I’m a court reporter.
How would you describe what you do?
We go to attorneys’ offices and we write verbatim what’s being said in depositions or in hearings and go to court sometimes as well. If you ever see the person on TV sitting there with the machine writing, that’s what we do.
We are freelance here, meaning that we usually go to attorneys’ offices rather than court, but we do fill-in at court sometimes, too.
What does your work entail?
Some of the reporters are mask reporters, which means they just repeat into another recorder exactly what’s said, and some of us are writers, where we’re typing shorthand what’s said, and then the shorthand gets transcribed into English in a computer.
…you learn a lot…You can hear from an accountant talking numbers all the way to an expert in vehicle motion. So you really get to hear from a lot of interesting people.
Then you have to go back and proof it and edit it and be sure that it’s all correct, and after that’s done, then it all has to be printed and copies made along with any exhibits.
I wouldn’t call it a 9 to 5. You may have a deposition all day from 9 to 5, but if they need it the next day or in a couple of days, you’re going to have to be working evenings to get it finished.
How did you get started?
I was living in San Francisco and working as a legal secretary and started talking to the court reporter who came to our office. She had a school for court reporters so I decided to try it out and really loved it.
What do you like about what you do?
You have flexible hours. You’re not always in the office, you’re out. Everyday, it’s something new, and you meet a lot of new people and you have some really interesting cases. It’s very rarely boring.
What do you dislike?
It can be long hours sometimes where it’s not come home at 5 o’clock and you’re off.
If you see the close captioning on TV, those are reporters that are sitting there, taking it down. And you can do that from your home, do it through satellite while watching it and have it feed over. I know people who have done the Olympics just sitting in their living room taking it all down.
Your work has to be scheduled around what has to go out the next day. If you take in something they needed tomorrow, you have to work on it that night. There’s just no way around it.
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
It’s by the typed page. So, the more pages you produce, the more you make. And the more they talk, the more you make.
How much money do you make as a court reporter?
As a court reporter, starting out, I would say, starting, you could make $30,000. And then it depends on how busy you are. You could make $80,000 if you’re really busy and really good at what you do.
Are there any perks to this career?
Well, you learn a lot, or a little about a lot of things. You can hear from an accountant talking numbers all the way to an expert in vehicle motion. So you really get to hear from a lot of interesting people.
What education or training is needed to be a court reporter?
You have to have a high school education, and then with the machine reporters, you have to go to school. The average is 2 ½ to 3 years. And you take classes learning the theory of it, but then you also take medical, legal, and English classes. And the mask reporters, I’d say 6 months to a year on theirs and they can learn that on their own. There are correspondence courses for both mask and machine, and there are no schools around here. The closest machine school is in Tulsa.
You have to take medical classes so you know what they’re talking about. If they’ve gone through all these medical terms and you have no idea what they’re talking about it’s going to make it really tough. You have to be sure that you’ve got the right spelling and know that that’s the word that they meant to say.
What is most challenging about being a court reporter?
The speed sometimes. Sometimes they get to going really fast, and you have to slow them down because you can’t get it, or they’re talking over each other and you have stop and say, one at a time. It’s a lot of things that a tape recorder wouldnt get. You really need to have a person there who can know what they’re saying and stop if you need to.
What is most rewarding?
I like to get out and meet all the people. That’s one of the things I like most about it, you get to meet so many interesting people.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
That you have to be a good listener, you have to hang in there through the training. It has to be something you want, not everybody can do it. Some get into it and just think, this is not what I want to do at all. Just look into it, you can get online and find information on it.
How much time off do you get/take?
If you’re not working that day, you don’t get paid anything. So in the beginning it was very little. Now I have more.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
That you just go and you write it down during the deposition, then you go home and it’s done, that’s all there is to it. All they see is you sitting there taking it down. There’s a lot of work behind the scenes that goes on.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
Just to keep building up. I started out in my extra bedroom doing it just myself and now I have seven other reporters with me, and we have video conferencing, we have transcription, and so, and that’s a fun part of it, too. Just to keep building it, but keep it small enough that it’s in control.
What else would you like people to know about what you do?
Well, you can go on from being a court reporter to being a CART(Communications Access Realtime Translator) reporter. If you see the close captioning on TV, those are reporters that are sitting there, taking it down. And you can do that from your home, do it through satellite while watching it and have it feed over. I know people who have done the Olympics just sitting in their living room taking it all down.
There are also students at universities who are deaf that they have so they have a court reporter who’s sitting there taking down what’s being said in the class and it’s coming up on the computer so that they can keep up with what’s going on.
So there are a lot of different things that you can do with that skill.