There aren’t as many serial killers in courtrooms as TV likes to suggest. But that doesn’t mean that court reporting can’t be an exciting career. Distinctive from journalistic reporting, court reporters transcribe court and other legal proceedings. They can work for law firms, the government or associations such as non-profits. Here’s what you need to know if you hope to get started in the field.
When you think or court reporting, judicial reporting and typing away at a stenotype (a fancy keyboard with keys for syllables instead of letters) are the first things that come to mind. But court reporters aren’t limited to the courtroom, and they can work for broadcast corporations and help the deaf or hard of hearing by typing captions for live broadcasts. Or they can work in private law offices, if lawyers want notes from their meetings to be easy to reference.
But back to the courtroom: whether it’s a civil, criminal, or juvenile case, being a court reporter is an exciting and challenging career. Don’t believe in love? Family court could be your thing. Curious about how immigration or traffic law works? Regardless, someone has to transcribe it and you could have a prolific career doing so.
And if you know a second language, it really helps and is highly sought after. But you have to be fluent, since you’ll be recording what people say in real time.
Court reporters tend to make between $40,000 and $74,000 per year, while the average salary is $56,378 per year. Educational level, skills, and years of work also impact how much you can make at certain points in your career. Requirements and programs vary by state, but all court reporters have to be licensed and certified.
Programs do not supply materials, which can cost close to $3,000, and in addition, entrance exams are common. But programs are flexible, and many are even offered online. Programs offer insight into:
- Writing in English
- Legal and medical jargon
- Legal studies
- Transcript procedures
This is followed by an apprenticeship which gives valuable courtroom experience. After passing the program, to get licensed and certified, the minimum requirements, with a 97% accuracy rate, are:
- Literary typing speed of 180 wpm (words per minute)
- Jury charge typing speed of 200 wpm
- Testimony/Q&A typing speed of 225 wpm
This can take a few tries, but with a lot of hard work, you can reliably pass and begin work in the field.
Court reporting agencies
When you do pass, it is highly recommended that you find an agency to connect you to jobs and opportunities. But what does a court reporting agency do?
Take Florida for example, a state that’s infamous for needing a robust criminal justice system. Which is why court reporting agencies exist. If you find yourself in such a legal situation in the Fort Lauderdale area, a Fort Lauderdale court reporting agency will offer litigation support services, in addition to videotaped depositions, a searchable court transcript database, and video conferencing for remote testimony, among various other services.
All of this is provided by certified and technical, unbiased professionals at the court reporting agency, with specialties in legal video, document management, translating, and interpreting. Certain court reporting agencies will be most familiar with local legal systems, and you can always find something local to you. Depending on the area, different services might be offered.
Being a court reporter is a challenging job that’s not for everyone. But there’s a niche or calling in the legal field, if you’re up for it. With the right education, certification, and training you can make a decent living and witness some fascinating lawsuits.