Court reporting services for the hearing impaired

Providing real-time access to live television broadcasts for deaf and hearing-impaired viewers can offer added avenues of entertainment for these individuals. Professional court reporting specialists who specialize in this field can transcribe spoken words quickly and accurately to ensure that hearing-impaired people have access to information regarding the programs they are viewing. Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART) professionals are in demand throughout the television industry and provide a valuable service for community organizations, conferences, academic settings, and many other venues.

Demanding requirements for CART professionals

Court reporters must meet high standards for accuracy and speed to maintain positions in the legal arena. For CART captioners, however, the requirements are even more stringent. CART technicians must generally perform their duties in real time. This means that they cannot edit their work as they go. Instead, an extreme degree of accuracy is required on the part of CART specialists to ensure that their captions are correct and understood. Speed is also critical to ensure that the images on the screen correspond with the information provided in the real-time captions.

Vocabulary and spelling

While some modern captioning machines provide auto-correct options for spelling, CART specialists must have strong vocabulary and spelling skills to ensure the most accurate captions for their viewers. This includes general knowledge of the terminology used in the particular field:

  • CART technicians who specialize in sports programming must have an understanding of the events they cover and a broad grasp of the various positions, plays, and rules governing the sports in question.
  • Medical, dental, and scientific conferences may require an in-depth knowledge of terms and terminology relevant in these fields.

CART specialists must also possess a reliable sense of context to ensure that they select the right words and spellings in each situation.

Legal requirements for CART services

Agencies and academic institutions that receive federal funding must comply with a variety of laws and regulations designed to provide equal access to those with disabilities. Some of the most important pieces of legislation guaranteeing equal access to information and services for hearing-impaired individuals include the following:

  • The 1997 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was enacted in an effort to promote the mainstreaming of children with disabilities and to end the practice of separating these students from others in the academic environment.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is one of the most far-reaching legislative initiatives and requires that accommodation plans be put in place to ensure equal access to public services and areas for those with disabilities. Schools, public transportation systems, and medical facilities are all required to provide reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities.
  • The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 includes a section specifically outlining the requirements for federally funded schools and agencies to provide assistance to those with disabilities. The act was amended in 1998 to include language guaranteeing equal access to the electronic and digital information technology made available to the public by federal agencies.

CART services may be required for full compliance with these federal regulations.

Court reporters who specialize in CART services can enjoy a wide range of employment opportunities. By taking on the challenges of this fast-paced field, captioning experts can improve the quality of life for hearing-impaired individuals while putting their skills to the test in this challenging segment of the court reporting industry.


Budgeting error could shut down Illinois courts

Court reporters play a critical role in the American legal system. However, an oversight on the part of the State of Illinois may leave many court reporters out of work and many courts unable to hear cases until added funds are found to pay these legal professionals. A change in the way group insurance premiums and pensions are funded has left local courts without the funds necessary to hire the needed court reporters for upcoming cases and hearings. This could seriously hamper the ability of Illinois courts to dispense justice and hear cases in upcoming months. While no solution has yet been identified, state and county authorities are exploring options to deal with this major budget shortfall.

Flawed spending plan for Illinois

In an effort to cut costs across the board, Illinois lawmakers shifted the burden of paying for pensions and group insurance for court reporters to the local courts. By transferring the other costs of court reporting services from the General Revenue Fund to the Personal Property Replacement Tax Fund, Illinois hoped to reduce the overall costs of court operations at the state level. Unfortunately, local courts simply do not have the available funds to make up the shortfall, which is expected to amount to $14.3 million statewide by the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

Mandated court reporting

Under Illinois law, felony cases and those involving juveniles are required to have live court reporters on duty. Other types of cases could potentially be covered by less effective electronic recording devices; however, even these options would still require transcription and review by qualified court reporters to ensure accuracy and to satisfy legal requirements for note taking and monitoring. Failing to meet these requirements for live court reporting could close down some Illinois courts as soon as the end of the month of March.

Limited options

While lawmakers scramble to find new funding sources for the state court system, Illinois counties are looking at a number of options to try to maintain operations through the end of the fiscal year. Some ideas that have been floated include closing down some felony courtrooms altogether, reducing salaries, and delaying cases until after funding becomes available again. At the state level, lawmakers are considering implementing a supplemental appropriations measure or authorizing the governor to reallocate funding from other areas to cover the expenses associated with court reporting services throughout the state. In the worst case scenario, however, courtrooms may be closed down temporarily. This could create a significant backlog of cases for Illinois courts after June 30 of this year.

The threatened shutdown of court services in Illinois highlights the importance of the court reporter in the modern legal system. Court reporters provide accurate records of the proceedings in criminal and civil trials and assist in depositions of witnesses to acquire evidence and testimony. These legal professionals are vital to the smooth operation of courtroom proceedings and deliver reliable, responsive services to ensure fair treatment for all parties. The dilemma faced by Illinois courts should serve as a wake-up call for other states regarding the value of court reporting in the legal arena.


Court reporters are in demand

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.


Setting the standards for videography: The National Court Reporters Association

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.


3 tips for cutting costs in your legal office

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.

  • Outsource your IT


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.

  • Cut back on travel


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.

What is electronic court filing?

In September 1988, the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system was instituted as a way to provide access to public records through authorized computer terminals. At first, these terminals were only available for use in certain public libraries and in some office buildings. In 2001, PACER was made publicly accessible on the Internet as a fee-based search service. It currently is estimated to contain well over 500 million documents. PACER represents the first major use of electronic court filing in the U.S.

Simply put, electronic court filing is the transmission of relevant court documents over the Internet or through other electronic means. In the U.S. judicial system, the preferred format for those documents is determined by standards that govern the way in which documents are structured and the metadata information provided with the court records. PACER records are uploaded in XML-based formats to ensure maximum interoperability and compatibility across a wide range of operating systems and platforms.

Electronic court filing systems provide superior access to attorneys, legal personnel, and members of the public. As more states move to this technologically advanced data transmission method for lawyer-to-lawyer communications, court submissions, and storage of completed cases, the improved access will allow greater transparency for the judicial process.


How to look confident in a courtroom

The right attitude can help you achieve a greater degree of success in the legal field. Court reporters, paralegals, and other adjunct members of the legal profession should maintain a professional demeanor and should dress conservatively in keeping with the general decorum in the courtroom setting. Even when taking depositions at a remote location or assisting with duties in the legal office, presenting the right image can ensure that you are considered for positions of added responsibility and increased remuneration in your chosen industry.


How to work in the legal field without a law degree

Attorneys may be the superstars of the legal world. Their job would be much more difficult, however, without the help of paralegals and court reporters. Paralegals do much of the heavy lifting in terms of organizing evidence, managing cases, and preparing for the courtroom appearance. Court reporters create transcripts of depositions and other statements to allow attorneys to prepare for trial and to present evidence from those unable to appear in court in person. These legal professionals deliver the help attorneys need to succeed in the legal environment.


Is a court reporting career right for you?

As the top court reporting company in the U.S., Atkinson-Baker takes pride in employing the most competent and accurate court reporters in the industry. Achieving excellence in the field of court reporting requires expert training and experience in this vital field. Understanding the requirements necessary to become a court reporter can help in determining if this career path is a viable option for aspiring legal professionals.

Initial educational requirements

Court reporters typically achieve initial certification at a technical institute or in a community college setting. These training programs usually last two years or less and include courses in typing, grammar and spelling, legal terms and concepts, and courtroom procedures. Students also practice their transcription skills directly in conditions similar to those they will experience in the course of their careers. In most cases, a typing speed test may be required to ensure that these aspiring court reporters have the technical skills necessary to succeed in this demanding field.

Licensing and certification

Most states require court reporters who practice within their borders to be licensed or certified in the field. The major organizations responsible for licensing and certifying court reporters include the following:

  • The National Court Reporters Association offers a Registered Professional Reporter certification upon the completion of a three-part shorthand speed test and a written examination. This certification is accepted by 22 states and provides solid evidence for potential employers that the court reporter is well qualified to perform his or her duties.
  • For digital and voice court reporters, the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers offers Certified Electronic Transcriber and Certified Electronic Reporter qualifications after the successful completion of a skills test and a written test.
  • The National Verbatim Reporters Association also offers certification for voice court reporters.

Some states also offer certification and licensing examinations for court reporters. These qualifications often provide added opportunities in the job market and may be required by employers or state oversight agencies.

Where court reporters work

Most court reporters work on behalf of judicial institutions at the federal, state, or local level. These legal professionals typically perform their duties in the courtroom and are responsible for producing clear and accurate transcripts of all activities during the course of a trial or hearing. Other court reporters take depositions on behalf of legal firms or individual attorneys and may travel throughout the year to acquire these sworn statements from witnesses across the U.S. or even around the globe. Court reporters may also be called upon to produce transcripts of the votes, activities,and discussions held by various legislative bodies.

Other employment options

The skills necessary for success as a court reporter can also translate directly into other fields of endeavor. Court reporters can provide captioning services for television programs and may be employed to create similar captions for corporate presentations. The ability to take dictation quickly and accurately can also be useful in gaining employment as a personal assistant or administrative professional. In the academic environment, court reporting skills can be put to good use in helping those with hearing disabilities to understand and assimilate course materials.

Essential characteristics of successful court reporters

A few basic traits are necessary to achieve success in the court reporting field. Attention to detail is a critical attribute for court reporters; even a small transcription error can have a significant effect on the outcome of a case or the testimony of a witness.  A high degree of focus and concentration is also required to ensure that every word uttered in the courtroom is transcribed accurately. Court reporters must have excellent spelling, grammar, and comprehension skills to produce the best results for their clients and to ensure the integrity of courtroom proceedings.

Atkinson-Baker’s court reporters are highly trained and maintain all required qualifications to ensure that the transcripts they produce are accurate and that the turnaround time is fast. The right educational background and certifications can provide solid evidence of excellence for attorneys and other legal entities in need of court reporting services. By working with an established company to record depositions, hearings, and other legal proceedings, clients can ensure the most effective solutions for their court reporting needs.