The primary role of a court reporter is to take down and accurately transcribe everything that happens during a trial, depositions, negotiations, or any discussions held in a private chamber. There are other duties usually assigned to a court reporter including office duties and record keeping. However, the primary duty is to serve as a neutral observer and recorder of all official proceedings.
The court reporter sits next to the judge's bench and keeps a real-time transcript of the courtroom proceedings. They transcribe everything that is said, word-for-word. They work for the government and are considered official staff in the courtroom.
Court reporters use a stenograph machine to record the proceedings. This stenograph machine is usually connected to a computer with software that immediately translates everything into readable text. The court reporter doesn't type words into the stenograph machine. Instead, they use stenography which is a combination of letters and symbols that are then translated by the software into text.
Some court reporters will use a voice recorder to record the court proceedings. When this technique is used, the voice recording is translated into readable text for the official report.
Court reporters require certain skills to be successful. Typically, they will be trained in how to use a stenograph machine and its unusual keyboard. They will also possess excellent grammar skills because they are often required to provide the punctuation in the official record. If a court reporter is using a voice recorder, they will repeat the courtroom conversation into a steno mask. This mask isolates the voice of the court reporter to ensure the clearest recording possible. Both of these court reporting methods require a great deal of expertise and skill.
To become a court reporter, an individual must complete a certain amount of training. It can take months to learn stenography and even longer to possess the skills necessary to become a court reporter. You must be able to transcribe and record speech very quickly and with extreme accuracy. It can take between three and six years before a court reporter is ready to take their place in the courtroom.
The field is a growing one, so there are always positions open for good court reporters. If you possess the skills to transcribe quickly and accurately and can handle the stress of keeping total concentration for long periods of time, this may be a good career field for you.