The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the demand for court reporters will increase by 10% by 2022, which is as fast as average for all occupations. The median annual wage for court reporters was $48,160 in May 2012, with some court reporters earning as much as $90,000 per year. It takes a certain type of person to be a court reporter, and you may be successful at it if you possess the following characteristics.
Court reporters must have excellent hearing in order to effectively capture what is being said. It is recommended that a court reporter not have a corrective hearing device, as they often produce background noises that might make voices inaudible. Some other physical abilities that might be needed are:
- The ability to sit for an extended period of time
- Good manual dexterity in both hands
- Excellent hand-eye coordination
- The ability to walk while carrying a stenograph machine for long distances, including up stairs
Focus and Concentration
It’s extremely important for a court reporter to have good focus and concentration, since becoming distracted could ultimately affect courtroom proceedings. Good listening skills are also essential in order to produce accurate transcripts. A court reporter must give the witness his or her full attention, and focus heavily on recording each and every spoken word. Stenographers must maintain this level of focus at all times, even when they are very tired. Failing to do so could ultimately affect the outcome of a case, and could even lead to a mistrial.
Even though testimony is recorded using a stenograph machine, written transcripts may nonetheless be prepared using a special software program. As such, all court reporters must have basic computer skills, including a working knowledge of word processing software programs. Filing documents and preparing correspondence could also be required as well. Court reporters regularly spend a great deal of time proofreading their work, which is why they should have an excellent command of the English language.
Court reporters are typically required to dress professionally, regardless of whether they are employed in a courthouse, law firm, or in private practice. This generally means dress slacks, a button-up shirt, and a tie for men, or a skirt/blouse combination or nice pantsuit for women. Any offensive tattoos should be completely covered, and jewelry should also be kept to a minimum (especially facial piercings). Court reporters should pay attention to their grooming, ensuring their hair, makeup and fingernails are neat and appear professional. This is extremely important, as a court reporter with an outlandish appearance could prove distracting to witnesses, which could ultimately affect one’s testimony.
Court reporters regularly interact with everyone from judges to criminal defendants, and must therefore have good written and verbal communications skills. It is also important that a court reporter maintain a calm demeanor during stressful situations. Court reporters see people from all walks of life, and should not allow biases to interfere with their job duties. Stenographers must ensure everyone they come in contact with is treated with dignity and respect.
Other personal skills that are important for a court reporter to have include:
- Punctuality, since court hearings generally may not proceed without a court reporter present
- Attention to detail to ensure that only error-free work is produced
- Good organizational skills
- A strong belief in the American legal system
- An ability to work well under tight deadlines
Court reporters play an important role in our justice system. In fact, their role is so important, that our legal system could not operate without them. If you have what it takes to be a court reporter, contact us for help in finding the right training program.