Court Reporters play a critical part in legal proceedings and in other capacities where speech must be preserved in a written record. At times this can include nearly every meeting in the judicial process. Court reporters in the judicial system are responsible for providing accurate, secure and complete legal records. They perform several duties in proceedings, including assisting judges and attorneys, organizing and searching for information and preparing transcripts that are verbatim, include gestures and actions and are created in real-time. Many court reporters work for state and local governments, while others perform stenographer and closed captioning duties independently or as an employee for a company.
Is there a Current Shortage?
There is currently a nationwide shortage of court reporters that varies by state and municipality. Rural areas are generally experiencing a more significant shortage than more populous areas, but that is not always the case. Many states are experiencing a shortage state-wide and are looking to hire several court reporters now and in the future. There have even been instances where jobs have remained unfilled for years at a time due to the shortage. The National Court Reporting Association (NRCA) is expecting that the shortage will continue to worsen in the short term, with projections that over 5,000 court reporting jobs will become available by 2018.
The court reporting industry has experienced times of boom and times of drought. It is currently experiencing a period where much of its workforce is aging and nearing retirement. Most court reporters are over 50 and are expected to retire within the next 5 to fifteen years. Another factor is the recession, which kept many older workers from retiring. As the economy has become stable once more, those workers are now looking to retire, making a large percentage of court reporters eligible for retirement all at one time. Another factor is the lack of younger court reporters. 70% of court reporters are over the age of 48. That means that only 30% of them will continue in the workforce long term. Even more staggering is the fact that many court reporting schools have recently closed, leaving even less graduates to enter the profession in recent years.
Along with the shortage of employees in the field, court reporting is also experiencing growth. The rate of growth varies depending on the specific field. Court reporters who work with states and local courts will experience less growth in their field than those who go on to caption broadcasting. There are many federal regulations that will affect job growth and the most growth will be seen in careers outside of the courtroom. However, the fact remains that there will continue to be a high need for court reporters in the judicial system, even with slower growth.
There are several factors that will determine the future prospects for the job. Federal regulations and state budgets are just two influences that will have an effect on court reporting jobs. The aging population of the country will create a higher demand for court reporters in a variety of contexts, such as at doctor’s appointments, religious services and government meetings. It will also bring about an increased need for closed captioning capabilities. The FCC has recently enacted regulations relating to closed captioning for programs that will lead to more employment in the field. Budget constraints may slow the growth long term in government funded positions. Despite some constrictions, the industry as a whole is projected to grow fairly fast, as will salaries. The NRCA estimates that by 2020, court reporters will experience a salary growth of 14%.
“I, like most other firm owners, am concerned about the increasing shortage of reporters due to our aging reporter population coupled with the many school closures around the country. ” – Jeanne Wiley, RPR, CCR (Ret)
The shortage within the industry will be apparent and could be long term. The most noticeable impact will be in the judicial system, where some proceedings may have to go on without court reporters present and delays may be incurred due to courts being short staffed. Digital technology has been incorporated in some instance to help cover shortages and will continue in the future. Court reporters can also work with new technology to create more precise transcriptions by accurately portraying speech for non-native English speakers, those who speak fast or mumble and homophones. There will always be a need for the services provided by court reporters and their assistance in legal proceedings.