Maybe your friends have always showered compliments upon you for your typing speed. Or perhaps you’re eager to be privy to all sorts of surprising stories as part of your day-to-day routine. These are both excellent reasons to consider becoming a court reporter. If you haven’t come across many court reporters in your lifetime, you may be interested in researching the position to find out how it would feel to work as one.
Lawyers, although known for their silver tongues, don’t always talk as clearly as a court reporter might want them to. Lawyers are focused on getting the answers they’re looking for from witnesses, and sometimes this means lowering their volume to speak in soft, non-intimidating tones. Lawyers often get into arguments with each other, each making simultaneous statements that the reporter must untangle. Given the strong emotions that go along with many trials, it’s quite a feat for a reporter to pay attention to exactly what is being said, especially when nobody is making any effort to facilitate this effort.
Court reporters must be trained to understand words spoken in a variety of accents, as well as when a person’s speech is muddled by emotion. You can’t just write that the witness broke down sobbing and became unintelligible – every word spoken here is precious. It’s a profession that takes great listening skills, and although it may be challenging at first, you will find that these skills can be quite valuable in all aspects of your life.
The need to be superhumanly accurate might make a person feel like a concert pianist from time to time. In fact, court reporters often find that playing musical instruments can help them with their careers. Musical interests often go hand-in-hand with the profession, as court reporting can offer a flexible schedule that allows for the pursuit of major hobbies outside of the courtroom. Some court reporters find that their work has elements in common with music-related hobbies such as dance as well, as both dance and reporting exercise a person’s ability to respond to the things they hear through movement (in one case, highly accurate typing; in the other, highly coordinated movements of the entire body). So if you’re a music enthusiast, you might enjoy the way that court reporting relates to your musical passions.
As with those who play musical instruments, court reporters must constantly pay attention to their hands and wrists to make sure that they don’t acquire injuries that could prevent them from working at top speed. If you choose this as a career, you will probably want to exercise and massage your hands and wrists regularly as a preventive measure.
Court reporters may not see it all, but they certainly hear it all (and write it down). With so many interesting tidbits of evidence and hearsay going in your ears every day, you’ll have tons to tell your friends at dinnertime – right? No, unfortunately, the tall tales must not leave the courtroom. A major part of a court reporter’s job is to keep things confidential. You can’t even talk about this goings-on to your family. Court reporters are guardians of the legal record, and no amount of accuracy and speed will make a good professional out of someone who breaches confidentiality. This may seem like a challenge, yet on the other hand, you will be learning a lot about the world you live in, and this knowledge and understanding will serve you well in dinnertime conversations even if you can’t impart the juicy gossip. Court reporters say that their work makes them feel like they’re getting paid to take in-depth courses in law and sociology. It’s a great way to get educated about current events close to home, as well as about human nature.
There has been some debate as to whether voice-recognition technology will replace human court reporters. Although that may be the case in the distant future, this technology has a long way to go before it is sufficiently accurate and cost-effective. Wiring up a courtroom and maintaining storage of large digital files can cost tens of thousands of dollars and software needs to be updated on a regular basis, with added cost each time. Furthermore, digital systems just don’t have the discerning ability that humans do. They are often confused by non-speech sounds that they try to “translate” at the expense of what actually is said, and they do not perform well when speakers become emotional and therefore inarticulate. They can also cause problems with confidentiality by putting information into the official record that isn’t supposed to be there, such as private conversations between attorneys and their clients. So as of today, technological development isn’t a reason to avoid pursuing a career as a court reporter, as long as it seems to be a good match for your skills, interests and lifestyle preferences.