Yes, we face challenges, but court reporting is still a thriving profession
This is the week set aside each year to inform the public about the important role we play in the judicial system. It’s also the perfect opportunity to spread the word about our profession to encourage others to join our ranks, especially since we are currently facing critical shortages nationwide.
Because of this, some may think that court reporting is a dying profession. Far from it. We are not antiquated; we are cutting edge. There is no other method that can produce an almost flawless transcript in realtime, basically on the fly. That is why our unique skills are in high demand, and that translates into commensurate compensation.
Court reporters are the same as every other professional with specialized skills. For example, if you have dangerous electrical code violations in your home and you are not a licensed electrician, you need to hire one who can rectify the problem. It’s worth every penny to get the product and service you need that only a certified and experienced professional can provide.
The real problem is the fact that many of our members are aging out. The average age of court reporters is 55. It is estimated that there will be a shortage of 5,500 court reporters nationwide come 2020. This means even more opportunities for court reporters in the broadcast and CART captioning areas and its mainstay: deposition and official reporting. It is a shame that just when our profession is at its zenith it cannot be sustained by our meager nationwide membership. There are an estimated 32,000 reporters in the marketplace, only 11,500 of which are NCRA members.
Court reporters are needed now more than ever, and the need for our services will only increase in the future. With only 31 NCRA-approved schools, NCRA’s A to Z program is aiming to fast-track students through training and into the workforce, but its full effects won’t be felt immediately. It will take a while for the newly minted reporters to gain the experience and top-notch skills that those who have been in the field for many years possess. The question is: Can our profession survive this gap in reporter availability, or will we be replaced with inferior methods in the meantime?
Court reporting is in truth a thriving profession! Why?
- Graduates are guaranteed employment and an excellent starting salary
- There is always room for growth and professional development for motivated individuals
- Reporters at the top of their game earn six-figure incomes
- NCRA and its state associations, as well as organizations like STAR, offer continual support, education, and networking opportunities
- Our profession is technology-driven. Lawyers need our expertise to provide the specialized services they need.
- Tape recorders and voice recognition are inferior substitutes.
- Reporters may choose to work as freelancers, officials, CART providers, broadcast captioners, even as Congressional reporters. Many work in several capacities in their careers.
- Our profession offers other related services such as videography, video conferencing, audio transcription, exhibit synching and linking, etc.
- Reporters play a vital role in the judicial system. They are respected by members of the bar for their role in preserving the all-important record so attorneys can represent their clients to the best of their ability.
Court reporting has undergone many revolutionary changes just in the relatively recent past. Reporters have gone from writing on manual machines to paper and typing their own notes, to dictating into dictaphones for typists, and finally to computer-aided transcription. There have been eight different Stenograph writing machines since the 1980s. The investment in hardware, software, and technology over the years has been significant. So has the learning curve among our members. But in the end we are in a niche business that provides a service no one else can: realtime, rough drafts, and expedited delivery.
The court reporting profession may be facing challenges, but hopefully they can be overcome. Our judicial system depends on an accurate record to protect all litigants. Court Reporting & Captioning Week is the perfect opportunity to highlight our talent and value. Recommend court reporting to your friends and family. Be a positive ambassador of the profession. If this career has been good to you, it’s time to return the favor.
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