something that most people are trying to find. One career to consider is that of a court reporter. What is court reporting? Is this a lucrative career? These are just a few questions that are addressed with this career highlight of court reporting.
What is Court Reporting?
Many people know court reporting as stenography, as this was what this was called several years ago. What this person does is take everything that is said and turn this into text form. The person may use a stenotype machine or a stenomask in order to preserve what is being said during a court hearing most often. However, court reporting is used in various official settings such as town meetings, city meetings, in broadcast captioning on television and even through webcasts on the Internet. The field of court reporting has come a long way compared to what it was twenty years ago.
The Equipment Used in Court Reporting
When most people hear the term court reporting, they imagine someone simply taking notes about what is said and happening. However, it is a bit more complex than this. These court reporters are having to note word for word what is being said. Later down the line there may be questions, and the court report is what will decide the answers. Hence, it is a very important role. Due to this, there are several pieces of equipment that are used to ensure that every word is recorded properly. There are two main ways that people are utilizing equipment in order to make recordings.
1. The Stenograph Machine: This machine is one that is often thought of when you think of court reporting. For anyone that has watched an old television show and seen someone typing on what looks like an old typewriter, this is actually a stenograph machine. While these machines may not look the same any longer as those that were seen years ago, they are still in use. These machines allow the person to take notes and recordings in shorthand. The shorthand option ensures that a person is not having to type out word for word what is being said. The shorthand is then translated by a court reporting software program into English for the entire transcription.
2. Stenomask: The Stenomask is fairly new, but has grown in popularity due to the technology that is now available. This is also referred to as a “voice silencer”. With this, the court reporter can repeat everything that is being said into a mask. A computer then types this out automatically. This is becoming more popular since it takes away the shorthand that once had to be learned. However, this is still a skill that is being taught for those who want to be a court reporter.
The Types of Court Reporting
While most people think of a court reporter as someone who simply sits in the courtroom, there are four main types of court reporters. These are:
1. Court Reporting in the Legal Field
2. Court Reporting and Broadcast Captioning
3. Court Reporting and CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation)
4. Court Reporting and Webcasting
For those who are curious, the legal field is the most common area of court reporting to go into. This person may sit in the courtroom with a judge, or they may work with a specific attorney at taking depositions. Interesting, about 27% of court reporters are referred to as official court reporters, meaning that they work only with a judge day in and day out. The rest of the court reporters in the field are referred to as freelance court reporters. They may work with a judge one day and then be at a law office the next day. Those court reporters who work in broadcast captioning are those that are responsible for the subtitles that you often see on the television during a program. This is a surprise to most people, as they would have never thought of court reporters as being responsible for this. The person who works in this position is going to take the audio, must like they would in a court room setting, and then transfer this into text. It is estimated that this service helps around 100 million people in the United States each year, so court reporters are a vital component of making this service work!
CART is very similar to broadcast captioning; however, the person may be working live event captions. For example, if there were people who are deaf on a college campus during a presentation, this person may be behind the scenes writing down what the speaker says and then displaying this text on a screen for the audience. These CART court reporters are often used in office settings as well, when meeting minutes must be documented properly or the like. Webcasting in the court reporting field is relatively new since webcasting has not been around as long as this profession. This profession is going to use the same basic skills that the person knows, however, they are going to be watching webcasts and then documented what is being said throughout this webcast. This is becoming increasingly popular and is putting a demand on the field of court reporters.
For those who are seriously considering this position, they may be wondering what an actual day is like for those who are involved in court reporting. A typical day may involve showing up at the courtroom, typing for 3 hours until they break for lunch. Eating a fast lunch, then coming back and continuing to type for around 5 hours until the court room recesses for the day. For those who work in broadcast captioning, they may work from home for several hours per day adding captions to upcoming television or news shows that are being broadcasted.
Typically, a person can expect to spend a lot of time typing, which can lead to health issues such as carpal tunnel syndrome, much like someone who is sitting at their computer with word processing software all day long. The day can be mentally draining as you are going to be focusing on everything that is going on around you. Many court reporters find after work, they prefer to not talk or listen to anyone, as they have been doing this all day. It is this stress that breaks many of those who first enter into the court reporting career.
Education for Court Reporting
Court reporting is a very interesting field. For those who are looking to enter into this field, they are going to find that they will need a Certificate from a court reporting program at a certified school or an Associate’s degree. Let’s take a look at both of these options.
The Certification route is one that many people take. Why is this? In most cases, the person can complete this certification within a year or less, depending upon how much time that they devote to this. There will be various training programs that you can take part in, and they are usually based on which field you want to enter into. Therefore, before joining into these programs be sure to note whether you want to enter into the courtroom setting or maybe be involved with webcasts. Some of the coursework that these certification programs may include:
- Shorthand editing
- Court reporting procedures
- Legal terminology
- Medical terminology
It is important to note that with certification programs you are often required to purchase your own Computer-Assisted Transcription Equipment in order to complete the courses. However, this is going to be of use later and may make you even more employable since you already have the tools to do the job.
Court Reporting Associate’s Degree
For those who are interesting in getting their Associates degree in court reporting, they will find that this often takes 2 years in order to complete. There are several different aspects that are involved with earning an associate’s degree in court reporting. A person is going to have to learn what those learn when they enter into a certification program. However, the associates degree takes this career a bit further. For example:
- The person is going to be working within all the major areas of court reporting. Therefore, they can almost go into any of the categories of this profession upon graduating.
- The person will be required to often pass dictation tests within a certain time frame in order to earn their degree
- They must test using the CAT software and produce a report that is at least 95% accurate
- They may be required to complete an internship that will put them into the actual field to see how they will perform
Those who earn an associate’s degree often put more time into earning this degree, and it could make them more employable by certain industries.
Court Reporting License and Certification
On top of earning a certificate or degree, there are some states that are going to require that the person have a license or certification in order to work. They may have to earn their certification through:
- National Verbatim Reporters Association
- Certificate of Merit
- Certified Verbatim Reporter
- Real Time Verbatim Reporter
In addition, some states require that their court reporters often be a notary public and take a state test in order to work within this state. In order to determine what you would need, you must look at what your particular state requires.
Salary and Job Outlook
For those who believe that a court reporting job is something of interest to them, what could help them to make their judgment on whether to enter into this career or not is to see how much the pay is along with how much this career is expected to grow in the upcoming years. The average salary throughout the United States is around $51,320 per year, with an average hourly pay at $24.68 per hour. Of course, this is going to differ according to which state you are living and working in. Below are the wage that are earned according to state data:
1. For those in Indiana, Kentucky, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Utah, and Maryland, they are making at the bottom of the average. They can earn between $24,950 and $44,420.
2. For those located in Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Ohio, Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oregon, and Idaho earn around $51,020 to $60,280.
3. For those located in Nevada, Washington, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Missouri, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Virginia, New Jersey and Delaware earn on average $46,240 to $50,810.
4. Those who live in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Texas, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, Tennessee, Massachusetts and New York earn the highest between $60,310 and $88,500.
This career field is expected to grow by 2% on average throughout the United States. This is a bit slower than other occupations that are on the market. It is expected that between 2014 and 2024 there will be 300 new positions in this field that are going to need to be filled by new graduates. As of 2014, there are around 20,800 court reporters that are employed. Of course, the job outlook is going to depend upon the particular state that you are in.
The biggest jumps in employment in the near future by state include:
- Tennessee is expected to see 5.7% increase
- Florida is expected to grow by 5.1%
- Virginia is expected to see a 5.8% increase in the number of court reporters in the state
The states with the least growth in this field includes:
- Puerto Rico is expected to see a 7.6% decrease in these fields
- Connecticut is expected to see a 2.3% decrease in the field
- North Dakota is expected to see 2.2% decrease in this field
Skills Needed by Someone to Become a Court Reporter
For those who believe that this could be the career for them, there are several different skills that they are going to need to acquire or have naturally.
1. Awareness! This is probably one of the most commonly said skills that are needed by those who are already in the profession. Which makes sense. This field requires that you pay attention to everything that is said. Thus, this is not for someone who has a hard time in keeping their attention on everything that was said.
2. Detail orientated! A person must have the ability to produce work that is error free and able to do this for long periods of time every day.
3. Great listening skills, as this is what the person is going to be doing day in and day out. What they type is going to depend upon how well they listen!
4. Must have great writing skills as this is something that is going to be use every day. You must have great working knowledge of grammar, vocabulary and punctuation.
5. A person who is a court reporter also needs to be someone who is prompt and on time. They are entering into a field that requires they are on time every time.
6. A person must have a sense of maturity as they may be involved in cases in which they are dealing with delicate matters.
7. They must have the ability to be flexible as courts are reassigned, dates are changed and the like. All of which may take away work or make more work for you!
8. Ability to multitask! Many people will find that they have to also report what the person may be doing with their hands or body language in order to give the readers of the document a clear picture of what was going on at the time.
Interviewing for a Court Reporting Position
There are several pieces of information that you are going to need in order to become a court reporter and ace this interview. Here are a few questions that may be asked of you when interviewing for a position. Please note that most court reporters work with larger agencies who then find them jobs based on their location and the need of the client. However, this agency is only going to hire those that they feel can do the job and do this well in order to maintain their reputation. A few interview questions that you may be asked include:
1. How well do you write?
2. Can you also report gestures and what the person may be doing with their hands along with the words they are saying?
3. Are you a flexible person?
4. Do you consider yourself a good listener?
5. How many words can you type per minute?
6. What certifications do you hold?
7. Would you be willing to become a notary public in order to work for certain clients?
8. What ways do you manage your stress while working?
9. What to you is the most critical skills for a court reporter to have?
10. Why did you decide to go into court reporting?
11. Would you be willing to showcase how you work with a small test before being hired?
12. When working in a court setting, what types of cases are you ready to work with?
13. How do you catch up when you are working with a report?
14. Why would you think you are the best person to hire for the court reporting job?
15. Can you handle situations that may become intense in the court setting?
At the interview, you are going to find that all attention is going to be on you. Since you are new to the field, the employer may require that you give them a showcase of your skills. Don’t be surprised if they ask you to bring your machine and do a timed test for you. They may also want to see scores that you have received from school on the timed tests that you took upon getting your certificate or diploma.
A few tips that you need to remember when going into these interviews:
1. Be ready to showcase your skills!
2. Dress to impress! Dress how you would if you were going into the job.
3. Be sure that you have a basic understanding of what the employer is looking for.
4. Be ready to talk about your negatives as a court reporter. No employer expects a person to be perfect, and having a few faults and willing to talk about these can make a great impression on the potential employer.
For those who are interested in the court reporting field, they are going to find that it may take time to land a full-time position. Many of those students who are new to this field often become fill ins for those who are full time employees. The key is to do this for several companies in order to get your name on the market. You may find it better to start an internship so you can have real world experience. The key is to showcase you can do the work, and that you do this well. Once you have done this, you are going to find that it may become much easier to get into a full-time position. The court reporting job is more than what most people expect. And it is a field that is going to be needed throughout the future since these notes that are taken are an imperative part of a court case and are helpful to those who need closed captioning services. Depending upon your location, you may find it easier or harder to land employment. However, be sure that you are ready to put in the time and the work to be considered one of the best court reporters in your field.