What Does a Court Reporter Do?


When exploring careers or watching your favorite crime drama, you might see the occupation “court reporter” pop up. It seems like a pretty self-explanatory career that involves reporting on the happenings of court proceedings.

This is a primary purpose of the occupation, but more is involved. Here’s a detailed account of what a court reporter does for a living.

Basic Job Overview

Court reporters are known by many names, including court stenographers, stenotype operators, law reporters, or shorthand reporters. It’s one of the oldest jobs in the country. Their job is to transcribe all dialogue spoken in a courtroom for future reference.

The court reporter is expected to be absolutely precise in recording the proceedings. The tiniest of errors could tip the scales of justice in a court case. There’s never room for an error whether it’s a antitrust case involving international computer software providers or a child custody case being presented by family lawyers in Brisbane. To record information accurately, stenographers use a variety of tools and techniques. During the proceedings, they use a high-tech recorder to catch every word. Today’s high-profile courts also use a voice writing system that dictates the words as it hears them.

However, as we know well, technology does not always cooperate the way it’s intended. It won’t always catch every word, and it can make mistakes. To keep the machinery honest, court reporters also write down as much of the proceedings as they can using shorthand.

Afterwards, they’ll compile all of the information into a document that will be filed for future reference by authorized parties.

Court reporters may work for any one of the following organizations:

  • Private law firms
  • Federal government agencies
  • Local and state government agencies
  • Trade associations
  • Meeting planners
  • Nonprofits
  • Courts

It’s not uncommon to have more than one court reporter on site, which helps to validate the final document presented.

In some states, the court reporter may have more responsibilities than just reporting. Many reporters are required to be notaries. They’re the ones who administers oaths to witnesses. They’ll also certify that the transcript submitted is a verbatim account of the court proceedings.

How to Become a Court Reporter

Getting started as a court reporter is simple. Start by observing court reporters whenever you can. You might go to a public hearing and watch the reporter closely. You could also check out a private court reporter firm, interviewing the people who work there and observing them in practice. If you’re in Florida, for example, check out court reporters in Fort Lauderdale, and learn all you can from the employees. This is also a great way to get your foot in the door for future employment.

You’ll usually take a series of courses and certifications to learn the basics of recording. Coursework includes keyboard and typing training, shorthand, English, diction, and other classes that will help you accurately transcribe what’s being said. At the end, you’ll have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, which usually takes between two and four years to complete.

Most states also require that you pass certain exams to make sure you’re ready for the court. Certifications may vary depending on the state you’re in, so check online to be sure.

Court reporting is a fascinating job with great rewards. If you’re organized and have an eye for detail and accuracy, it’s worth a look.