Casual observers may never give a court reporter a second glance. Their quiet presence lacks flash but they are an integral part of the proceedings. Law professionals and judicial officials rely on the role of court reporters.
Court reporters generate transcripts and records that become integral to due process. Court dialogue records are invaluable to law firms. Attorneys use transcripts to support arguments and as a primary source in review of appeals and other litigation.
Court reporters also contribute to the integrity of the court. Without court reporters, sworn testimonies could be reduced to hearsay. These records are so important that in many counties and states it is illegal to conduct a hearing without a court reporter present.
Let’s dive into what court reporters do, the best court reporting companies and how to locate court reporters near you.
Court Reporting Agencies
Due to the importance and gravity of their job, court reporters go through rigorous training in a variety of subjects. These subjects can range from basic court proceedings to medical terminology. The core of a court reporter’s education is being able to understand and comprehend a huge quantity and range of information. These skills are important as they take expert witness statements and assimilate fast-paced dialogue into comprehensible text.
Court reporters typically use a stenograph to capture testimonies. This allows them to type rapidly and provide accurate transcripts for review. Stenography machines have 22 keys that are used to phonetically write out words. Using stenography machines, most court reporters can write at least 225 words per minute; some can write 300.
Once court reporters have written the shorthand transcript of court dialogue, it is transcribed into longhand. This is where editors come in to ensure the accuracy of these documents.
While transcript writing is the bulk of their job, court reporters handle much more. In addition to transcription, here are some of their other duties:
- Prepare and formatting transcripts to standard type
- File records with county clerks
- Complete administrative tasks as needed
- Maintain judicial calendar and schedule
- Administer oaths
- Take notes during court proceedings that do not require transcripts
- Maintain clerical forms and logs
- Attend meetings with judicial and law personnel
Types of Court Reporters
There are two types of court reporters: government and independent. Government reporters are employees of the court and may also act as secretaries to judicial personnel.
Independent court reporters are hired through agencies. Many courts hire independent court reporters because it is more cost-efficient. There are agencies that hire these workers as independent contractors or as employees. Firms like this provide professional court reporters that can fulfill all standard work duties. Often, one judicial territory will use a select few court reporting agencies to keep them staffed.
There are four different kinds of court reporting, although many reporters are trained in almost all of them:
- Official court reporting: this is the most common type of court reporting in which a stenographer is used to write a shorthand transcript of testimonies. The shorthand will be transcribed into an official transcript that becomes a part of the official record.
- Closed captioning: with closed captioning requirements in television, court reporters are hired to caption broadcasted depositions. Their training makes them perfect for this job.
- Real-time captioning and Communications Access Real-time Reporting (CART): explained at length below, advanced technology allows court reporters to fully transcribe depositions that are on live feeds. This is so that observers of the court who cannot attend—as well as the deaf and hard of hearing—can follow along to court proceedings.
- Electronic reporting: some court reporters use recording devices, in addition to stenographs, as a way to ensure the accuracy of a transcript. This is sometimes referred to as electronic reporting, but is becoming increasingly common.
Court Reporting in Alabama
In Alabama, court reporters are in high demand. Montgomery, Alabama alone has the fourth most concentrated selection of court reporters in the United States. Court reporters in Alabama must become Certified Court Reporters through the Alabama Board of Court Reporting in order to practice.
Here are the steps that court reporters in Alabama take to get certified:
- Complete a court reporting program
- Pass the Alabama Court Reporters Association skills exam
- Pass the National Court Reporters Association exam
- Obtain a professional license through the Alabama Board of Court Reporting
In Alabama, court reporters are appointed by the Administrative Director of Courts. The Administrative Director of Courts fields the needs of the judge and court proceeding and selects a court reporter based on those criteria.
Court reporters in Alabama work hard to ensure that they are providing quick and accurate services. Alabama has higher than average incidents of crime, which means that court reporters are needed more than in other states.
The National Court Reporting Association has 30 approved court reporting educational programs in the United States. There is one in Alabama at Garden State Community College in Gadsden. This is a great opportunity for court reporter employers to invest in recent graduates.
There are many Alabama court reporting firms that jurisdictions and law professionals can choose from. These Alabama reporting companies provide transcription services, videography and more.
Birmingham Reporting Service
Birmingham reporting services in Alabama can provide all transcription needs. Birmingham reporting may be used in any of the following local courts and court divisions:
Birmingham Municipal Court
Address & Directions: 801 17th St N, Birmingham, AL 35203
Jefferson County Family Court
Address & Directions: 120 2nd Ct N, Birmingham, AL 35204
Jefferson County Probate Court
Address & Directions: 716 Richard Arrington Jr Blvd N #130, Birmingham, AL 35203
U.S. District Court Clerk
Address & Directions: 1729 5th Ave N #140, Birmingham, AL 35203
These are not the only places where court reporters are needed in Birmingham. Court reporters and court reporting agencies can accomplish a multitude of administrative and transcription related tasks.
With an office in Birmingham, Cite provides plenty of in-person services for those in need of court reporters. Use their conference rooms to be provided with high-speed internet, food and beverages at request and video conferencing equipment. While you’re at the office, meet with a coordinator, speak to court reporters and take a look at some of their advanced reporting technology.
Cite offers court reporting services for a variety of litigation fields, including:
- Medical Malpractice
- Class Action
- Patent Law
- Civil Law
- Contact us for more information on all our services.
Cite is located at 2025 3rd Ave N STE 206, Birmingham, AL 35203
Court Reporting Firms
Independent court reporters come from court reporting firms. These firms employ court reporters and hire them out to jurisdictions for transcription, administrative and note-taking services. Court reporting firms may also provide other services for courts.
These could include:
- Expert witness provision
- Digital services
- Language interpretation and translation
- Virtual and physical conference rooms
- Videography services
Court reporting firms offer high quality services and heavily vet their court reporters. When you hire a court reporter from a reputable firm, you can feel confident that you are hiring reliable workers.
Shorthand and Stenography
The processes used by court reporters have a rich history. The first documented case of using shorthand to write extensive works was in Rome in 63 B.C. Scribes would use shorthand to write down their employers’ dictations. The method was developed to become quicker and easier through centuries of application. In 1772, the first official shorthand operator was employed in England. The United States began to use shorthand writers in courts and offices in the late 19th century.
Since the first implementation of shorthand writing, technology has come a long way. First written in pen, shorthand was not much quicker than conventional writing. Around the same time that shorthand writers were being used in courts, the first stenotype machine was invented. This machine transformed the way that transcripts were written. In the 20th century, tape recorders were added to stenograph machines which allowed for greater accuracy. This is when shorthand writers started to be referred to as stenographers or court reporters.
Court Reporter Education
Like the stenograph machine, the education of court reporters has become more advanced. It is important that court reporters understand terminology and concepts from a range of disciplines. When expert witnesses take the stand, court reporters should have an understanding of the words and terms they use.
Here the most common examples of expert witnesses:
- Forensic analysts
- Dentistry professionals
- Medical practitioners
- Financial security personnel
- Vocational workers
Expert witnesses may use complex language and it is up to the court reporter to make sure that they can understand. Their grasp of language, syntax, vocabulary and spelling must be exceptional. This command must also be extremely efficient and precise. One misplaced key and the meaning of the sentence can completely change.
To ensure that court reporters maintain the highest level of integrity, there are many steps to become certified. A typical course many court reporters will follow is to:
- Attend a court reporting school to learn about court proceedings, terminology and stenography use.
- Become a Registered Professional Reporter by taking and passing the certification exam. The requirement to pass is a 95% accuracy rate at specific words per minute levels.
- After three years of being a Registered Professional Reporter, court reporters can become a Registered Merit Reporter. This certification—obtained through an exam— means that a court reporter can write at a fast pace and still maintain 95% accuracy.
There are many other education levels and certifications that court reporters can add to their repertoire.
The speed at which court reporters write is foundational to transcription.
- Entry level court reporters may write at a speed of about 200 words per minute.
- Mid-level court reporters may be able to write at a speed of around 250 words per minute.
- The most experienced court reporters can write 200 words per minute.
There are many precautions that court reporters take to ensure that their work is accurate. Often, an editor is at bat to help with this.
When court reporters produce their final transcript it is given to the editor, sometimes known as a scopist. The scopist will compare the shorthand transcript from the stenograph machine to the final transcript and search for mistranslations and errors.
Court proceedings are also recorded through the stenograph. This is another way that court reporters can provide the most accurate transcripts. If there was a mistranslation or mistype, court reporters can go back to the tape and listen for the error.
Video conferencing is one of the most common digital services that court reporting companies provide. Jurisdictions may want to hold a video conference for a multitude of reasons, including:
- Convenience for those who are not local
- Expert witness interviews
- Courtroom witnesses
- Meetings and other scheduled appointments
- Employee interviews
When this service is utilized, the Virtual Meeting Coordinator will set up the virtual meeting and send the information to all those involved. The Virtual Meeting Coordinator can also assign breakout groups so that individuals can have private conversations. There are many benefits to using mobile video conferences for jurisdictions and law firms. They save money and time, as well as provide a safer and easier alternative to in-person meetings.
Go here to read more about Cite’s many digital services.
Virtual depositions are an excellent way for jurisdictions to save valuable time. When attendees live in different areas, or even states, virtual services make it simple to proceed without a shared physical location. When Cite provides virtual depositions, they are recorded so that they can be played back at a later time.
Virtual depositions can also be live streamed. Live streaming depositions allows observers to continue to be a part of the court proceedings. There are endless possibilities for jurisdictions to transform the way that they do depositions.
Another way court reporting services have upgraded is by providing digital transcriptions services. Providers can offer a live feed of a court reporter’s transcript during a virtual meeting. After the meeting, editors quickly revise and format transcripts so that they can be sent and filed as a part of the official record.
For ease of use, these can be synchronized so that the final transcript is published alongside a digital recording of the meeting. This way, those who want to review the meeting can watch, listen and read what attendees are saying. This video can be formatted in a variety of ways.
Here are even more ways court reporting companies can digitally improve transcription services:
- Access and download written records from shared databases
- Remotely share documents
- Annotate on downloaded copies of transcripts
- Paperless filing systems
These transcription services make it easier for jurisdictional and law personnel to review important meetings.
Video and Court Reporting
After the COVID-19 pandemic, courts nationwide hastened to update their technology. As the need to include remote attendees increased, legal officials worked to align with best practices for encrypted data and video meetings. There are important ways to leverage data in trial technology. Outcomes of exhibit technology and videographers in court include:
- DVDs with professionally mixed audio and visual
- Documentary videos
- Translated versions of virtual meetings and transcripts
Litigation Support Technology
Court reporting and trial tech companies may also provide litigation support service technologies. The services that Cite provides for litigators enhance compelling arguments. Litigators not only use their words to produce persuasive arguments, they also use visuals.
Images and videos are a compelling way to present material. Videos can be professionally produced. This includes every kind of visual presentation a litigator may want, such as documentaries, site inspections and settlement videos.
Go here to learn more about trial technology and exhibits.
Here are other ways that forms of litigation support technology:
- Document management
- Text streaming from a courtrooms stenography machine
- File conversions and DVDs
- Real-time translation services
When you are looking for a court reporter, you’ll want the most experienced and highly trained reporter that a firm can offer. Anyone hiring a court reporter should expect for them to meet professional standards. In addition to meeting educational requirements, here are the characteristic standards for court reporters:
- Verbal communication skills
- Self reliance and confidence
- Good time-management
- Ability to concentrate on one task for a long period of time
- Exceptional listening skills
- Professional communication and conduct
While these characteristics and skills make a good court reporter, additional training is what makes a great one.
The National Court Reporters Association offers many certifications that court reporters can add to their résumé. You may be looking for specific skills and qualifications in a court reporter. Wondering what those letters at the end of a reporter’s name mean? Take a look at this guide to all of the certifications offered by the National Court Reporters Association:
- Registered Skilled Reporter (RSR): This is an entry level certification given to new court reporters. Court reporters at this level can write at a speed of 200 words per minute.
- Registered Professional Reporter (RPR): This certificate typically serves as the foundation for entry-level court reporters. This is the most common certification for students and freelance court reporters. The minimum writing speed for this certification is 180 words per minute.
- Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS): This certification is for legal videographers that produce videos for depositions. Certified Legal Video Specialists work closely with court reporters.
- Registered Merit Reporter (RMR): This certification is usually obtained by mid-level court reporters looking to go to the next level of their profession. Court reporters at this level will have higher salaries and better reputations.
- Registered Diplomate Reporter (RDR): Those with this certification are the best of the best court reporters. These reporters have excelled in their profession and have proved so by passing the RDR examination.
- Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR): These reporters are on the cutting-edge of transcription. Using advanced technology, real-time transcription automatically transcribes stenograph shorthand and longhand. This transcript can then be broadcast through closed captioning services.
- Certified Realtime Capitioner (CRC): This is an entry-level certification for reporters who want to gain experience in the captioning or real-time field.
- Court Reporter Instructor (CRI): This certificate is for those who want to educate aspiring court reporters.
Court reporting agencies will provide court reporters with the qualifications that meet a client’s needs. If you are interested in the certifications that your assigned court reporter has, contact the agency to find out.
Best Court Reporting Companies
There are a few aspects that differentiate the staff at court reporting companies. One of these distinctions is the way that court reporters transcribe. There are three different ways to record court dialogue:
- Stenography: This is what the majority of court reporters use. These machines allow transcribers to write out dialogue in shorthand. Using shorthand means that reporters can write up to 300 words per minute. Later, the shorthand captions are transcribed to longhand and given to jurisdictions and attorneys.
- Stenomasks: In some areas, you will find court reporters that use masks to transcribe. The reporter wears a mask and repeats everything that is said, and who said it, into the mask. This audio is then played back and written out.
- Tape recorders: Some jurisdictions use tape recorders to preserve depositions. These are among the least used because some audio, especially if quietly spoken, does not register onto the tape recorder.
Some court reporting companies may give you all three of these options. The most highly recommended court reporting method is stenography. Highly technological stenographs offer multiple automated and manual accuracy checkpoints.
A second differentiator are the services that a court reporting agency provides. Many companies offer digital and in-person court reporting services. With so many court reporting companies that all seem to offer the same services, you’ll want to hire the most reliable, accurate and innovative firm out there.
Here are some services that set cutting-edge court reporting companies from the rest:
- Professional videography with audio mixing, video-in-video capabilities and enhanced editing
- Real-time transcript technology with an abundance of viewing options for during and after meetings
- High-level security with HIPAA compliance, 128-bit to 256-bit encryption, password protected files and other privacy measures
- Options and accommodations for both digital and in-person meetings
- Hands-on customer service
- Real-time interpreters and final transcript translators
While a court reporting company may provide one or two of these helpful services, there are only a few that can supply or most of these. When a court reporting company offers most of these upgrades, you can feel confident that they are a leader in the field, using every tool available to supply world class service.
Court Reporting Agencies Near Me
When you know you will need a court reporter, you may not be sure where to look. The best place to start is by doing a quick online search. There are court reporting agencies all over the United States and even the world. Make sure to specify where you will be requiring services. Some states and counties have specific legislation regarding court reporters. For example, you could search “Alabama court reporting agency Huntsville.” This would give you a variety of options.
Most court reporting agencies provide services statewide and regionally. Others provide global services. If you are looking for a more convenient option, search for virtual court reporting agencies. This will allow all clients, law professionals and judicial officers to be present no matter where they are located.
If you live in Alabama and are looking for an exceptional local court reporting agency, read more about Cite below. Cite mostly works in-person with legal groups in Alabama and the southeastern United States, but they also provide global services.
Court Reporting Firms in Alabama
If you are looking for the best court reporting firm in Alabama, check out Cite LLC. Cite offers state-of-the-art technology, accomplished employees, innovative virtual services and impressive in-person resources.
This global agency started in Alabama as a local court reporting firm. Since its beginnings, Cite has been committed to making depositions easier for its clients. Cite goes above and beyond to ensure that you are getting all of your professional needs met.
Cite LLC provides exceptional litigation support through:
- Outstanding customer service
- Exhaustive online repository
- Quick and accurate transcript production
- Reasonable pricing
- Convenient payment and scheduling methods
Cite’s services are what make them stand out from other court reporting agencies. It is difficult to find this range of services available at one firm. Cites services include:
- Court reporting
- Real-time transcription
- Live feeds
- Zoom and other virtual meetings
- Document management and annotation services
- Trial technology and presentation services
- Document digitization
- Professional videography
- Settlement videos
- Transcript synchronization with deposition video
- Multimedia projection and production
- Conference rooms
- Text streaming
- Translation and interpretation
This only covers some of the services that Cite provides. Contact us to ask about anything specific you have in mind.
FAQs About Court Reporting Services
Jurisdictions and law professionals may have questions about court reporters. While the part that they play in a courtroom is undeniably crucial, what goes on behind the scenes can be a mystery. Because there are so many variables to the job, it can be difficult to understand how court reporters function as business personnel. Take a look at some of the questions below to gain insight on the inner workings of court reporting.
Who pays for a court reporter?
Depending on the state, court reporters can be paid by different parties. In some states, attorneys are responsible for paying court reporters. In others, the noticing party is required to pay court reporters.
In Alabama, there are two ways in which court reporters are paid. If the court reporter is an employee of the court, they are paid through the county or state treasury. Independent court reporters, on the other hand, are paid by the attorney.
The decision of Williams V. North Alabama Court Reporting Firm solidified this rule. In this case, the attorney argued that his client should pay for the court reporting services and not himself. He claimed that he is only the agent and accepted no responsibility to pay for a court reporter. The court ruled in favor of the firm, arguing that in accordance with laws deeming the relationship between lawyer and client, the lawyer should pay for the court reporter fees.
How much does a court reporter cost?
Typically, a court reporter charges per page. Because clients are paying per page, it is important to discuss what constitutes a “page”. Standard depositions use about 25 lines per page and an average of 55 characters per line. Ask some of these questions:
- How many lines per page?
- What type size is being used?
- What are the margins?
- What is the spacing?
In Alabama, basic transcript rates are $3.50 per page and $0.50 per page copy. Different types of meetings or charges may have different price points. For example, criminal charges are $3.50 a page. Be sure to check with local statutes and the court reporting agency to ensure that you are paying the right amount.
Are court reporters independent contractors?
Some court reporters are independent contractors. This depends on the firm. Some firms will utilize their court reporters as salaried employees. Other agencies hire out their court reporters as independent contractors.
Some court reporters are employees of the government. If this is the case, they will usually complete extra duties outside of transcription. These outside tasks include secretarial and administrative responsibilities.
Regardless, all court reporters go through the same training and education for the state that they wish to practice in. Whether a court reporter is a salary employee or independent contractor is up to the firm.
Are court reporters officers of the court?
Official court reporters are officers of the court. Typically, whether they are government employees or independent court reporters, they are considered official court reporters. This means that once they step into the courtroom they are officers of the court.
Some legislation distinguishes between an “official court reporter” and an independent court reporter. The line between these two is fuzzy. Traditionally, an official court reporter has been a government employed court reporter.
In Alabama’s legislation, “official court reporters” are officers of the court. Unfortunately, the law does not determine what constitutes an official court reporter in the state. Those that are hiring transcriptors should check with the agency to confirm official status.
Do you need a real-time court reporter?
While real-time court reporters are not required by law, they are highly sought after. Real-time court reporters connect laptops to their stenograph machines. As the reporter is writing, the laptop transcribes the shorthand to its readable version. The transcript is then displayed on a television screen, on live streaming services or texted to absent attendees. This allows in-person and digital observers to read dialogue as it’s happening.
Real-time transcription is known to be quicker and more accurate. This is because the computer is correcting mistakes instantaneously. Real-time court reporters will be Certified Realtime Reporters which is obtained through the National Court Reporters Association.
Real-time reporting is beneficial for any type of needed transcription. Cite offers real-time reporting services with advanced technology to make it even easier for attorneys and other involved personnel.
How do I schedule a court reporter?
Through Cite, it is easy to schedule a court reporter! Once you are on the website, click on the green “Schedule Deposition” button on the website header. This will take you to a scheduling page where you can fill out all of your information and upload the deposition notice. When you are finished, select the green “Upload Notices to Schedule” button at the bottom of the page. Once you have submitted all required information, you will receive confirmation to let you know that your notice was submitted.
If you’re saving the info for later, you’ll want to follow the above steps. Otherwise, just click here.