Perhaps a job that we don’t think too much about is that of a court reporter or legal video specialist. However, the work that they do every day is crucial to our justice system and making sure that the facts have accurately been recorded and transcribed. Attorneys, judges, and the parties in court refer to the information taken down by court reporters and the legal video specialists, so it’s important that the information is 100% accurate. You must be certified and specialized in order to do this type of work — there are certain steps of certification you have to go through in order to become a court reporter or legal video specialist and takes a significant amount of time. Additionally, many reporters belong to one of three court reporting associations. If you’re interested in knowing what it takes to become a court reporter or a legal video specialist, read on!
What’s a Court Reporter Do Versus a Legal Video Specialist?
Both essentially work together to create a complete record of the proceedings of the court, but do it in different ways. A legal video specialist may often supplement the written court record taken down by the court reporter, who uses a steno machine for a shorthand, written record. A certified legal video specialist records the proceedings using video, for visual effects and to capture verbatim the discussions, decisions, and other verbal records. Their work becomes part of the official permanent record and often are a reference point for those involved in the court proceedings. If a case is closed and later re-opened, those re-investigating the case may refer back to this documentation as well.
What’s The Field Look Like?
There are tree main national court reporting associations that exist in the United States. They are: The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA), the National Verbatim Reporters Association (NVRA), and the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT). The National Court Reporters Association represents 20,000 stenographers.
In 2012, there were a little over 20,000 court reporters in the United States. Interestingly enough, over 70% of the 50,000+ court reporters work outside of the court, providing their services for other public or private sectors. However, between 2012 to 2022, the employment rate for court reporters is supposed to increase 10%, so perhaps more court reporters will return to the courts for work.
What Are the Requirements Like For Court Reporters and Legal Video Specialists?
The different national associations may have different certification programs, but the general requirements are that a student must be able to transcribe 225 testimony words per minute, 200 jury charge words per minutes, and 180 literary words per minute with a 95% accuracy. The National Court Reporters Association, for example, requires the minimum typing speed for certification to be 225 words per minute.
The average court reporting education program and certification process takes a little over 33 months on average and students should count on spending at least 15 hours per week transcribing the spoken word to best hone their skills. As they say: practice makes perfect!
Many court reporters are also expected to be comfortable with a stenotype machine, which records shorthand of the spoken word at 225 words per minute — the reporter is then expected to transcribe the shorthand afterward.
For legal video specialists, there are three steps. The first is attending a three-day seminar sponsored by the NCRA, which are only held twice a year. The seminar provides detailed training, demonstrations, and workbooks that cover every step of being a court video specialist. After completing the seminar, a written test is required. The test is comprised of 100 multiple choice questions; you must answer 70% correctly. Lastly, you need to take a production test. You’ll have to record a mock deposition and your final grade comes from your ability to present a quality video of the proceedings.
If you pass these steps, you’ll be issued your certification!
As you can see, court reporters and legal video specialists are expected to pass a rigorous testing and qualification process, in order to produce the best quality and accurate transcription of our legal proceedings.