“We are sorry, we do not have a court reporter available.”
Unfortunately, that is the response that many attorneys and paralegals are receiving from large nationwide court reporting agencies when trying to book a court reporter for a deposition, hearing, or trial. Although the arrival of the Covid-19 virus certainly didn’t help matters, many do not realize that the legal field was already experiencing a shortage of court reporters pre-pandemic. Court reporters remain one of the most in-demand professions in the legal industry.
Even pre-pandemic many stenographers were nearing the age of retirement and at the same time, the industry has seen less and less individuals enrolling in court reporting programs.
California is one of the states suffering the most from the court reporter shortage. To put things into perspective, we pulled the California Court Reporters Board’s exam results for July 2021 through October 2021 and their dictation exam results for October 2021:
California Court Reporters Board Examination Statistics for November 2021 California Court Reporters Board – Examination Statistics – July 1, 2021 thru October 31, 2021
California Court Reporters Board Dictation Examination Statistics for November 2021: Court Reporters Board Dictation Examination Statistics – Nov 2021 (ca.gov)
Based on these results, there’s a rise of school closures, resulting in a significantly low number of applicants, coupled with a low overall pass rate. Notably, pass rates have improved since before the pandemic, highlighting the court reporting community’s active and fruitful attempts to introduce new reporters into the market.
Of the incredibly hard-working pool of reporters still in rotation, many have moved out of state leaving them unable to attend depositions in person. Of those who haven’t left, the vast majority prefer to work remotely, either for convenience or safety concerns.
The laws of supply and demand are at play in the court reporting world. As court reporters become more scarce, costs of reporting rise and reporter preferences get more specific. All of this further contributes to the challenges of the industry.
Still, there are thousands of reporters who go out every day fulfilling their duty as best they can – carrying overwhelming workloads, abiding by strict deadlines and meeting ever-increasing, unexpected expedite requests.
Needless to say, the demand for court reporters has never been greater. It is important that legal professionals acknowledge the shortage, and push industry awareness to younger professionals, as we continue to find ways to support those, like our court reporter associations, combating this gap in the industry by working to bring more court reporters into the field.