Court reporting 101

Court reporting is an exciting field! From the courtroom to the escrow suite to television, court reporters, escrow reporters and captions make it happen! Court reporting is the path to a crucial, challenging and well-paying professional career in the legal field. Literally global job opportunities await you.

No doubt – court reporting is a necessary service in the legal community. But did you know that court reporting also provides access to communication for the hearing impaired? Think about it… People with hearing loss can now access the world through a Court Reporter’s unique abilities. You can be an independent contractor who gets a 1099 at the end of the tax year, work as a district clerk for a courtroom, or even start your own court reporting company. With court reporting, the opportunities to get the job you’ve always wanted have never been more diverse.

Court clerks are part of exciting court cases and write history – word for word. They cover high-profile trials and even caption presidential inaugurations!

Court Reporting Facts:

1. Court clerks earn an average of $60,000 or more per year. (Includes captions for broadcasts and deposit reporters.)

2. The subtitling of television programs (made live) is done by highly specialized court reporters, the so-called broadcast captioners. US federal law requires that literally 100 hours of television programming (live) be captioned each week, creating numerous career opportunities for individuals with these skills.

3. Many court reporting professionals use a closed captioning method to provide personalized services to the deaf or hard of hearing via Communication Access Realtime Translation. CART reporters go to college classes with deaf clients as needed to instantly translate speech into written words. The demand for these types of skills is so great that credit reporting agencies offering these types of services cannot keep up with the demand.

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4. Only a minority (about 27%) of court clerks in the United States actually work in courtrooms. The vast majority are freelance court clerks (1099 contractors) employed by solicitors to produce word-for-word transcripts known as escrows during the investigative phase of cases.

5. Court reporting jobs will most likely grow at the same rate as the average for all occupations through 2012. (Source: US Department of Labor)

What do court clerks earn?

Court clerks earned a median annual income of $42,920 as of May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between $30,680 and $60,760. The lowest-paid 10 percent earned less than $23,690, and the highest-paid 10 percent earned more than $80,300. The average annual earnings as of May 2004 was $41,070 for court clerks working in local government.

Both compensation and methods of compensation for court reporters vary depending on the type of court reporter working, the experience of the individual court reporter, the level of certification achieved, and the region of the country. Official court clerks earn a salary and a per page fee for transcripts. Many salaried clerks supplement their income with freelance work. Freelance court clerks are paid per job and receive a per-page fee for transcripts. CART providers are paid by the hour. Stenocaptioners receive a salary and benefits when they work as employees of a captioning company; Stenocaptioners working as independent contractors are paid by the hour.

How to become a court reporting professional

Let’s face it: Becoming a clerk requires a great deal of dedication, effort and money. It’s not easy, but the rewards make it more than worth it!

Most students start at a court reporting school. As a rule, these are private business colleges in large metropolitan areas. Please see this link for a list of NCRA approved schools. Training and practice takes several years for most people.

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Most of the arduous work is developing the ability to transcribe during live dictation. They start slow and then build to speeds of over 200 words per minute. Accuracy and perseverance are required to record hours of fast talk with dense material.

Also, you will need to either rent or buy your gear. A court reporting keyboard is required during the training. Most students rent or buy a used manual machine (as opposed to a computer typist) for their initial training, but when entering the job market, quality professional equipment is a must. Today, the equipment used by court reporting professionals is an electronic court reporting machine, a desktop PC, a printer, a laptop PC, and the software that runs on the computers and translates the keystrokes on the screen into English.

Also, since most court reporting professionals are 1099 contractors, home office equipment and space is required, as well as a fax machine, an extra phone line or two for fax and business calls. An internet connection is a must to search for these hard-to-find words.

A new court clerk faces several years of careful study and somewhere between five and ten thousand dollars worth of equipment.

Many states require a license. In states that require court clerks to be certified, you must pass the state exam. In other states where certification is not a requirement, the National Court Reporting Association’s compliance exams can certify that a professional court reporter has achieved an appropriate level of competency.