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What to Expect as a Court Reporter

Perhaps you’ve already researched information on court reporters.  You may have found out that the US Bureau of Labor states the median annual wage for a stenographer is $49,710, with the top 10 percent earning more than $83,500.  You may know that this career field is growing and expected to continue growing at a much higher rate than average.  If this is true than you likely know it takes between 2 to 4 years to become a stenographer.  What you may not know though, is what a typical workday is like for a court reporter.

Freelance court reporters make up the majority of working stenographers.  Freelance reporters work as contractors through agencies.  About one third of all court reporters work for the state or federal government in civil/criminal trials and hearings.  State and federal reporters are required to have been a freelance reporter for at least 2 years before working in the state and federal court system.

A typical day in the life of a freelance court reporter will change from day to day. This is not a traditional “9 to 5” job.  They will get a schedule and assignments from their agency.  Many reporters work for more than one agency if they don’t get enough assignments from just one.  Usually, freelance reporters do not work in the courts; instead they do a lot of depositions and hearings.  They will work in almost every area of the law.  The work can include cases where people are suing employers for sexual harassment, race, and gender charges.  They also work on cases regarding personal injury, corporate law, and copyright infringement.  Freelance reporters will be required to travel to different offices and courts, so they will work in a different location almost every day.  Most jobs as a freelance court reporter will start at 10 a.m., and the majority of them will go the full day. Other jobs though, might only last two to five hours. Experienced reporters can usually predict how long it will take, dependent upon how many witnesses will be deposed or the type of case.

Because court reporters are responsible for swearing in the witness who is going to testify they are required to pass the Notary Public test.  So at a deposition or hearing the reporter swears in the testifying witness.  They are then responsible for taking down every single word that is said and creating a transcript; this is a verbatim record of the entire conversation.  If people are speaking too quietly, or too quickly, the reporter will need to interrupt and ask them to repeat themselves.  After working in the field all day a reporter needs to go home and write the transcripts.  They will read through the transcript for spelling and punctuation errors, print it and proofread it again.  Usually they have two weeks before the transcript is due to the agency; the agency then sends it out to the attorneys.  Freelance reporters are paid by each transcript page. The average court reporter in a large city like New York gets paid between $2.75 and $3.50 per page, and makes between $40,000 and $100,000 a year working 5 days a week.  Salaries vary by region and the type of work they are doing.  Complicated work like transcripts with medical terminology will pay more.

Most court reporters use a short-hand machine to take down all that is said in a deposition.  These machines have an abbreviated alphabet and groups of letters to stand for different phrases.  The short-hand machine can be attached to a laptop and what they type on the machine is translated into words on the laptop.  This helps with the proofreading and creating of the transcript.  These software packages have helped tremendously in the stenography field. Audio reporting and voice writing are also popular methods of transcribing.

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