Court reporting has been often been viewed as a dead art. Dead?! Not even just a dying art? Nope, dead as a dodo, especially given that stenographers were phased out of English and Welsh courts by 2012.
Back in the day, court reporters used to tap away on stenographers, using their special keyboards that don’t contain all 26 letters of the alphabet (what?!) and draw on their own dictionary of shortforms to transcribe court proceedings. For example, in the language of court reporters and stenographers, “T K P W O G” meant “Guilty or Not Guilty”… clearly!
However, these days, court reporting is carried out by automated machines (that’s posh talk for computers and sound recordings), but court reporters still have an important role to carry out…
What do court reporters doo?
Court reporters spend most of their working hours in, (yep, you guessed it), court. They attend court sessions and need to listen carefully to everything that’s said. Their main role now is to supervise the recording made by technology but, as we all may have experienced, technology isn’t always reliable. Therefore they need to read the transcripts through to correct and edit any mistakes and produce a final copy after the court session. This amounts to an overall responsibility of ensuring that records exist and can be easily read and understood in the manner in which it was originally spoken.
Court reporters also have the duty of reading back transcripts to lawyers in court if required.
What skills does a court reporter need?
Other than a keen interest in law, a court reporter needs to be accurate and have an absolutely perfect grasp of English grammar. This is important for making sure the transcript conveys the original manner of what is being said in court.
Additionally, when required to read back parts of the transcript, court reporters need to be confident and clear speakers. Additionally, you need to be able to hack sitting around and concentrating for long periods of time. Remember, some cases can drag on for weeks and months – you need to remain on the ball!
How do I become a court reporter?
Court reporters usually work for firms that are hired by the Ministry of Justice to provide their services to the courts. But it’s not just the courts – there can be martials, inquiries, tribunals, hearings and police interviews to report on too!
Whilst it’s not necessary that you have formal academic qualifications to become a court reporter, employers usually expect it, along with good IT skills. You also need to make the folks at the British Institute of Verbatim Reporters (BIVR) happy, by have a bit of experience as a court reporter under your belt and by learning shorthand to 160 words per minute (yes, really).
The life of a court reporter is a varied one, which may involve a fair bit of travel to towns and cities across the UK, but it can be an extremely rewarding one.