Stenography Definition: What is Court Reporting?

The Webster Dictionary definition of stenography is: the art or process of writing in shorthand. Stenography has evolved from writing in short hand to using a steno machine to take down the verbal word verbatim. One can imagine how, even using shorthand, taking down everything in a legal proceeding by hand would be difficult. Fortunately a court reporter now uses a shorthand machine, otherwise referred to as a steno machine or steno writer. The basic principle is the same though; you use an abbreviated alphabet and groups of letters to stand for different phrases.

Description of Court Reporting

The job of a court reporter is to take down everything that is said in depositions, public hearings, trials, and medical proceedings. Some stenographers do closed captioning in television for the hearing impaired. To become a closed captioner you will need to specialize in that field, so you should look for schools that offer this specialty. Other specialties could be in engineering or medicine. Court reporters must have strong English skills and a strong vocabulary in the areas they are working in. To be a court reporter you will need to be self disciplined, able to concentrate for long periods of time and meet strict deadlines. To graduate and become a certified court reporter you will need to pass multiple speed tests on your steno machine.

Many court reporters work for the state and federal government. They are direct employees of the government and receive a salary and benefits from them. Most state and federal court reporters are required to have worked as a freelance stenographer for at least 2 years. A freelance stenographer usually works through an agency. Freelance court reporters are hired by lawyers for pretrial depositions and hearings. Freelancers make up about two-thirds of all working court reporters.

Court reporters also need to take the Notary Public test as they are considered an officer of the court. They are responsible for swearing in a witness who is going to testify. They take down every single word that is said, and if the person speaking is talking too quickly, too quietly or incomprehensibly, they would ask the speaker to repeat themselves. As you might imagine you need to be able to type quite fast to keep up with the proceedings. The minimum speed a stenographer needs to attain before becoming certified is between 225 words per minute and 250 words per minute. After taking down what is said in a proceeding, you will need to create a transcript. Fortunately there is now software that will transcribe what you type on your steno machine for you. It will still need to be proofread and checked for accuracy before turning it in.

There is expected to be above average growth in this field, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that career opportunities in stenography will grow 18-25% by the year 2018. So if you feel you have the commitment and drive to become a stenographer you will be making an intelligent career choice.