Court reporters are usually stealth, blending into the courtroom environment despite pounding away at the keys of a stenograph. With few exceptions (like intervening when people are talking over each other), you won’t hear a peep from a court reporter.
Although it’s a generally quiet position, court reporting is essential to the legal system. However, not many people realize it’s a rewarding career option. If you’re unfamiliar with this career path, here’s why some people are drawn to become a court reporter:
You get to work in a courtroom
Many people are drawn to working in a legal environment surrounded by professionals like judges and attorneys. It’s a different world compared to retail and the standard office job. The law is complex, and provides the variety and excitement some people are looking for.
Although you’ll need to pay attention to your work and not get distracted by what’s going on around you, just being in the presence of esteemed legal professionals can be a desirable experience.
Court reporters are always needed
There will always be a need for court reporters. Even though video technology has been around forever, the court system can’t survive without court reporters. According to Cooper Litigation, a professional court reporter with a friendly can-do attitude is essential to the success of the justice system. If you can’t find work as a court reporter, it won’t be due to lack of demand.
Your transcription isn’t just for later reference
Although many court proceedings are recorded on video, the courtroom needs immediate transcription. Everything a court reporter records is immediately translated and sent to the judge’s iPad. This way, if a witness is asked about a former comment but denies having made the comment, the judge can scroll up and reference exactly what the witness said. This ability to instantly reference former statements is imperative to keep witnesses honest during cross-examinations.
Court reporting is detail-oriented
If you’re detail-oriented and you love the legal system, you might enjoy court reporting. Court reporters perform a wide variety of tasks including documenting all communications, gestures, and actions that occur in the courtroom. You’ll need to listen and observe to document everything each person says and does. Since everything you document becomes the official record of the court, you have to love being detail-oriented to do a good job.
Court reporters are paid well
Salary.com puts a court reporter’s earnings between $41,000-$74,000 per year with the average salary being $57,000. Even at entry level, that’s a good salary. However, the earnings come at a price. In exchange for good pay, court reporters are held to high standards and will lose referrals after the first or second incident of carelessness.
Lack of office politics
Court reporting isn’t your average job where you’re subjected to a hierarchy in the office. There is no hierarchy in court reporting, so you won’t get the typical office politics that seem to plague the corporate world.
Court reporting provides meaning
In an article outlining why she loves her job as a court reporter, Cassandra Caldarella points out that people are satisfied with their job when what they do significantly impacts others. When a person feels their work is meaningful, they’re motivated and satisfied. Caldarella says that many attorneys and judges begin proceedings by introducing the court reporter as “the most important person in the room.”
Are you interested in becoming a court reporter?
Pursuing a career as a court reporter requires time and commitment. It’s important to do your research first and understand what’s involved before committing your time and money into a school. To learn more about what’s expected of students attending court reporting school, check out the following resources:
- Steno hood on YouTube. This YouTube channel is run by a court reporting student named Edna, who shares her experiences and provides tips for others entering a court reporting program.
- The NCRA. The Association for Court Reporters and Captioners (NCRA) provides courses for getting certified as a court reporter. More importantly, their website offers a free survey to help you figure out if a career as a court reporter is right for you. The test identifies traits that are similar to the traits that make a successful court reporter.
If you think a career in court reporting is a good match, find an NCRA-approved program near you and start working toward your new career!