A study conducted by Drucker Worldwide in September 2014 projects a significant shortfall of qualified applicants in the fast-paced field of court reporting. According to the figures compiled and the anticipated need for these legal professionals, at least 5,500 more court reporters will be required to meet ongoing demand. Court reporters play a critical role in a wide range of industries and environments and can often attract high salaries, a strong selling point given the current employment prospects available for new graduates.
Opportunities for court reporters
Along with the expected courtroom positions, court reporters may also find employment in a variety of other fields, including the following:
- Creating closed captions for television broadcasts
- Taking depositions for legal firms or court reporting companies
- Providing assistance to disabled individuals through Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART) positions
Multilingual individuals are in especially high demand in the court reporting industry and can provide translations for depositions and in court. This can prove exceptionally valuable for attorneys and legal firms with significant interests in foreign countries or who routinely work with witnesses and other individuals who speak little or no English.
Personal attributes of court reporters
Not everyone is suited to a career in court reporting. To succeed in this field, aspiring applicants must possess a unique set of skills and attributes that include the following:
- Attention to detail and precision in recording spoken dialogue
- Ability to focus for prolonged periods of time
- Superior listening and comprehension skills
- An extensive vocabulary and excellent spelling skills
- General knowledge of legal terms and procedures
- Patience and good interpersonal skills
Prospective court reporters who meet these basic requirements can often achieve a significant degree of success with the proper training and certification.
Educational and certification requirements
Court reporters must typically complete either a two-year degree or a certification program designed to provide the skills and background needed to perform duties in the legal setting. Broadcast captioners may also be required to take specific classes to familiarize themselves with the equipment used in the television industry. Once formal education has concluded, most states require successful completion of an examination that results in licensing or certification. The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) offers Registered Professional Reporter certification programs that are currently accepted by 22 of the 50 states in lieu of a state license or certification. CART service providers and court reporters must complete a three-part test of their skills as well as a written test to qualify for certification by the NCRA.
With approximately 32,000 court reporters already at work in the U.S. and the number of available positions on the rise, this legal profession offers much to attract younger applicants to the field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that average salaries for court reporters will increase by around 14 percent through 2020, a sharp contrast to falling salary rates in many other professions. By taking on the challenges of a career in the court reporting field, new graduates can potentially achieve significant financial success.
The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) was founded in 1899 and was originally named the National Shorthand Reporters Association as a reflection of the predominant form of court reporting in use at the time. Today, the NCRA represents court reporters in a wide range of career paths and provides guidance on best practices within the profession. One of the most important elements of modern court reporting practice is the recording of video depositions. The standards set forth by the NCRA are designed specifically to provide a framework for court reporting firms to ensure the most accurate transcriptions of all types of recordings.
Specifications for video depositions
The NCRA has established 62 separate standards regarding the video recording of depositions. Many of these standards deal with the technical specifications of the equipment to be used:
- Zoom ratios must maintain a focal length ratio of at least 10:1.
- Fluid-head tripods are required.
- Video cameras must have a minimum horizontal resolution of 350 lines.
- Manual volume adjustment controls are required.
- At least four microphones are required to meet NCRA standards; of these, one must be directed at the deponent and two are reserved for the direct examiner and the cross examiner in the deposition.
NCRA standards also provide guidance on how depositions should be recorded by videographers:
- Video depositions should be carried out in accordance with the expressed rules, orders, and stipulations of the court.
- The style to be used in recording the deposition should be communicated to all parties prior to the start of videography.
- Any pans or zooms should be performed in a smooth and methodical fashion.
- All cell phones should be turned off prior to the start of the deposition.
- Videographers should listen to the questioning and testimony through headphones and should ensure that they can be heard when making announcements verbally.
- If given permission, recordings may be interrupted by the videographer to ensure that the oath has been administered, to correct any acoustical or technical problems, or to change recording media in cases where this is required.
Videographers should include the following spoken information at the start of the deposition session.
- The full name of the deponent and the name of the party requesting the deposition
- The time and date
- The address at which the deposition took place
- The case number and the court involved
- The identity of all persons present, including the business addresses, and names of the court reporter and the videographer
- Indexing information to include any stops and starts in recording, on-the-record and off-the-record content, and the run time of each deposition session
This information is critical to ensure that depositions are recorded properly and that all events are depicted accurately in regard to the videography process.
By studying and maintaining the best practices recommended by the NCRA, videographers can deliver the highest quality depositions to ensure accurate reporting and evidence in the legal arena.
Reducing your overhead can boost your profitability without increasing your caseload. Here are three proven tips for lowering the cost of operating your legal practice.
Especially for smaller law offices, making the move to cloud storage and maintenance can significantly reduce the need for in-house IT expertise and can cut costs without sacrificing quality or reliability of service.
- Optimize your supply chain
Office supplies and other necessary items can often be acquired from a number of local vendors. Periodic checks to ensure that you are receiving top-quality products at the lowest prices can give you leverage to negotiate lower prices with your current vendor or to move to a different vendor entirely.
Modern videoconferencing technology can provide nearly all of the benefits of face-to-face meetings and can often provide a convenient video record of the entire proceedings. By choosing these lower-cost options for depositions, team meetings, and other activities, your law firm can enjoy considerable savings over the cost of lodging and travel arrangements.
By reducing costs not directly related to your core legal activities, your firm can enjoy increased profitability and improved cash flow. These added financial resources can help your company stay competitive and relevant in the modern legal marketplace.