Being a court reporter is a fast-paced and demanding job. While the job is rewarding, with the most talented court reporters being able to make up to six figures in some areas, the transcription services provided by skilled court reporters require dexterous fingers as well as a good ear. The dictation speeds of potential applicants for the National Court Reporters Association’s Registered Professional Reporter credential must surpass the breakneck speed of 200 words per minute. Those who pass this demanding test are certified to provide the accurate and efficient transcription services required by courts nationwide.
Providing these transcription services requires catching every word of a trial, many of which can include complex medical or legal terms, ensuring that the record of what occurred during a trial is correctly transcribed. While court reporters are often also charged with running digital recording equipment in order to have an electronic record of the courtroom proceedings, they also need to achieve enough accuracy in their typing that the two records can be double-checked and compared against each other to ensure complete accuracy in the legal record. Providing transcription services not only involves quick typing, but patience for poring over long audio or video records of courtroom proceedings to ensure the necessary level of accuracy.
Being a court reporter may not be all fun and games, but for those at the top of their profession, a little professional competition never hurt. At the beginning of August 2012, in Vienna, VA, the National Court Reporters Association hosted sped and realtime (reporting) contests in order to gauge the skills of the 30 of the top court reporters in the nation. Utilizing the same skills that made them experts at providing transcription services in the courtroom, these professionals used their stenotypes to attempt to accurately take down transcriptions of words being spoken at speeds as high as 280 words per minute (which averages out to an incredible five words per second). These skills are the same ones utilized by broadcast captioners who provide live closed captioning services for television broadcasting.
The astounding typing speeds achieved by skilled court reporters are made possible partly by the specialized stenotype device utilized by them, and partly by the incredible skill of the operators themselves. The training that allows court reporters to provide accurate and efficient transcription services is incredibly difficult, and has a high drop-out rate. Those who achieve the necessary speeds to become professional court reporters have been rigorously tested and found capable of the job. Those who work to provide transcription services for the court are an essential part of the modern U.S. judicial system.
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