Speed and accuracy are the foundations of good court reporting. The rise of voice recognition and artificial intelligence technologies created plenty of fodder for conversation and commentary about the future of court reporting and legal record-keeping. Yet, professional court reporters continue to be an essential part of the legal system because accurate court reporting—delivered in real time or otherwise—requires a specific set of skills and knowledge that are unique and human.
Accurate Court Reporting Requires Professional Court Reporters
Just as digital legal services have not eliminated the need for lawyers, artificial intelligence, voice recognition, and other technologies are not a sufficient substitute for court reporter skills and services. The process of capturing a legal record requires discernment. Beyond recognizing the basic need for a human being in creating these records, however, it is important to acknowledge the need for trained, certified, professional court reporters. The broad skill set required to do the job well necessitates it.
The speed and accuracy required to do the work of a court reporter evolve as a result of the development of other skills, which are honed by specific training and paired with use of the right technology and equipment for the best end product.
Essential Court Reporter Skills: Speed
Dialogue in a courtroom, deposition, or other legal setting moves briskly. Speakers talk at the same time, pause, stutter, and reverse or change course without notice. The person recording these interactions must keep pace.
The National Court Reporter Association (NCRA) requires students in programs the group certifies to write 225 words per minute (wpm). This is also the threshold for employment with the US federal government as a court reporter. Many professional court reporters exceed this requirement, writing at speeds above 280 wpm.
The Absolute Necessity of Accurate Court Reporting
To receive certification from the NCRA as a Registered Professional Reporter (RPR), a court reporting student must achieve an accuracy level of 95 percent in testing. This level of precision is required because small errors in language or punctuation can significantly alter meaning. Anyone who has played a game of telephone or laughed at a meme about the dangers of misplaced commas can attest to this, but, in legal cases, the consequences can be dire.
Accurate court reporting ensures that the legal record of a proceeding or testimony genuinely conveys the truth of what occurred and was stated. The transcript certified by a court reporter is the official record of a legal proceeding. Lawyers use the transcripts from depositions and early hearings to build cases and prepare for trial. Judges frequently refer to the record during hearings or trials and in cases of appeals. Court reporters must ensure that the record is accurate because mistakes are simply too costly to all involved.
How Do Court Reporters Write So Fast with Accuracy?
So how do court reporters write so fast while ensuring accuracy? Training, practice, and the right equipment.
In addition to attending educational programs that adhere to NCRA or other recognized standards, professional court reporters devote significant time to continuing education and honing their skills.
Court reporter skills that support speed and accuracy include the following:
- Concentration and the ability to disregard distractions;
- Advanced grammar, spelling, language, and vocabulary skills;
- Familiarity with court processes and procedures;
- Knowledge of legal, medical, technical, and industry-specific terminology; and
- Knowledge of formatting and other requirements in legal transcripts.
Court reporters also have a sort of secret weapon: the stenotype machine.
The compact typewriter has only 22 keys on its keyboard, each representing a shorthand letter. A court reporter strikes multiple keys simultaneously, and each stroke of one or more keys represents a syllable. This allows the court reporter to use shorthand to record what is being said, dramatically reducing the keystrokes required for transcription.
The stenotype dates back to the 1800s, but advances in technology have complemented its use. Now, computers can interpret the shorthand entered by the stenographer and input that information into a digital transcript that can be viewed immediately, or in “realtime.” Realtime court reporting allows attorneys, judges, and other interested parties to view and interact with the record of proceedings as they occur, but it is all ineffective without a professional court reporter who can keep pace and ensure accuracy.
Accurate Court Reporting by Professional Court Reporters
For busy attorneys and law firms, vetting court reporters and the agencies for which they work might seem unnecessarily time-consuming. However, the mistake of hiring inexperienced reporters or relying too heavily on technology for legal record-keeping can have serious consequences for lawyers and their clients.
The professional court reporters at Coash Court Reporting & Video have the court reporting skills that are required to provide speedy and accurate court reporting so attorneys and law firms can focus on the case at hand. Call us at 800-262-DEPO (3376) or complete our online contact form, and we will be in touch.