Month: May 2018

Building Your Career in Court Reporting: What are the Options?

Most people entering the workforce today are preparing for an uphill battle. Between growing student debt and wages that have fallen 43% from the previous generation, many young people are giving up hope

But demand for court reporters remains high, with a starting salary to match.

Some cynics predict advancing technology will topple the industry. But like rumors of Mark Twain’s death in 1897, rumors of tech usurping court reporters are greatly exaggerated.

Producing a complete, accurate transcript is too important to risk by using temperamental tech, where a loud cough, a glitch, or forgetting to hit record could render it useless.

Unfortunately, not enough people know what a career in court reporting can offer, so employers are facing difficulty trying to find qualified candidates to fill empty positions. Though fortunately for new court reporters entering the field, this means there are few barriers between you and a fulfilling career.

Keep reading to explore the options available, complete with pros and cons.


Freelance Court Reporter

Freelancers are independent contractors who tend to work outside the courtroom, helping to cover depositions, arbitrations, meetings, business sessions, and more. This is where new court reporters usually start their career.

You have the option to work completely independently or as part of an agency. The agency is hired by law firms, lawyers, or a corporation and it assigns court reporters as needed.

Freelancers who work for an agency are typically on-call and can be given as little as one day of notice for a job. But it’s up to the freelancer whether or not they take it.

Because of the variety of assignments, freelance court reporters often get the opportunity to travel to different locations. Depending on the job, this could be local, national, and occasionally international travel.

Most freelance work is done from home after the initial record is taken, making it an ideal option for court reporters with kids or other home-based obligations.

Pros: maximum flexibility, job diversity, can complete most work from home.

Cons: short notice for work, usually no benefits.

Official Court Reporter

‘Official court reporter’ is a salaried position, working for United States district and magistrate judges. These are the court reporters who work directly in the courtroom recording trials.

According to the National Center for State Courts, these positions usually require four years of freelance work and can pay up to a six-figure salary with benefits.

These positions may also require various certifications, including Certified Shorthand Reporter (CSR), Registered Professional Reporter (RPR), and Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR).

As an official court reporter, there are several opportunities for advancement. You can become senior reporters or look for jobs in higher courts.

The first step is attaining a position at the Superior Court. Positions in the District Court is the next step, and becoming a Senate Reporter in D.C. is considered the top of the field. But note, moving up in the industry requires finding ways to stand out.

Pros: stability, high pay

Cons: high pressure, few breaks


Captioning is used to accommodate the hearing impaired by providing a text-based version of speech. It can be offered as an additional skill for a freelance court reporters or can be the focus of your career.

Getting hired for captioning positions usually requires certifications like Certified Realtime Reporter (CRC) and Certified Broadcast Captioner (CBC).

There are two primary types of captioning work: open captioning (real-time) and closed captioning (done in advance).

Both types may require expensive equipment that goes beyond what is required in a courtroom, deposition, etc., but court reporters who are drawn to this type of work enjoy that most gigs allow you to work completely from home.

Pros: remote options available, flexible.

Cons: tends to be lower pay, often requires expensive equipment.


Whether you see yourself working at the senate one day or prefer the flexibility of freelance court reporting, the options available are numerous. Court reporting is an expanding profession with room for you to design exactly how you want to work. So pick up your steno with confidence, and start working your way to your ideal career.

Now, we want to hear from you! How long have you been a court reporter? How do you prefer to work?

Let’s take this conversation to Twitter!

You can tweet us @expertdepos and/or use the hashtag #expertdepostech

The Millennial Court Reporter: 10 Ways to Stand Out in the Industry

By: Jennifer de la Chevotiere

Whether you’re actually a Millennial entering the field for the first time, or a member of another generation making a career change, you’ve made a great professional choice.

Despite some misconceptions about being edged out by technology, court reporting is actually a growing field with a lot of job security. Not to mention, it has great pay, a flexible schedule, a short time in school, and a lot of variety.

But the job also requires a high degree of skill, and like most skilled professions, there are exceptional people who are constantly in demand and not-so-great people who struggle to find work.

To make sure you’re part of the former group, there are a few key competencies you’ll need to master:

1. Be On Time

Your job is an integral part of a deposition, so if you run late – or worse – fail to show up, you’re making other people’s jobs more difficult and giving yourself a bad reputation in the process.

Take time to make sure you know where you’re going and how you’ll get there. Then, show up about 30 minutes early to give yourself plenty of time to set up before it is expected to start.

2. Know Your Terms

Deposition content can be technical, full of jargon, or riddled with confusing acronyms. If you don’t know a lot about the industry you’re serving, ask for a spreadsheet of terms you can study a few days before the session. This will help you improve your accuracy when it’s time to go.

3. Avoid Multitasking

Not every day will bring exciting new information to record. Sometimes, depositions can be paint drying levels of boring. But even if you consider yourself a master multitasker, don’t give into the temptation to split your attention.

Looking at your phone will give everyone in the room the impression that you aren’t paying attention or taking an accurate transcript. It doesn’t matter if the resulting transcript is actually flawless, this will diminish your reputation.

4. Make Sure Your Requirements are Known

People don’t always speak clearly. In fact, often, people don’t really speak at all. Instead, they use implied sounds like “uh-uh” and “uh-huh” as substitutes for “yes” and “no”.

It’s your job to record both what was said and how it was said. And when people use language substitutes that your stenograph doesn’t have shorthand notation for, it puts you at risk for falling behind the conversation or losing quality in your transcript.

Take a moment before the session begins to let participants know to speak slowly, clearly, and avoid using implied sounds.

5. Take Charge

It’s your job to accurately preserve the words spoken during a session. And sometimes, the other people in the room will make your job much harder.

Don’t be afraid to interrupt when people are mumbling, speaking too fast, or speaking over each other. Remind them of your needs as a court reporter.

6. Get the Spelling Right

Accuracy is fundamental. This includes the spelling of names. Don’t assume common names are spelled the way you expect. Take a moment to ask the witness to spell their name for the record, even if it means you’re interrupting something.

7. Control Your Emotions

As a court reporter, it’s important to stay neutral. But it isn’t always easy. There may be times when you have to listen to discussion of sensitive topics and witness strong emotion from the parties involved.

But you must provide an impartial transcript. If people see you laugh or cry during the session, it can give the wrong impression. Remain calm and professional, no matter what’s happening around you.

8. Work With Attorneys

Both you and the attorneys involved have an important job to do. For everything to run smoothly, it’s vital to build a rapport with attorneys and ensure clear communication.

For example, “I need it tomorrow” could mean first thing in the morning or by the end of the day. Make sure you know which.

9. Keep Your Tools in Working Order

If you’re just entering the industry, chances are you’ll be using up-to-date industry tools. But in case you’re thinking about saving money by using older tools, be careful.

Make sure your computer and steno work reliably, as well as any other software or accessories. Time is valuable, and you don’t want to be viewed as wasting it when your equipment breaks down or requires an unexpected update.

10. Take Breaks

Court reporting can be demanding. You have to maintain intense focus for hours at a time without frequent breaks. This can be a stress on your body and mind.

So take breaks when you can. Have a nice lunch, go out and enjoy the sunshine, do what you can to mitigate the effects of an intense job. This will help you avoid burnout and continue to operate at peak level.

The Takeaway

Court reporting is a promising and lucrative career. To rise to the top of the industry, invest time in learning the nuances of the profession to gain a positive reputation.

While mastering the nuances will help separate you from the crowd, don’t forget the basic elements of professionalism required in any industry. Dressing appropriately, maintaining a professional attitude, continuing to develop soft skills, and focusing on how you can deliver value every day are just as important to becoming a star court reporter.

Don’t get discouraged. You may lack the experience of some of your colleagues right now, but while experience is important, offering quality service and dedicated professionalism will help you in every step of your career.