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Court Reporting - What Skills Are Required

Adriana J. Noton

Maybe you are looking to start your career as a court reporter or perhaps your are only looking for court reporting services. Either way, you still need to understand what skills are needed for this type of work. A good reporter should have strong stenography skills and be able to listen attentively. They also need to be accurate, pay attention to details and have excellent grammar skills. A strong knowledge of legal terms and how things work in the court room are also a must as is a professional demeanor.

A reporter uses what is called a steno machine to transcribe the words being spoken in the court room into text format. These machines have 22 buttons that are used as a way to enter sounds and syllables. Far different from a computer's keyboard where you have a button for each letter in the alphabet, a steno machine only has buttons for syllables and sounds. These keys are used along with each other in combination to formulate a printed version of the sounds that were made in the room. After training and practice in stenography, this allows the transcription of spoken word at a rate significantly faster than even the most skilled typist.

After a steno tape has been created of the court proceedings the tape then needs to be translated from the shorthand the machine has produced to readable words. This can be done in two different ways, one is by reading the steno into a dictation machine where it can be translated when needed and the other is by translating and typing out the text yourself. The good news is that advances in technology have almost completely eliminated this step as real time reporting is becoming increasing popular.

Real time reporting works by means of the steno machine be directly connected to a computer with real time reporting software installed. Other legal officials can connect to this computer and see a real time view of the transcription right as it is being typed by the reporter. This means a real time reporter must be both proficient and comfortable with this technology.

Whether working as a traditional stenographer or one who has embraced technology and become a real time reporter, one this remains the same, strong communication skills are a must. Great listening skills are needed so that you can accurately record the words being spoken with proper punctuation so that the true meaning is obvious when read at a later time. Even one comma placed in the wrong part of a sentence can completely change the entire meaning.

A professional look and professional mannerisms should be present at all times when in the court room. You will be working in a wide variety of settings and will be present in the room with many different types of legal professionals so you need to act accordingly at all times.

As the reporter, it is your job to create an error free record of the proceedings. This is why most states require a legal stenographer to be fully licensed and certified before they can take a job. Some states even require a specific amount of continued education each years in order to renew your license when it expires.

There is far more to court reporting than what it appears on the outside. This is not a job to be taken lightly and is in fact a very important position within the legal system.

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