So you want to be a Court Reporter?
Becoming a court reporter
When becoming a court reporter, many people don’t know that there are a variety of different fields that you can delve into. Court reporting has three primary facets that are equally important to the judicial process: Official/freelance reporting, closed captioning, and CART.
This is what people most often associate with the title of “court reporter.” These reporters record what is said during court proceedings, depositions, and administrative hearings. Official reporters are hired by local, state, and federal court systems to cover courtroom proceedings. Freelance reporters work independently, usually with a local court reporting agency, and are hired by private attorneys to cover depositions, arbitrations, hearings, and other legal proceedings.
These reporters feed live transcripts to broadcasting networks so they can air the closed captions during the proceedings. In many cases, there is a delay, but providing live transcripts helps viewers who are hard of hearing understand what is going on. Many captioners work out of their homes.
CART (Communications Access Real-time Reporting)
Some court reporters specialize in providing real-time translations for the deaf and hard of hearing, which is known as CART. CART can be used for work-related communication, jury or legal participants in the courtroom, students in the classroom setting, church services, and theatre productions, just to name a few. Many times, no transcript is needed by the CART consumer. However, unedited transcripts may be requested by the consumer and can benefit students, jury members, the family members of legal parties, or even the litigants themselves. CART can be performed on-site or remotely, with the reporter “listening” in and transmitting the spoken word via the Internet.
In order to become a court reporter in any of these areas, a student must be proficient in:
- English grammar, punctuation and spelling
- Medical and legal terminology
- Legal studies
- Transcript procedures
- Local and national rules for court reporters
A court reporting student must also master machine shorthand, writing with accuracy at speeds beginning at 225 words per minute. In order to master transcription, students of court reporting can expect to spend up to 15-20 hours transcribing the spoken word every week. Many programs also require that a student completes one or more apprenticeships with court reporting agencies or obtains other real-world experience before they become a certified court reporter.
Court reporting programs exist in every state, and many require specific licenses to practice within their state — just like a lawyer must pass a state bar exam to practice law within a state. Many court reporting programs offer online courses, as well as day or evening courses, in order to accommodate busy schedules.
Court reporting agencies require court reporters to have great skill in writing the spoken word and working with the agency’s clientele. While it isn’t for everyone, court reporting can be very rewarding.