For individuals who work outside of the legal field, it can be hard to comprehend the importance of court reporters. As more and more court cases are filed, the value of a neutral record of legal proceedings continues to grow. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the court reporting field is expected to expand by 14 percent through the year 2020. Unfortunately, despite the growing demand for reporters, it seems that fewer and fewer people are entering the field. We believe this is due, in part, to misconceptions about the job.
Here are some common misconceptions about the job of a court reporter!
It’s just typing
The most damaging misconception about court reporters is also the most common. For years, television shows and movies have featured court reporters like set decoration, typing on a device the audience cannot see. This portrayal has led to the erroneous idea that court reporting is “just typing.” Many members of the public have never seen a stenograph and thus cannot understand the skill involved in recording high-profile cases with only 22 unmarked keys. Court reporters combine speed and accuracy to produce a flawless record. Many of us use autocorrecting software on a daily basis, which can lead to the false belief that we type both quickly and accurately. In truth, the average person can only type about 40 words per minute at 92% accuracy. This figure stands in stark contrast to the speed of the average court reporter, which is around 225 words per minute.
Anyone can do the job
Like the previous misconception, there is a prevailing attitude that court reporters are replaceable by unskilled typists or by digital recording devices. The truth is, court reporters are invaluable. Reporters are able to capture nuance and meaning that even the most sophisticated algorithm would miss, and they do not malfunction like voice-capture technology.
To perform their duties, reporters must have a flawless understanding of the English language as well as any technical terminology specific to the case. They imbue the official record with their own real-world understanding, accurately separating homonyms and seamlessly adjusting to the different tones of witnesses and attorneys.
It’s smooth sailing after you finish getting your degree
Although many universities offer placement programs for new graduates, an alarming percentage of newly minted reporters will drop out over their first two years on the job. In fact, some groups report that the drop-out rate may be as high as ninety percent. Reasons for the dropouts can vary, but typically those who leave the profession report feeling daunted by speed and accuracy requirements while on the job.
Like any other career, court reporting comes with a unique set of challenges. However, the field has nearly unprecedented job security. It also has the potential to be enormously fulfilling because reporters perform a critical function within the justice system. Ultimately, court reporting is a dynamic, exciting, and lucrative career for individuals with fast fingers, a great poker face, and an interest in the legal system.